Saturday, June 6, 2015

Day 10: Vienna Is Hot

I'm Today was the busiest day yet this trip. Simply because of the places I visited, the amount of people, it's Saturday and this was the hottest day I've had yet. I say yet, because after Vienna, I head south and I already have a tan.

I started bright and early(nothing opens in Europe before 9am) I hit the Schönbrunn Palace. I thought it was large and breathtaking. I got my entrance included when I bought the Vienna Pass, loved the hop on/off aspect that once I got the pass, I never had to use public transportation, the tourist bus also stopped at my neighborhood!

I paid €65 for a two day pass, which included museum entrances to most of the well known attractions. Just going to 2 museums paid for the pass. 

I was amazed at the opulence of the Palace and the workmanship that went into its building. I wondered at the army of staff that made sure things ran well. I marveled at the paintings and the tapestries, the rooms and the furniture. I wondered if those who lived there really felt at home.

There were a lot of rooms(no photographs allowed) but by modern standards, the rooms weren't really that big. Yes, it had a 20ft ceiling but it's not like you can dance on the walls. The grand ballroom didn't look that big. Except for one HUGE 'king' sized bed with canopy, the beds looked normal. There was a potty for the King, it must have been a big thing back then because there seemed to be only one.

To be honest, I wasn't really that interested in reveling in the lives of these royals, I'm not personally invested in them. So I listened to the audio guide and moved on. I covered the grand tour in 20mins. The expected time is 40-50mins. I did a lot of dodging and darting, repeating "bitte" someone told me it's a term used for excuse me. I hope so otherwise I confused a lot of people.

Today I also enjoyed just walking around, I actually got a little lost, but I was in city center so there wasn't really a big deal. I did walk by the place where the Lippizaner horses perform, I smelled it a block away. I could have entered, but I passed on it.

I did step into the Sacher Hotel and had the famous Sacher torte. Thank God the waiter knew why everyone was there because I was pointing to a hot chocolate not the cake. But he straightened me out and I was surprised that it was only €5,50. Ok it's a small size cake but the chocolate should have made me comatose. But the whipped cream was a perfect complement and I scarfed it down in 13mins. How do I know 13minutes? The wonder of social media, I posted when I got the cake & when I realized I had completely eaten it.

It was amazingly good. There was something else layered in the cake, a fruit something, I don't know, I didn't question, I just ate like a peasant of Marie Antionette's.

To work off the torte, I then went to the Albertina. That's a nice place. The bathrooms were gorgeous and free! (Most public toilettes aren't in Europe!) Furthermore, they had free storage lockers. Again, no photos in some areas. For instance they have a new exhibition Drawing Now: 2015 and a collection of photographs by Lee Miller, guards were stationed to keep anyone from sneaking a photo. This is another palace that was converted to a museum.

Andy Warhol's Mao paintings were there, several Picassos, Monets, Roy Lichenstein and I gained a new appreciation for Gerhard Richter, whom I never heard of. What was really great was being able to stand so close that I could see the layers of paint and each brush strokes.

Lee Millers photos of post-WWII Germany was chilling. She photographed and they showed actual scenes of Nazis who committed suicide when the war was ending. Also I noticed that women were painting eyes on their eyelids back them too. It was creepy then, as it is now.

I enjoyed the amount of buildings that had survived over the years, the elaborate designs that spoke of care and pride. As I listened to the audio portion of the bus tour, they would play waltzes in between the narratives. Vienna was the center of the waltzing world and the music survives through the century.

Today I got a little more used to street food. I fell for the gorgeous looking strawberries at one stand and devoured it like I was some kind of mutant rabbit bent on destruction. I'm surprised I didn't have juice sliding off my chin. 

I tried the Mozart Cafe for some ice cream and was basically disappointed. The strawberry and vanilla sundae was drowned in plain yogurt giving it a very tart taste. It was unexpected and since I'm not a fan of yogurt, disappointing. I still ate it because at €8,50 I wasn't going to let it go to waste.

I rode the air conditioned bus for a while before heading to the Naschmarkt. When I entered the area where the fresh veggies, fruits(dried and fresh) and spices. My senses were assaulted by the scents of the spices so many stalls were selling. It was an amazing smell and I had to keep walking because I knew that if I stopped, I would want to buy something and I knew I couldn't. I hate setting up a vendor's expectation that way. So rather than get their hopes up, I walk by quickly.

But get under the canopy where opposing stalls, face to face, sell the olives, cheeses and meats and you can hear the banter between the sellers as each tries to draw a crowd in. I didn't understand a word, but I could here the excitement, the camaraderie and the competition in their voices. There were times I swear it sounding like singing to me.

I ordered a durem, sort of like a Viennese version of a gyro, they cook the meat on spits, lamb and chicken. They add onions, lettuce, tomatoes, a hardy sprinkle of red pepper flakes - if you want it, they do ask - and a white sauce, but it isn't like a gyro's cucumber sauce, it didn't have the tart inflection of a yogurt either. It is wrapped loosely in a tortilla like wrapper and rolled into aluminum foil. 

The durem ends up as long as a footlong subway sandwich and for €3 how could I go wrong? I couldn't even finish it and trust me, for someone with my appetite, that is saying something.

Afterwards I strolled back to my hostel with the heat disappearing by the minute, and not a moment too soon for me. It is past 9pm yet it is the color of twilight, grey and vague, but the day is ending for me as tomorrow I fly to Athens and another adventure.

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