Rich Vienna and the Travelling Empress
Continuing my Europe trip, we went by train from Munich to Vienna, which takes around 4 hours. The train itself should probably have prepared me for what was coming. I was very impressed with the Austrian train, which was probably the best train I used during my 19 day trip. It was clean and high-tech all round.
I chose Vienna mostly because of the film Before Sunrise – my favorite film! If you don’t know the movie, it is about two strangers meeting on the train. When it was time for them to separate, as the girl was supposed to continue the journey, the guy asked her to postpone it for a day. He gave that “10 years from now when you have husband and kids you might look back and remember about this charming guy on the train and wonder what if…” talk. Since he was really quite charming (I mean it’s Ethan Hawke), she agreed. So they walked around Vienna until sunrise. What happens after that? Well you just gotta watch for yourself! But be warned, there’s the sequel called Before Sunset, which came out 9 years after Before Sunrise. And in the movie it is actually set 9 years after as well, like real time. So both the actor and actress have literally aged for 9 years between the first and the second movie. You really have to watch both to get them! (the second one is set in Paris) I actually loved Before Sunset more :)
Well that’s a bit of almost unnecessary tangent, because when I arrived at Vienna I actually didn’t remember or recognize any place from the movie! I just had the impression in my mind that it was romantic and cute (after all, they walked the city). So I was quite surprised to find out that Vienna is HUGE! (you can’t just walk it) First, Austria is such a rich country, which looked very obvious from the time I landed there. Unlike Paris, the subway system is amazingly clean, fast, and high-tech (just like the International train). Then, all the buildings there were ginormous! There’s a huge complex full of museums (Museum Quarter) and a huge area of palace just a little out of the center (Schloss Schönbrunn). Everything was Big Big Big!
The Travelling Empress
In terms of historical people, my time in Vienna was dominated by Empress Elisabeth of Austria (1837-1898), whose nickname is Sisi, who I mentioned briefly in my post of Ludwig II and his Real Live Disney Castle. She was a cult beauty of an Empress and guess what, she traveled a lot! She felt so out of place in the palace and found life of an Empress to be difficult, that she was often out of the country than in, leaving her King husband behind. She went to great length to keep her beauty and weight (at the time when skinny wasn’t yet popular as today) through strict beauty regime, fasting or strict dieting, and exercise. She even had her own gym (which we saw and looked a bit surreal for these tools to be in the royal room) and was probably the best female equestrian of her time. Sadly she was assassinated in one of her travel by a royal-hater (ouch) and since then she has gained popularity, possibly more than when she was alive. There was a museum dedicated just for her (Sisi Museum). I mean even Maria Theresa (1717-1780, Marie Antoinette’s mother) and Franz Joseph I (1830-1916, Sisi’s husband) do not have their own museums. (Both are really big in Vienna though and you would feel this when you’re there, lots of references, huge statues for Maria Theresa.)
I found Sisi to be a very fascinating royal figure and I noted down some of her quotes that I found at Sisi Museum – now staying in my favorite quotes library:
“I am a seagull, of no land,
I call no shore my home,
I am bound to no place,
I fly from wave to wave.”
~ Empress Elisabeth of Austria, North Sea Songs 7, 1885
“Destinations are only desirable because a journey lies in between. If I arrived somewhere and knew that I would never leave again, even a sojourn in paradise would turn into hell for me.” ~ Empress Elisabeth of Austria (1837-1898)
I totally have a thing for tragic royal figures.
Eating and Drinking in Vienna
A couple of things that I noticed straight away was that people smoke like chimneys indoors in Vienna! (which really bothered me because I hate smoke smell!) Then they often use measurement of 1/8l (equals to 125ml) for drinks, from wine to orange juice. Their glasses have a little line to indicate that 1/8l quantity. If you don’t already realize, 1/8l is really little. I can understand it for wine, but orange juice? So weird.
One of the things you need to eat in Vienna is schnitzel! We ate at what seemed to be a very popular place for schnitzel (they had 2 branches close to each other and both had long queues) and the schnitzel is nicknamed elephant’s ear! I also ate the BEST salad I ever in Vienna. And it was not a fluke, since I tried salads two times at different places and they were amazing! Really, I think I had been eating bad salads all my life!
I also saw for the first time a tea and liquor shop! What an interesting combination. I would love to have tea and liquor shop all the time near where I live. Lots of dessert places. Lots of Mozart related chocolates and cakes. Lots of cafes. There’s obvious influence of Turkish cafe and coffee around.
Classical Music Concert
People say there are three things you need to do while in Vienna. The museums, the schnitzel, and the concerts! Since Mozart is the Austrian sweethearts (you can see him everywhere, from paintings, statues, concerts, to cakes and chocolates), offers of classical music concerts are everywhere around the city. There are a couple of very famous concert halls, but we weren’t quite prepared to pay that high, so we opted for a more modest venue at Figaro Hall.
Luckily the show was really good. We loved it. Interestingly many of the performers looked very young, like students (maybe that’s why it was relatively cheap). But they definitely performed very well in a very professional manner. I’m guessing any musical concerts in Vienna have pretty high standard, compared to other parts of the world. Maybe every parents in Austria require their kids to study music!