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Journal of No. 118


August 23rd, 2012

Danube River Cruise Part IV - Vienna cont. @ 05:02 pm


Saturday 11 August

Out and on the bus a little earlier than usual, and our first stop is the Opera House. We were treated to an inside tour. Much of the opera house had been destroyed in the war, but it still looks mighty grand. The craziest thing about the place is that they often put on a different opera every day of the week. They do hundreds of shows a year and must be shuttling sets and costumes back and forth like mad. And they certainly have an enormous place to store it all. We learned that sets were constructed in an entirely different part of the city and transported by special trucks late at night and delivered through a special gate with a truck elevator.

Then to the famous Naschmarkt, a mile long market where they offer fruits and vegetables from the mundane to the exotic, along with cafes and restaurants. Also vinegar in jugs from which you can sample, and then take away measured quantities in little glass bottles.

The market is right alongside the Secession Museum, originally founded by artists who resigned from the Austrian academy. The building itself is handsome, with art nouveau tree elements in the facade that connect with a golden leafy dome atop it. The main attraction is Klimt's Beethoven frieze, one of several artworks created to honor the unveiling of a statue of Beethoven by Max Klinger (no, not that one). It has the air of being unfinished, but perhaps that's because it was only designed to be a temporary work. The fresco allegedly pictures Klimt's interpretation of Wagner's allegorical interpretation of Beethoven's 9th. I think that's too many removes from the original, and I don't see the connection between the Ode to Joy and King Kong (ok, it's actually Typhoeus). No pictures are allowed, though some quiet photographers snapped a few before the surly Austrian guy yelled at them.

We also had a little time to see the other exhibits and there were a couple interesting modern pieces by Suzanne Treister, part of her Hexen 2.0 series, featuring word cloud connections between varius things, like the links from HP Lovecraft to the Unabomber. We wanted to get a book or poster of the work, but the gift shop was sold out. Actually, what I think they had was her tarot cards.

After taking a quick spin through the market, we got on the bus and went to the Hundertwasserhaus. Sadly it started to rain quite a bit here, and it dampened my spirits, my clothes, and my camera a little. hundertwasser's crazy house is still in use as an apartment building and is slightly reminiscent of Gaudi, with its avoidance of straight lines and the use of natural forms and decoration. Near here I picked up my free souvenir from the pavement -- a narrow strip of metall hand-twisted into a treble clef.

Back to the ship where Daniel kindly let us sample a dragonfruit and jackfruit that he'd picked up at the market. The dragonfruit was mildly sweet, but not very interesting. The jackfruit had a wonderful taste that really wakes up in your mouth with a strawberryish flavor. THe texture was about like an apple.

At lunch, we sat with a jovial guy. We swapped stories and found out he'd played pro football with the Chiefs.

Now off to Schönbrunn.

Just as we arrived, the rain really started to come down. I had the foresight to bring the umbrella along, but it did hamper taking pictures of the front facade. Inside, alas, no photos allowed of the lovely rooms and furnitures. We were most astonished by the Hapsburgs' inclusion of Asian art themes in their decor. China and the east were certainly in vogue, but it was strange to see caricatures of Chinese people in the wallpaper. Another neat deail was the chandeliers with Swarovski light bulbs (obviously a later addition -- the palace was electrified by Edison) and the little bulbs waggled a bit, suggesting flickering flames. Saw lots of portraits and imperial splendor including the painting of Isabella of Parma's wedding, with all the carriages, that was in Eco's Infinity of Lists. The painting is humongous.

After seeing some of the rooms open to the public, we traveled briefly through the gardens (the weather was cooperating now) to the carriage museum, which had lots of impressive conveyances in it. There were some other items, like Sisi's wedding dress train. Carriages for kids, which were just as ornate, some modeled on the full-scale Hapsburg carriages, and pulled by donkey, pony, or even sheep.

After that we had a little time on our own to stroll the garden a bit, and finally get some good pictures of the palace. One odd feature was a bird we first noticed picking at a (rare) piece of litter. Looked and sounded fairly crow-like, but with a grey/brown band around his shoulders -- maybe a hooded crow. He posed a bit for me, before cawing and taking to the air.

Back to the ship, where we ate the swankiest sounding meal of the trip. I think it may have been the tastiest, or maybe that's just the good advertising:

Appetizer: salad of goat cheese with honey apple beignet and stuffed crepe with apple compote garnished with roasted pumpkin seeds.

Soup: Cream of roasted garlic with rye bread croutons.

Entrees: Chicken breast stuffed with prosciutto and mozarella served with chicken stock reduction presented on snow pea risotto and glazed carrots.
Broiled filet of halibur with potato herb crust served on sauteen pumpkin, broccoli florets, beet root and white wine sauce.
Breaded eggplant stuffed with tomatoes, Appenzeller cheese served with tomato ragout, baked potato with sour cream.

Dessert: Traditional Austrian Apfel Strudel with vanilla sauce and ice cream.

The appetizer was amazing.
The soup was excellent.
I had the chicken... it was good, but not great.
Dessert helped bring the average pack up to awesome.

After dinner, we had a short set from a Viennese standup/magician. He was great, and didn't outwear his welcome.

Auf Wiedersehen, Wien!
 
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Journal of No. 118