We left for Vienna at 8 am on Monday morning and arrived around noon. We walked to our hostel, which was conveniently located directly across from the Naschmarkt, which has existed since the 16th century! There were tons of outdoor booths selling falafel, fresh smoothies, pastries, and more. I got a falafel sandwich at Dr. Falafel (best name ever) and sat down for lunch with Nicole and Cassie.
After lunch I looked at the map provided by the hostel and saw that location number 23, Kunsthaus Wien, was pretty close to the hostel. I walked to where the museum was supposed to be and saw a different museum in its place. I walked back and forth around the area looking for the Kunsthaus Wien and couldn’t find it. I asked a German woman for help and showed her my map. As I held it out to her I noticed that there was a second number 23 on the map, and it was not at all close by. There weren’t really any good U-Bahn (metro) routes to take and the woman didn’t know the appropriate tram line. I had already made up my mind that I was going to this museum so I walked 40 more minutes to reach it…
^ready for Easter?
Since it was a Monday, I was able to get into the museum and get an audioguide for only nine euro. Kunsthaus Wien is a museum about Friedensreich Hundertwasser. I read on Trip Advisor that if you liked Gaudi in Barcelona, then you’d like Hundertwasser, but I don’t agree. Born Friedrich Stowasser, he changed his name for a few reasons, including so that it would be easier to translate into Japanese. He had three other nicknames he went by as well, including the German words for Rainy Day (Regentag), Dark Colors (Dunkelbunt, a hilarious word), and then something else I can’t remember. He didn’t want people to talk about the meaning of his paintings because he thought everyone brought their own individual meaning. He wanted to prove that one could live without money, but he did this by visiting a rotation of 14 friends for dinner. So he was just living off of other people’s money, which, to me, does not count as living without money. He made his own clothes, all out of striped fabric, and they were reversible. He also didn’t believe in ironing, since he thought the crumpled fabric somehow added to the way the eye perceived stripes? Basically, he was super weird.
He did have one quote that I really liked, from Paris 1953:
The line I trace with my feet
Walking to the museum
Is more important and more
Beautiful than the lines
I find there hung up
On the walls
On the third and fourth floors of the building, there was a temporary exhibition of Austrian photographer Andreas H. Bitesnich’s photography. There was a lot of nudity… I loved his portraits of people’s faces. I got the sense that some of them might have been of Austrian celebrities, but I have no idea. I think not knowing who the people were added to the beauty of the photos, since I was appreciating them just on their composition rather than any preconceived ideas I had about the people in them. The one subject of his that I recognized was Sir Christopher Lee.
For dinner I ate in the attached cafe, Tian Bistro. I paid 50 cents for tap water (to ensure that they could keep providing high quality tap water, obviously). I asked the waitress what I could order that would be authentic Austrian fare. She said that since the cafe served vegetarian food, she recommended one of the sweets. I ordered the Kaiserschmarrn. The menu warned that it took twenty minutes to prepare, which seemed like a good sign, since it would obviously be prepared fresh. What a great recommendation! She brought it out in a little cast iron pan. Kaiserschmarrn is a shredded pancake that is basically kind of like a cross between bread pudding and french toast. It was dusted with powdered sugar and came with a little dish of sweet plum jam. I ate all of it and left very satisfied!
I took the U-Bahn back to my hostel, and, not surprisingly, I got asked for directions. This time was different from most, though. An extremely handsome guy started speaking to me in German. I asked him if he spoke English and he seemed kind of relieved and then asked me the same question in English. Tragically, I didn’t know the answer, but I wished him luck. My friend Ellen pointed out that at least I got to talk to him in English…haha!
On Tuesday morning I went to Schonbrunn Palace. You could pay to take a tour of the luxurious buildings inside, but I decided to walk around the gardens instead. It was a beautiful day, and I spent a lot of time just sitting on benches and enjoying the view. I walked all the way to the top of a hill to a building called Gloriette, which is apparently a blanket term for a building in a garden that is elevated in regard to its surroundings. The one at Schonbrunn Palace appears to be the most famous gloriette. It used to be used as a dining room, festival hall, and breakfast hall, but it’s quite a walk from the main palace. It was destroyed in WWII but restored by 1947.
^you can see Gloriette at the top of the hill
I headed back towards the main palace around 12:30 and saw a sign for a Strudelshow. I paid 4,80 euro for a piece of a strudel and entrance into a kitchen area with plenty of tables and chairs. I watched an Austrian pastry chef make authentic Austrian apple strudel. He was funny and entertaining, and it was a great snack. The chef, Mario, told us what’s in the dough and filling. He rolled the dough out and then stretched it with his hands. This part was incredible. He was stretching it with his elbows at one point. I’m sure it takes a lot of practice to do that without making holes!
Then he put it back on a flour-covered cloth and tested for elasticity by seeing if he could raise it like a circus tent and then bounce it with his hand, and by seeing if he could read the recipe through it. He passed both tests! He joked that if we tried this at home, we could start out by reading big headlines through the dough and then gradually decreasing the font size. He added the filling, rolled up the dough, and finished by adding a buttery glaze. There were copies of the recipe available, complete with a hotline to call if you need help and an email address to send your strudel pictures to!
After the Strudelshow, I went to MuseumsQuartier, a cool plaza full of museums, shops, and cafes. There were a lot of people hanging out on these weird geometric seats. I sat on one while I planned my next move. MuseumsQuartier used to be a structure of court stables, which is pretty cool.
I saw a good restaurant recommendation on my map from the hostel, so I decided to go there for lunch. We stayed at the same chain, Wombats, that we were at in Budapest. The map provided by the hostel was great because it was current and it had recommendations from the employees, who are all young locals. My waitress at Cafe Rudigerhof didn’t speak English, and there weren’t any English menus, so I just said “water” and pointed to “Wiener schnitzel vom schwein mit salat.” I knew it was very Austrian but I was surprised that it was deep fried! It was good, though. I went back to the hostel and took a nap to prepare for the evening ahead!
I had read on my hostel map that standing room tickets were available at the Vienna State Opera 90 minutes before every show. Tuesday night’s production was Schwanensee, which I later realized was Swan Lake! I left for the opera around 5:15 and got in a pretty long line of people waiting for tickets. When I was waiting in line, I saw a poster that said “Schwanensee” and Tchaikovsky’s name and realized that I might have had the great luck to be in Vienna to see Swan Lake! I bought my ticket around 6:30. I paid three euro for a “balkon” seat. My view was amazingly good for three euro. When there was action on the far right of the stage, I missed it, but I can’t complain for three euro! However, I do wish the choreographer and director could spend a night in the SRO area and see what those people miss!
This was my first experience with professional ballet, and what a way to enter that world! The orchestra was amazing and the dancers were phenomenal. The costumes were stunning, and that was without my glasses! I think it’s so cool that I got to see such a famous ballet, too. There were parts in the score that I had heard before but didn’t realize belonged to Swan Lake. I loved whenever the swans danced together. There were 32 swans total, not including the queen, Odette. I didn’t know the full story of Swan Lake until I saw it at the ballet, and I didn’t know that it’s a tragedy!! But, I am so glad that I went to see it. It was a great end to my visit to Vienna, and an experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.