I'm sorry that it has taken so long to post anything on our Viking River Cruise. I've wanted to make it the best possible report I could, so I've taken considerable time with it. After some thought, I decided to make it a Tumblr, since the journal is picture-heavy, and it's a lot easier to add photosets to Tumblr than to this journal. Also, it's long: there are 65 separate entries and I didn't want to necessarily fill up people's reading pages, especially if they don't happen to be interested.

So: Here it is: http://georgieandgreg.tumblr.com/

For those who might only want to look at pictures, ALL the photos I took (but without commentary) are collected at:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/61681349@N00/sets/

Comments or questions are welcome. Enjoy!
We started touring for the day at the National Air and Space Museum. I was pleased to see that a number of new exhibits had been added since my trip decades ago, including Spaceship One, the Breitling Orbiter balloon gondola, and the Voyager aircraft that circled the world non-stop (surprisingly small!). We looked at most of this museum, including the very nice exhibit surrounding the Wright Flyer, through WWI and WWII aircraft, to the X-1, X-15, and the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft, including the inside of the Skylab replica. Then, we took a break for lunch. The Air and Space Museum has a nice restaurant pavilion attached, which is served by a combined McDonalds and Boston Market franchise (!). We got Boston Market lunches, noting that Washington is an expensive city, since the meal cost us $20.00 that would have been less than $15 here. (Most of the other places we ate were closer to Milwaukee prices—we hoped the Museum was getting a cut--). Fortunately, admission to the Smithsonian museums and government buildings is all free.

After lunch, we went to the Museum of American History, which, frankly, I found a bit disappointing. It is smaller than some of the other museums, and, instead of trying to present a comprehensive timeline of our history, relies on a number of transient exhibits built around a core of permanent exhibits, which include the “Star-Spangled Banner,” the First Ladies’ Inaugural gown collection, a Revolutionary War gunboat retrieved from Lake Champlain, and Julia Child’s kitchen—all of which we looked at. There was also an interesting temporary exhibit on the life of Abraham Lincoln, but, after that, not much else of interest other than the “John Bull” locomotive.

The good side of that was that it left us time and energy to get to the International Spy Museum. The Spy Museum is a for-profit operation, so one of the few things we had to pay admission for, but the $18.00 each was worth it. The museum has a large number of exhibits, mostly focusing on modern and Cold War-era spying, but with some interesting historical information also. There were lots of good photographs, devices, and interactive stations that could have substantially prolonged our stay had we attempted to try them all. As it was, we were getting tired and coasted though the last bit so as to have energy enough to negotiate the dangerously attractive gift shop.

Then, back to the hotel, and, having had our main meal of the day at noon, went out to a highly regarded place called Crepeaway, which does lunch crepes (all containing cheese of some sort) and dessert crepes, most of which have Nutella as a filling augmented with various types of fruit. This simple formula works well. We each got a large, freshly made crepe, which was folded into a cone and had the filling poured in. Georgie got the Nutella and fresh strawberries, which was quite delicious, and I got the Nutella and banana crepe, which was very nice as well. For a light, tasty dessert, this was hard to beat.

To be continued, Day 3--
We had decided to go to Washington, D.C. as a vacation trip this year. Georgie had never been there. I had, on a high school class trip, but not been back since. We were particularly interested in the Smithsonian museums, but had arranged through Rep. Gwen Moore’s office for tours of the White House and the Capitol as well.

We got up at 0-dark-hundred hours September 8th, in order to check in for our flight that would get us to Reagan Airport by 12:30PM local time. Automated check-in for Midwest/Frontier/Republic went smoothly and the flight was OK. We had a tailwind and got in almost half an hour early.

We found an airport shuttle to our hotel, the Georgetown Best Western. On New Hampshire Ave NW, we found it to be very conveniently located a couple blocks from subway stops and with a number of good restaurants within a block or two. We checked in and got a nice room on the fifth floor front. The room had a king-size bed, and a sitting area with table, chairs, couch and desk. There was also a small refrigerator, a microwave oven, and even a set of dishes. The hotel’s free wi-fi worked well and was handy for double-checking opening times and restaurant reviews. The only poor thing about the hotel was the elevators, which seemed consistently sluggish, but created no major problems during our stay.

After partial unpacking, we headed out and managed to locate the nearby Metro station, and took the train to the Smithsonian stop. Washington’s Metro ran very efficiently and was great for us getting around. A day pass costs nine dollars for unlimited riding, which isn’t that bad. I was surprised by the stations: unlike places like Toronto, London, or Vienna, which have stations with individual character, the Washington stations are all exactly alike, and uniformly gray and industrial looking. Although they are actually quite clean, the bare precast concrete walls and roof and the dim lighting give it all a dingy air.

The Smithsonian stop comes up on the Mall near the Department of Agriculture, which we were amused to note had a decorative planting of corn on its corner. It’s about a block and a half walk past the Freer Gallery to the “Castle”, the Smithsonian headquarters building. Although called the Castle, the handsome and elaborate building reminds me more of a late-period English Abbey, or maybe one of the buildings of an Oxbridge college—appropriate, since it is a center of learning. We looked in there briefly and got a map of the Institution, and paid respects at the tomb of Smithson, which is just to the left inside the main doors.

Our primary target for the afternoon was the Natural History Museum, just across the Mall from the Castle. This is a large museum, familiar if you have seen “Night at the Museum 2.” All the Smithsonian staff, guards, and volunteers, were wonderfully friendly and helpful, and were quite ready to give directions not only to the Hope Diamond, but also to “Dum Dum”, the gum chewing Tiki head featured in the films.

The Gem Hall was one of the things I wanted to show Georgie. The Hope Diamond is beautiful, but what are really croggling are some of the other exhibits, such as a faceted citrine seven inches across and weighing in excess of twenty-two THOUSAND carats. Or the world’s largest flawless rock crystal ball, which is easily fifteen inches in diameter and weighs over one hundred pounds. This was what I always visualized a Palantir looked like, and the citrine and other huge gems could fill in for “the eye of the idol” in any pulp adventure you choose. There is also a very comprehensive display of fascinating mineral specimens.

The Paeleontological hall has some nice specimens, although the mountings are showing their age. There is a smallish T-Rex facing a massive Triceratops, a couple of Stegosaurs, an Apatosaur, and an Allosaur. The exhibit also contains some famous fossils, such as the one of the giant fish fossilized just after having swallowed a smaller fish, and the stone showing the wing bones of Quezalcoatlus, the largest known pterosaur. There was also a display of fossils from the Burgess shale, including the aptly named Hallucinogenia, and other strange forms of early life.

We also walked through the Ocean hall, and viewed some interesting models of unusual deep-sea life, before deciding we had seen what interested us.

We rounded off the afternoon by visiting the Freer Gallery of Art, which has as its emphasis the Oriental art works collected by Charles Lang Freer, and the works of James McNiell Whistler, who was a friend of Freer’s and whose works Freer also collected. I was very interested by Whistler’s works, being only familiar with “Arrangement in Gray and Black: The Artist’s Mother” (a.k.a. “Whistler’s Mother”). His works have much in common with both Impressionists and Pre-Raphaelites, although he is not classed as a member of either movement, in part due to his continued use of line and the color black, both eschewed by the Impressionists. Although he has a fondness for portraying his models in neo-classical draperies, he was not part of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and probably would have scorned their philosophy. The Freer has a number of his “Nocturnes” among other works, and a series of studies, all of which are very interesting, although the uniformly pretentious titles show in part why Whistler was such a target for satirists.

Another gallery held four huge ornamental painted Japanese screens, which were simply incredible. A couple portrayed sporting events, such as horse racing, and every spectator out of hundreds shown, is an individual portrait. Two others were scenics, and had an equivalent level of detail in showing the city or village portrayed.

After finishing the Freer, we went back the hotel, rested our feet, and planned dinner, deciding to go up the street to a place called “Grillfish,” which was an excellent seafood restaurant. We had the “mixed grill” which was two skewers each, holding a large shrimp, a scallop, a piece of salmon, and two pieces of swordfish, all of which were delicious. The meal also came with a nice green salad and flavorful dressing. The only off note was that, besides the greens and fresh vegetables, the salad also came garnished with sweet-and-sour, or “pickled” beets. This didn’t fit in, but we just didn’t eat them. After dinner, we walked around the neighborhood a bit and were pleased to discover a nearby Walgreen’s as well as a useful deli and convenience store.

After that, we went back to the hotel to relax, read, and put our feet up. There isn’t really a lot of nightlife in the neighborhood (although students from nearby George Washington University seemed to be heading to clubs somewhere) but we were quite content to have an early night after an early rising.
Vienna is a fine city, with enormous amounts of history and culture. I could gladly live there, and would reccomend the visit to anyone interested in art or music. I think perhaps we overdid a bit on the major museums/palaces, but I can’t think of one I would have done without, even though I regret missing some of the smaller and quirkier attractions. The food was fine everywhere we went, the people friendly and easy to deal with. We didn’t need much of the “Plan B” fallbacks I had arranged. The German phrasebook wasn’t really necessary. I had upgraded my cellphone to a multi-band phone so we could phone the hotel in case of emergency or getting lost, and didn’t need it, although I did confirm the phone worked there. A good map IS essential, since Vienna is laid out on a medieval lack-of-plan, meaning no streets are parallel or at right angles, and end or change names in a few blocks. I continue to feel that the Michelin Green guides are the BEST guides for cultural attractions, although I think “Lonely Planet” had the best shopping information. Graz was well worth seeing, although had things worked out otherwise, it would have been better to have gone there on a day when the shops were open, and perhaps stayed In Vienna on Sunday, when museums and such were open there. However, the timing of that trip was dictated by other “musts” such as the opera and ballet tickets, and you can’t have everything.
We got out of bed at the indecent hour of 4:30AM to get to the airport for a 7:30AM boarding. We checked out and the hotel’s cab was there for us. We got to the airport, checked in, found our gate, and settled in, no problem so far. We were waiting for boarding to be announced, when I noticed the electronic sign at the gate blank out and be replaced with info for a flight to Stuttgart at 8:30AM. Not A Good Sign, thought I, and went to find one of the notice boards for all flights to see if there had been a gate change. I found it, but next to the flight number there was no gate number, but an ominous looking German word. “What does that mean?” I asked one of the security personnel. “Canceled,” he replied. Oh, crap. I went back to tell Georgie what I had found out just before one of the ground staff came to make the official announcement. The Alitalia flight was grounded due to an unspecified technical difficulty. We needed to retrieve our baggage at the claim area, then go to the check-in area to get rebooked on such other flights as could be found to take us where we needed to go. This of course affected not only us, but the entire small planeload of people who had been expecting to fly to Milan that morning. We dragged our bags back to the check-in hall and stood in line for an hour and a half while the airport ground staff made connections for each of the stranded passengers. When our turn came, it took only a few minutes to get us an alternative booking on Swiss International Airlines back to Chicago via Zurich. “Good” we said. I asked if anyone knew what had happened with the Alitalia flight? “Something technical and they couldn’t fix it. You know Alitalia,” the counterman shrugged. Indeed, thought I, that doesn’t inspire confidence--.

The Swiss counter was right behind us, and we went there with our vouchers. The Swiss people were very helpful getting us checked in, although they had a mechanical problem printing new baggage tags. We got boarding passes, which showed that the flight was in—ten minutes? “Can we make it?” we asked. “Oh, yes!” we were assured. Not very comforted, we essentially flung ourselves and carry-on gear at the gate security people and hastened to the new gate, to find that when the Swiss mean the flight is at 9:25AM, that’s when it starts to board—not takes off. Whew!

Swiss International flies Airbus equipment, and we found the 320 series craft that took us to Zurich quite comfortable, and the A380 that carried us from Zurich to Chicago more comfortable yet. Although we had interior seats, I think we were better seated then the Alitalia Boeing that had brought us over. I was surprised, since the Airbus we traveled to and from Ireland in was noisier and more wearing, but I suppose there are differences in individual airlines equipment and finishing that are noticeable.

On the ground in Zurich, we had ample but not excessive time to get literally from one end of the airport to the other—the two terminals are connected by an underground tram. We might have time to add some Swiss chocolate to our hoard, but we noticed that prices in the Zurich stores were posted in Swiss Francs rather than Euros—never occurred to me Switzerland wasn’t on the Euro—and we just didn’t feel like even talking to anyone to see if the stores would take the Euros we had, so we just pushed on to our next gate.

Once boarded, we were able to relax somewhat, although, as Georgie said, we couldn’t be really happy until we got to O’Hare and saw our baggage on the carousel. The Swiss cabin service was superior, although the food we had from Alitalia for main meal was better. The Swiss had nice touches like giving out warm moist washcloths just before landing, and I’d definitely consider flying with them again.

We had a very smooth flight and got into O’Hare with no difficulty and through passport control with little waiting. The baggage system did disgorge our bags, we changed our few Euro bills back to US currency, and went out to wait for the Coach Wisconsin bus. We had no problem getting it, and I phoned Henry Osier a couple of times during the trip to update him on our ETA. He met us at the Amtrak depot stop and hauled us safely home at last.
Our last full day in Vienna we set aside for shopping, packing, and a little last minute exploring. We retraced steps to various interesting shops, and bought lots of chocolates, and an authentic Tyrolean hat as a gift. We walked along Fleischmarket to its far end, and explored the streets beyond, finding “Shakespeare”, a small English-language bookstore. This was our last chance to try one of the pastry cafes, so we decided to try one for lunch, which was a bit of a mistake as they were all crowded at that time. We found an Aida (a chain operation) we could crowd into, and had pieces of Esterhazy torte and another the name of which I can’t now recall, but they were good. For dinner that day, we went to Beim Czaak, around the corner in Postgasse, which was a very informal neighborhood tavern type of place. I had “hunter’s schnitzel” with the schnitzel wrapped around ham, cheese, and onions and came with the mixed salad; and Georgie had tafelspitz, which in this preparation was served in a bowl of lovely broth swimming with the vegetables, and browned potatoes on the plate. This place had some of the best bread we were served, a nice basket of white and rye rolls of various types, and real pretzel of the kind that is actual bread and not a type of cracker.

We got ourselves pretty well packed before venturing out to our last cultural event, the Ballet “Coppelia” at the Statsoper. For a Monday night performance of a ballet, we were able to obtain somewhat “better” seats, and were enchanted to find that the side parterre loge has all the features of a classical “box” seat. Loge 5 had its own separate door to the corridor, a small anteroom area with coat hooks, a mirror, and a small bench! We had a very nice view of the stage from the front row of the Loge (there are two rows of seats) and settled in to enjoy the ballet. I had wondered how a full three-act ballet could be made out of the E.T.A. Hoffman story of the mechanical doll that I chiefly knew as act one of “Tales of Hoffman.” In fact, there’s lots of material in Hoffman’s unpleasant weird tale “Der Sandmann,” but even less of it gets translated into Delibes’ ballet than in the opera. The answer, in ballet, is that it is all about the dance. So, in the first act, we learn that the dedication of the new village bell will be celebrated, by, among other things, a dance contest, and the young men and women show off their steps in anticipation of the contest. There is a town vs. garrison rivalry established as “a Hungarian officer” challenges the protagonist. We were impressed (but not surprised) that the choreography here included genuine Hungarian folkdance, rather than the thinly disguised Russian moves more commonly seen in the USA. The second act shows us the familiar part of the Coppelius story, as the village young people invade the dollmaker’s workshop and encounter his mechanical creations. The third act is the dance contest proper, which has a happy ending for all, except Coppellius, who doesn’t get much satisfaction at having had his home broken into and property damaged. There’s a love plot, but who cares? Just watch them dance! And dance they did! The Statsoper company is the equal of any we have seen for skill, vigor and precision and gave us a totally enjoyable evening. Production values were of course, high, with the set for Coppelius’ shop particularly impressive. Only one clinker: in the third act dance contest, the townsfolk dress like, well, townsfolk, including the young men. The Hungarian men and women have folk costumes, but the village girls show up in classical ballet tutus! Whose ethnic costume is that, I wondered? Oh, well—the dancing was splendid.
We had determined not to spend our WHOLE vacation in Vienna, and had decided to travel to Graz, Austria's second largest city and the capital of the province of Styria. We picked Graz for whimsical reasons, partly because it might be Schnobrich ancestral territory, and partly because it has the Zeughaus, a regional armory left over from the early 19th century in working condition. (You might gather that old weapons are an interest of mine--).

We decided to travel by train, which was a good choice. The Austrian rail system is smooth, quiet, and runs on time. The railroad from Vienna to Graz winds up and through wooded mountains, giving some spectacular views that I tried to photograph from the train windows with mixed success.

On the way from the train station to the Old City, we found and marveled at the ultra-modern Art Museum (Kunsthaus), an organically shaped blue glass creation that looks like an alien sea monster plunked down in an antique square. All honor to the locals that had the guts to build it. Crossing the river Mur, we also saw the Murinsel, a structure that looks like a shell floating on the water. It houses a performance space and the inevitable cafe.


Graz' Old Town is a designated World Heritage site for its many Baroque and older buildings. (Georgie ended this part of our trip somewhat frustrated because we could have left ourselves more time just to look at the buildings and didn't--.) It truly is a beautiful area. The Armory is on the main street of the old city, and reasonably easy to find. It is a surprisingly narrow building, part of an elegant complex including offices, apartments, and spacious courtyards. The building has a historical museum display on the first floor, which goes into interesting detail on the campaigns vs. Turks, Hungarian raiders, rebels, and others that affected the development of the region.

Once above the first floor, you are in the Armory proper, and in a very different space from the formal weapons collections we had seen previously. There is rack upon utilitarian rack of arms, all maintained in rust-free and working condition. The ceilings are low enough so that the exposed beams become storage places as well, holding ranks of helmets on pegs or festooned with powder flasks. The floors start with the oldest weapons first, so the second floor has hundreds of matchlock fusils, plus falconets, mortars, and other light artillery pieces, plus the armor that would have been issued to the local levy for the period. The next level has wheellock arquebuses and pistols, and the upper levels more than a thousand flintlock muskets and other gear, plus swords, shields, spears, pikes and halberds. Each level has its own period standard-issue armor in addition, as well as more elaborate suits of plate belonging to past officers.

After we were done there (and bought a book at the shop), we walked through some of the side streets checking out restaurants that were open on Sunday. (In Graz, retail establishments are pretty well closed Sunday, frustrating, since we found a fascinating store for "trachten", or traditional garb, among others, that we would have liked to look into--). Since they all seemed busy and we felt somewhat pressed for time, we opted instead for eating at a Wurstel stand in the town hall square, and had a very good
bauernwurst (me) and frankfurter (Georgie). We also got some very nice gelato at the next stand over, and bought a bottle of pumpkin-seed oil, a local product, at a fruit stand.

We made time to visit the Schlossberg, the town-dominating hill that once held the city's castle. Being by this time somewhat footsore, we elected not to walk UP the 400+ steps to the Clock tower, but instead took a clever elevator that goes up the center of the hill for a mere 60 cents each. There we admired the views, and gingerly climbed the winding steps DOWN the cliff side before making our way back to the train station.

Night fell during the train trip home, although we did get some fine views of sunset on the mountainsides. Once back to Vienna, we stopped in at the Cafe Vienna for desserts. We were in a chocolate mood, so had hot chocolate (mine with rum in, yum!) to wash down palatschinken with chocolate-hazelnut filling and warm chocolate cake with whipped cream and chocolate sauce before retiring back to the hotel for some reading and bed.
After the Belvedere, we walked a bit further south to the Military History Museum
("Heeresgeschlictemuseum") which occupies part of an extensive arsenal complex built in the 1840's. The museum building would have been a meeting hall or for something more like the community functions than weapon storage or manufacture, which industrial functions were presumably carried out in the other buildings. The elegantly decorated Romanesque structure has an entry hall known as the "Hall of Generals" which holds statues of all the Empire's famous military leaders from the 16th through the 19th centuries. The exhibit halls cover the 16th century up through the end of World War II, with an interesting portion devoted to the inter-war "Austro-fascist" period prior to the German Anschluss. There is also a tank park, which I found disappointing, since all the vehicles were late-or post-war Allied equipment only. The inside WWII display was more interesting, including a nice Kubelwagen (the German Jeep), a Kettenkrad (a type of halftrack motorcycle) and a rather rare Rauppenschlepper Ost, which I believe to
be the first purpose-built fully tracklaying transport vehicle. The exhibit also has a nicely preserved example of the dreaded 88MM anti-aircraft gun, complete with the "predictor" mechanisms for anti-air work, which towers grimly over the other displays.

The other periods were equally well done, with mannequins showing gear and uniforms for arquebusiers, pikemen, musketeers, Hussars, and other denizens of the battlefield, with the Napoleonic period being of particular interest since that was not covered by any
of the other museums we saw. The collection also includes banners, weapons, tents and other booty captured from the Turks in campaigns by Prince Eugene and others.

We took the underground back to our hotel and went round the corner to the Cafe Vienna for dinner. This time, I had a very nice fillet of beef with cognac-peppercorn sauce and Georgie had sole. It was excellent all around.

After a brief rest, it was back on the U-Bahn to the Statsoper for Mozart's "Magic Flute." This was a sold-out performance, and we were glad to have gotten seats in the balcony, which nevertheless had very good sightlines and we could hear perfectly well due to the hall's excellent acoustics. The auditorium is not actually that large, having seating for somewhat more than 1000 and, due to the stacking of parterre/loge seats (five levels, including balcony) no one is that far away from the stage.

Staging for this production was very avant-garde and we thought it worked well given the "esoteric" theme. The greater part of the stage was delineated into a cubical space, the side toward the audience open. The other five sides were made up of square panels, further subdivided into smaller squares which became doorways, windows, or trapdoors as needed. The major panels shifted orientation depending on the scene, and were sometimes further overlaid with projected images. It sounds busy, but the effects were used with restraint. The Queen of the Night and her women were costumed and made up in midnight shades of blue and deep green, contrasting with the sterile white worn by Sarastro and his minions. We were amused to note that Sarastro's anonymous myrmidons had bar-codes on their chests, showing that all the right and freedom is not necessarily on his side--. The production had some campy touches: the three guiding spirits, voiced by members of the Vienna Boy's Choir, initially appeared wearing "I (heart) Mozart" t-shirts. Later, they showed up in the white wig and full-bottomed coats that have become the shorthand for "Mozart" in Vienna.

Musically, the performance was flawless. In particular, Jane Archibald made the Queen of the Night's famous arias sound smooth and effortless, with no hard edges. Walter Fink as Sarastro had a rich and warm bass tone that was very pleasing. Hans Peter Kammerer and Laura Tatulescu as Papageno and Papagena were appropriately scene-stealing when on. Especially when you consider that this work is being done in repertory with 8-10 other productions this month, the perfection of the production was all the more striking. This will be a night at the opera we will long remember.
Our first goal on Saturday morning was the Belvidere, the palatial home of Price Eugene of Savoy. Prince Eugene is a very interesting character, and we will be looking up more about him. François-Eugène, Prince of Savoy-Carignan (October 18, 1663 – April 24, 1736), known as Prinz Eugen von Savoyen in German, was arguably the greatest general to serve the Habsburgs. He was the fifth son of Prince Eugène-Maurice of Savoy-Carignano, Comte de Soissons, grandson to Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy, and Olympia Mancini, niece to the powerful Cardinal Mazarin. Eugene, as he was known, sought a comission in the French Army under Louis the 14th, but was not offered a command commensurate with his rank, and so went into the service of the Austrians under Emperor Leopold I, who were heavily engaged against the Turks. Eugene went on to distingush himself against the Turks, against the French in the War of the Spanish Succession, and again against the Turks. A Field Marshal by the time he was twenty-five, he built his permamant residence, the Belvidere, in Vienna's Third District, suburban at the time.

The Belvidere consists of two palaces, the Lower Belvidere, and the Upper Belvidere, which is separated from the Lower by about half a mile of formal gardens. The Prince built the Lower first as a residence and then the Upper, which he used primarily for entertaining. While the Upper Belvidere has a splendid main hall, unusually decorated with murals of an ostrich and a hyena, most of the remaining rooms are very stark. By contrast, the Lower Belvedere is much more interesting, intimate, and cozy if a palace can be said to be cozy. The tromp-le-oeil ceilings, fantasy paintwork and intricate stonework make it the architectual gem of the two, although it is outwardly less imposing.

Like most of the publicly open palaces, the Belvedere also houses a museum collection, in this case consisting of Medieval ("Gothic") and Baroque art in the Lower and "Modern" Art in Upper. I found the Belvedere's collection the most enjoyable and lively of any of the art galleries we visited. The Baroque collection has numerous fine portraits, including the David "Napoleon" previously mentioned, and is enlivened by a collection of grotesque and humorous busts by sculptor Franz Xavier Messerschmit. The Upper collection includes a great number of "Biedermeyer" period pieces by Waldmueller and others, which I like for their naturalism and realism, showing the people and places of the country as they then were. Upper Belvedere also has one of the better Klimt collections, including "The Kiss", possibly his best known work, and several others, plus works by Egon Schiele, and sculptures by Rodin, among many others.
Getting back into our hotel neighborhood, we determined to try the Greischenbeisl for evening meal, since they had leberknodelsuppe on the menu, and we just wanted something light, having had the main meal of the day at noon. Georgie had a craving to try the local liver dumpling soup, which she likes, despite the fact that she doesn't care for liver in any other form--. Being Friday night the "beisl" was busy, and had a large group coming in late, but agreed to seat us if we would be in and out in an hour, which we easily agreed to.

The Greichenbeisel (The Greek Tavern) is arguably one of the most historic spots in Vienna, and is just across Fleischmarket from our alley. The structure is said to incorporate the last standing portion of the ancient city walls that weathered at least two Turkish sieges. The foundations are Roman. The name comes from Greek traders who came up the Danube from the Black Sea to buy wool and hides (Wool Seller Street is nearby) and stopped over there. One of the upper rooms, now known as the "Mark Twain room" has autographs on the wall by many famous individuals including Mozart and Mark Twain. (Evidently, they call it the the Twain room since many places in Vienna have associations with Mozart and other composers, but only one documentably with Mark Twain--.) Also, the place claims to have been the location where the architypal Germanic song tune "Ach, du leiber Augustine" was composed and/or first performed, and "Augustine" the supposed wandering minstrel is the establishment mascot.

Despite the fact that we had agreed to be in and out quickly, the staff was a bit nonplussed that we only ordered soup, Georgie the leberknodelsuppe, and me the "frittatensuppe", a local specialty wherein noodles are replaced by a crepe cut into strips in the clear savory broth. Georgie's bowl had a similarly succulent broth surrounding a single liver dumpling about the size of a billard ball, which was very rich and good. We had time to order some desserts, trying their renditions of strudel and palatschinken and finding them very good as well. After dinner, we took a short turn around the streets for the air, and then back to the hotel to rest and plan the coming day.
We had decided to make Friday a special dining day, so didn't schedule ourselves any other major events. Instead, we had made a reservation for luncheon at the Cafe Sacher, in the posh Sacher Hotel, which is home to the famous Sachertorte.

In the morning, we explored a neighborhood to the north of our regular path, in search of the Doll and Toy Museum. Vienna is a city of museums, probably a consequence of having so much history, and there seems to be an infinite number of small specialized museums in addition to the large institutions. There is a Clock Museum, a Fire Department Museum, a Police Museum, and on and on. The smaller ones tend to have quirky hours, so some we wanted to see, we never got to. After taking a wrong turning and going the long way around yet another massive church, we found the Doll and Toy Museum, only to find it with a rather permanent looking "Closed" sign on the door. The expedition was not a total loss however, as it took us through more fascinating streets, and we found quite a good family run bakery shop, where we bought some sustaining snacks.

Another museum we went by but didn't get to go into was the Teutonic Order Museum, which is part of the headquarters of that order and next door to both the Order Church and the Figarohaus, which is where Mozart stayed while composing "The Marriage of Figaro." There are numerous memorial plaques and open houses for composers in Vienna, but about the most that can be said for them is "Mozart slept here" since very few artifacts associated with the great composers remain. The Teutonic Order Musueum is frustratingly open only two hours a day at varying times, and we couldn't hit it when we weren't doing something with a higher priority.

The Hotel Sacher is across an intersection from the Staatsoper, and we got there a bit early to reconnoitre the Opera for entrances, etc., and noticed that guided tours were available. We decided to stop back after lunch.

There was a line for the Cafe Sacher, but our reservations got us immediate seating in the small but elegant dining room. This is just one of the eating establishments associated with the Hotel Sacher, including the Sacher Stube (or bar) and the Restaurant Anna Sacher, which is the high-end dining room. The Cafe is more for light lunches and of course, desserts, but we found plenty to interest us on the menu, including a nicely written history of the Hotel and some of its more famous characters. We also noted that "Sacher" has become quite a brand, since besides the Sachertorte (TM) (others must say "Sacher torte"), they also have their own coffee blend and Sacher liquor on the menu. I ordered the beef gulasch with a cup of the Sacher coffee, and Georgie tried the schnitzel sampler plate. Both were very good. The gulasch had a rich red paprika sauce and was very tender and flavorful. Time for dessert, and of course a piece of the Sachertorte had to be sampled, along with a piece of the pastry of the day from the dessert tray that also looked tempting.

Now Sachertorte is one of those simple yet subtle things. It is basically a firm, but not heavy, chocolate cake in two thin layers. Apricot jam has been spread lightly beween the layers, and the whole covered in a poured chocolate icing. We found it to be very good and not worthy of the scorn heaped on it by some guidebooks, who we think are expecting to get some kind of gooey "death-by-chocolate" concoction. Also, the city is full of knock-offs: you can buy them at just about any of the candy or pastry shops as well, which are in all probability not as good.

After lunch, we did go over and take the Opera House tour, which gave us a good look at where we would be Saturday night, as well as a talk on the history of the House, including its remarkable reconstruction after having been devastated by an Allied bombing raid in 1945. We were gnashing our teeth upon hearing that the Staatsoper season is ten months long, and they mount sixty productions in a year! (By contrast, the Metropolitan Opera of New York is doing twenty-five productions this year; the Lyric Opera of Chicago, eight; and the Florentine Opera of Milwaukee, three.) Of course it helps that they have a huge government subsidy: they sell 97% of all their available tickets and still only cover 47% of the cost. It must be nice to have a government that values arts that highly. There is a considerable commitment to making the arts accessible. Unlike American houses, the Staatsoper and other venues have "standing room" areas, where tickets are sold as cheaply as two and a half Euros staring eighty minutes before showtime, and frequenty sell out. Imagine seeing a major opera production for about $4.00? (The cheapest Lyric tickets are $31.00--). On the other hand, even with a rail to lean on, a standing ticket for a five-hour opera like "Die Meistersinger" is a serious commitment on the audience's part--.

Down the street from the Opera House is the Secession, an art gallery and meeting place founded during the early 1900's as a forum for alternative art and thought. Besides being an active gallery space still, it houses the "Beethoven" frieze by Gustav Klimt. Klimt has become another Vienna icon, and Klimt reproductions are very visible. This frieze, which gives a visual interpretation of the themes of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, "Ode to Joy," was intended as a temporary decoration for another artist's event, but was fortunately preserved. The freize exhibits Klimt's trademark stylization and use of gold and jewel tones and is very impressive and interesting to see in the real. I was fascinated by the display of sketches for the work which showed that Klimt was a very skillful draughtsman who could have been a successful portratist had he been so inclined.
I found a good package deal on the tour of Schonbrunn Palace, dinner, and the Orangerie Mozart/Strauss concert, so had signed us up for that. We had no trouble getting to the Schonbrunn stop on the U-Bahn, but took a wrong turning coming out of the station and walked a ways through a large park accross the ring road from the palace grounds before figuring out our direction. Then, at the Orangerie, we had some difficulty finding the proper box office to pick up the tickets, but once that was done everything ran smoothly.

Schonbrunn Palace was built as the Emperor's "summer home." When established, it was in the country just outside the city, and sits in extensive open and landscaped grounds, unlike the Hofburg which is in the middle of the city. When we visted Windsor Castle in Britain, I said that I understood then what it was to be a King, as opposed to a mere knight or lord. Schonbrunn shows you what it was like to be an Emperor. The forty state rooms that the Grand Tour shows you are, to a great extent, individual works of art, many decorated in incredibly complex detail. There are rooms done entirely in a blue and white porcelain pattern. Another uses a unique collection of Persian fabric art as wall decor. The rooms used as office, study, and bedroom by Emperor Franz Joseph are some of the least grand, but the most interesting, as they give some insights into the character of the unimaginative, methodical man who described himself as the Empire's chief "civil servant". We also see the rooms used by his wife, Empress Elisabeth ("Sisi")during her increasingly unhappy stay there.

"Empress Sisi" seems to have replaced Maria Theresa as the Austrians' chief female historical character, perhaps fueled by a resurgence of interest at the 100th anniversary of her assassination, and the number of parallels (some strained) that can be drawn between her life and the unfortunate "Princess Di." A member of the Wittelsbach family ("Mad" King Ludwig of Barvaria was a cousin), Elizabeth was betrothed at age fifteen to Franz Joseph after a two-day courtship. Archduchess Sophie was the genuine mother-in-law from hell, making any friction between Diana and Queen Elizabeth of Britain seem like mild unpleasantness. "Sisi" didn't help things, evidently not being a very forceful personality but instead obsessed with her own looks and weight, which gives rise to conjectures she may have been anorexic in some degree. After having produced an heir to the throne , the unhappy Prince Rudolf, who killed himself in 1889, she essentially left Franz Joseph and spent the rest of her life traveling, mostly incognito. Her death was due to newspapers having exposed her presence in Lake Geneva, Switzerland, where she was stabbed to death by an anarchist. There were a couple of very sentimental and idealized movies made about her in the 1950's which have contributed to her image as a tragic, romantic figure, when the reality is rather sad and sordid in my view.

After completing the tour of the splendid rooms, we strolled in the extensive gardens until it was time to go in for dinner. Dinner was served at the "Residenz" restaurant which is in part of the Palace Complex once occupied by the Imperial kitchens, and was not only far better than expected, it was good by any standards. The menu read rather like a dinner-theatre meal, and that's what I expected. However, the "breaded turkey breast" translated into a turkey breast fillet with pesto stuffing, all enclosed in a light brioche. The appetiser was an excellent terrine of smoked salmon, and the dessert a nice chocolate mousse. It was all VERY good, as well as quite different from anything else we had during our stay.

The Orangerie is a wing of the Palace complex that was, indeed, used in winter to store the potted orange trees from the palace gardens. At other times, it became the palace's theatre/recital hall and this was where Mozart, Salieri, and others performed for the Court. Indeed, this is the only place documented where Mozart and Salieri actually went "head to head" presenting short operas comissioned by the Emperor Joseph II as a contest. (Mozart's "The Impresario" came in second to Salieri's more comic and accessible piece, "Prima la Musica, poi le Parole" ("First the Music, then the Words").)

The Schonbrunn Palace Orchestra is a chamber-size group augmented by an operatic soprano and baritone, and a pair of ballet dancers. The all-white hall was artistically lit with colored washes setting the moods of each piece, starting out with an ominous red for the Overture to "Don Giovanni", which opened the show. The first half of the concert was all Mozart, and included songs from "Marriage of Figaro" as well as a suite of dance tunes (done at proper tempo, as Georgie noted) and other short pieces. The Strauss half of the concert started with the overture to "The Gypsy Baron," songs from "Die Fledermaus", and pretty much obligatory "Wiener Blut," "Tales from the Vienna Woods," and "Blue Danube," and ended with Strauss Senior's "Radetsky March," which has become a sort of second Austrian national anthem. It is so traditional that the audience clap along with the first strain that the conductor turns and leads the audience in the proper tempo. "Whipcrack Polka" was given as an encore. This was a light program, but good fun, well performed, and thouroughly enjoyable, and worth going to although it's definitely a "touristy" event.
This morning, we had a leisurely breakfast and strolled back down to the Hofburg neighborhood to visit the imposing Kunsthistorichesmuseum (Art History Museum). This museum is rated as one of the ten great art collections in the world, and, having seen it, I can see why. If you can name an Old Master, with the exception of DaVinci, odds are there's at least one, and often more than one, in the collection. It seemed like there were a dozen each of Titian and Tintoretto, multiples of Vermeer and Van Eyck, three Rembrandts, a collection of Carravggios, and the ten Bruegels for which the museum is noted, including "Peasant Wedding," and "Hunters in the Snow."

The collection tends to be heavily Renaissance and post-Rennaissance, although I was pleased to see a couple of unfamilar Monets and a Renoir. Amazing as it was, this did not end up being my favorite art collection, which honor goes to the Belvedere, described below. Being the state collection of a famously Catholic monarchy, the Museum's collection runs heavily to religious subjects, and one can only see so many "Holy Families" (with or without John the Baptist) and Depositions of Christ without them palling, no matter how wonderful they are. Nevertheless, one of my favorite paintings of the collection was from the religious side, a very charming "Mary Magdalene." She is shown with a rather miffed expression, cheek leaning on one hand, contemplating an apparently empty gold metal jar. I imagined that this was her expression after having been chided by Judas about the ointment, and even Jesus having taken her part has not entirely relieved the sting--.

After having fished the Museum, we went back to the Graben for a light lunch at Wiener Wurstel, one of the best regarded Wurst stands. I tried a "Kasekrainer", supposely a bratwurst containing cheese, but didn't find it very cheesy--perhaps my order wasn't filled right. Georgie had a regular bratwurst, which was good and a bit more spicy than we commonly find over here. A sausage comes on a paper plate, cut into slices, with a small plastic fork, and about half a standard jar of mustard for dipping. A slice of bread is on the side. The exception to the slicing rule is the Frankfurter, which comes whole and people pick up and eat with their fingers like a banana. Every place that sells food sells alcoholic beverages as well, and wurst stands are no exception. I even saw miniature bottles of liquor in a Spar supermarket impulse rack near the cash registers along with the candy bars.

For all that the drinking age is sixteen, I didn't notice many young people drinking alcohol. Even though our hotel was on the edge of the "Bermuda Triangle", a well known club district, we didn't notice any particular rowdy behavior, even fairly late at night. Student styles seem much the same as here, with variations. There seem to be a higher incidence of young men with Mohawk or variation hairstyles there than here, and I don't know what the significance of that is. We saw the occasional tattoo parlor, but fewer visible tattoos and fewer visible piercings than over here.

Demographically, Vienna is a very white city. In the week were were there, I saw exactly three black people that appeared to be residents, and three more that appeared to be American tourists. There are significantly more Asians, both working and studying. There were some brown-skinned black-haired people present who could have been Hungarian, Turkish, Greek, North African, or any Mediterranean
people. Women dress very stylishly. Men tend to look much like they do over here, with a higher incidents of suits and sport coats. Although we found a dedicated hat store, I was most of the time the only man in sight wearing a hat. The lingerie stores emphasise stockings and pantyhose, and more women seem to be wearing them, which I confess is a look I prefer--. I think the bare legged look is getting a bit old, especially in winter. Since we had another palace tour and concert scheduled for that evening, we took the afternoon easy with window shopping.
For dinner, we went to a restaurant called Figlmueller. It is an establishment well-known for advertising the largest schnitzels anywhere. For the uninitiated, a "schnitzel" is a cutlet or fillet, most often pork but also veal or other meats, tenderized by pounding it out very thin and flat, breading, and quick-frying. A "Wiener Schnitzel" has nothing to do with sausages, but means "Vienna Schnitzel," which is the simplest and most common preparation. There are a number of other ways to fix it, including Hunter's Schnitzel, "Esterhazy" schnitzel, and a number of others. Figlmueller actually has two locations, one down an alley or side arcade, which is the smaller and cozyier of the two, but which by the time we came by was also full up. The one on Woolziellerstrasse nearby was more open and we were seated immediately. Figlmueller has a reputation as somewhat touristy, but we didn't really feel it, except that when we identifed ourselves as English speakers, we were given an English menu which didn't have as many choices as the German menu we had seen in the window down the street. However, we had come in for the classics and they were on the menu we had, so we were content. Note on language: Most everywhere we went, someone spoke enough English for us to get by. Most of the menus we encountered were in multiple languages, and some of the major museums either had bi-lingual display notes or English handouts. English language audio tours were available almost everywhere, but we don't LIKE audio tours and did well enough making out titles, artists' names and dates most places.

Georgie ordered the Weiner Schnitzel, which, as advertised, overhung the edges of a standard dinner plate. It was very thin, less than a quarter of an inch thick, and coated with a light, crisp breading that was totally grease-free. The meat itself was tender, moist and delicious. The dish was accompanied by one of the mixed salads we became used to. I myself ordered the "tafelspitz."

"Tafelspitz" is treated as somewhat of a joke by guidebooks, that tend to descibe it as "boiled beef with carrots" which makes it sound like some kind of bland British-cooking horror. Nothing could be further from the truth. I got two thick slices of juicy, tender brisket that had been cooked in a flavorful broth. Carrot, turnip, and some other root vegetable flavored the meal. it was accompanied by apparently traditional "browned" potatoes, which are like a soft hash brown served up in a scoop like mashed potatoes, and lightly spiced with caraway. The Emperor Franz Joseph is documented to have had tafelspitz for dinner every night. I toasted his taste with a good Vienna Pilsener style beer.

Then, we took the underground for the first time to a northwestern section of the city where the Volksoper is located. The "People's Opera" was dedicated to doing opera in the German language, as opposed to the Statsoper, which tends to do them in the orginal language--Italian, English, whatever. The Volksoper also tends to do light opera and operetta more than "grand opera." Therefore, we weren't surprised that the Volksoper had no supertitles or similar, and no English program. You have to buy programs at most events if you want one, but if you get one, it is a veritable book and worth having. At the Volksoper we first encountered the phenomenon that the ushers have real authority and aren't afraid to use it, as you are required to check things like your umbrella (even Georgie's folding one), jackets you aren't wearing, hats, etc., and there is a charge for checking things. Oh, well, it keeps ushers and checkroom clerks employed.

"The Gypsy Baron" is an operetta by Johann Strauss II, and known for its lovely music and negligible plot, which deals with marriages, rank, hidden treasure, and martial glory. The Volksoper production was rather over-the-top as to design and comedically acted, such that I was surprised there were so few laughs from the audience. Just the appearance of the wealthy pig-farmer Zsupán, who resembled fat Elvis in a pink suit would have gotten a big laugh from a US audience, but the audience didn't really seem to loosen up until the Comissioner's patter song connecting the second and third acts, which we gathered probably included some topical references along the lines of Gilbert and Sullivan's "they never would be missed." Nevertheless, when it came time for the curtain call that audience gave an enthusiastic ovation in which we wholeheartely joined. Music and singing were flawless and it was all good fun to watch.

A note on the Underground: Vienna's U-Bahn (which is like most cities, mostly underground but sometimes not) is fast, reliable, and clean. You buy a ticket good for a day, three days, or a week, and validate it by date-stamping it the first time you use it, at which minute the time starts to run. Travel is on the honor system, but there are inspectors, plainclothesmen who ask to see your ticket, and issue a rather expensive citation if you don't have one. We got checked on our very first trip, and a young man in our car got hauled off at the next stop, but didn't see any more inspectors for the rest of the week. We were glad we had our tickets!
The Hofburg Palace complex, primary home of the Emperors of Austria-Hungary, is a short walk from the Stephansplatz, and the existence there of the famous Spanish Riding School is prominently labled. Formal performances are infrequent and tickets hard to come by, but most every weekday from 10-1 there is the "Morning Exercise with Music" where you can see the students and the Lippizaner horses work out.

This was rather fun just to watch the horses (and students) get put through their paces (literally), and to see trainers working with them on gaits and moves such as the caracole. In this mode, you can see the varying temperments and foibles of the animals, not yet worked up to the formal beauty of the performance, and see how the riders learn as well. This is rather subtle, since the horse and rider are apparently supposed to communicate by mental telepathy. Seldom if ever do you actually perceive the riders change position, or appear to actually use rein, spur, or crop, and, since the nusic was soft, it was pretty obvious they don't talk to the horses much either. I noted that all the students appear to be slim young men, and wondered what it took to be a rider there. I gather the "school" is rather more of a performing troupe than a regular riding school these days, but I wondered if you could possibly even apply if you were a bit overage, overweight, or female? Nothing I have found answers these questions.

After a couple of groups had worked out, we left the handsome and relatively austere Winter Riding Hall and made bee-line for the Royal Treasury. We ignored the State Rooms (reviewed as dull compared with other places we would see) and the Empress Sisi Museum (more about her later), and bought a combination ticket that would admit us to the Treasury, the Armory/Musical Instrument/Ephesos Museums, also part of the Hofburg Complex, and the Art History Museum.

The Treasury is just fantastic, no other word for it. Besides the Hapsburg Crown jewels, there is an awsome collection of coronation robes for Holy Roman Emperors and a dozen kingdoms, elaborate Heralds' tabards for emperors, kings, and dukes, and religious artifacts as well, including an alleged piece of the True Cross and the fabled Spear of Longinus, supposedly used to pierce Christ's side while he was on the cross. The amount of work put into some of the robes and raiments is just beyond imagining.

After that, we adjourned to the Riding School cafe for a refreshment (yes, everyone has their own cafe) since we got a discount coupon with admission for the exercise, and found the snacks good. I had my first taste of Viennese coffee here and wasn't that impressed. "Melange", which is the basic coffee drink, comes with whipped cream on top, but otherwise straight. Even so, it was strong, but not that wonderful. However, I am not a coffee drinker ordinarily, so perhaps there were nuances lost on me.

The Museums in the Nuwe Berg, the newest part of the Hofburg, are not on the typical tour-package trail, and so we were often walking around in solitary splendor, able to peer as closely as we liked at the suits of armor, swords and other weapons. The Hofburg weapons collection is weighted heavily toward armor for the joust collected by Emperor Maximillian I, who was very fond of the sport, but also contains examples of weapons I had only ever seen drawings of, such as the "lantern shield", or, as we called it, the "Swiss Army shield". This early example of the gadgeteer's art is a buckler incorporating its own gauntlet for a secure grip, and also has a small bulls-eye lantern that shines out through a hole in the shield above the boss. This was not for dueling in the dark, but supposedly to dazzle your opponent and gain you an advantage. It also has two serrated blades coming out from the gauntlet, a wickedly saw-edged eight inch spike from the boss, and a secondary sword blade that slides out from a sheathe along the user's forearm!

At the end of the weapons display, you can stroll right into the Musical Instrument Museum, which is a very comprehensive collection of antique instruments of all types, many of which were new to me, and then to the Ephesos (Ephesus) Museum, which collects statuary and other objects excavated from that site in Turkey, and includes THE Diana of Ephesus. I was quite croggled to find this famous sculpture standing here quite unheralded and apparently largely ignored by the many visitors to other areas of the complex.

Vienna is quite surprising in this regard. Famous things you probably thought were elsewhere are right here. The Art History Museum has THE Blue Faience Hippopotamus you probably thought was in Cairo or New York. THE Venus of Willendorf is in the Natural History Museum. David's famous painting of Napoleon on horseback is at the Belvedere, and those are just some of the more striking ones I noted.

After that, we were museumed out for the day,and went in search of dinner before the Volksoper that evening.
Orienting ourselves to our map, we made our way through the narrow streets of the old city to the Stephansplatz, site of the Cathedral of St. Stephan, noting along the way the pastry shops, cafes, and stores selling chocolates--which are everywhere, especially the Mozart Kugeln, delicious marzipan-filled chocolate balls. MOZART is everywhere. This is the 250th anniversary of his birth, and there is a huge amount of Mozart-themed events. Men in Mozart outfits (a white wig and ornate coat is the accepted shorthand) hawk concert tickets on the street corners, and Mozart cardboard cutouts stand at the doors of the candy sellers. There are also candies named for other famous locals--Johann Strauss, and "Empress Sisi" among others. We were amused to note even "Lippizaner Kugel". Made with real horse?--we wondered, not an entirely unlikely inquiry in a city where Leberkase mit Pferd can be bought at street stands.

The presence of "pferd" was brought to our attention as we entered the square downwind of the fiacre stand. Fiacre are horse-drawn cabs popular with tourists, and the smell of horse urine in thei vicinity was powerful and a notable exception to Vienna's usual fine air quality. We made a note to avoid puddles, especially in the Stephansplatz neighborhood--.

Outside the cathedral, the square is bustling with tourists. It becomes a pedestrian-only area after morning deliveries are completed, and then gets taken over by tour groups, street performers, and cafe chairs and tables. By contrast, the interior of the great cathedral, a Gothic work begun in the 1200's, is dim and somber. There are separate admissions for the nave, the crypt, and the tower, but you are able to lurk around the edges of the huge main space for free, and we were content to do that. On the other hand, we do tend to like to challenge ourselves by climbing monuments where available, and in largely flat Vienna, the Stephansdom spire is about what there is, so we cheerfully paid the three Euro admission and worked the flying kinks out by scaling the three hundred plus steps to the viewing platform.

This climb is not for the weak nor the claustrophobic, as it goes for most of its length up a narrow spiral staircase illuminated only by small windows letting in daylight about each story. We were surprised to find a small gift shop at the very top of the tower! The guy who works there can be fairly said to have a sucky job, since there appears to be no other way to access the shop than walking up and down--no wonder he seemed grumpy when I only bought a postcard. This was one of our first hints that every single attraction in Vienna incorporates its own gift shop, and most of them a cafe as well, the Cathedral being one of the few exceptions to the cafe rule. The views from the top were spectacular and I took pictures before we stared back down, having to pause frequently to allow puffing climbers to pass us on the way up.

We then strolled along the Graben, which, along with the Karntnerstrasse which intersects it at Stephansplatz, is one of the premier shopping streets in Vienna, with many famous high-end brands mingling with the candy and pastry, and locally famous shops such as the Julius Meindl gourmet shop.

Some of the guidebooks we had read said that Austrians were more open about sex than some other cultures, and this certainly seemed to be the case at least in regard to lingerie stores: Palmer's, which is apparently a German company despite the English sounding name, seems to have stores in every neighborhood, as well as being stocked by numerous other shops, and there are several competitors. Imagine if Victoria's Secret could get away with having a billboard twenty feet high and fifty feet long displaying a dozen VERY scantily clad models over here--. Every store that sells women's clothing at all displays undergarments as well. I found the window shopping most interesting, but not for that reason alone--. There were many beautiful clothes and shoes, both designer and local labels--mostly at designer prices. I was rather surprised to see a gun store on the Graben, mostly handling hunting weapons, but handguns such as Glock and SIG were on display as well. I'm sure there must be rigid licensing requirements, but I had had the impression that most European countries were more uptight on guns than that. We later saw a high-end used gun shop a few streets away, and a very utilitarian gun store in the working-class neighborhood around the railroad station, so this one was not an exception.

Now well worn down, we went back to Fleischmarket, and had dinner at the Cafe Vienna which is right on the street in front of the Hotel, and found it very good. This place became our fallback eating-establishment during our stay, and everything we had was excellent. In particular, one evening, I had a fillet mignon with a cognac-peppercorn sauce which was just splendid. We found this to be very typical of dining out in Vienna. Prices were quite reasonable, portions generous, and quality excellent, although there are some things that are of course different from here. Water is not uniformly offered, since mineral water is on the menu everywhere. This was fine with us, as we often didn't order other drinks anyway. Bread or rolls will come with an entree, but not butter or margarine. The bread is good enough to eat without, or to use to soak up sauces, but this seems curious to me. An entree will come with a vegetable OR a potato OR a salad, again fine with us since portions are generous. A mixed salad, in particular, usually contains marinated cooked potato as well as greens, tomato, cucumber, etc., so we never felt underserved. We tried desserts, mine being an excellent apfelstrudel which was a sizeable portion of finely sliced firm apple, nicely spiced with cinnamon and a bit of cardamom with just the minimum wrapper of pastry necessary to hold it together. Georgie had palatschinken, delicious eggy crepes filled with apricot conserve. Well nourished, we strolled the few yards to our hotel to settle in, plan the morrow, and sleep. A note on beds: ours was furnished with a decently comfortable matress and two thick duvets, one for each sleeper. There were also blankets, so Georgie slept on top of her duvet with a blanket over her, and I slpet under mine, and we were both comfortable.
Monday, Oct. 2 was our departure date, We expected to spend the best part of a day travelling, so I attempted to make things as hasssle-free as possible. We began when our friend Henry Osier transported us and our baggage to the Milwaukee Amtrak depot, where the Wisconsin Coach Lines bus to O'Hare picks up. The bus was on time, and got us to Terminal 5 at O'Hare in good time. We left a good three hours for check-in, security, etc., which we didn't actually need. This was one of a number of precautions we took that we didn't turn out to need, but the fact that we took them was comforting, and, as I have found, it seems to work out that if you have a good "Plan B" there's less of a chance you will actually need it. So we had plenty of time to stand in line wating for Alitalia's counter to open up, then to change some money for Euros, then pass security and settle in at the gate to wait to board. Depressingly, our initial gate had television, and we also had plenty of time to both listen to the depressing news about the dreadful shooting in Amish country, and to watch a thunderstorm edge around the airfield. Then a gate change was announced, and we moved to some more peaceful space. The bad weather cleared off and we took off into reasonably calm air.

I can't complain about Alitalia for this flight. The Boeing 767 was not too uncomfortable in Economy class, and the food was quite good. As usual, we pretty much ignored the in-flight entertainment and read or dozed. Landing at Milan Malpensa airport was no problem, and we noticed that the airport contained a number of interesting shops that we hoped to explore on the slightly longer layover scheduled for our return trip. Our airplane for the hop to Vienna was an Embraer model, three seats across, and we had a smooth flight. Skies were clearer as we flew into Austria, and to the east we could see the Alps marching rank on rank into Switzerland and Bavaria. From this height and angle they looked pretty grim, and one appreciates Hannibal's just fame.

Landing and getting bags at Schwechat airport was no problem, and the hotel's driver was there to meet us as scheduled.

Driving into Vienna was VERY interesting. None of the guidebooks describe that the area between the airport and the city is heavily industrial and includes one of the largest refinery complexes I've ever seen, as well as a couple of large power plants. However, we were quickly into Vienna proper and left all of that quickly behind.

The Hotel Austria is very conveniently located in the first, or inner district of the city, that once encompassed by the ancient walls, which puts it in easy walking distance of St. Stephan's Cathedral, the city's most visible landmark; the major shopping streets, the Hofburg place complex, many museums, and, a bit farther away, the Statsoper (State Opera). For all this, it is not easy to find if you don't know where to look. The address is 20 Fleischmarket, but it is actually located at the end of a nameless cul-de-sac off that street, a position it shares with an office building and what appeared to be the headquarters of the Carpenter's Union. We found the hotel very comfortable and the hotel staff knowlegeable and helpful in every way. In the style of classic hotels, the front desk is staffed round the clock, and all the desk clerks spoke very good English. I had booked one of the best rooms, and it was very comfortable and the hotel as a whole very quiet and very clean. A breakfast buffet came with the room and provided a bountiful spread of bread, fruit, cheeses, meats, jams, juice, tea and coffee, as well as a few things I wouldn't have expected, such as Nutella and liver paste (!). Cooked breakfasts were available at an extra charge, but we did very well on the standard plan. Given the Viennese madness for pastry, I was surprised that sweet rolls of any kind were not on the breakfast menu: instead, the carbohydrate portion of the offering comprised bread, Kaiser and seeded rolls, and croissants. I guess they figure that with sweets available from morning break on, you don't need them for breakfast, also. The hotel provided one free terminal for internet access as noted previously, and also has a lobby hot spot for wi-fi, but this, I was displeased to find, was not included with the room: instead, there was a slight additional hourly charge for usage. The fact that this wasn't noted up front on the hotel's promotional materials was the only down check. We settled in, unpacked, and ventured out to explore the nearby area. (con't).
Posting still isn't very convenient from here. It's Monday afternoon, and we are winding down.The one major event left is the "Coppelia" ballet at the Statsoper tonight, then the flight home tomorrow.

When last I left off, we were going to Schoenbrunn for the tour, dinner and concert. In brief: Schoenbrunn, a spectacular palace and well worth seeing. Dinner included with the package at the "Rezidenz" restaurant better than expected, in fact very good. Concert at the Orangerie where Mozart used to play, good fun and well done.

Friday, a lighter day. Some shopping, a guided tour of the Statsoper, lunch at Cafe Sacher (home of the famous Sachertorte), and the Secession for the famous Klimt frieze.

Saturday, the lower and upper Belvedere, in that order. The lower Belvedere is one of the nicest and most humanly scaled of the palaces. Then the nearby Military History Museum at the Imperial Arsenal. That evening, "Die Zauberflote" at the Statsoper. FANTASTIC production, will have much to say about it in details.

Sunday, train trip to Graz. Beautiful mountainous terrain worth the trip alone. Graz is a smaller city with many beautiful old buildings, plus the Landzeughaus, the 17th-18th century arsenal maintained in working condition--which means THOUSANDS of muskets, arquebuses, swords, pieces of armor, etc. Austrian train service very good.

Today so far, shopping, writing, and relaxing. Home tomorrow, after which I will have time and energy to write more.
Tuesday: Spanish Riding School: very neat to see in the real. We watched about an hour of the "morning exercise with music." Hofburg museums, Treasury: Fascinating. The many coronation robes and herald´s tabards are spectacular, as are the remaning crown jewels. For some reason the most recent set of the Austrian crown jewels remain in Germany. Armory: Also facinating. This collection has a few ancient weapons and helmets, but pretty rapidly gets to the armor collection of Maximillian I and other nobility that had jousting as a hobby, with many, many examples of armor for the joust, parade armor, and some actually intended for combat. Contains the orginals of many pieces that I have only seen in drawings or pictures. Dinner at Figlmüeller, a restaurant famous for schintzel. Georgie had the Viener schnitzel, and, as advertised, it is larger than the plate, but very thin. It was tasty and good. I tried "tafelspitz", the boiled beef dinner famous for being the favorite dish of Emperor Franz Joseph, and found it very good indeed.

Evening was the Volksoper, for Straus' "The Gypsy Baron." The plot is pure fluff, so we did not suffer from having neither supertitles nor an English libretto, having looked up the synopsis previously. The production was rather campily over the top in design, but beautifully sung by principals and chorus, and well accompanied by an excellent orchestra. We traveled there and back by the U-Bahn, the "underground", which compares favorably to those of Toronto and London that we have used before.

Wednesday morning:Art History Museum: Spectacular collection! The Antiquites are astonishing: dozens of mummy cases, sarcophagi and Egyptian statuary, far more than in US collections such as the Field museum. So many Greek urns, vases, kraters in pristine condition--. And when you get to the paintings, room upon room with multiple examples of so many masters--Tintoretto, Titian, Ver Meer, Bruegel, Rembrandt, it's a bit croggling.

This evening:Schönbrunn Palace tour, dinner and concert. More to come!
Good evening. Tonight, I am writing to you all from the lobby of the Hotel Austria, Vienna, Austria. Although we have always wanted to come here, among other places, Tracy and Bill can share some of the blame for getting us here since they survived a Rick Steeves tour and fired us up with visions of how neat it is. We are adventuring since Georgie and I are here all on our little own, since we don't like tours and prefer to make up our own itnerary. I'm keeping this short because a)the hotel computer has a European keyboard which I am finding a real pain to use, and b) I am very fried due to twelve hours of flying plus bus and car travel and layover, followed by an afternoon of scouting Central Vienna that included climbing the 300 plus steps to the highest accessible point of the Stephansdom cathedral spire. More to come, but quick notes: Alitalia is OK to fly on; Central Vienna is very cool; the Hotel Austria has everything to recommend it; and the Cafe Vienna adjacent to the hotel is a very decent place to eat. Coming tomorrow: Lippzaners, the Hofburg, and the Volksoper for Strauss' "Die Ziegeuner Baron" ("The Gypsy Baron.")

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