Austria Vacation Log: Day 14, The Redemption of Wien

We were still wiped out and tired, in part because of the previous day’s travel, in part because of the hike 2 days before, and partly just exhaustion from traveling for so long. We got a late start and didn’t make it to the Hofburg until near 11, when the crowds were in full force.

The Hofburg Palace

Hercules statue at the Hofburg

The Hofburg was the royal palace of the Hapsburgs in Vienna, the seat of their power as they ruled first the Holy Roman Empire and then the Austria-Hungary Empire. We started the museum complex by wasting far too much time in the porcelain and silverware section of the museum- we didn’t realize that you could skip it entirely. The Sissy museum was also a waste. Sissy was the nickname of Empress Elizabeth, was basically a petulant and spoiled Barbie-doll type that was married to Emperor Franz Joseph. But the people liked her, and a cult developed around her, similar to the cult of Princess Diana in the late twentieth century. Finally we got to the Imperial apartments, which I found very interesting. Franz Joseph, one of the last emperors, was a real workaholic, but I guess that’s what you do if you take the job seriously. Sissy’s apartments were also interesting. They showed the room where she spent 2-3 hours a day to get her hair done. When she washed it, it took an entire day (it was ankle-length, and washed in raw eggs and brandy. Hmmm…)

After seeing those three museums, our feet were throbbing. We relaxed with a table at the Café Griensteidl and had a good lunch. I had fettuccini in a cream sauce with mushrooms and smoked salmon, while Dorinna had the cheese spätzel. We finished off the very good lunch with Esterhazytorte, my favorite cake in Vienna. Sweet and creamy, but not too heavy.

After lunch we headed for our next destination- the Neue Burg Museums, part of the Hapsburgs extensive art museums. The Neue Murg contained a large museum of armor and weapons. It was cool, but there was a lot of armor. I think we must have seen armor from every Hapsburg empero who ever lived. Unfortunately, the museum was very hot. We tried to look at the musical instruments collection, but I was just too beat to really enjoy it. Ditto with the sculpture. I just about collapsed into a small café opposite café Demel. Water and a Viennese coffee really helped. We then explored the fancy shopping streets back to our hotel for showers and a little rest.

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Neue Burg Museums

We had dinner at Ferdinand Zwickl-Beisl. The food was good- I had goulash with sausage and beer. Unfortunately, a loud group of young Americans and Canadians moved in, and the atmosphere went to hell. We beat a hasty retreat to Brezel-Gwölb, a restaurant which Rick Steves describes as “an atmospheric place for a glass of wine.” He was right- picnic tables on the cobbles of a tiny alley. We sat at a table with a German couple (“Sind diese Plätze frei?”) I managed to speak almost entirely German with the waiter. It was fairly amusing: “Könnten Sie einen guten weiss Wein emphelen, bitte?” I asked, which means “Could you recommend a good white wine?” He babbled on in German for a while, far too fast for me to understand. I just pointed to one on the menu and said “Zweimal dieser Wein, bitte.” (“Two glasses of this wine, please”). But what made the evening magical is that it wasn’t long before the couple sitting next to us switched to English and started talking. Sabine was a social worker, working with deaf people. Frank does logistics for a catering company. They were from Köln (Cologne), Germany. We talked together for about 3 hours. Since we had just been lamenting our lack of personal contact with Europeans, so this really made our day. It’s hard to describe in words, but these experiences, chances to talk with people from different countries and cultures, are always the highlight of our traveling. It was a very late night indeed when we finally stumbled back to our hotel.