We arrived in Vienna at about 11:00 PM. As we drove into the city, we were wonderstruck at one of the buildings within the city that had a great expanse in terms of square footage. We later came to know that it was one of the three palaces in the city. The Renaissance was a welcome sight for all of us who had driven nearly 750 kilometers the whole day that included a small hike to the top of a mountain pushing a amenities filled stroller uphill. A great night’s sleep refreshed us all, but it was way past midnight when I fell into a lull.
The next day – the fourth of our trip, we set out to explore Vienna. Our first stop was to the city center. We bought a 24-hour pass that let us use all the public modes of transportation. We caught a train from the station which was a couple of minutes walk from the hotel. Karlsplatz was our first stop. As we got off the station and walked out of it, I could get a sense that it was going to be a great day savoring the famous city. Karlsplatz takes us to the edge of the center circle and sits on the loop which covers many of the official buildings of the city, museums, a university, the vice-president’s residence and much more.
In front of what looked like an opera house, we spent some time while clicking away the camera. There is a nice pond with a modern sculpture in front of the opera house. The side streets were typical European streets with stone sidewalks and buildings linings up the sides. A man dressed up in a conductor’s clothing approached us and soon got into a talk with us. He asked my son about his interest in music and bingo, Vikas got into a conversation with him. With about eight years of High School music behind him, the man had made the right guess. Soon we were sold on attending an orchestra at the Schonbrunn palace. This palace was on our itinerary so when he told the ticket price included visit to the palace, we signed the deal. At 39 Euros per head, it would cover a guided, extended tour of the palace and in the evening admittance to the orchestra and the famed gardens.
We spent the next hour walking to the center of the city where the St. Stephen’s church is. This awesome church was built sometime during the 14th century and is one of the most religious buildings in the whole of Austria. It has intricate carvings on the outside and breath-taking inside with some 100+ meter ceilings typical of a gothic church. If you have been to St. Patrick’s church in Manhattan or the St. Paul’s in London, you will get a sense. In fact, many of the churches we have visited have similar insides with extremely high and breathtaking ceilings. It is just amazing to see how people in the 10-15th century AD could construct such high ceilings supported with massive stone pillars and arches that were precision cut and seemingly hanging in the air. Imagine the weight of the structure that the foundations need to bear! As with all our visits to a church, we lighted up several candles and made prayers and wishes.
Stepping out of the church, I got some great pictures of the family. The 70-200 mm Canon F4 lens is just astounding in producing quality images in good lighting. I wouldn’t use the same lens for indoors or low light situations, but on a clear sunny day, it produces some jaw-dropping close-ups.
We found an Indian restaurant searching up on Google for vegetarian food. This was about ½ kilometer away. The food was great at Nirvana which was tucked inside a small shopping center. It was welcome food. Food prices are way lower in the US and quantities are also much more. While Europe is relatively fitter than US, the portion sizes are a little wanting for such an active lifestyle as in there. Indian restaurants are better when it comes to filling up the appetite.
We headed back to the hotel for a break. We were already exhausted from the walking. What was nice about the walking was that it was in proximity of a bustling working and shopping crowd. You don’t see so many people unless you are in India or China or a major US city. It was all very welcome.
After a short nap, we pushed ourselves up to meet the 4 PM deadline for the start of the Schonbrunn palace tour. We had to catch a train in the opposite direction this time, but it was just one stop away. However, the walk from the station to the palace gates took all of some 6 minutes. And then, at the gates we were clueless where the tour would start. After much searching around, we saw a sign that directed us to get to the doors of the palace instead of the gates. The tour itself opened up immense grandeur that the royalty enjoyed in those days. It is just unbelievable that some people enjoyed so much while so many people suffered so much. This is always my take on the monarchies and autocracies who thrived at the expense of the common man. The same goes to the corrupt politicians of today mainly in developing and underdeveloped countries.
The palace gardens is way bigger than any garden I have seen and sets the standards for other gardens. It spans nearly 1.0km by 1.2 kms in area!! Walking to the very back of the garden is a building constructed that was the place where the queen would host her annual gala dinner or some sort of annual sporting event. I saw many people using the large gardens to get their daily running done. It was about 6:00 PM before we were done and thought about dinner. The restaurant on the palace grounds is a charming place that has hosted many celebrities. We settled for one of the limited vegetarian choices and some creative deserts. You can find the menu right here.
While waiting to get into the Orchestra, I met this gentlemen from India who was on a tour with his wife. He happened to be from the same Indian state as I was. Imagine my surprise when he started talking in Kannada and within a matter of minutes we knew a lot about each other J! The orchestra was a bit slow for me during the first half but picked up pace during the second. The lead performers of the accompanying opera put up a great singing show displaying an incredible range in their voices reminding me of what the human voice is capable of with training. The evening ended at 10 PM and we took the train back to the hotel for another well deserved deep slumber.