Vienna: Churches, the Albertina, and the Giant Wheel

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After the same breakfast as yesterday, we went out into the local neighborhood in search of a few practical things: shampoo, a better map, pens, expectorant (“schleimloesend” = “slime solvent” in German). We wandered into some interesting little shops, including book shops, and found most of what we needed and a few other things. Made and ate sandwiches in the apartment while we marked up our new map with the places we would like to visit.

We headed out to the Minoritenkirche to see the full-size mosaic replica of Michelangelo’s Last Supper. On the way, we stumbled across the Theseus Temple, which was built to house the sculpture of Theseus and the Centaur which is now on the main stairway of the Art History Museum (we saw it day before yesterday) and which currently contains a plaster cast of a 2000-year-old olive tree. Then we wandered through a district of monumental buildings which were once part of the administrative and cultural center of the vast Austro-Hungarian Empire. We crossed the street called Dr.-Karl-Renner-Ring, which I insisted on calling “Carl Reiner Ring” and of which I said “didn’t the police break up a Karl Renner Ring just the other week?” Kate said “why don’t you ever inflict these puns on your blog?” so here it is.

Eventually we found the Minoritenkirche and the mosaic, which from ground level is so fine you almost can’t tell it’s a mosaic. Apparently Napoleon intended to capture the original and commissioned this mosaic as a placeholder, but he never got around to finishing the job so the placeholder remains here We then wandered through incredibly crowded shopping streets, where shops formerly By Appointment to the Emperor now serve anyone with more money than sense, to the incredibly baroque St. Peter’s Church, with a tromp l’oeil dome and a massive sculpture of the martyrdom of St. John of Nepomuk, showing him being thrown off a bridge in Prague.

Next we visited the very large and impressive St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which was also extremely crowded. Did not climb the 450-foot tower, but instead paused for coffee and pastry in one of Vienna’s many fine cafes. We’d intended to visit the Imperial Crypt next but, realizing we’d seen it on our last visit, decided to give it a pass this time. Then we visited the Albertina, an art museum famous for its Durers, though sadly only a small portion of the permanent collection is on display at any time and currently none of the Durers were to be seen. However, they did have an excellent collection of Impressionists from Monet to Picasso and a large display of Klimt’s sketches, so it was well worth the visit.

By then it was time for dinner, so we went to Le Bol (Neuer Markt 14), a casual French restaurant, and ordered a couple of very nice salads (“Salade Provenciale: Knuspriger Parmaschinken, gebratenes Gemuese, Tomaten, Gurken, Radieschen auf Vogerlsalat” and “Salade Oscar: Gerauecherte Entenbrust auf Ruccola, Honig, Orangen, Nuesse, Aepfel und Croutons”). Reading a menu that described French dishes containing Italian ingredients in German rather broke our brains; I think we may have ordered in Japanese. On departing I said “merci, vielen dank” and the waitress replied “thank you.”

Having eaten a fairly light dinner containing actual vegetables, were were sufficiently energized to tackle the Riesenrad, or Giant Ferris Wheel. The Prater amusement park in which the wheel is located reminded me greatly of the Fun Forest of sainted memory in Seattle. There were two smashed-penny machines nearby, but they were both, unfortunately, completely jammed. We had about a 30-minute wait for a 20-minute ride on the wheel, together with about a dozen other people in a car about eight feet by twelve. Many of the interesting things to be seen from the wheel were other amusement park rides, including the rare experience of looking down on a normal-sized Ferris wheel. In the gift shop after our ride, we found another penny machine, this one working, and another working machine at a souvenir stand on our way out of the park. We considered stopping at a cafe for coffee and dessert on our way home, but it proved to be too smoky.

Nice to have a fairly relaxed day like that every once in a while.

By the way, many people have commented on my photos. Thank you! I think the most important lesson is that to get good photos you have to take a lot of photos and throw the not-so-good ones away. I took almost 200 photos today of which these are the very best.

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