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Long night of the museums

I did not sleep well. First, the walls were extremely thin and I could hear everything the people in the next room over were saying. I kept thinking that they were in my room, which was a bit unnerving while trying to fall asleep. Second, I woke up an hour too early because I didn't set my clock back. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that until after I was up, dressed, and out the door.

I had planned to get to the Naschmarkt (think nosh market) at 8:30, not 7:30, even though the guide said that it opened at 6. At 7:30 though, it was still reasonably dead. There were 2 aisles of vendors running the length of the market, and one of them appeared to mostly be lunch/dinner restaurants. The other aisle contained the fish mongers, fruit vendors, and a surprising number of falafel stands. That half was open, but it was clearly just getting started. I wandered down the row, feeling like the very hungry caterpillar as I stopped to try things and buy small foodstuffs that interested me. By the end, I had made myself a breakfast consisting of 3 small eggplant appetizers from Dr. Falafel, a cheese pastry, a pickle, a plum Linzer cookie, and some mountain cheese. Had I been staying longer, I would have bought some vegetables here to cook with. They had all sorts of fruits and veggies from all over the world, and they were advertised by the country they came from. From fennel to lychees, you were covered. Also, there were a very large number of stands selling nuts, dried fruits, and spices. At the end of the Naschmarkt was a flea market. The people there had everything from dishware, old clothes, and new shawls to faucets, appliances, and toys. Since I needed sunglasses to replace my broken ones, I did stop to get a pair. I negotiated down to 5 euro from 10, so even if they only lasted a month, they were worth it and I felt like I was getting a reasonable deal.

It was still too early to go to St. Stephen's cathedral, so I wandered past the Hofburg palace for a little before I headed up to the cathedral. When I got the the cathedral, all the bells were ringing for a very long procession. The procession was coming from somewhere so far down the street that I couldn't even see the end of the line. It contained nuns, church officials, and a bunch of guys in costumes. I can't believe that they are all priests or friars unless there is some sort of special event going on, but maybe they are. The procession mostly filled the cathedral, but some regular people went in as well for mass. During mass, tourists are allowed in the back of the church, but not in the main praying area. the back takes less than 10 minutes to see, so I went to climb the tower while I waited for services to be over. The tower has something like 340 steps to the top, mostly in a spiral staircase. It was quite the climb, but it didn't take as long as I thought it would. Before I knew it, I was at the top. The top has quite a view of the city. It is definitely worth the climb. Also, from the top of the tower, you get a better view of the tiling on the cathedral roof. After climbing down the stairs again, mass was still in session, so I went to check out the ruins in the nearby metro station. You read correctly. In the metro station, you can look through some glass at Virgilkapelle, the remains of a church that is much older that St. Stephen's or the remains that are sitting next to St. Stephen's outside. When I was done there, mass was still happening, so I just gave up temporarily. I headed off to the Hofburg Palace, figuring that maybe I'd make it back to St. Stephen's later.

The Hofburg Palace is gorgeous from the outside, but it's also worth it to go inside. It contains 3 museums that are all under one ticket. For a little more, you can get the Sisi ticket that also gets you into the Schonbrunn Palace, but costs less than the two tickets bought separately. I got that as I intended to go there later. The first museum is the Imperial Dishes Museum. It sounds lamer than it is. Basically, it contains all of the dishware from all of the royal families. The audio guide is good on detail, although it makes getting through the museum go slowly if you listen to all of the description. I skipped a bunch, but still learned some interesting things about Viennese tastes. For example, despite the massive quantity of exquisite porcelain, only soup and dessert courses were eaten off porcelain. Everything else was eaten off of silver. They had a massive quantity of each on display though. Every different ruler seemed to have their own style and bought their own set of dishes that were contemporary in their times. By massive, I mean roomS of dishes in each style, multiplied by a lot of styles. The second museum is the Sisi Museum. Sisi (Elisabeth) became an Austrian Empress at 16, wasn't particularly famous, and then died young, sparking her popularity. She is often compared to Princess Diana for that. The museum walks you through her life, from why she was married off instead of her older sister, to the deaths of some of her children and her health issues later in life. They have a bunch of dresses and replicas of her jewels, but other than that, it's a little sparse on Sisi-specific artifacts, probably because she was just one of many Empresses. She did have some quirks though, which led to interesting displays, although some were in the next museum. For example, she wanted to stay in shape, so she had an exercise room built and had her own home gym. Still, the really good artifacts were in the Imperial Living Quarters, the third museum. Basically, they had a bunch of rooms set up how they would have looked when the royal families lived there. The chambers were the epitome of fancy, decorated from the floors to the ceilings. Here, the audio guide was a bit better. I didn't skip so many of the lectures, and they told entertaining stories about the various royals. For example, one of the kings would see anybody, down to the lowliest peasant, so his waiting room wasn't just for the rich and you could find anybody there. Right when I was about in those chambers, I started to hear a band. Just out the window, a bunch of people in historic costumes had started to play (what I assumed to be) Viennese period music. That just added to the incredible charm of the imperial chambers.

By the time I was through with the Hofburg Palace, I was getting hungry again. Nearby is a Vienna staple- the Trzesniewski buffet. Here, they have mini open-faced sandwiches on display, each with different toppings. They're basically some sort of mashed salad on quarters of slices of bread. You can choose a variety so that you can try several in the same meal without filling up too much. The ones I got were pretty good, although one was spicy enough that it interfered with my ability to really taste all of the subtle flavors in the others. I washed it all down with a pulpy blueberry drink, and headed back to St. Stephen's.

At this point, it was around noon and the cathedral was so packed, I couldn't even get in. I was glad I had been there right at the opening. I gave up on it again, thinking that maybe I'd get back to it, but if I didn't at least I had seen some of it.

Schonbrun Palace is a metro ride away, and it is right outside of the stop- just follow the crowd right up to the palace doors. There was quite a bit to do on the palace grounds. I started by going outside to the gorgeous palace gardens. At the far, far end of the gardens is a hill you can walk up. At the far, far end of the hill is Gloriette, a very expensive cafe inside a monument built by one of the royals. I didn't eat there, but I did stand outside and enjoy the view of the city and the palace. I had been concerned that the view wouldn't be worth the walk, but a couple on their way down assured me it was. They were right. On the way back, I stopped in briefly to look at the zoo and maze that were on the side of the gardens, but those cost extra and I wasn't sure how good I was on time, so I skipped them. Here is another place it came in handy to have a Sisi ticket already purchased. Everybody else had to wait in line to get a ticket with a specific entry time on it. The guards weren't letting anybody in until their time. I overheard one telling a group, "wait one more minute," because their time wasn't quite yet. I however, got to march straight in because the Sisi ticket gets you into the untimed line, which is also very so short I'm not sure they can even call it a line. The palace had chambers set up not that differently than the Hofburg, but the audio guide was even better. Plus, they had lots of rooms set up as they were for royals other than Sisi and Franz Josef. For example, some other royal had an Asian fetish and so there was a bunch of Asian art as well.

When I was done enjoying the palace, I walked back to my hotel to rest my feet (I had pretty much been walking all day), and to take a nap to prepare for the evening. Another slightly less-than-complimentary fact about the hotel: there are no signs to indicate "do not disturb" and they don't really knock in the middle of the day. I was startled awake when the guy came in my room. I'm just glad I was in pjs and not in the shower or something.

After the nap, I headed over to the last place that was covered by the Sisi ticket. Since the ticket was less than the regular entrance fees to the 2 palaces, this was basically free. It's this furniture depot. The royals apparently all had their own furniture and styles, but instead of furnishing each of their many homes with their stuff, they bought enough furnishings for one or two and then had a crew of people move the furnishings in whenever they came around and out whenever they weren't. By furnishings, I mean everything from couches and beds, to chamber pots, pianos, lighting, and even moulding. Unless you're big into furniture, it's something you can walk through pretty quickly. If you have somebody with you who isn't, they have the Sisi movie playing in about every room, so that person can be entertained by the tvs while you enjoy furniture stuff. The one very cool place to make sure to stop, even if you're not into furniture, is the chair depot. They have a whole line of very old chairs that you can actually sit on. I sat on some and could feel the comfort that the royals felt. Plus, it was cool to think that some Austrian royal sat in the same place as I did. I went back to the Naschmarkt for dinner at a Chinese place called Pineapple. It was pretty good. I also stopped by the famous vinegar store that was closed in the morning. These people have real, mothered vinegars in wooden casks. You can try them and then buy them. The exciting part is that they don't just have balsamic, they have honey vinegar, quince vinegar, and other bizarre varieties that you don't really see elsewhere. I got some to take home, although I haven't quite figured out what to do with it yet.

For those who don't know, Long Night of the Museums is the one night per year when most of the museums in Vienna (the Hofburg and Schonbrunn weren't part of the most, but over a hundred museums were) stay open from 5pm until 1am. There is a single ticket that you can buy, and it gets you into all of the museums for free. Many of the museums have special programs that they run during this time. During the day, whenever I was sitting and eating or sitting on a train, I had been reading my guide to the Long Night and marking the places I wanted to see. I had even marked the order that made the most sense (and involved the least walking in circles as I had already walked something like 9 hours by the time it started). I started at the Opera House museum, as they said they had a tour right at 5. Unfortunately, the tour was of the museum and not the Opera House. Oops! I had passed the outside of the Opera House several times, but I really wanted to see the inside of the Opera House and it was now too late. That messed up my plans a little. Instead, I headed to the Kunsthistoriches museum. That museum had ancient Roman and Greek stuff as well as a ton of paintings from various eras around the Renaissance. I'm not really into all of the old, commissioned religious pieces and portraits, so I wasn't super-impressed, but if you are, you should go. The building had very cool ceilings and 5 paintings I liked (4 in the same series), but not much more.

I moved on to try to go into the Treasury, but the line was ridiculously long. I didn't feel it was worth waiting in, so I headed over to the Jewish museum. Of course, it wasn't open yet as sundown hadn't occurred and it was still Shabbat. They should have put something in the booklet that they weren't opening until 8pm.

Because I had to go to the restroom, I ducked into the closest museum to where I was, which happened to be the clock museum. If it weren't Long Night and I didn't have to go, I wouldn't have stopped in, but it was a very neat place to stumble upon. It had old grandfather clocks, cukoo clocks, and other sorts of neat artistic clocks. It's pretty small, so it didn't take too long to go through it.

Next I headed over to the Globe Museum, as it was right next to the Esperanto Museum (which would be my next stop). I actually really love old globes because I find it intriguing to see how people used to see the world, and also to see what countries existed at various points in history, so I was excited at this find. However, I was a bit disappointed. All of the globes were crammed into a small place and shelved on top of each other so that you couldn't really see all around any of them, you only got a good view of one side. Plus, that one side was more often than not in the middle of an ocean. If they spread the globes out more and made sure that the land parts were visible, the museum would have been very interesting.

I bought a small snack from some people doing a bake sale fundraiser, and then waited a few minutes for 8pm. At 8pm, the Esperanto museum had a crash course in Klingon. The course was in German, but I was ok at first. The instructor explained to us how to pronounce the Klingon letters, and how to count in Klingon. Then, we got to the part where he taught conjugations. I get how to conjugate in Klingon, but I have no idea what he words mean or what persons I'm conjugating in because the translation was in German. It was hilarious though. Here I am, not understanding any of the jokes he's telling, not even understanding half of what I'm repeating, and still enjoying my introduction to Klingon. Tonight I definitely upgraded my geek rating.

After my fabulous lesson, I headed back to the now-open Jewish museum. It was a bit sparse, but most of the disappointment was that they had poorly scanned and reprinted replicas on display instead of original artifact documents. Also disappointing was that in the donations box there were way more dollars than euros. What wasn't a disappointment was the ancient synagogue. We were taken on a tour of the ruins of an old synagogue. It's basically just a large underground room, but you can still see in the rubble where the women prayed separate from the men. The bimah is still partly intact and the original floor tiles are still present.

Next, I wanted to try the treasury again- still a long line, try again later. Instead, I took the Long Night shuttle bus to KunsthausWien.

Kunst Haus Wien took my breath away with its amazingness. It seriously was awesome in the literal definition of the word. Holy crap. I'm going to try to give you a feel for it, but you really just have to go there as words can't fully express how unique it is. First, you enter through the restaurant cafe. It is outdoors and completely surrounded with greenery. You feel like you're in a little park, far removed from the city, despite the fact that the road is right there. Next, the building itself is very unique. The floors aren't flat. There are hills and curves that make you feel as if you're outside and not inside. The floors appear to be made of recycled tile or wood, which also contributes to the outdoor feeling. Even the walls are very fluid and make a regular home feel industrial. Everywhere you look, there is art by Hundertwasser (who also designed the building) on the walls. The art is very bright and shiny- even the post cars of the art have foil in them. Much of the art has a clear ecological or political message, but even those pieces are fun to look at. In addition to the paintings, there are some architectural models. One was a model of a village where all of the houses were built into hillsides, so all of them had flowing, natural green roofs. The designs were all very eco-friendly and way ahead of their time. Personally, I was so impressed that I spent quite a bit of money on prints to take home and decorate my walls.

Upon finishing at the Kunst Haus Wien, I took the shuttle back to the main area and stopped by where they were giving sewer tours, but the tours were all full. By this point, I was getting pretty hungry, so I stopped for a bite at the Cafe Museum. (I think the name means that it is a cafe i the museum area, because there is no actual museum in the cafe.) The apple strudel was pretty good, but it came with a lot of superfluous whipped cream. The hot chocolate also had too much whipped cream and didn't taste that chocolatey. It was only slightly better than that at Sacher. Moral of the story- in Vienna, you might as well just get water as the hot chocolate isn't much better.

My last stop of the evening was the Treasury, which finally had a short line. It contained a bunch of the royal crowns and other royal artifacts, including stuff from the emperor of Mexico and Marie Antoinette, who was apparently from an Austrian family, although we usually think of her as French. It was worth seeing.

By the time I was done there, it was just about 1am, and I had walked most of the day (at least 15 hours). I was completely exhausted and very ready for the return flight, which turned out to be uneventful, especially since I was sleeping most of the way.) I returned from my trip refreshed, renewed, and ready to take on life again.

(Pictures soon)

Produce at the Naschmarket

Produce at the Naschmarket





Schonbrunn Palace Gardens

Schonbrunn Palace Gardens

Floor at best museum ever

Floor at best museum ever

Royal crown

Royal crown

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Austria

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