Thursday March 29: Vienna
My last full day in Vienna! These three weeks have flown past. I/we’ve done a lot and seen a lot, met a lot of great people and eaten at some great restaurants, enjoyed window shopping and shopping with money, walked countless miles and gotten really good at subways. And I really feel like I know Vienna now – at least, I can find my way around, and recognize a lot of places when I see them.
So, my last day. Started slowly with the need for some practical chores like laundry; and also started with rain. I had been thinking I’d go out to the Danube today, but the weather wasn’t good for enjoying the great outdoors. So instead I headed up around Stephensplatz, and off to find a few new spots. Started at the Hoher Markt, where I hunted unsuccessfully for some Roman ruins that are supposed to be accessible there. Then wandered down some little streets (and some bigger ones too) to find Greichen Geisel, a very old inn that is supposed to be where Anonymous was when he wrote "Ach du lieber, Augustine" while the great plague was ravaging Europe. It’s a charming old place, looks about 500 years older than the surrounding buildings (which it probably is!), and is still an inn as best I could tell. Fun.
Next door to the inn is an old Greek Orthodox church – stonework laid in red and white horizontal stripes on the exterior, the interior was very dim and mysterious (and too dark to photograph). But interesting, with quite low ceilings in the foyer, frequent columns, and the foyer was quite large. The sanctuary itself was even darker, fairly ornate from what I could see. And had a delightfully incense-laden smell.
Next stop (after a detour through a chocolate shop) was Peterskirche, just a couple of blocks from Stephensdom. This is another of those big buildings in small spaces, but this at least has a long history. The first church on the site was in the 600s, erected by Charlemagne, making it the oldest church site in Vienna. The current church is Baroque (surprise!), quite tall with a green-oxidized copper dome. Beautiful interior, as always. And an organ concert coming up later in the day, for which I will try to return. Mass was going on this first time, so I couldn’t explore too much.
I browsed in the shops for a little bit before meeting my close personal friend Rudi at Kurkonditerai Oberlaa for a bite. Rudi is a Vienese doctoral student I met in Chiang Mai, Thailand last month (gosh, was that only last month!!!) on an elephant-trek trip. It was fun to see him again (don’t get any ideas, he’s probably 20 years younger than me and has a steady girlfriend). We enjoyed wonderful pastries while we chatted for an hour or so, catching up on each others travels and comparing university systems and politics (of both the university and governmental types!).
Took some time out to stop by the apartment owner’s office and pay my room charges, before returning to Peterskirche to hear the organ recital. Very nice baroque-type organ, and a good organist. All the music was by baroque composer Georg Muffat, and I really enjoyed it, so I asked the organist about it afterwards. He said this composer was quite popular in Austria, and played a lot. Muffat was born in Britain to Scottish parents, educated in France and Germany, spent time in Italy before settling in Austria . . . quite the international musician! I think I had heard the name before, but not the music, so I got directions to the local sheet music shop (just a couple blocks away) and was able to buy a copy of his organ works. I love the German baroque organ music in general, so it’s great fun to discover a new composer.
After that, the weather was clearing rather nicely, blue sky and sun showing, so I decided to go out to the Danube after all. Headed into the U-bahn station, but found it was blocked off and they were sending everyone out! Soon fire trucks began arriving, and it became clear that the subway wasn’t going to be reopened any time soon. I’m not sure, but I think there may have been some sort of fire inside the station. I just checked the web but didn’t find any stories.
Anyway, since I was obviously not destined to get to the Danube (much too far to walk) I went down to the Hofburg Palace area and took a look inside Michaelskirche. Quite an old church, and not ‘modernized’ during the Baroque era so much as the other churches around town. Mostly quite austere. There were some musicians practicing in the organ loft – organ and string quintet, as best I could tell.
Then I remembered that there’s an old musical instrument museum nearby, so I sought that out. It’s in the National Bibliothek, and is quite a remarkable collection! I had only an hour before closing, so I must confess I concentrated on the keyboard instruments, especially the many early pianos. Probably my favorite, though, was a 5-function instrument from the 16th century – it had a little harpsichord, a little reed organ (that part of the lid doubles as the top of a little bellows), a backgammon board on the lid, and on the bottom of the case a chess board and a Nine-Man’s Morris board! Useful for all sorts of ‘playing’!
There were a lot of other interesting and unusual instruments there, but I won’t bore you with details about them all. I should also mention that the building itself, as usual, was gorgeous.
Met Michelle, Suzi, Nancy and Nancy’s friend Annagret for dinner – we went to Esterhazy Keller, a little-touristed place down a long steep flight of stairs into an old wine cellar. Fun place! Noisy and crowded with locals (though there were a few other tourists in evidence), the food was quite good and the atmosphere was really fun. Live music (violin and accordion, which seems to be a sort of standard around here). We ate and talked and sang along with the musicians and had a good time, but did have to break up around 9:00 – Nancy and Annagret were both tired, and I needed to get started packing. So we reluctantly said our farewells.
I did a phone interview with one of the piano candidates currently on campus, then started getting ready for tomorrow's departure. It’s now about 2:30 AM; I just finished packing and I’m headed for bed! (I just don’t pack well in the morning, much better to get it done!)
I know I haven’t written about Wednesday yet; I’ll get to it tomorrow, I hope.
Love to all,
Last updated 12/07. Copyright
2007 by Richard C. Morenus. Questions? Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org