Wednesday March 14, Vienna

A play day! And another day of picture-perfect spring weather. It was already 59 degrees when I went out at around 9 AM. I started the morning with a trip down the street to the corner grocery store – quite a large one, really – for some breakfast essentials (translation: MILK! plus a few other things). Then after getting settled a little into my apartment, I was off on a sight-seeing mission.

My first stop was Stephansdom – St. Stephens Cathedral – which is literally the center of the city. It’s a beautiful big cathedral, with interesting colored tile designs on the roof, lovely soaring vaulted nave, some marvelous stone carvings on columns, pulpits, etc. A grand-looking organ in the loft.

Then after a little shopping (exciting things like postage stamps, phone card, etc.) I hunted down Mozarthaus, which is rather hidden on a little side street near the Dom. This was Mozart’s residence when he lived in Vienna. It was interesting, though disappointing to find that they have none of his personal possessions. There are nice exhibits with facsimiles of letters, manuscripts, portraits, etc. but really nothing about Mozart’s life and work that I didn’t know. Still, there is something very special about being in the place where he spent the most productive time of his life.

By this time it was noon, so I grabbed a bite at a Café on the cathedral plaza – a small ham sausage wrapped in puff pastry, quite tasty – then headed via U-bahn to Votivkirche, a beautiful large (almost cathedral-sized) church in French gothic style. It has the good fortune to be fronted by Freud Park, which is mainly lawn, so there is a wonderful open view of the church (Stephansdom is almost impossible to photograph in its entirety because there are buildings fairly near to it on all sides). Unfortunately Votivekirche had just closed for midday break when I got there, and also unfortunately, much of the exterior is covered in scaffolding, further degraded by large commercial advertising banners on the scaffolding! But I was able to find an angle where a lovely flowering tree could obscure the most offending banner so I have a pretty nice photo of the church in spite of all their efforts! :-)

Heading back to Karlsplatz to meet up with Michelle and Susie, I spied a vegetable-laden offering at one of the fast-food kiosks – broccoli and tomatoes never tasted so good! I find it very hard being without vegetables here. Austrians just don’t seem to eat them! In Germany at least they will do things with apples and such, but they don’t even do that here! I don’t know how they keep from getting fat, eating all meat and starch, but maybe all the walking makes the difference.

Anyway, Michelle and Susie and I went to Schönbrunn Palace together in the afternoon. Fantastic place. We took the most comprehensive of the tours, which included some 40 of the 1400+ rooms of the palace. Amazing! For anyone coming here, do take the Grand Tour rather than the slightly cheaper Imperial Tour, because they really do save many of the most interesting, and most individual, rooms for the more expensive tour. There are a great many elegant and gorgeous rooms, with ornate gold-leafed wood carvings adorning walls, ceilings, etc. Even the heating stoves are beautifully decorated in gold so that they seem part of the architecture. Some fantastic parquet and inlaid floors, fabulous original furnishings, just an amazing place to see. The first section of the tour, most of the rooms were in gold and white, with a lot of red for carpeting, drapes, etc. But in the bonus rooms of the more expensive tour, we got to see a lot more variety – for example a Chinese room decorated with 18th century rice-paper wall hangings in blue; a stunning room in walnut with inlaid panels of black and gold Chinese laquer work – done as a memorial room by Empress Maria Theresia in honor of her husband Franz Stephan in 1765. Gorgeous! There were a couple of other small rooms with black and gold lacquer panels, but set in white walls – I honestly didn’t care so much for the appearance of that, but this with walnut was exquisite. Many other fantastic rooms. So much amazing handwork and artistry. It was a great privilege to see it.

Then we took in the grounds. Huge, of course, both on the sides of the palace and stretching up a long hill. We climbed the hill (Michelle was a bit reluctant, but we made her!) And were rewarded with stunning views of the palace and city below, and also by refreshments at a little café in the lovely Gloriette – a building at the top which was built as a memorial to the fallen soldiers who made the Austrian Empire possible. As we headed back down the hill, the sun was setting, and the floodlights came on illuminating the Gloriette most beautifully. A wonderful way to end our visit.

After all the walking at Schönbrunn, we were ready for some good food. We took the recommendation of my Viennese acquaintance Rudi (who I had met on an elephant trek in Thailand a few weeks ago) for what he said was the best Italian food in Vienna (I Ragazzi at Burggasse 6, 7th District). A delightful little restaurant with a most unassuming facade, but inside it was packed with diners, and the food was really wonderful. Rudi did well by us with this one! Afterwards Michelle and Susie came back with me to see my apartment, then we called it a night.

Tomorrow we have another afternoon concert, but I hope to take in a sight or two in the morning. I’d better get to bed now!

Love to all,


Last updated 12/07. Copyright 2007 by Richard C. Morenus. Questions? Send email to