01 Jan 04 European Vacation 03 Jan 04
In case you didn't realize it, you can click on the pictures for a bigger image.
Friday, 02 January 2004
One of the great capitals of Europe, Vienna was home to the Habsburg (or Hapsburg) rulers of the Austro- Hungarian Empire for centuries. Today the empire is long gone, but many reminders of the city's imperial heyday remain, carefully preserved by the tradition-loving Viennese. Like many other European cities, Vienna's origins lie in ancient Roman times, starting as a military camp called Vindobona in the first century AD.
Once again, we got a late start (what else is new?), but we were at least rested and ready for a day in Vienna. I went down to sweet talk my way into an extra night in the hotel, but the guy down there wasn't falling for my charms. That meant I had to agree to pay for our second night.

At least the extra night meant that we could really enjoy our stay in Vienna while still getting in some shopping in München and a visit to Brussels. We did manage to get to the Gasthaus Hansie, which was closing when we got there last night. The food was as good as advertised.

After lunch, Jen and Andrea went to the local Spar (a grocery store chain) while I stepped into the nearby internet bar to check for messages from Martina. I just needed to confirm that all was in order for our stay with her later in the trip. I also wanted to see about booking a hotel in Munich, which was especially important to me after our experiences here in Vienna.
Then we went to the U-bahn station and bought the 24-hour pass that would allow us to travel most of the city's transport system for the duration of our stay. Pass in hand, we went downtown to see some of the sites Vienna is known for. It was pretty darn cold out there, but some people just don't feel the cold (see picture to right).
We hopped off the U-bahn at St. Stephansplatz and trekked up the stairs into the bitter cold of downtown just to see the pride of Vienna, St. Stephensdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral). After admiring the outside, we entered to see the inside of this cathedral built in the 1300s with the help of Rudolph IVs. He was successor to the Austrian Habsburg Family throne when his father, Albert, died of a mysterious illness. The church generally survived WWII until the last days, when the fires that swept through the city burned the original Gothic rooftop.
After the war, the people rallied around St. Stephan's and this symbol of Austria was rebuilt by 1952. The ceramic tiles are decorative, a copy of the original design, and bear the names of the contributors.
We then found our way to the Stallburg Palace and the Lipizzaner Museum, home of the world famous Lipazzaner Stallions. This impressive Baroque hall provides a spectacular setting for the performances of
the Spanish Riding School and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vienna. The museum lays out the 400 year history of the riding school. Unfortunately, Andrea's lifelong dream of seeing the Lipizzaners in
person will have to wait a few more years... they were on vacation for the entire month of January. At least Andrea got to see them on film. There was a comprehensive movie on the history and development of the Spanish Riding School and Jen and I learned more than we ever realized there was about dressage. I had seen some of the things they can do in Portugal when Andrea and I went to the Portuguese School of Riding a few years ago. Jen on the other hand was amazed at what they were able to get the horses to do.

I'll bet by now you're all wondering why it's called the 'Spanish School of Riding' if it's actually in Austria. Well, the Spanish part of the name comes from the breed of Moorish riding horses Emperor Maximilian II imported from Spain in 1562. In 1580, the stud farm at Lipizza near Trieste was established, hence the name Lipizzans for this breed. At the end of World War II, U.S. Army General George S. Patton, Jr. ordered a raid that removed the horses from an area about to be taken by Soviet troops, thus assuring the continuation of the superb old bloodlines.
After our visit to the Lipizzaner Museum we checked out the plaza outside and took the time to snap a few pictures. Jen had fun playing with her new camera as the pictures to the right attest. As you can see it was also starting to get dark out, so Jen got to try out her camera's low light mode.
Jen actually relinquished her death grip on the camera long enough for me to take a couple of pictures of her. At first we tried a normal picture, then we tried the camera's special low light mode. In this mode the camera uses an extended exposure to collect more of the ambient light and get a daylight-esque photo, even with little to no light. It requires a VERY steady hand, and we had trouble getting it to work out.
After my turn Jen took her camera back (somehow I managed to keep all of my fingers) and tried a few on her own. Andrea took some photos with her tried and true film camera, and those are here for you all to see too. Can you figure out which they are?  The photos aren't out of focus, that's just an artifact of the low light mode.
After the photo shoot, Jen led us off to the S-bahn station on our way to our next destination. Somehow I missed her telling us where she was taking us, so I asked where we were headed. BIG mistake...once Jen explained where we were going, I was happy. She was taking us to the one thing I was really looking forward to in Austria...Heuriger.
As I said, the Heurigen are one of the big things I wanted to visit here. If you want to know what they are, click here. So Jen led us out to Grinzig, one of the more famous Heurigen regions. It was quite a trek, including walking as well as U-bahn and S-bahn rides. I had decided to make things a little more fun for Jen by leaving the paper with the directions on it stateside. She didn't appreciate the entertainment value.
Our search ended at the Hans-Maly, a nice little Heurigen that's been around for about 100 years. For those of you who can read German, here's more info. The folks there were really friendly and gave us a primo seat. We sat and each ordered a white wine, then sat back to enjoy ourselves. The wine wasn't quite as sweet as we had hoped but it was really good. The younger wines served at Heurigen tend to be somewhat sweet and have a little less alcohol than more developed wines.
We were getting hungry so I went up to the front to get some food. As you've no doubt read in my Heurigen writeup they don't really serve complete meals at these places. I picked a bunch of things that looked good and were recommended by the friendly ladies behind the counter, then headed back to the table with some samples of food.
Group Pic2 Jen and Andrea2
We were having a really good time just chatting about lots of different things when a big group came in. All of a sudden the empty place was alive with people just having a great time. They even had an accordian player dancing and playing. The meats and potatoes and white wine were delicious. We were definitely glad to be there and were really enjoying ourselves. I got to pet the resident house kitty, a neat little black
cat. Andrea had no such luck, she got snubbed by him. Good food, good friends and good wine...life is good. We decided to stay so we could eat and drink a little more. Jen and Andrea each got a second glass of the white wine while I decided to
try the red. Not quite as good as the white but still oh so good. Meanwhile, some of the local kids came in all decked out asking for donations for their church group... apparently a local tradition at this time of year. At first seeing the horse come in was a little, well, disturbing, then just funny. They left and we realized we were still hungry, so I went back up front to get some more of the meats and other foods that we liked
the most... you know pretty much all of them. I'll definitely find a way to get back to this or another similar place. You should try visiting a Heurigen too if you get the chance.
Several hours later, near closing time, we we started the long journey back to the hotel. About halfway there, one of us mentioned that we should take a picture, at which time Jen's eyes bugged out and she turned completely pale. At about the same time she and I realized that she didn't have her backpack...with her new camera inside!!! Talk about a heart attack!!

Needless to say, we ran off the tram at the next stop and found ourselves a pay phone. Fortunately I had grabbed a stack of cards from the Hans-Maly, so Jen tried calling them. After a couple of tries we realized that the phone was not working properly. So we found a taxi and with a little discussion we talked him into taking us there "schnell, schnell!" (fast, fast).
Jen ran into the place while Andrea and I paid the cab driver, then followed. The two proprietors/waitresses were there with Jen's pack, waiting. They said that they were hoping she'd come back and seemed happy as much as relieved to see her. Jen kept repeating vielen dank (thank you VERY much) and many other similar things...pretty much whatever she could think of to express her gratitude. The older of the women gave Jen a big hug and we were on our way. What great people!! See the happy Jen?
Ok, so then we all get back on the tram...talk about deja vu all over again. The only difference this time was that we had entertainment in the form of a large group of Italians on vacation and singing boisterous songs. The mood was contagious and we (meaning I) found myself
cheering with them whenever they yelled 'hoorah' or some such thing. We parted ways at the U-bahn station, and somehow got on the subject of drinking songs. We weren't too thrilled that we couldn't think of any American drinking songs. Then I
got Jen started on Gator songs... you know 'We are the Boys', the alma mater, etc. Ha ha ha. At some point
Andrea mentioned that she hated wearing her hat because it always made her hair all static-y. Jen couldn't resist, so she decided to test the theory. Yep, there's some static there alright. Add up the late hour, a few glasses of good wine, and the cold and you get us acting wierd while waiting for the next train. But hey, we were having fun.
We continued our journey back to the hotel and managed to find Haydn's star on the walk of fame. For those
of you who already don't know, Franz Joseph Haydn is a composer best remembered for his symphonic music. He is sometimes referred to as the "Father of the Symphony". After finding the star, we spent some time walking around and exploring the sites the city had to offer. After all, this was our last night in this amazing city.
By now you're probably all wondering what happened to one of Vienna's most famous landmarks, The Prater. The Prater in Vienna is Austria's largest and oldest funfair. The most famous attraction at the Prater is the "Riesenrad" which is essentially
a large ferris wheel. Some of you may remember seeing this ferris wheel in the James Bond movie The Living
Daylights. Jen's been waiting all day to see this ferris wheel, and I've been waiting to see the Prater Cafe, which according to our impeccable sources (The Living Daylights) is at the base of the Riesenrad. I went to fight off the tigers guarding the place (see picture to right) while Jen and Andrea sought out a prime vantage point from which to take some photos.
Earlier that night we had decided not to try to go up in an unheated metal box for
about half an hour. That meant settling for pictures to remember it. Jen decided to hide behind a park bench so she could sneak up and get her pictures. It worked as you can see from the pictures on the left. If you look really carefully you can see Jen in one of
the pictures with the ferris wheel. As for the Prater Cafe, well I never got to stage my death in the door ala The Living Daylights. After our photo session we walked back to the hotel to grab a little sleep. You see, we had to catch an early train for München the next morning. Stay tuned for the next exciting episode... München: Candy Central.

01 Jan 04 European Vacation 03 Jan 04
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