Saturday, May 30, 2009

Day 16: WIEN

I like to say Vienna the way the say it in Austria, "VEEN," which is why I have written it Wien in title. I also have a lot of fun with the language here - German. I am always trying to figure out how to say things in German and read the local menus. I probably sound ridiculous but I find it all pretty funny.

My favorite thing about Wien thus far is the fact that we switched to this "sterile" as my mom calls it, hotel room complete with a refrigerator and microwave. We have not used the microwave yet, but I am so excited about the fridge. Yesterday we went to the little grocery store down the street and bought milk!!!! Milk in Europe has been hard to come by. I am a pretty big milk drinker: Aaron and I buy two gallons each week or so - one for him (1%) and one for me (skim). In France, I couldn't find it anywhere. In Eastern Europe, every hotel we've been at only seems to serve whole milk for breakfast (It's been too creamy looking for us to try). We were finally able to find some 1.5% milk at the grocery store and keep in our room so we can just have cereal for breakfast. Eastern European breakfasts are much different from what we are used to. A typical one includes a meat and cheese tray, croissants, dinner rolls, and hard boiled eggs. They include cereal on the buffet table but only with whole milk. I've been sticking to the dinner rolls with butter. I can't seem to bring myself to eat ham and cheese for breakfast like I would for lunch. Kristy has been able to try it; though, I don't think she liked it much. So once again, I am so happy for this glorious hotel with its glorious fridge where I can store glorious milk. I also find it incredible that the germans/austrians have been able to simplify "frosted mini-wheats" to one word - "toppas."

Like Kristy mentioned yesterday, the street our hotel is off of is filled with shops, and a few tiny fast food restaurants. We wouldn't consider eating at any of them. McDonald's is not so tiny, but so far we have seen at least three of them in the 15 minute walk we've done up this street. They aren't your typical McDonalds's though, they are "McCafes." They are hip places with a coffee and dessert bar towards the front and then a typical McDonalds in the back. My Mom thinks that the McCafe street appeal is part of the subterfuge to lure the Austrians into McDonalds. If McDonalds in its American form were at street level -there would be less interest - so the McCafe wrapper is a marketing ploy. We ventured over there yesterday morning to use their free wireless internet services (at this hotel we had to purchase our internet rights for an expensive rate so we opted to capitalize on that when Kristy needed it for her meeting) to let our husbands know where we were and post about Prague. We tried a hot chocolate of theirs and let's just say, I would still recommend Starbucks. Although, we did see something about McDonald's attempting to acquire Starbucks...

After we got ready for the day, we were once again hungry and instead of being adventurous, we headed to our favorite spot from yesterday, Vapiano, for some more pasta and salad. Delicious once again!

We then walked to the Hofburg Palace. This palace is incredible - huge, elaborate, and rivals any palace we've seen so far. I was impressed at how incredibly preserved everything was and how much of the "stuff" from these palaces were still intact. We only heard, "this is a replica of the original" a few times. Because Wien was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire/Austrian Empire until 1918, it seems that most of the "stuff" has been preserved well.

We first viewed the silver collection - I have never seen so many dishes in my life. Not even during the whole wedding registry process. Room after room after room filled with different plate collections, settings, centerpieces, silverware, etc.
Next we visited the Sisi Museum - a museum about the life of the Empress Elizabeth - Franz Josef's wife. She was assasinated tragically in 1898 and has been hallowed as a national hero and figure since then. She was very beautiful, but very depressed. Life as the empress did not suit her well. It was quite a sad exhibit to see. Following that, we toured the Imperial Apartments of Franz Josef and Elizabeth. These were also incredibly decorated and remarkably preserved. (we weren't allowed to take pictures in any of these places). We were surprised at how relatively new the emergence of porcelain is . . late 17 early 1800's I think. Prior to that everyone ate on silver platters . . but they kept having to melt them down to pay for things . . . so eventually porcelain became more acceptable.

Next we ventured towards the Royal and Ecclesiastical Treasury. We had heard this was incredible also and we were not let down. Once again, room after room after room was filled with royal treasures. It eventually got really tiring. We were able to snap some no flash pictures of some of the most gaudy objects. I couldn't believe some of the decoration on these things.

My Mom enjoyed getting a look at some reliquaries - she had always heard about them but had never seen one up close. We saw a ton of them. Basically, a reliquary is a fancy container fasioned to hold the relics of a saint or even Jesus Christ. There containers with pieces of bone and/or hair from saints. There was a reliquary or two claiming to have a thorn from the crown of thorns. These became important treasures as the person who owned them could substantiate the fact that they were ruling by divine right. The fact that they owned the relic documented this.

My mom left the treasury with an appreciation for tapestries. She has never really liked them - thinking of them as dust collectors. Of course - she knows they served as insulation in drafty palaces and as important demonstrations of wealth and power. But . . .they always seemed dusty and faded to her. After seeing the tapestries at the many places we have visited and then seeing some smaller ones in the treasury - she now has an appreciation for them as an art form. Her favorite piece was a set of liturgical vestments. They were called antependia and would have covered the front and back of an altar. Not only were they of beautiful workmanship - or workwomanship - but they were encrusted with jewels. Absolutely mesmerizing. The treasure was dark to preserve the treasures and so all our pictures could not do it justice . . but here's a peek anyway:

Following our Hofburg Palace visit, we stopped for dinner at a nice place overlooking a park near the palace. Our food was delicious - I ordered Steak with Greenbeans and Tomatoes and Kristy ordered Venison with asparagus, an asparagus crepe and elderberries. It was delicious, and very picturesque, so I snapped some pictures of the food. (I am now considering a career in food photography - haha)

We saw this statue from our table - it looked to us like he's urinating into the tree - you may have to click on the image to get a better view, but does anyone agree with me? I think its hilarious!


  1. Glad you liked the Charles Bridge! Vienna is another great city with really neat architecture and great museums. Have a wonderful time there!

  2. I agree with you Lauren. It looks like he is relieving himself into the trees. How funny, hope you and Kristy are having a great time still.