Mariahhilferstrasse – Museumquartier – MuMoK – Karlsplatz – Stephensplatz – St. Stephen’s Cathedral – Vienna Operahouse – Kunstlerhaus – Gypsy Bar
As soon as we get off the train in Vienna the storm that had given us such beautiful clouds the day before in Verona was starting to soak Vienna. Instead of trying to figure out public transit in the rain we hired a taxi driver to take us to our hotel. The taxi driver spoke the bare minimum of english but was trying to talk me in to exchanging $30 US for 25 Euros. While he was driving he was attempting to discuss the exchange rate with me. We arrived safely at our hotel regardless of the Vienna Taxi Money Market International Exchange incident and sat down at a breakfast table to diagram our day.
Typically we like to do a city walk to get the lay of the land, figure out public transport and just generally get our bearings. However the rain and suddenly very cold weather was changing our plans. First off, we had to go get Shana a sweatshirt so we headed to the local street with lots of shops that was close to the center of town called MariahhilferStrasse. After a couple stops we picked up what Shana needed to be comfortable and headed off to Museumquartier.
The Viennese have done a great job of arranging essentially every museum in the entire city within a couple subway stops from each other with several large museums being part of a larger super structure called MQ or Museumquartier. The first stop for us after all of the gothic, renaissance, baroque and classical paintings we saw in Venice and Verona was the Vienna museum of modern art or MuMoK. Despite the drab exterior that sort of looks like a large dark brown brick the inside was very nicely laid out with the permanent exhibitions below the ground floor and temporary above. The permanent exhibition was structured as an examination of pop-art and its development form the 40’s through today which included some famous Warhol paintings, Jasper Johns and a personal favorite several Lichtensteins. The top floors were dedicated to the art of high fashion and many mixed media installations examining fashion from many angles.
After that we attempted to walk through Karlsplatz but were stifled by the rain and we stepped into a very nice restaurant for some traditional Viennese food which included boiled beef with horseradish and a soup with pancake strips in it. The food was amazing, and it should have been for the price. After lunch we braved the rain again and ended up at St. Stephen Cathedral, which looks epic during a rainstorm because of its gothic architecture and facade, but decided not to take the tour and head to the famous opera house instead.
We were looking for standing room only tickets just to check out the opera but it starts the day after we leave Vienna so there were no options there for us. However a man in mid 18th century costume approached us with some ticket options to see the Austrian National Philharmonic that night at the Kunstlerhaus around the corner from the opera house. We thought, what a better place to take in some classical music than Vienna so we bought the cheapest seats we could and headed back to the hotel with the plan to head back out to the show for an 8:15 start time.
The rain subsided for the most part when we left for the concert and we stopped at one of the many stands arounds Karlsplatz to split a brautwurst and pound a couple Gosser (Austrian beer) before we headed to the fancy classical concert. When we arrived all of the attendants were dressed in the same costume style as the gentlemen we bought our tickets from, the cloakroom, the concession stand, everything. Even the women were in these giant ball gowns trying to help people up the stairs and find their seats in tight quarters. We knew our seats were not very good and when we got to them we were not disappointed. Sitting back in your chair meant that you could only see the ceiling and the other side of the concert hall. Leaning forward meant you could see stage left. That’s it. However, after the doors shut for the start of the concert there was an entirely empty box just to the left of us and the rail was very low. Shana and I hopped the rail and enjoyed the first half of the concert undisturbed with fantastic seats right on the bannister for the upper boxes. However one of the many attendants in costume took his job very seriously and despite the fact that no one showed up for those seats the entire show made us leave and go back to our original seats. The box we had all to ourselves was a “private” box. I’m not sure for who. Maybe it was reserved for the Hapsburgs, or perhaps the ghosts of Mozart and Freud sit there during shows. The costumed attendant & ass hole at arms did not really want to discuss this with me. Regardless, we enjoyed the rest of the concert from our original seats and it was fantastic. Although the people of Vienna must be absolutely sick of some of this music by now.
On our way home and in an attempt to check out the local nightlife around our hotel ended up in a bar whose entire clientele was Serbian speaking gypsies from Belgrade. After our first round of drinks and attempting to play blackjack with one of the gypsies we took our second round to go and headed back to the hotel to watch television in German, which is hilarious.