Two days in Vienna

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Haven’t had a spare hour to blog lately, but we depart this morning (in about half an hour!) for the Czech Republic and I don’t expect to have a lot of wifi there, so here’s a quick dump of my notes from the last two days.

Sunday 4/29

Awake 8:00. Worst Toilet Design Ever has a little shelf (not just flat but slightly dished) where the poo piles up and then theoretically the flush pushes it off; apparently this is standard in Germany and some other countries. Both Kate and I had the Nespresso coffee pod handle come off during brewing — you really have to twist it in there — fortunately there was no injury and not much mess. Today being Sunday, most stores are closed and we only have yogurt for one more morning so we considered going out for breakfast, but most places nearby don’t open until 10 so we ate the last yogurt (Fage with strawberries and honey-soaked walnuts, yum) and we’ll worry about tomorrow tomorrow. Wrote a couple postcards while Kate stared at maps & guidebooks planning out the next 2 days… I’d be lost without her.

Made our way to the city museum, but as we arrived we realized it was nearly noon and it would be stupid to go in without lunch. First couple of places we tried were closed but “Wein Isst” app found us Curry Up! (Gusshausstrasse 16), a Sri Lankan/Indian place where I had a thali with turkey curry, dal, carrot salad, some kind of eggplant thing, something delicious with coconut and cabbage(?), rice, curled-up cone of papadam, 6.50 euros. Yum!

The museum itself was fascinating combination of historical artifacts, recent artifacts, articles of fashion, new artworks, and snarky commentary about Vienna and its history right up to the present day. Even the staircase had a label (it was, after all, an artifact from 1958) and there was a dress on display in the original elevator. Three huge models of the city at different times (2 of them made at the time they depicted) helped me understand the way the city grew; even in the late 1800s the inner city was surrounded by a substantial wall and a wide swath of parkland for defensive purposes, with suburbs outside that. There is still a lot of open space in that ring….

After that, we decamped to Cafe Schwartzenberger for coffee and pastries in a very civilized environment. We went in thinking that would probably be it for the day, but after finishing our pastries we thought we had enough energy for one more museum, the one with Bosch’s Last Judgement, even if there wasn’t time or energy for the whole thing. And, although we had some difficulty finding the place, we were able to see just about the whole thing including a good chunk of time with the Bosch. So many of those images are familiar, though the whole thing isn’t. Fom there we made our way back to our own neighborhood and a restaurant called Spatzennest, a homey neighborhood kind of place right next to St. Ulrich’s church, where I had Styrisches Wurzelfleisch: stewed pork with root vegetables (well, carrots), potatoes, and a huge mound of fresh grated horseradish, in the Styrian style (Styria is a state of Austria). Kate had a grilled turkey salad which was, frankly, tastier than my dinner though not as typisch. After dinner we went back to the room and had a romantic evening, hence no blogging nor writing.

Monday 4/30

Breakfast in nearby Cafe Kreuzberg (ham, cheese, and bread for me; ham with a fried egg on it for Kate). We’ve been hearing American pop music in nearly every restaurant, bar, and shop; exceptions: opera in one restaurant in Bologna, German rap booming from a car on the street in Vienna, reggae in a cafe (which still read as American pop to me but Kate pointed out it was not American).

We decided to go our separate ways today. Kate determined that her distance glasses were not in her bag, probably left at Schwartzenberger Cafe yesterday so that was her first stop (they were there, all right — whew!). Our 72-hour transit passes had expired, but Kate texted me to warn me about it and I bought a new one at a nearby tobacconists.

I’ve noted this before, but the German word Not (pronounced “note” and meaning “emergency”) leads to such amusing signs as NOTHAMMER on a hammer. In France, the triangular “!” sign is pronounced “Dude!”; here I think it’s “Achtung!”

Made my way to the Kunst Haus Wein, AKA the Hundertwasser museum. Very glad to be wearing the Keen sandals on the uneven floors… my feet can feel the variations. The place reminds me of the Ghibli Museum as much as anything. Hundertwasser was a genius (artist, architect, built his own boat, world traveler, designer of stamps and flags) but was probably rather difficult to live with (argumentative, opinionated; 2 wives for a couple years each; also, most of his buildings, flags, license plates, etc. were never produced). Had lunch at very pleasant museum cafe: Tagesmenu (daily menu) of Spargelcremesuppe (asparagus cream soup, it’s in season), Gebratene Huhnerbrust (roast chicken breast) mit Letscho (sauteed tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, and peppers) und Reis (rice).

Walked from the museum to Hundertwasserhaus itself. Only visible from outside, of course, and mobbed with tourists. What you can see is more of a compromise than the museum, I think; very glad to have seen the museum first. Looking at the outside really does not convey what H. was trying to do.

Another hot sunny day with surprisingly cold air streaming from doorways as I pass; not air conditioning, I think, but thick stone and masonry walls. Our apartment, too, is very cool even on a hot day.

Remembered on the tram heading away from Hundertwasserhaus that I’d forgotten to look for the penny-smashing machine there. Hopped off, caught the same tram back, found machine, it was working. Yay!

At Dr.-Karl-Renner-Ring exchange point, did not get on next bus, instead used Google Maps to find nearest bank (just behind Parliament) to change some money for the next leg of the trip. Teller explained that to change dollars to crowns she’d have to go through euros and I’d have to pay the exchange few twice, so I just got 250 euros out of the ATM and changed 200 of those to crowns. Might or might not have been cheaper this way, who knows, but at least we have some Czech cash now. The whole transaction was conducted in German, feeling rather smug about that.

Dinner at Wirr, the same cafe near our apartment where we’d waited for our hot to show up. I had “orientales Gröstl mit Rindfaschiertem” = a dry curry of potatoes & ground beef, actually quite nummy. Then off to the Volksoper (not the Stadtoper, not the Volkstheatre) for the opening night of The Sound of Music!

There were quite a few dirndls in the audience. It was a very nice performance, though there were… differences. The performance was in German with English supertitles, though only about half the lines and lyrics were supertitled. Sometimes the supertitles were the familiar lyrics, other times just the gist. “The hills are alive” lyric was sung in English, none of the rest. The song “Do, Re, Mi” was the weirdest: instead of do, re, mi it was C, D, E, F, G, A, H (D as in D-train, E as in elephant, F as in fluttering flag, etc.) For the climactic performance our theatre in Vienna was transformed into a theatre in Salzburg, with us as the audience and Nazi soldiers in the aisles and boxes — quite effective. The curtain call was very European, with rhythmic clapping (until the kids came out, when the audience dissolved into enthusiastic kvelling) and after the first set of bows the curtain closed and the performers slipped out from behind the curtain for additional bows (a true curtain call).

Tram home, packed, fell over. Photos soon, I hope.

Today, the Czech Republic!

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