Having taken the train in last night, I spent the night at Fritz & Kathie's apartment in the nice town Sankt Pölten, near Vienna, and the three of us had a lovely breakfast together – they have these particularly tasty pastries with a kind of sweet nut filling (hazelnut?) there, really good!
(Thanks to Kathie for getting up early enough to organise these things – Fritz and I are never going to, being programmers ;)).
After breakfast we hit the trains and Fritz and I go in to Wien (Vienna). I have the day for sightseeing, with a casual presentation to some of Fritz's colleagues planned at the end of the day.
Lots! Churches! All of Europe has a lot of churches by my standards, but Austria is particularly well endowed. In fact I got less than 100m down the street from Fritz's office before I ran into the first, the Maria Hülf Church (IIRC). Had a look around, bought/lit a votive, then onwards.
Down further past the shops I reached a cluster of historic stuffs, including the pair of buildings now housing the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum) and Naturhistorisches Museum (Museum of Natural History) and between them the plaza with the Maria-Thesien-Denkmal (sculpture of Maria Theresa ).
Although they are theoretically part of the same complex, in visual/layout terms, they are separated from (by the ‘Hofburg Tor’) from the generously-proportioned Wien Hofburg (literally, Hofburg is ‘castle/palace house’ – the older of Vienna's two main royal areas – and tor simply means ‘gate’).
This epic palace building was recovering from a public festival thing, so no photos for you; but around the corner we have a number of other buildings, including the Minoritenkirche (Minorites Church – though technically not part of the palace complex), and, moving past the statues of beefy men bashing manly snakes with even-more-manly clubs in a very manly manner (Freud was Austrian, you know..), the Imperial Treasury & riding school.
The Imperial Treasury holds the collections of services (as in, dinner service) from the various ages of Austrian royal houses.
And impressive it is – fine porcelain, massive sets of decorative gold serving-ware, and silver services just like your grandma's but 100x bigger and a bit more ornate.
They even have a carefully folded napkin that, I shit you knot (Dad joke alert!), is apparently secret. Yes, the way that they fold the napkin such that it has spaces to put those bread rolls in is supposedly a secret known only to two people in the service of the state. Guess we're not supposed to just look at it and figure out how to fold it, then?
Following up from that we have the duck squeezer, which I am totally not just making up.
“The duck squeezer was used for the famous dish Canard à la presse to squeeze out the juice from the bones of a duck to be added to a rich sauce, based on red wine, which was served with the duck's breast.
“At the Vienniese court the duck squeezers were not used for this purpose but to produce meat juice for Empress Elizabeth, who had ordered the duck squeezers from France. The Empress frequently lived on raw meat juice as a diet.”
After finishing totally not making that stuff up, plus the recent travel, I was pretty tired out, so I decided to go rest in the gardens.
I had just sat down by a nice tree when a guy comes around the corner and starts ordering at me in German! Entschuldigen, ich spreche kein Deutsche…
“Oh…”, he says.. “Not on the grass!”
Sigh. To a NZer, this is just like, WTF is the point of grass if not to walk/sit/lie on? But, this is Europe, and there are little signs…
So I wander off from that park. Just around the corner in another park, back in the Burggarten (Palace Garden), right next to the signs there's a whole flotilla of locals sitting on the grass, so I join them and end up having a nice nana-nap (a recently-developed skill).
But not for too long, coz there's things to see and presentations to give. Heading back through down the commercial streets, I get to the square with the main Dom, Stephansdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral), in it.
One of the things I find interesting about Europe is that they have these whopping great old buildings, and juxtapose them directly with very modern architecture (and in this case, multiple living statue guys). Note the patterned tile arrangements on the Cathedral's roof.
St. Stephen's, as you might expect for the main cathedral in a city such as this, is huge, and busy. Lots of people, many, many, votives (I add to the number and say a prayer, as for each church today), and numerous friezes, paintings, pulpits, and sculptures.
Like I say, there's a lot of churches in Vienna, and in fact from just outside St. Stephen's in the square, if you're standing in the right place you'll see the bell of another poking out.
That looked interesting, so I navigated over and was rewarded with Peterskirche (St. Peter's Church).
The contrast between these two churches, not 100m apart, was huge – the austere gray and rectilinear angles of the Dom with the rich painted interior and Patheon-inspired geometric, cylindrical/hemispherical interior of the other.
Also, let's get the word oculus in here. Oculus. Yeah. So much cooler than kinda roundy holes in the top bit.
I really liked that church, actually, prolly just because I like pantheony things.
Anyway, after that I walked around for a bit, meaning to find a nice café to have a coffee and write postcards in, but I faffed about for too long and walked down too many streets and ran out of time. So I headed back to Fritz's work to do a little presentation on software platform matters (that's another blog post…).
Ending the day, Fritz and I hit the road and headed out to Kathie’s parents’ place which IIRC is in Krems, a little cluster of houses a little less than an hour out of Vienna – more about that tomorrow.
Kathie had made these excellent dumpling things with fruit (seasonally apricot, or at this time of year plums) in them, with a breadcrumb mix thing, and then this great vanilla sauce. Wish I’d taken a picture, they were yum! I should hit her up for the recipe.
And tomorrow… is another blog post!