29.05.2013 - 29.05.2013
Setting the scene in "Old Town" central Vienna:
Hey kids! Look at the beautiful architecture and old buildings! Look over there! That's a really big old cathedral. It's called St. Stevens Cathedral, and, well, it's REALLY old!
[Wind is whipping, rain is soaking her hair and face, the cold is turning her lips blue]
I DON'T CARE ABOUT OLD BUILDINGS! I'm freezing cold and I want to go inside!
But look! Here's Demel Cafe! They are famous for some of the best hand-made pastries in the world! They were once the official pastry chefs to the Hapsburg royal family and Emperor of Austria! Isn't that exciting?
Smile for the camera sweeties! Isn't this just SO much fun?!
I might as well have been Maria von Trapp running through the streets with a guitar singing about confidence in rain.
And they weren't buying it.
One thing I've learned about traveling is that you dare not have your heart set on a specific agenda because when traveling with others it will NEVER, EVER go the way you hope or plan.
This week in Vienna is so busy visiting family and friends that our time is just plain too short to get in all that we want. Monday is the ONE DAY we planned on going into central Vienna. Planning to see downtown Vienna in one day is sort of like giving someone who hasn't had sweets in over three years a huge chocolate cake and telling them to take only one small bite.
(Like this one):
Inside I'm screaming for more! More! But the rest of my traveling companions aren't quite as committed or as excited about my starved agenda as I am. Especially not on a cold, windy, rainy day.
The museums I wanted to see were closed on Monday. And it was too cold to just stroll the streets.
So, what else besides "sparkles"and royal jewels could make a cold and cranky 8-year old girl happy? We headed over to the Schatzkammer - the Imperial Collection of jewels and crowns of the Holy Roman Empire and the Austrian monarchy. Everyone's mood improved a bit as we strolled through with ooh's and awes while admiring the royal robes and crowns full of jewels as big as eggs. It was an impressive display of unbelievable wealth and (let's be frank) the blatant arrogance and pompousness of the 800 year Hapsburg ruling empire.
I had about 50 more things on my own personal agenda to see that day, but it was already almost 3 pm and just about everything closes at 6pm in Austria on a weekday.
We managed to get in just a little more imperial glory by heading over to the residence of the former Emperor (The Hofburg) and take a tour through their apartments and silver pantry.
I don't think I've ever seen so much gold, silver and jewels in one day. And we wonder why most monarchies didn't survive.
The Sisi Museum is also included as part of the tour. "Sisi" is the nickname for Empress Elisabeth of Austria who lived from 1837 - 1898. She is my own personal royal fascination. Ever since hearing of her over 2 decades ago I have been slightly obsessed with stories of her life. She is often compared to Princess Diana and their stories are oddly similar. A beautiful young bride is wed in a huge royal wedding while hounded by the press and ends up miserable in her "golden cage" of royal life which ends tragically in sudden death. I'm not sure why Hollywood hasn't jumped on her story, yet, but I bet they will some day.
Unfortunatley, it was so crowded in some of the rooms of the Sisi Museum that I heard my son screaming "MOMMY!? WHERE ARE YOU!?" while I was standing right next to him. Luckily, I had been in this museum once before so I didn't feel like I was completely missing out on the experience.
At this point, we all earned ourselves a nice break in one of the famous coffee houses of Vienna. Cafe Landtmann has been around since 1873 and has had, amongst it's regulars such customers as Marlene Dietrich, Sigmund Freud and Gustav Mahler. It's also the quintessential Viennese coffee house and exactly what we all needed at the end of our day.
It even caused the girl to give her first big smile of the day.
On the way back, the sun suddenly broke out and shown brightly over St. Steven's cathedral. Maybe it was just waiting for her smile.