I must say, first and foremost, that Vienna is big. I mean really big. When I think of the cities of Europe, my mind goes: Paris, London, Berlin, Rome…… but NOT Vienna. But that is a mistake because Vienna is huge. There are 2.3 million people that live there – about 25% of the population of the entire country! We dipped a toenail into the vast ocean that is Vienna. It is a city where, as you drive around, you keep gasping as you see another amazing place, church, beautiful building or fountain. One could easily spend a week there and maybe just scratch the surface. This is Austria people, a giant country with a giant capital, not to be confused with Australia or Austin Powers or ostriches or ostentatiousness – it is simply Austria. Amazing, gorgeous Austria….
First things came first though. We had to eat. We had to eat… OUT! Yes, this was one of the few non-picnic meals this long weekend. We went to the Naschmarket for a delicious lunch. I wanted to live there for a month – every kind of cuisine you can imagine at great prices. We went traditional Viennese since I always want to try the local food. I got wiener schnitzel (breaded veal) and Andre had Palatschinken (a kind of pancake) with lekvar (a thick plum jam). The boys had amazingly delicious sausages and french fries with paprika… and Callie had a giant chicken cutlet (she was amazed at how big it was, but ended up having no problem tucking it all away). The name of the place is shown on the sign. I have no idea how to say it but I can’t help mentioning how the extremely long words in German drive me crazy – I mean how can “Geflugelfachgeschaft” all be one word????
We wandered through the market a bit after lunch, buying some cheese and enjoying the local flavor. I wanted to sit down and eat out again, everything looked so great. Check out the giant barrel of sauerkraut!
We got lost (as usual) heading into the central part of town and passed interesting things along the way. We even drove down Hamburgerstrasse – but saw no McDonalds on it – in fact, I saw no McDonalds in Vienna at all – the first for a big city we’ve been to – go Austria!
We were trying to go see some cathedral – I can’t remember the name – but Vienna is not well signed nor easy to navigate. We passed lovely Schwarzenbergerplatz about 3 times. The guy on the plinth is Prince Charles Schwartzenberg, he gave Napoleon his first defeat in Europe. I think it is now used as a war memorial for all wars since there were monuments to both world wars there and lots of flowers strewn about. Zander loved the water fountain, of course!
We saw the entrance to the Belvedere Museum, it was interesting how much the fountains reminded me of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I have always loved that place, and still do, but it is interesting to see how all these museums build off of each oothers… kind of like cathedrals do! I would have liked to go in because they have a huge Klimt collection. My sister Jennie loves his art and I like it too! Here is his Tree of Life. Never knew he was Austrian until now…
Then we went into SalesianerinnenKirche. A small but lovely church with great gates….
We journeyed onward, thinking hard, as advised by the street art, but still feeling very lost – Oh look, there is the French embassy – and that gold coated statue is definitely way more impressive than the famous ‘golden roof’ in Innsbruck… But where the f*** was that big giant cathedral????
And then, at long last, we found it (cue hallelujah chorus). It was none other than St Charles Church, “one of the most outstanding baroque church structures north of the Alps, boasting a dome in the form of an elongated ellipsoid.” Damn… plus it has cool carved column things. Too bad that all the time we spent searching meant the meter was running out on our parking spot! If it had been possible we would have just popped our heads in but it turned out it was going to cost real money (like about 20 euros for our family) to go inside – so not worth it for 10 minutes! We looked around the outside, took a few photos and then Andre took off, running, to get to the car on time Being him, he decided to go a different, more direct way back to the car in order to get there sooner. Being me, my way back was to retrace my tortured and lost steps (hello again, all my little friendly landmarks) so I couldn’t possibly get lost. The kids and I took our time, playing, laughing and even stopping in another church that we missed on the first time past. It was the heavily gilded Gardekirsche. The kids and I wonder how they keep all that gold safe from robbers? We arrived back at the car and saw, less than a block away, an exhausted, frantic, sweaty Andre who had been running around trying to find the car ever since we parted. Usually his shortcuts work, but Vienna is a bit hard to navigate, I guess, and, hey, he did eventually make it to the car, right? I’m really glad I didn’t try to do a shortcut or I might still be there, wandering the streets of Vienna.
Then we headed to the main cathedral of Vienna – St. Stephens Cathedral. As usual, it was amazing – we didn’t get a great shot of it from the outside so special thanks to Wikipedia for the image below at left. It is always funny to notice how much lighting can affect the look of these edifices – I mean, is the stone grey or tan??? We were able to enter this amazing structure for free. There was a gift shop, though – which seemed to be a former place to pray or something. You can see, at left, Callie and Zander drooling over souvenirs while half of a Jesus looms over their heads…. Talk about the money-lenders being in the temple… Sadly, they wouldn’t let us climb to the top of the building. It is too bad because, besides the view, I wanted a better look at the roof – it had to be rebuilt after WWII because of a fire and they chose to recreate it with steel framing rather than the original wood since it would have taken a square kilometer of forest to replace it with wood! It is covered in magnificent tiles. The entire building is immense, it has 18 altars and six formal chapels. They have 9 full time stonemasons on staff here – what a job! Check out the interior…
Finally, we headed out of the city, noticing ancient road markers (we think from the time of when Vienna was the head of the Holy Roman Empire) as well as detailed instructions on a sign for how to pick up your dog poop. I’m not sure what those little lines are that are shooting out of the ends of the persons fingers after the poop bag! Maybe they just want you to toss it emphatically. Of course there were also lots more beautiful things along the way, particularly beautiful buildings all over this city.