Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Potpourri of Vienna

We had 36 hours in Vienna before the bicycle portion of our trip started.  You've already seen a bit of this, from cobbles to markets to beverages.  We took advantage of our time there by wandering about the central part of town on foot; this was interesting and random, and more relaxing than having a list of "must-see destinations".  Sometimes we just walked toward the nearest interesting-looking thing that poked up on the skyline; sometimes we would pick an obscurity off the tourist map and set off on a quest to navigate the medieval street layout to find it.  Here's a taste:

It's hard to miss St. Stephen's Cathedral, especially when you come out of the underground right in the square that contains it.  It's also hard to photograph because it is big and surrounded by the rest of the city.

Confusingly, this St. Stephen is not our buddy Szent Istvan (aka King Stephen I of Hungary aka King Saint Stephen) from Budapest.  The Saint Stephen the cathedral in Vienna is named for is the first martyr of Christianity (also the same St. Stephen as in the feast of Stephen in December).

We liked the clock face.

There were horse buggies line up next to the cathedral to give tours to tourists.  We chose to walk, but the carriages were most photogenic.

You could definitely tell which parts of the church had undergone recent cleaning and which hadn't.

I always like gargoyles.

We did take a brief peek inside, though did not take the full tour.  There was an lace art installation hanging from the ceiling, which made for a unusual contrast with the vaulted ceiling.

I like pipe organs almost as much as gargoyles.  This one is supposed to be the largest organ in Europe.  Sadly, no one was playing it when we went in.

Heading toward the Habsburg palace complex, we found a neat doorknocker

shortly before getting turned around in the maze of buildings in the complex.

If we see signs for a "Museum of Historic Musical Instruements", we are can't help but follow them.  The instrument collection was impressive, but I particularly liked this fine table from the sixteenth century, which had individual voice parts for music by Orlando di Lasso along the edges.  I've sung an awful lot of Lasso over the years.  Presumably, singers could arrange themselves around the table and have at it.

The same building in the palace complex contained a museum of armor and weapons collected by the Habsburg dynasty.  Chad was fascinated; Nimue was creeped out by the empty suits of armor and got bored.

We were particularly amused by this weird swiss army knife of a shield that included its own weapons bristling out at all angles,

as well as an oil lamp on the interior.  One was supposed to be able to blind enemies with the lamp, but I suspect the risk of spilling boiling oil on one's arm while doing so might mean that this particular innovation was not so practical.

Back outside, we saw art while walking through squares,

found many cafes,

stumbled across the Holocaust Memorial,

spent a really long time trying to locate the Anker clock at Hohher Markt,

and passed the Mozart House, where the composer lived from 1784 to 1787.

It is clear that music pervades the city, from the costumed people selling tickets to musical events, seemingly at every corner, to the various museums, to the vast number of small shops dealing in things musical along the smaller shopping streets.

Musicians get their own stars inlaid into the cobbles.

In addition to things musical, every time we turned around, we ran into another church

and interesting tidbits to look at and photograph..  (Remember St. Ruprecht?)  The Ruprechtskirche is thought to be the oldest church in the city, dating back to the middle of the eighth century.  The oldest documented reference to the building is from the year 1200, when it was referred to as the "oldest church in the city", so it has been around for a while.

As the sun started to set, the city took on a whole new look.

People came out for dinner on the many pedestrian-only streets.

Many buildings were lit,

and church spires continued to peek out around every corner.

At one point, we heard music and saw a large crowd.  It turned out that the Vienna Opera House had set up a large screen outside the building and was live broadcasting the modern ballet that was playing that night to anyone who passed by.  Naturally we stopped to watch and listen for a bit.

The second afternoon, we walked down to the river and found a fun area full of graffiti/street art.  There were a number of small restaurants and bars along this stretch, and it was clearly a place for non-tourists to hang out, which was a welcome change from the teeming hordes up in the old city center.

Our hotel was near the United Nations office, a bit away from the city center; there was an interesting juxtaposition of the old and the new in this area.

We clearly barely scratched the surface, but it was an entertaining and educational 36 hours!

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