After spending three weeks on an island in the Mediterranean, coming back to Berlin was a shock. It wasn't anything we weren't expecting but it really jogged my brain and did a number on bills body- he got super sick. We had to go back to Berlin because we had already booked flights from Berlin to Vienna and there were some practical matters to attend to. I mailed a big box of stuff home, we uploaded all our photo and video to the back up server and we stayed with Dave and Miriam and said goodbye for awhile. We won't see them until their wedding in Mexico next year.
We landed in vienna at 2pm and a couple of hours later we were checking into the worst hotel we've stayed at so far. Sometimes you just know, from looking at the place while walking down the street, that this was going to be gross. Its was technically a hostel so there were three beds in our room, two were pushed together to make a big bed and had very clean sheets. The third was a really dirty looking mattress and box spring on the floor. The toilet was in a separate room from the bathroom and had a leak so there was mold on the wall and ceiling. Aside from the leak the bathroom was pretty spotless and the room was large. I knew there wasn't any point in asking to change rooms because they were all probably like this and it just seemed kind of arbitrary to complain about it when we were going to be in India in 10 days.
Our friend Davide of Napoli fame had just moved to Vienna to be with his girlfriend Virginia while she studies for her PhD so we had plans to eat at his restaurant that evening, which we did and it was delicious. That kid really knows how to make a pizza. Afterwards we went to a bar that is situated on a stationary boat on the Danube river. It was a very chilly evening and bill and I decided that the first thing we needed to do was buy a sweater and hat the next day. We were pretty tired from traveling, even though it was a short flight lugging around a 30 lb. suitcase all day from the Berlin metro to the airport to the Vienna metro (on top of my "purse" which is really the size of a small suitcase and must weigh at least 10lbs with the iPad, make up, wallet, glasses, etc...) we were pretty beat so we called it a night after a few drinks. I refused to go to sleep until I had taken a dirty t shirt of mine and put it over the pillow. Yes, even sweaty t shirt armpits were more comforting to me than that pillow. And I took some allergy medicine that makes me very drowsy so I was out like a light.
The next day we had a very full itinerary and got started right after we ate a horrible breakfast, provided by the hotel, of a stale roll and generic nutella. first stop was the belvedere museum, situated in the belvedere palace of course! Vienna in daylight was striking. the whole city looks like park or 5th ave in new York, but the huge, ornate and beautiful buildings are arranged to make the city feel quaint and welcoming. There were wide open squares, tiny little streets, the tram had old wooden benches. The people were very pleasant looking and extremely polite, there is no shortage of coffee or pastries, the streets were immaculate, the trains ran on time, and around every turn there were just gorgeous city views. A lot of places, like the little cafes and restaurants looked like they were frozen in time. A simpler, happier time. Or the 70's, whichever, but there was a very modern feeling and energy buzzing around. I know it sounds trite, but you really do get a feel of a place, almost a 6th sense. For example, my feeling about Berlin was it was really shitty and the people were awful. However, this town could charm the pants off even the most hardened and cynical human. It definitely was doing a number on me.
Back to the belvedere. We got off the tram right out front and go through the gate and bam! Palace. Right there. It was enormous and decadent. I immediately decided I wanted to forgo any other wish I ever had in my life and I now want a palace. I want to sit in my palace, with a fur muff and hat (faux of course, no one needs to get upset) and drink hot spiced wine and look at the view from my big palace balcony. These are the things you hear about in fairy tales. So and so was a poor slave and her fairy god mother made a prince fall in love with her and now she lives in a PALACE. and here it was. Bill and I also agreed that the Austrian empire must have had a shit ton of cash, and a lot was probably left over which is why this city is so wonderful.
The museum itself had a lot of interesting artwork, namely the famous napoleon painting which I thought was in Paris, there was also a horse sculpture we really liked but failed to get the name of the artist. The main attraction for this museum is the Klimt section that includes his most famous work "The Kiss". It's so weird to study these famous works of art and then when you actually see them in person it's very surreal. I actually liked another one of his paintings more than the kiss, but my attention span is too short for things like names so I don't know what it's called.
After the museum we went to Stephansplatz and did what I love to do when I'm on vacation- go to Starbucks. I'm not kidding. I never go there at home and sometimes when you're far away it's a very indulgent thing to do. And it was freezing cold out and we needed to warm up. We got a sandwich and a huge coffee and talked about how much I loved it there. Bill said it wa sup there for him but he didn't know about loving it quite yet. The cold wasn't even bothering me, I feel like Vienna is one of the only places where the colder it gets the more charming it is. I would love to come back here in December, the Viennese are obsessed with Christmas and to be here with the snow falling would be a dream. After coffee we went to H&M where I got a sweater and bill got a hat, then we went over to St. Stephan's cathedral where we met up with Davide. The cathedral was probably the most beautiful church I've ever seen, and we've seen a ton of churches on this trip so far. It's hard to describe, I mean, it's very cathedral-y. Hopefully the pictures give some idea of how incredible it was but I doubt they come close to doing it justice.
After the cathedral we did some wandering and then met with Virginia after she got out of the lab. tourists must do is the pastry/coffee thing here so we chose a very charming (I know I keep using that word but I can't help it, that's exactly what it is) shop and go upstairs to be seated in their all salmon colored decor. The carpet, chairs, wallpaper were all salmon colored. I felt like I was in a movie set from the early 80's. I get the sachertort and hot chocolate, bill gets a fruit tart and a Viennese cafe. As we sit there eating our pastries, along with tourists and other austrians Virginia makes the astute observation that "there is no crisis here, the rest of the world is falling to pieces, but here, people just eat cake and drink coffee. There is no crisis" which makes me love this place even more. I'll sit in my palace, with my muff and spiced hot wine and eat sachertort all day long.
After our cake and beverages we went to the Prater to take a ferris wheel ride. The same ferris wheel featured in "The Third Man" with Orson Wells. It's the oldest operating ferris wheel in the world which was making me a little nervous but I like ferris wheels and I'm excited. From the time we bought our tickets to the time we got on the ride, which was all of 3 minutes, it started to pour rain. The sun was already down so we were hoping to get a view of the city all lit up but the rain obstructed any view we had. As the car started to go around and get higher, the wind started rattling the windows and door and by the time we were at the very top I was a nervous wreck hiding my head in my hands, lamenting my choice. After that terrifying experience we walked in the rain to Schweizerhaus Restaurant, which Virginia says is very well known. Despite the amusement park being dead, the restaurant was packed. We ordered Austrian staples: the schnitzel, goulash, potato fritters, roasted chicken and a bunch of other things that were delicious. Of course no meal is complete without peach schnapps, which a big table of old men were downing like there was no tomorrow. Virginia and I drank some of those and bill was disappointed because he couldn't order the mountain of pork. The mountain of pork is a whole pork shoulder on the bone and takes 4 people to eat. Since the rest of us weren't into it he was deprived of the opportunity. I assured him that one day when he has his own man club he can eat all the pork mountains he wants. It did seem like the place was turning into a man club, there was table after table filled with old guys with crazy long mustaches ordering pork mountains and singing loudly while throwing back schnapps. For those of you wondering what the pork mountain looks like, here is a picture we pulled off the Internet:
We left around 11 because the metro doesn't run after 12 and we didn't want to have to figure out the night bus back to our hotel. I took some more drowsy allergy medicine and fell asleep happy, full and dreamt of palaces.