Monday, August 27, 2012

Vienna -- Day 3

   A packed schedule today. We started out with breakfast downstairs again at the hotel. It's free and they have enough good stuff to keep us energized until I make dad have lunch (he's never hungry by then for some reason.) We left the hotel and headed for the Westbahnhof train station to pick up our train tickets to Bratislava for tomorrow. The tickets are, get this, 15 euro per person, round trip. I sure am glad I didn't go for the 3-country Eurail pass, as this was a much cheaper option. 
   Next, we were headed to Hopfburg Palace, and I decided to trust google maps instead of my father's written instructions from the guidebook on how to get there -- silly me. The building it took us to was in no way a palace. It *did* however, have some very unique faces festooned on the exterior walls, so I took a few shots of those. I never did figure out what the hell that building was, but after walking the entire perimeter and finding no public entrance, we decided something was amiss and followed dad's instructions to the actual palace.
   The only thing we were really keen on visitng at Hapfburg was the Royal Treasury, which houses the crown jewels of the Hopsburg royal family. This is, dare I say, a priceless collection. Many millions of dollars worth of diamond and ruby encrusted crowns, solid gold serving trays and shimmer samite regalia are housed behind the modern vault doors that protect the treasury. The most impressive pieces to me were a huge Turkish Opal and a sword of which the hilt and the scabbard were bored from a narwhal tusk, but just about every piece was worthy of our attention.
   From a vault filled with precious, life-affirming treasure, we decided to get a little perspective by heading to the royal crypt down the road. On the way there, however, we ran into a bit of a food and beer festival and, as it was almost noon, figured a nice refreshing beer would be in order. We had that and bought a small bottle of apricot schnapps (a new personal favorite) for later.
   Then still further along the way to the crypt we happened to pass by the Hotel Sacher, home of the world-famous Sachertorte, a chocolate and apricot cake that was high on my list of "things I have to try" in Vienna. Dad didn't want lunch, but I wasn't going to let that stop me from trying this thing out, so we sat down and ordered up a slice (and then another, after my father saw one pass by), a coffee for me, and a still water for him. Yet again, the Viennese surprise me with their ability to take something that I would find too overpowering (a big hunk of chocolate cake covered in ganache) and make it into something sweet enough, but not *too* sweet to enjoy.
   Finally after an hour of distractions, we made it to the royal crypt. The caskets in the crypt range from the fairly humble (eg: Emperor Leopold I) to the madly decadent (eg: Maria Theresa), They are all similarly styled bronze, copper and alloys of each, some of which are ornately decorated with cherubs, veiled mourners, skulls, eagles and armor. There are 9 chambers housing the caskets, but the entire journey through the Hapsburg family line takes no more than an hour or so unless you're really pouring over the details.
   The last thing on the list for the day was Schönnbrunn Palace, a UNISECO site and probably the most famous landmark in Vienna. Schönnbrunn was a summer residence for the Hapsburg family, and though the interior is impressive, more impressive are the enormous gardens of the palace, which are home to: a formal english rose garden, a maze, a zoo, an alpine garden, 32 pieces of statuary, a palm house, an orange grove, a french garden and a bunch of other stuff I probably missed. The palace grounds are an all day, free of charge amble, and amble we did, through several of the gardens and up the tremendous hill to the gloriette.
   By the time we were done with our walk, it was 5:00 and we hadn't even found the maze or the orange grove. We were exhausted however, so it was back to town, where I did a little research to find "the best Wiener schnitzel in Vienna" which according to many reviews on Trip Advisor was at a guesthaus off of Stephansplatz called Guesthaus Pöschl. One thing was for certain, the schnitzel there is humongous, crisp and made from veal. I had all kinds of intentions of ordering a dessert that was also on my list, but after eating that thing, there was no way I was going to have dessert as well. 
   With all the trams and connections and station switches and walking, it was about 7:00 by the time we left the Guesthaus and we were feeling the walking and the sun from Schönbrunn, so we wound up the day. We have decided to stay a sixth night in Vienna though before we head to Munich on Friday. Tomorrow, after breakfast, we'll hop the train to Bratislava (they leave and return every hour until 7pm). Neither of us know much about the city, so the first thing we'll probably do is get a bus tour just to familiarize ourselves with the area. Then I plan to eat my way through the rest of the town before headed back to Vienna in the evening.

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