Daily Archives: March 21, 2018

My Jaunt to Vienna: Sensitive Sisi, Comfy Cafes, and Over-the-Top-Opulence of the Hofburgs.

I am just back from a quick visit to Vienna. It was just the right amount of time for me — three days. I decided to go as I’ve long been curious, I’m fluent in German so it is easy, I wanted to get far away for a few days, and I’m not a beach and sun sort of person. Some highlights:

I arrived from my flight late morning so had plenty of time to wander about the center. I toured the Opera, looked about St. Stephen’s Cathedral, stopped by the  legendary confectionary Demel’s (where I picked up some contraband Kindereier), enjoyed some open-faced sandwiches at  Trzesniewski, spent the first of my daily visits to the Cafe Schwartzenberg, a classic Viennese cafe, and enjoyed a glass of wine at my luxurious hotel (a worthwhile splurge), the Grand Ferdinand.

I arose on the second day to snow and cold. Bundled up I headed out to the summer residence of the Habsburgs, Schönbrunn Palace. I always seem to visit these places in cold months when the gardens are all pretty bare, but I like that sort of bleakness so it was fine for me. I’ve been to Versailles and Sans Souci more than once under similar conditions. It was as opulent and over-the-top as I expected. I am not a fan of zoos, but went to this one as I was curious about it when it started, but it was as depressing as I find most zoos, up-to-date as it surely is. I did enjoy (and get briefly lost in) the maze, the walk up and view from the Gloria, the palm house, the carriages, and the insanely opulent royal rooms (no photos of allowed for most of these).  There was even a little holiday market!
I started my final day exploring the charming Naschmarkt, picked up some fancy chocolates at a tiny shop, and then headed to the Hofburg Palace. More mind-blowingly opulent royal apartments. The Sisi Museum where you learn of the life and times of the eccentric and fascinating Empress Elizabeth. The treasury with extraordinary ancient stuff — crowns, orbs, jewels, and regalia galore. My favorite exhibit, surprisingly, was the Silver Collection as the audio guide and wall cards gave a remarkable social history — describing meals and fascinating details such as a foot washing ceremony, meal behaviors, and even washing (say collections of objects for this, among them women’s chamber pots, aka bides). I then spent significant time in the Welt Museum, intrigued by the way the curators grappled with their ethnographic collections and its position in the world today. No photos allowed for the palace exhibits, but some of it can be seen here.
Headed home just ahead of today’s storm. A very very worthwhile few days.

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