Day 4 - Monday, September 19, 2005 cont'd...
The tombs were impressive. Huge, massively heavy metal sarcophagi, carved in great detail. Many had skulls with missing teeth. One person in our group asked why that was. It turned out during that time period it was believed that all skulls had missing teeth, because in general that was true. So none were depicted with all their pearly whites intact. On one great black box there were four female heads, one at each corner, covered in a fine mesh. Though you knew the mesh was made of metal, like the rest of the coffin, it looked like silk. Unfortunately we did not take a picture of that one. We did however take a picture of Maria Theresa's and Franz Stephan's tomb. Maria Theresa loved her husband very much and wanted to be laid to rest with him.
A child's sarcophagus. I know I was told whose it was, probably one of Maria Theresa's many children, but I can't remember the name. There were 138 members of the Hapsburg family buried there after all.
I had to admit, before going to Austria I knew very little about Austrian history. I knew about the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but not that the Hapsburgs were often also the Holy Roman Emperors. Very few of their names were familiar. But this one I knew. Franz Ferdinand, who had been assassinated in Sarajevo, igniting WWI. As we came closer to our era, the grand caskets became little more than fancy coffins.
The tour guide bids us adieu, and we start hunting for lunch. By this point in time we haven't eaten since 6 or 7 in the morning, and during that time we visited the Palace, the Abbey, Mayerling and the Crypts. We were *starving*. We go back to that same restaurant where we ate lunch the day before.
This fountain was located at our drop-off / pick-up point for the bus. Later, from a guide book my grandmother had bought when she went in 1980, I was to find that it was called the Danube Fountain. What I found interesting was that the mermen had two scaly legs instead of a single solid tail.
After this we return to the Spanish Riding School we had passed by the day before. I had hopes to go inside and at least take a look around, but no luck. Instead, we go to the Lipizzaner museum across the street. They had the expected tack on display, with some famous paintings. They also had a very well done video playing in their basement. You could see every detail of the horse's movements, something that's very hard to see in real life since it happens so fast. I wanted to buy the DVD, but it came close to $100 when converted into Canadian...I bought a little booklet instead.
We later find out that the museum used to be the Hapsburg Palace Apothecary, and behind it was the Riding School's stables.
One of the more famous landmarks in Vienna, the St. Stephen's Cathedral. The church has an amazingly colourful roof, one side looks like the nunnery's from Mayerling (see the previous page), the other, a double-headed eagle. The inside was less impressive, especially considering some of the other churches we saw later, almost plain, but very large.
The outside was being restored, this is a part they hadn't gotten to yet, so it was still covered in black. A certain amount of blackness gives a building a feeling of age, but if left uncleaned for too long, some of the buildings become really *really* black. Pitch black, so that you can't see any detail anymore. This one is the right level of blackness to my tastes.
Outside, we were accosted by a group of young guys dressed like Mozart. One after another they try to convince you to come to one of their concerts. It was pretty funny, though a little too persistent.
And everywhere you look, there were carriages. Not the big caleches we have here, drawn by a single, large draft horse. In Vienna they had two lighter horses drawing the fiaker.
And finally, we finished our day by popping into the St. Peter's church. There were so many churches that the only thing that keeps them straight in my mind is the order in which the pictures were taken. If ever they get mixed up I'll never know.
The day wasn't over just yet. First we stopped for dinner...at a McDonald's. Kind of embarrassing but we were also kind of curious if it was any different. We were also a group of four tired people (having been joined by another member of the tour group) so we couldn't agree on what to eat. My parents said the hamburgers were the same, but I found the Chicken Nuggets to have different spices.
Then comes the grand adventure getting back the Vienna Danube, our hotel. We decide to take the subway, as there is supposed to be a station near the Prater Wheel (a large Ferris wheel landmark we can see from our hotel). We get help on determining which station, and figure out where to buy tickets.
Ticket in hand, we enter the subway (the Ubahn). On the way through the turnstiles, there are the blue boxes that people would put things into as they passed. But not everyone did and it didn't stop us from entering the station. We go down to the platform, holding out tickets, not sure what we were supposed to do with them. We ask a lady (she spoke English) and she explained that we were supposed to get our tickets stamped by the blue boxes. So we go back up, do this, come back down to the platform. Now we're still holding the tickets, wondering who was going to check if we even had them, let alone stamped them. I guess they have random checks. They must trust their citizens more than we trust ours, it didn't really make sense, it would have been so much easier for us to ride for free. Ah well.
Anyway, we get off the train, come out onto the sidewalk and start walking. My mother gets the feeling we should be going in a different direction and we stop to ask a guy waiting to cross the street. He gives us instructions (again in English) and off we go again. And we walk....and walk...and walk...and eventually run into a little old lady who didn't speak English but was able to tell us we were going the right way (though we later found out it was the long way) and pointed us up a street. Up we go till we encounter a church we often saw when the bus was driving us back to the hotel. In the back of my mind I'm thinking that this church was actually a fair distance from the hotel...but nothing much we could do about it anyway.
So we turn up this bigger street on which we know the hotel is located. And we walk...and we walk...and we walk, passing plain buildings and car parks. On the other side of the street is railroad tracks, and on the other side of that, the Danube. If we had some way of getting across the tracks we could have walked along the river, which would have even been pleasant, but there were high fences.
So we walk along this dreary road until even the sidewalk starts falling apart. They were redoing them and had covered parts of them with planks of wood. This wasn't quite as bad as it sounds since the wood is softer than the concrete and asphalt they use for their sidewalks, and our feet were starting to hurt.
Normally when I go on trips with my family, we walk till we drop. This trip was different in that we got driven around by the bus a lot, and its tailored to be leisurely, so not that much walking is required. But this walk back to the hotel made it feel like a real vacation, I could barely move my legs. Fortunately up ahead we see the little overpass that crosses over the road to the hotel...or so we thought it was. Instead, it just crossed over to the train tracks. We look ahead to a second overpass which appears to be miles away, one we could see the name "Hilton" written on it. We trudge on.
Let's just say we aren't going to be taking the subway back to the Vienna Danube if we ever stay there again. We were quite happy to go to bed. We had another early morning the next day, as we were leaving Vienna to go to Salzburg.