Vienna Excursion 2012 – Day 6

On our last day in Vienna we went out with a bang. We started Saturday morning with a trip to the twin museums. The Kunsthistorisches Museum (art gallery) and The Naturhistorisches Museum (natural history museum) are two enormous buildings situated directly across from one other, with the statue of Empress Maria Theresia between them.

I have visited both of the museums as a child and find them both to be phenomenal. The museums are full of fascinating objects and are a “must see” when visiting Vienna, however, a lot of time needs to be allotted to those visits. This time I decided to go to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, my favorite of the two. This art gallery starts with Egypt and on three floors continues throughout history, ending with a special exhibition on the top floor, which was an exhibition of clothing made by students at Vienna’s fashion school. I had a little over three hours in which to see the museum, and I can honestly say that I needed more time. I read almost none of the little plaques stationed by each work and continued through at my steady museum stroll. I was impressed by how extensive the Egyptian and Greek sections are. The museum holds works of artists such as Velázquez, Raffaello, Caravaggio, Bosch, Rubens, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Dürer and Gainsborough. However, my favorite work is a small blue hippopotamus decorated with lotus flowers and birds found in the Egyptian section.

In front of the twin museums: Jeff, Emily, Steph, Gwynnie, John 1, John 2, Janine Ludwig, Verena

After our museum excursion we went on to lunch at Centimeter where I had a delicious Schnitzel with French fries. I think it’s safe to say it was so delicious and huge that I felt slightly ill afterwards. Feeling satisfied and stuffed, we went back to the hotel to collect our luggage and fly back to Bremen. As hard as it was to leave one of my favorite cities on earth, I know I’ll be back again. And at least I had the delicious chocolate from Air Berlin to look forward to.

Vienna excursion 2012 – Day 5

On Friday, we discovered more about the wealth and imperial power of the Habsburg dynasty. The day started with a tour of the Schatzkammer, the imperial treasury. Over the course of hundreds of years, the Habsburg family accumulated many precious and valuable items and now the Schatzkammer displays those items to the public. Items on display include the Imperial Crown of Austria, the treasury of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and the Burgundian Treasury. For the Habsburgs and many other imperial families, jewels were a way to display wealth and power. Another way the Habsburgs showed their status was with grand palaces.

On Friday evening, the Dickinson group visited the Schönbrunn Palace which included a tour of the main building, a traditional Viennese dinner, and a concert consisting of the music of Mozart and Strauss. The Palace was the summer home of the Habsburgs but is located just outside of the center of Vienna (a short 15-minute ride by tram). The elegance of the rooms and expanse of the property truly reflect the wealth and power of a family that ruled Central Europe until the crushing defeat of their empire in World War I. Today, Austria is a small nation with limited global scope. The Schatzkammer and Schönbrunn Palace are reminders of how powerful the nation once was and the changing status of nations in global power politics.

Vienna Excursion 2012 – Day 4

On Thursday morning we awoke to a little surprise, snow!  After having had several days of sunshine, Vienna decided it was time to throw something a little more interesting our way. We marched out into the light snowfall and on to the Mozart house. The Mozart House is located a street or two away from St. Stephen’s Cathedral and is actually an apartment in which Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, along with his wife and children, lived for several years. The entire building has been converted into a museum, but the main exhibition is located in Mozart’s apartment.

There are some original pieces, such as some furniture, letters and sheet music, but the majority of the museum consists of information about Mozart’s compositions and life. The walls are covered with information, there are display cases in every room, and everywhere you turn there is something to be read. The audio guided tour addressed everything from Mozart’s childhood to his death and every little detail about what happened in between. We had no problem spending several hours there, despite the relatively small size of the museum. This was my third visit to the Mozart House and still I managed to be one of the last ones finished.

After our Mozart overload we headed off for lunch at a restaurant that only serves dishes containing potatoes, apples or both.  Even their decoration was centered on the two ingredients. With such limitations one might think there weren’t very many choices, but that was certainly not the case. Everything was delicious and innovative. It was clear that this restaurant was a lunchtime hot spot, as after a little while the place was completely full.

In the afternoon the majority of us went on the tour of the Opera House or Staatsoper.  The Opera House is one of the most significant places in Vienna. Many famous singers, composers and musicians have graced audiences with their music in that building. Every year the Opera Ball is held there, which is the most important event on the social calendar, so much so that it is televised. Vienna is the city of music and the Opera House is a center for that music. It has been open for hundreds of years and is one of the most, if not the most, famous opera houses in the world. The tour was quite short, but we were taken through the main staircase, reception halls and the main house. The building is decorated with flamboyant baroque architecture and ornate artwork, except for several more modern, but equally rich rooms, due to destruction during World War II. The Staatsoper is a “must see” on any tourist’s list when going to Vienna, but what makes it even better is to actually see a production there, which we unfortunately were unable to do.

Later in the evening we all met up at Café Demel, which is one of the most famous of Vienna’s coffee houses. Demel is famous for creating delicious and original treats for the Empress Elizabeth. They continue this tradition and we were lucky enough to enjoy some of their scrumptious delicacies.

After our indulgent trip to Café Demel we attended a production of Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera at the Volkstheater. The building itself is very beautiful, being richly decorated in the Baroque style, but the production was very commanding of the audience’s attention. The actors, musicians, lighting and set were fabulous. I found myself fully captivated by what was taking place on stage. It was one of my most successful and enjoyable trips to the theater, and I have had many.

After watching an incredible performance, what better to do than grab a drink at a rooftop bar? This is exactly what we did. Around the corner from the Volkstheater is a hotel with a new bar, Dachboden, on its roof, providing its visitors with a fabulous view of Vienna. Dachboden is very popular and was quite full, but it was still the perfect way to end the evening, looking out on one of the most culturally rich, glamorous cities in the world.

Vienna excursion 2012 – Day 3

Today was our 3rd day in Vienna and I really must admit that it is probably the most beautiful city I have visited. Every street I walk down, I sense the coexistence of history, poshness, and nonetheless extreme livability. Today our activities included the more historical and political facets of Austria’s capitol city. First we went on a very in depth tour of the Austrian National Library. Located in the Hofburg palace, I would hardly say this library was comparable to Waidner-Spahr. It was ornate and filled with numerous original prints, such as Martin Luther’s bible. Three hours and a passionate tour guide later, the group was on to our next tour, this time of Parliament. The tour gave an informative insight into the government of a once powerhouse country. With my free time afterwards, I ventured into another part of the city to find the house of none other than Sigmund Freud. As the daughter of two clinical psychologists, it was truly exciting just walking through Freud’s residence, where he lived until 1938 when he was forced to flee to London due to his Jewish ancestry. Vienna has really surpassed my expectations and even in a tightly packed week of tours, meals, and museums, there is so much more I hope to experience during another visit in the future.


Vienna Excursion 2012 – Day 2

We all anticipated today, our first full day of sightseeing and touring the city. The day started early with an awesome breakfast spread at the hotel consisting of bread, cheese, and meat, but, most importantly, a personal pot of coffee. Satisfied and energized from breakfast we set off to meet our tour guide outside of the Albertina Museum. It was a beautiful morning and with sunshine greeting our anxious, glowing faces we started off on our tour. The tour could not have been neater; it provided us with a dose of historical background to the stunning buildings around each corner. I had a tough time keeping my mouth closed on the tour as we went from building to building, shocked by the beauty of the city.

The tour gave us just a glimpse of the city, so after lunch we were ready to delve deeper into a historical site. We started off big with St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The Romanesque and Gothic architecture made the whole cathedral seem surreal. Everything was ornate and had such detail that it just did not look real. However, the cathedral offered more than just its architecture. It had a rich, long history, part of which it literally still had in its depths: the catacombs. We were lucky enough to get a tour of the catacombs, where the remains of past Viennese continued to rest. I will not lie. It was a little creepy. Anyway, it capped off a great first day that left us in awe of Vienna.


Vienna Excursion 2012 – Day 1

Our epic journey to Vienna started on Monday morning on the 5th of March. We met at the Hauptbahnhof in Bremen to make the hour and a half long trek by train to the Hamburger Airport. Flights are far cheaper from the bustling metropolis compared to our little provincial town of Bremen. The flight to Vienna was only about an hour and a half, and Air Berlin made our journey quite enjoyable feeding us delicious chocolates as we stepped down onto the welcoming soil of Vienna, Austria. It took a short ride on the city-airport train and an even shorter taxi ride to get to our perfectly located hotel. Our hotel was on a side street by the State Opera House and right at the end of the main shopping street. It was close to the Ringstrasse which is the circular street surrounding the inner city of Vienna.

Gwynnie, Steph, Jeff, Emily, John G., John P., Dr. Janine Ludwig (from left to right)

After we arrived in the late afternoon, we had a chance to settle in before we headed out for dinner at the Zwölf- Apostelkeller, a slightly kitschy, but nevertheless nice restaurant. The menu offered many different kinds of heavy meat and potatoes type meals, such as Schnitzel or Saftgulasch (chunks of meat with lots of sauce) with potatoes, just like any Heuriger (traditional Viennese restaurants) on the outskirts of Vienna would.

The restaurant was in the basement of a building (hence it being called Keller) and was very beautifully decorated. To make the evening all the more enjoyable there were musicians, a violinist and an accordion player. These two men played throughout the evening and even stopped by our table and took some requests, even humoring us by playing “Edelweiss”. I of course took the opportunity to shamelessly sing along; we were in Vienna after all, the city of music, and I just couldn’t help myself.

After dinner we all decided to stop at Zanoni and Zanoni, THE Ice cream place in Vienna. They have all kinds of ice cream, gelato, soy milk ice cream and even something called Milk Rice Ice Cream, which is actually quite delicious. It was a tad bit cold for frozen treats, but nevertheless it was incredibly delicious and that does tend to be what Germans do anyway: eat ice cream in winter. We then headed home for an early night, as we had an absurdly full week ahead of us.