Sunday, May 16, 2010

Wet, Wet, and More Wet


The rain just keeps falling and falling and the weather seems to be deteriorating. Today is cold, gusty and wet - a good day to sit by the fire and read a book - a bad day for sightseeing and walking around a city. The grayness of the morning is lightened for a moment as we walk by the "pay toilets" in the underground street crossing - the sounds of Mozart float out from the toilets and greet passersby. We get an early start on this sunday as we want to hear the Vienna Boys Choir at mass. The first 60 people in line can get standing room tickets in the back. Funny how people in line become friends - perfect strangers find connections to each other. 2 people in front of us are from Malaysia. They are tour hosts who do "backpacking" trips. Obviously their definition of backpacking is different from mine, as their tour guests include a group of 50-60 year old Malaysian women who do not look like they have any intention of sleeping on the ground in tents, much less carrying backpacks in the wilderness! The tour couple also look pretty dry and perky at 8am, certainly had not camped the night before. Turns out, they stay in hostels and hotels and the only resemblance to backpacking are the small backpacks they carry while sightseeing. The girl behind us was from Palatine Illinois, a college student studying in Vienna for a summer session. We manage to get in, packed like sardines, and craning our necks to see the mass. We find the boys' voices to be truly amazing- so sweet and clear. After mass, they come to the front of the altar to sing one more song -they are quite cute and a lot younger than I had imagined.

From there, we head to the Statsoper, the State Opera House for their 10:30am tour, one of the premier opera houses in the world, quite interesting and well worth the time. The tour guide tells us where the standing room area is, on the second level right in the middle, and tickets cost only 8 euro each. They alternate nights with different operas and as she is speaking, we can see them tearing down last night's set from Carmen. There is a 600 member cast who are employees of the opera house and perform in the shows. It is a beautiful auditorium with excellent acoustics and I wished we could have seen an opera there. The Viennese opera ball is held in the same room, all seats are removed and a raised floor put in for this very special event. For 230 euro, you too can dance in the ball.

It is time to warm up and we stop for coffee, apfel struedel and the famous sacher torte at the very elegant Cafe Sacher, which makes us feel like we are high society. Our very critical review is that Sacher Torte is better at Cafe Sacher but apple struedel is the best at Demel. Back out into the wet weather we walk to Belvedere Palace, one of the most splendid pieces of Baroque architecture,which houses the Austrian Gallery of art, and features the work of Gustav Klimt's The Kiss, Egon Schiele, and Oskar Kokoschka.

By then, Ray and I have had enough of this wet windy weather and elect to go back to the hotel. Jen braves the cold and walks to the art museum. Tonight, our last night in Vienna, a concert at Musikverein.

The Wiener Streich Quartet, a group of older gentlemen are simply superb, performing chamber music by Haydn, Mozart and Schubert. The audience is primarily older local residents, and everyone thoroughly enjoys the music. This is our last night in Vienna and we have high hopes that clear skies will follow.

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