Airlines Attendant: Which one of you is going to Vienna?
Me: That’s me.
Airlines Attendant: Please move your things to the front of the aircraft.
You know that something is wrong when an airlines company moves you and all of your luggage from the very back of the aircraft to the very front row. Mid-flight. After being delayed while leaving the Geneva airport, we had left for Brussels about 35 minutes late. I was supposed to have a 55 minute layover in the Brussels airport before boarding my flight. I think I spent about 35 seconds. 30 of those seconds were spent sprinting from A40 to A60. My plane landed in Brussels at 7:16. My second flight departed from Brussels for Vienna at 7:20. I was still panting as the plane took off.
Vienna was nothing short of beautiful. I spent Saturday (June 28) at Schonbrunn Palace (the Hapsburg’s Summer palace) and in the gardens at Schonbrunn. Schonbrunn is much like Versailles, in that every surface is gilded or painted. Unlike Versailles, however, the effect is less garish and more styled. The gardens have become a public park in the years since the Hapsburgs gave up the Austrian throne (1918), and they are frequented by runners, families, tourists and zoo animals alike (I’m still a little upset I didn’t visit the Schonbrunn Zoo).
Following Schonbrunn, I made my way to the Kunsthistorisches, Vienna’s premier art history museum. As with any other art museum in Europe, I find myself impressed more often than not, but the Kunsthistoriches is special because it has what so many other museums lack: adequate and comfortable seating. I literally fell asleep in one of the benches-cum-loveseats that are situated up and down the galleries. But it wasn’t just the art that was stunning, the building is a marvel in itself. The museum is situated around a large dome, under which is situated a wonderful cafe where they serve espressos properly (glass of water, espresso, cookie).
Midway through my espresso, I realized that I had made a horrible mistake. While checking into the Schonbrunn, I left my license with audioguide desk (to ensure I returned my audioguide). It took a lot of self control to not spit hot espresso all over the museum, but my subsequent downing of half a cup of espresso wasn’t exactly pleasant.
As you might be able to tell from the map above, Schonbrunn isn’t exactly close to Kunsthistoriches. So, I rushed out of the museum, headed back on the metro and made my way back to the palace. Luckily, I still had my ticket, so I could get back into the palace. Unluckily, I am the dumbest person in America, and I didn’t leave my license at the palace. I didn’t figure it out until after I played charades with a strictly Austrian speaking clerk at the audioguide desk, but it turns out that I left my license at the hostel…as a guarantee that I returned my towel.
All wasn’t lost, however, I got to listen to a small orchestra play classical music in the courtyard of the castle for a few minutes before making my way back into Vienna, and heading to the Vienna Opera.
The Vienna Opera is supposed to have some of the best acoustics in the world, and you can get standing room tickets for only 3-5 euros. It took a little bit of maneuvering, and again, some charades, but I was able to get tickets to a show for that evening: a ballet festival. I’ll readily admit that my expectations were very low going into the performance. I’ve never really watched a dance performance on my own volition, but honestly, I had nothing better to do, and I really wanted to hear some music.
The show was amazing. Maybe it was my low expectations or just my complete unfamiliarity with dance, but I left very impressed. Of the 14 performances I saw, 8 were very good, 4 were exceptional and only 2 were just too weird for me (one involved an anthropomorphic flower that might haunt my dreams for eternity). I also unwittingly left the performance about an hour early. After the second half of the show, I assumed it was over and went to get my bag from bag check. The clerk told me the show still had another part, this was just the second intermission. I couldn’t believe it. At this point, the show had been going on for over three hours, and much as I enjoyed the dances, I don’t think I could have sat through another hour and a half.
Sunday was a little more relaxed, I spent part of my morning going to the Austrian National Library, which has a beautiful reading room with a great exhibit on Austria during World War I. I also caught the tail end of a mass in a beautiful church in Vienna’s old town. After that, I wandered around the old town for a bit, enjoying the pedestrian only zone and admiring the architecture. Then I headed back to the airport, boarded my flight to Brussels, once again almost missed my connection (all told, I spent no more than 90 seconds in the Brussels airport), and settled back down in Geneva.