Friday, May 14, 2010

Vienna





Our first day in Vienna starts gray and drizzly with a walk through the old town, city center. Us Californians are such puppies when it comes to weather and the rainy weather makes us feel a bit soggy. But there is something quite peaceful and beautiful in this musical city. It is definitely a city for walking and most of the historic sites are in close proximity to each other. In 1857, Emperor Franz Josef demolished the ancient wall surrounding the city to create a more cosmopolitan Ringstrasse, which encircles the heart of Vienna.Walking through the Hofburg Palace, the winter residence of the Habsburg ruling family until 1918, we follow others through a large gate and in to the back door of a room, and surprisingly find ourselves at the riding ring of the Spanish Riding School. The elegant Lipizzaners are in the midst of their morning workout to Baroque music in a chandeliered riding hall, and how graceful they are with their high stepping trots, dancing sideways and forwards almost like they are skipping. How in the world does one train a horse to prance like that, we wonder? We also wonder if the men on the horses are fulfilling a lifetime dream of riding them. Do they have women riders also? We skip the Imperial Apartments and go next door to the Treasury where we view diamond studded crowns, sceptors, robes, and other jewels owned by the Holy Roman Emperor. We then walk through the Baroque style Hofbibliotheque, the National Library, which holds one of the largest ancient collections of books.

What does Austria remind you of? Why pastries, of course. First on the agenda is to find Demel, at Kohlmarkt 14, the famous pastry shop offering a dazzling array of choices- apfel strudel,the paper thin layer of pastry wrapped around a high stack of filing of multiple layers of equally paper thin slices of apples and a light touch of sugar and spices, Sacher torte, a light chocolate cake topped with a thin layer of jam and chocolate frosting, and many other thinly layered cakes we can't identify and can't pronounce. Pastry shops sell only pastry so we then had to follow this up with coffee at Cafe Mozart at Albertinaplatz 2-another array of a dozen or more choices of expressos and other coffees. I could easily spend an entire afternoon, or many afternoons in this indulgence. After another little bit of walking to exercise off some calories, we stop for German bratwursts from a roadside stand and eat them sitting on the steps and watching people. Now thoroughly satiated, we continue on with our sightseeing.

For the remainder of the afternoon, we walk and walk and walk, through alleys, squares, stores and promenades. Schoenlaterngasse, "Street of the Beautiful Lanterns" was shorter than expected though cute with a wrought iron lantern. I must say that bed was a welcome sight.

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