Saturday May 17
We woke to a rainy day in Vienna. We were tied to the dock and at least one more Viking ship was rafted to us. We had an early breakfast because, even though we will be back in Vienna later in our trip, we had three excursions planned for the day. We had breakfast with Pat and Larry, Olive and Denis (Perth, Australia) and then were called by Joey to get on the buses for a general tour of Vienna. Viking have their own buses, quite the organization!
The 'on-bus' portion of our tour ended at St. Stephen's Cathedral which dominates the centre of the city and is perhaps the most famous structure in Vienna. The walking part of the tour began with a brief walk around several interesting sites -- Albertina Platz, the Reitschule (the winter Spanish Riding School), the Hofburg Complex, and St. Stephen's Cathedral. At that point our guided tour finished and we were on 'free time' for another hour or so. To give the feet a rest, we dropped into one of the famous traditional Viennese coffee houses (Hawelka), recommended by the concierge on the ship. We both ordered a 'Melange' (string coffee with lots of milk) accompanied by a warm bread-like cake filled with plum jam. The fact that it was a traditional coffee house showed in the price, but it was fun.
We were driven back to the ship for lunch, after which we boarded the buses again for a tour of the Schonbrunn Palace, the 18th century Baroque summer palace of Maria Theresa. We toured the opulent palace rooms with our guide and then spent some time in the formal gardens. The layout of the gardens is on a grand scale, reminiscent of the Versailles near Paris. There were few flowers except for the brilliant arch of red roses, a rose garden and a Wisteria arch. The idea of an embroidery garden was given by sinuous curved borders of pansies that from a distance looked like delicate patterns, although when viewed up close, they needed some work. We walked for a while in the garden before heading back to the ship.
Dinner was scheduled an hour earlier than usual because we had booked (along with approximately 100 other passengers) an orchestral concert in the Hofburg Complex, featuring the work of Johann Strauss and Mozart. Along with the orchestra, there were four opera singers who sang arias from a number of Mozart operas. It was a special way to end our first visit to Vienna.
We headed back to the boat arriving after 11:00, and were served a bowl of goulash soup which we washed down with a glass of dark beer. Nice touch!