Vienna ~ I’m in love with ya, baby

ahh Vienna, I wish to have more time with you. I thought our perfect Sunday was enough — and it was a highlight of this trip. (See previous post.) But no, my heart longs for more.  I’m in love with you, Vienna but it was all too brief of an affair.

Don’t get me wrong, we did soo much, and did get to see most of Vienna’s baroque buildings — which are almost as delicious as the cakes.  My camera practically explored with all the beautiful architecture.  We walked and walked.  When our feet gave out, we climbed aboard one of the historic trams that circle the inner part of the city.  We were herculean tourists during our time here.

I love your wide avenues, perfect for strolling…

Then how you can slip down a side street and find absolute quiet …

Your statues delighted at every turn…

But I want more (she sighs, petulantly…)

I want to go to an opera (and I’m not even a fan of opera).  I want to attend a concert in the hall where Mozart once performed.  I want visit at least some of the museums — they number in the 100’s.

I want to spend a day touring the treasures of the Hofburg Palace where Emperor Franz Joseph II and his poor wife Sisi changed history. I want to day trip to the Wachau Valley to sip white wine. I want to waste hours in a café, just reading and watching people.

Two and half days just wasn’t enough for this regally elegant city.  Yes, it’s more expensive than other cities in Central Europe ~~ but, oh darling,  you’re worth every Euro.

Vienna has been voted the most livable city in Europe for many years — I can see why.  I could live here – or at least come back for a longer stay…

Some overpriced markets and shops where I would shop during my daily stroll through various parts of the city…

 

Finally, an adorable expresso mobile, complete with a full up-scale European set up for that much needed quick pick-me-up between lunch and local café time.  I might just have to learn to drink coffee…

Vienna, our time together was brief – but oh so delightful.

I’ll never forget you.

I close with my favorite statue – an over-the-top Mozart, who made me laugh, posed just so — in all his pompousness.

 

Viennese Cafes

A brief interlude, while I tell you about the culture surrounding Vienna’s cafés.

It is said the Viennese living room is down the street at the neighborhood coffeehouse or café. A bow-tied waiter recognizes the regulars and ushers them to ‘their’ table.  These regular Viennese order their coffee and/or meal and then wander to the racks of newspapers on wooden dowels, where they grab one, two or three newspapers and peruse the daily news while sipping coffee.

We went to this one – Lantmann — one of the oldest and least touristy in Vienna.

We sat inside to absorb the true café culture with the white table cloths and the neighbors. (The outside seating seemed to just students and a smattering of tourists.)  It was early evening and a number of customers came in — some alone, some with friends.  They nodded to one another, chose their table, then read their papers, sipping coffee, slowly enjoying their evening meal while listening to the café piano player.

 

The pastry choices are truly amazing at each and every café – here’s a sampling.

Another day we visited Café Sacher – home of the famous Sacher Torte.  We’re such shameless tourists we even took photos.  Husband had the original Sacher cake with coffee — the somewhat smaller tea cake with tea is mine, still not a coffee drinker.  Inside of café and then the reading room connected nextdoor at the Sacher hotel.

Be kind when we return, please don’t mention the extra pounds we’re sure to have put on after all these luscious treats.  Thank you.

A Perfect Sunday in Vienna

Sunday, our first day in Vienna ~~ and we had plans, big plans~~ exciting plans…including (sort of) attending not one, but two church masses.

Way back when planning this trip, we found a small article on Rick Steves’ website.  (In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re big fans of his travel guides/advice.)  The article described a perfect Sunday morning in Vienna. Well, count us in!

Up early and an easy walk from our apartment (more on the apartment later) to the Hofburg Palace Imperial Music Chapel, where one can stand quietly at the back of the chapel to watch the mass, but most incredibly, hear the Vienna Boys Choir who sing throughout this mass every Sunday –accompanied by a small Viennese orchestra.  You can’t see the boys, no one can, they’re hidden in a loft at the back of the Chapel.  But, I think that’s the point, you instead focus on hearing them (shivers up the spine).

Sunlight streamed into the chapel and although neither of us are formally religious, this –well this, got to us. No pictures allowed, you’ll have to just  imagine the music and two aging travelers moved by the splendid beauty of it all.

OK here’s a photo of the Chapel from the internet — just so you get an idea.

Our next stop has been on my bucket list since I was a little girl and fell in love with this book (the well loved copy still on my shelves).

 

Yes, dear readers, it was the Sunday morning performance of the Lipizzaner stallions at the Spanish Riding School.  These Spanish horses were so loved by the Emperor, that he built a special baroque riding hall to show off their noble gaits and precisely controlled jumps.

We read that there’s not a bad seat in the house and the cheapest standing room tickets are just as good as the extraordinarily priced seats.  So we went standing room, which had wooden steps for sitting or standing as one wished. We found a perfect spot.

One is not allowed to take photos, as it can spook the horses, but I snuck a couple before the performance started.  Just look at those chandeliers.

It was an hour of pure delight, even Husband enjoyed it.  But, in between performances — he insisted that Silver (the Lone Ranger’s horse) could rear up higher and jump further.  (You just got to love the guy, no?)

 

After the performance, we strolled about 100 yards to the Augustinian Church where another Mass was open to visitors. (These Masses go on for 2+ hours, so even the holiest of parishioners come and go.)  We found a pew in center back and enjoyed the full choir, complete orchestra, and a magnificent pipe organ recessional that went on for 15 minutes at the end.  After Mass, we snuck some photos.

We decided to head over to the tourist information office to get oriented to the rest of Vienna for later today and tomorrow.  Even the tourist office is impressive.  This display holds tourist brochures in a multitude of languages.

Found a cute café for lunch (Barmy travel tip –  go off the tourist routes, down side streets, into alleys to find the best places to eat).

After lunch, we explored.  Ending up back at the Hofburg Palace again  — first photo shows the enormity of the place:

By now it was late afternoon and the temperature had climbed to 80. We headed back through some lovely gardens just near us.  Check out the rose garden.  And had to take a photo of a wonderful African family celebrating some sort of special event.

Now to our teeny, tiny little apartment.  Perfectly located just behind the Parliament.  But as a loft on the 5th floor it is quite warm in this little Vienna heat wave.

We figured out the ersatz air conditioning unit, closed the shades and took showers and rested…me happily reading my program from the Lipizzaner performance.  Here’s the view from our loft windows.

Found a wonderful little beer garden place just near us, sat outside and lingered over our dinner until the sun set and it got cooler.

More of Vienna tomorrow – Gute Nacht

 

 

An Austrian Village

We’re having a little sojourn in the Austrian forests and hills.  A few days in the Austrian village of Radnig.

Let me catch you up.  Our home exchange partners have not only the apartment in Prague for us to use, but also offered their vacation chalet in the lower mountains of southern Austria.  They suggested, that in between the big cities we might like some ‘down time’ and we agreed.

It turned out to be wonderfully scenic train journey from Cesky  Beetlejuice through Linz, where we changed trains to Villach Austria.

Barmy travel tip:  Whenever you get the chance, take the trains in Europe – they are a treat. Trains go everywhere, almost every tiny village is accessible  (as evidenced by this trip.)   And sigh –  they’re exactly on time, spanking clean, there are designated quiet cars where cell phones are not permitted, they even have stewards who roam the aisles to serve you something from the dining car.  Even the WC’s are kept clean and offer good quality soap and paper products.  Most importantly you save the stress of driving — and the ensuing hassles therein.  Trains- highly recommended.

We spent the night Villach –  why you may ask?  Well, we’ve been here before you see, at the very same hotel in Villach.

Nine years ago we took the train from Venice and spent the night here before going on to visit our friends in Croatia. While we were here last time, we really enjoyed the hotel and (bonus points!) found a brewery with a pub just a few blocks from the hotel — Husband remembers the beer fondly.

Decided it was worth a do-over  — and so we did — a nice dinner at the brewery’s pub with the same excellent beer.

The next morning we took the train into the closest town to Radnig (Hermagor, if you’re interested or following along on maps).

No car, so we had to figure out the bus that runs 2 or 3 times a day up and down to Hermagor (not as easy it would seem).  Finally, as it started to rain, we called a taxi and good thing we did, because we would never have found this place otherwise.  Here’s front of chalet and the patio out back.

The house had been empty for a while, so there was no food in the house, except staples.  In chatting with the next door neighbor, we found out there was a little swim club just down the road which had a pub with what our neighbor called ‘simple food’.  So off we toddled for for dinner, there were two choices — ham and bread or sausages – we both went with the sausages which turned out to be hotdogs – with mustard and a round dinner roll on the side.  Very good hotdogs, very good mustard, but hotdogs, nonetheless.  Oh, well they had an excellent beer on tap and I had some lovely Austrian wine.  We were happy.

Next morning, we borrowed some empty back packs from the cellar.  Down to the bigger village on the bus, wandered around, it rained – so we stopped for lunch.   Hermagor street in the rain and a strudel for two.

Bought some basic  groceries then back up on bus we go.

We happily settled in at our chalet — admired the view of the mountains from the back terrace.

Took a long walk, a nap, read a little, figured out the stove for making dinner and watched the sun set over the mountains.

And this, my friends, was our schedule for the next two days.

Hike, eat, nap, read, repeat…

Some views of our walks and then one afternoon we hiked up to see a little waterfall.

Passed some bee hives, wildflowers everywhere, so imagine the honey is fabulous — and here’s the waterfall.

 

This lovely lady walked every evening in her red shawl, comfy American sneakers and a cane.  We guess she was in her 90’s.

Our little Austrian village was a much needed respite.

 

Onward to Vienna – very excited.

 

 

Cesky Krumlov

Left Prague for one night in Cesky Krumlov (Crispy Kreme in Barmylogue).  ‘Cesky’ means bend in the river, and so there are many towns along rivers that start with Cesky.

Cesky Krumlov is reputed to be one of the most picturesque towns in Europe — sort of Prague mini-me and a UNESCO World Heritage Site 

Anyone know how they designate UNESCO sites? They’re prolific over here, not complaining – every one we’ve visited on our travels–well amazing.

We read that Cesky Krumlov has a Baroque castle, a charming town square and small enough to walk from one side to the other in 25 minutes ~ so when planning our trip, we decided it was definitely worth a one night stand (so to speak).

 The train dropped us off at a bus station in Cesky Budejovice (aka Beetlejuice) where we then boarded a bus that took us into a fairly remote bus depot outside of Cesky Krumlov.

We caved and spent $4 for a taxi to take us the final 3 1/2 km into the village.  The taxi could barely make it thorough the narrow cobblestone lanes, having to wait, gently nudging through packed, wall-to-wall  tourists, most of which seemed to be Japanese, earnestly posing for each other with selfie sticks.  We were eventually dropped off at our little pension.

Our room is the one over the door with two windows opened.

It was, by now, a little after 1 pm, and after talking with Jana, our host, were advised these bus tour groups, which arrive in the middle of the day, are all but gone by 4 pm.

We decided this was a great excuse to wash up, get some cold drinks, and relax with books, feet up  in our little room overlooking the one of the charming, but noisy & crowded cobblestone lanes.

As the village clock tower chimed four, a calm fell over our little street.   We ventured out onto the streets and explored the lower town, getting some great afternoon light for the castle and hills beyond. Here’s just a taste. In one photo, you’ll see Husband convinced me to pose (just like the Japanese).

After wandering and taking tons of photos (above was just a fraction), we found a fish restaurant Rick Steves recommended.

The restaurant is in a building that hails from (get this) 1677. It sits on a little island in the middle of the river, and just because it couldn’t be charming enough, it’s also right next to a water wheel. There were even the obligatory swans right on cue….

I had a superb piece of (just-caught-that-morning-from-yes- this-very-river) perch, broiled until the skin was crispy and brown and then sauced with melted butter and caraway seeds.  It was probably the best fish I’ve ever eaten.  Managed to signal the chef to say bravo, she smiled and shyly said thank you (in English).  A lovely meal as the sun went down.

Got up early for Jana’s pension breakfast (meats, cheeses, rolls, hard boiled eggs and even a salad)  typical Czech-German-Austrian type breakfast.  You’re good for the day.

We had the town almost to ourselves, only a few other overnighters in the lanes.  We walked up to the castle and monastery and took more pictures.  As we headed back at around 10:30 we could see the tour vans and buses lining up down below.  One last look at the charming Cesky Krumlov:

Look at this lovely window bar design at street level.

Got the bus to Cesky Budejovice and were directed off the bus down a back street to the vlakové nádražíat (train station).  But alas this was the local’s train station —  the wrong train station – closed up with no one there to sell us tickets to our next destination in Austria.

We had a little moment of panic where we circled around thinking maybe a real train station will appear.  But no we had made a tactical error.

After a few words that shall not be repeated, I reassured Husband that Beetlejuice was not that big, and we could easily find the right train station.

We headed up towards main drag of town and found a bus stop with a young person waiting (the young Czechs usually speak some English) who told us to catch # 5 bus right here at this stop and it would take us to the main train station.  We quietly high fived each other over our dumb luck.

We got to the right train station and purchased our tickets for our next destination ~~

a little village in Austria.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Transportation

Next stop Cesky Krumlov via Cesky Beajoivice.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

But first, a public service break;

Barmy Travel Tip:   Transportation in Europe can be confusing and stressful.  The trains and buses leave exactly on time  (I know!).  They wait not for frantic tourists running down the platform.  We rarely miss a train or a bus, but it may be because over the years of travel, we’ve come up with a unique, (shall we say Barmy) system.

We give the town names an easy nickname, so that when you’re rushing up stairs and across vast train stations, you communicate correctly with one another.  Trying to pronounce the names properly (in the regional language) results in different pronunciations each time and unnecessary gritting of teeth.

I’ll show you what I mean ~~ try pronouncing these…

We have fun, giggling as we choose our nicknames (we have to find amusement where we can in foreign countries)

Hey Barmy followers, here’s an interactive game for you:

 

Match the town name below with its Barmy nickname:

 Spittal  Millstattersee                                         Horny Divorcee

Cesky Krumlov                                                              Beetlejuice

Horni Dvoriste                                                                       Spit Mill

Ceske Budejovice                                                        Crispy Krème

 

Back to regular travel programming — tomorrow (or next day).

(Excuse the formatting, don’t have time to wrestle with Word Press)

Prague ~~ Sunday Highs

Our last day in Prague dawned sunny and clear. We decided to enjoy a morning stroll to find one of those Live Like a Local suggestions – a local hotel with a little cable car that climbed a hill for a great view.  Finally found the hotel but sadly, the cable car was not operating — why, we could not ascertain — the front desk staff just kept saying sorry, not today.

With going up the heights on our minds, we decided to attempt the very popular Ujezd funicular which goes to the top of Petrin Hill.  —  a park with spectacular views of the castle and city.  On a Sunday? we thought how stupid are we? but we did it anyway.

Stood in a long line which moved fairly quickly.

Barmy travel tip:  When in an European queue, stay sharp or loose your place in line.  Look away for a minute, point to something for your partner to see — and someone behind will slip in front of you.  When you say, ‘excuse me?’  they open their palms and let you back in place.   There’s no rudeness, they just figure you’re not paying attention, and will take advantage.  

We got to the top and there were gardens, picnic areas, pony rides for the kids, food stalls, people strolling — all very Sunday in the Park.  So we strolled and found a quiet bench and people watched.

Came upon a somber collection of statues that reminded Husband of his Walking Dead TV show, but I argued that I was sure it had a deeper more significant meaning.

 

We decided to avoid another long line so walked down a pretty path to the halfway point where we joined the funicular at its last stop.  Pretty day, nice walk and check out these spectacular views.

Back down in the city we did some more wandering, narrow lanes that led us into other narrow lanes and suddenly found ourselves at the Klementinum — which we weren’t able to find the other day — and here we just chanced upon it.  It occupies two hectares of old Prague and is one of the largest building complexes in all of Europe, so we were confused as to how we missed it.  We got tickets for the last tour and grinned at each other over our luck.

You see Barmy followers, the Klementinum houses another of the world’s most beautiful libraries —the Baroque library hall, a stunning example of Baroque architecture, was first opened in 1722 as part of the Jesuit university, and houses over 20,000 books.  Sadly they don’t allow photos so these publicity images will have to do.

Be still my beating heart…

The tour went on to showcase the Klementinum’s astronomical equipment — a camera obscura  — a room with a long string stretched on the floor and one ray of sunlight coming through a small hole up in the wall — all precisely attuned for determining noon.

Then we climbed up and up inside the astronomical tower on old creaky wooden stairs. Our Czech tour guide advised us not to linger on the stairs as they are about to fall (!).  Husband’s believes they say this to keep us moving quickly along.  I know this old gal never climbed stairs so quickly.

More views of Prague — sorry folks, but I climbed all those stairs!

Back on terra firma, we worked our way back to the main train station.  We leave from this station in the morning, so it gave Husband a chance to time the Tram ride back to our apartment in preparation for next morning departure. (Again, this is why Husband is in charge of navigation.)

Got back and packed for early morning departure, then set out late evening to find some place for dinner.  Not much open on a Sunday night, but we lucked into another traditional Czech fare restaurant.  Again, wonderful food, great beer for Husband and this time, we each had one leaf of lettuce as a nod to vegetables. Luckily we both had big salads for lunch the day before…so perhaps we won’t die of scurvy.