Up and shower and down to another insipid breakfast – pretty much like Prague in that there was little selection and what was there wasn’t great… But the rolls were nice, as was the tea.
Pack up and stop at the desk to confirm our afternoon tour – we’re to be picked up at 1:45. We headed down the street a bit to the tram and caught No. 43 into the town center. Nice ride. We wandered through a variety of streets looking at various sculptures and a variety of stalls being set up in the street – with stuff from handmade “cutesies” to fossils and military memorabilia. Then we mad eitto the main square.
The most prominent feature was St. Stephen’s Cathedral which was built in the 1300s. We listened to church bells for 15 minutes before 10:00 AM. We then went into the church and the choir was singing a hymn because they were holding mass. We were stuck in the tourist section so could only observe from afar. There were lots of choir boys in white robes, many candles, and lots of people. We admired the place for a while, went into the gift shop, then back out into the street.
The main downtown area was really just a big shopping street with many souvenir shops as well as upscale clothing, shoe, and jewelry stores. We were approached several times by people in 17th century costume who were trying to sell tickets to a Mozart concert that evening. As much as we would have liked to go it was not over until 10:00 PM and we have to be up at 5:45 AM tomorrow. After wandering around a bit more we stopped in a café across from St. Stephen’s and had some lunch – Alice got the wiener, mustard, and roll – it was a bit much for her! It was OK but weird.
Then we made it back to the tram and the hotel for a bit of a rest, but at 1:35 we got a call that the driver was here. We hustled down and got in the van, which picked up at two more stops then dropped us at the main terminal where we got on the “multilingual” tour bus. It had fairly good AC but the temperature was in the upper 80s – not something people here are used to!
We drove through town and several interesting things were pointed out – nothing historical except the 19th century. Lots of new buildings, the “Tallest office building in Austria,” a huge park and amusement area with a pig for tickets to enter and a huge Ferris wheel with trams as carriages. Lots of other rides were there as well. Then we headed to the north of town to the “mountain” and wealthy area – all the embassies were there and a building Einstein has stayed in as well as one where Beethoven had spent the summer. Apparently he lived in Vienna longer than he in Germany.
We ended up at a café on top the mountain with a nice view of Vienna. Alice got a 12 oz cup of cold tea for $6.00… Then back down the mountain to the Danube to board our river cruise.
The “Blue Danube” ship was nice – relatively few people and lots of windows. There are three Danubes – One is actually a lake used for recreation, one is the river used for commerce and some recreation, and the third is the Vienna Canal, mostly for recreation now but previously for commerce as well. Many people were sun bathing along the river, swimming, and picnicking. It wasn’t crowded – only 1.7 million in the whole city and most of them out of town on vacation in August.
We passed some interesting sights, like a large vessel that is now used as an elementary school and a good view of the mountain we had taken the bus up to earlier. Probably the most interesting part was when we entered a loch to enter the Vienna Canal. The water was lowered about ten feet in the loch to allow us to proceed. The loch is to protect the city from the various floods that frequently hit the Danube.
The canal goes through the city and there were many cafes, bike paths, benches, and graffiti along it. Alice remarked that there was a better quality graffiti in Vienna than anywhere we had been. I had to agree – some very nice stuff – I wasn’t sure if some of it was actual graffiti or was there by design.
We finally docked and our guide said “Up the steps, turn left, and you’ll find e center city.” I let Alice lead and indeed we came out at St. Stephen’s. Had I been in charge we’d probably still be there… After a bit of last minute Vienna shopping we looked for a dinner place and found a guy handing out “free drinks” cards. We went up an alley and found a nice Austrian place called “Heuriger Gigerl” which offered “Traditional Austrian Food.” Lots of pork… We chatted with a couple servers, one women in a dirndl, and found we could not get the appetizer without going inside… So I went in and ordered it and took it to the table. Alice got the “Bio-Chicken” which was a half chicken… She was amazed but ate most of it. I got chicken sliced on potatoes which was nice. And a beer.
When we were done we headed back to the tram and got to the room around 9:00. Tomorrow will start really early.