Episode 87 – Postcards from Vienna

NOTE: These travel pictures are from travels prior to us becoming nomadic in 2018. Like most of the world, we are staying put right now until the threat from COVID19 is either over or preventable via a vaccine.

Vienna is one of the loveliest, and most walkable, cities we’ve visited (so far). There are certainly a lot of iconic “postcard” pictures to take there, but among Ted’s hundreds of photos these are some of my favourite shots of less photographed sites. And yes, some of our “postcards” have people in them…. darned tourists! LOL

St. Francis of Assisi Basilica. Vienna’s iconic church is St. Stephen’s Cathedral with its ornate twin spires soaring over a mosaic patterned roof, but the very first beautiful church that WE saw after getting off our Danube river boat was St. Francis, the 7 centuries newer (1898-1910) church built to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reign of Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria.

Inside the Austrian parliament chamber. The 1880’s Greek revival style parliament building was heavily bombed in WWII, resulting in two stylistically very different chambers: the beautiful Greek style former House of Representatives chamber which was repaired in its original design (shown), and a completely rebuilt (and, to my mind, really quite ugly) former House of Lords chamber done in 1950’s modern. The entire building is open to the general public, and is well worth touring.

The Czechoslovakian cut glass ceiling in the Austrian parliament.

Backstage at the Vienna Staatsoperhaus. We’d never been backstage in such a grand theatre, with its multi-story rigging fully exposed. The Vienna State Opera performs up to 5 different operas per week from a repertoire of 50-60 per year, which means that 5 complete sets need to be ready each week, including portions that pop up out of the floor, drop down from the ceiling, move to the foreground from the back, etc. There is an opera or ballet being presented on 350 days of each year. Our tour guide told us that, in separate warehouses, the Vienna State Opera stores props for over 100 operas, along with more than 150,000 (unimaginable to us) costumes, which are brought to the theatre in transport trucks as needed. As an aside, we learned from our tour guide that the opera is 50% subsidized by the government, and no one seems to think that is the least bit problematic. Vienna was just one of many places where we saw posters proclaiming “Arts and culture are a right, not a privilege”.

Foyer of the opera house. This foyer and the entry vestibule are the only “original” 1860’s Renaissance Revival style portions of the opera house left intact after the rest of the building was destroyed by the 1945 American bombardment. Standing room tickets cost only 6-10 Euros, with the most expensive ticket at about €260, comparable to prices in Toronto for the Canadian Opera Company…. and yet somehow not comparable at all. Taking in a performance there remains on my bucket list (we were there in July during the 2 weeks that the opera company was on vacation).

A small section of the Hofburg complex, seat of the Hapsburg kings of Austria and Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire back to the 1400’s, and until 1918 the imperial winter residence of the Hapsburgs. It has multiple wings and courtyards, stables, chapels, an impressive library and treasury, and even includes the famous Spanish Riding School. Many of the buildings are open to tourists as museums while others house governmental agencies.

Imagining a state dinner with the Hapsburgs. This massive gold-plated and crystal table setting, known as the Grand Vermeil, from the Imperial Silberkammer (silver treasury) includes place settings for 140 people (yes, really, but not all on display), as well as matching ornate centrepieces. It was displayed in a glass case so long that it required a panoramic camera shot to capture.

Schönbrunn’s Backyard. If you’re going to have a summer residence outside the city centre, it should be spectacular, right? There are many, many pictures of the entrance square to Schönbrunn, but this is a view looking back at the palace peeking around the fountain at the half-way point. What you can’t see are the vast expanses of lawn in both directions, the gorgeous glass palm house, the manicured allées where the trees have been pruned to create an archway under which carriages can pass, the many ornate fountains and pools, or the zoo!

The 1775 AD Gloriette stands atop a gentle hill at the far end of the property. It was used as the Empress’ breakfast room, with a rooftop platform overlooking the city of Vienna. Walking through the gardens to reach it, it is easy to imagine a retinue of gowned ladies strolling and chatting. Although destroyed in WWII, the Schönbrunn Gloriette was completely restored by 1947.

The Pavilion Cafe at the Schönbrunn Tiergarten. Founded as the imperial menagerie in 1752, the Tiergarten (animal garden) is the oldest continuously operating zoo in the world. And if you’re an emperor wandering through your private zoo, you might get a bit peckish, and not want to go all the way to the Gloriette where the ladies are taking tea, so you’ll need your own tea pavilion. It has been converted to a café and bar for tourists, but retains its original frescoed ceiling, imperial portraiture, crystal chandeliers , and leaded glass windows.

The Wiener Rathaus (Vienna city hall) was surrounded by lighting, screens, metal bleachers and huge fabric banners for the 3 decade old summer international Filmfestival Rathausplatz, so we couldn’t get close to it. Instead, Ted got this gorgeous shot of its neo-gothic roofline above the lush green trees.

The Schindler and Goethe statues (and a modern age “groupie”). The Viennese naturally love to memorialize musicians, but there are two major monuments that are exceptions: landscape painter Emil Jakob Schindler, and philosopher and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

The Stadtpark’s floral clock in front of the Kursalon. Vienna’s City Park is a huge 28 acre expanse of green, filled with statues, fountains, flowers, a pavilion/concert hall, and PEOPLE! At lunch hour, office workers fill the park, spreading blankets under the trees and eating their lunches… and there is NO litter left behind.

Kaerntner Strasse. Spanning from the opera house all the way to St. Stephens cathedral, this pedestrian boulevard is Vienna’s most famous shopping street. We took full advantage of the fact there are no vehicles allowed, and stopped to enjoy classical buskers, including a chamber music trio, and delicious Viennese coffee and cake in an outdoor café.

Viennese coffee break. Best….”postcard” … ever. Yum.

One comment

  1. Looking at your photos just wets my appetite to visit this glorious city with its’ spectacular architecture. And it looks very clean , organized with attention to the landscaping surrounding the buildings. Thank you !

    Liked by 1 person

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