Thursday, January 17, 2013 (Day 8)
SNOW! Today is another snowday. We woke up and found that Vienna had gotten 20-40cm of snow overnight and it was still snowing hard outside. The place was transformed once again! I’m sure by now you can tell that we are true Southerners as all this snow is super exciting. We were walking around today taking photos of everything in the snow. Cars covered in snow, bikes covered in snow, trash cans covered in snow. Trees in the snow. It all looks so beautiful and amazing and we can’t get enough of it! However, I can get enough of the snow blowing in my face and eyes. That part isn’t so much fun.
So, we headed off today to the Schloss Schönbrunn which reminds me of Versailles in Paris more than anything. Also, we visited Versailles in the snow too! The Schönbrunn Palace is a former Imperial 1441-room Rococo summer residence. The palace and gardens illustrate the tastes and interests of successive Habsburg monarchs. This is about the first time we are leaving the tight circles of central Vienna, too, though we aren’t going very far.
With all the blustery snow outside and scampering about taking photos of nearly everything, we totally missed the ticket office which was in a different building than the palace. So, we went straight to the palace and unbundled, shaking off all the snow and couldn’t find where to purchase our tickets. Finally, someone was able to point out that we had to go back outside and across the large courtyard to a different building for tickets. Sigh…bundle back up and head into the snow and buy our tickets and walk back.
So the tour of the house came with an audioguide and of the two tours, we chose the longer tour which covered 40 of the rooms. No photos of course, but the audioguide did a good job showing us through the rooms. Each room was very clearly labeled with a number so you knew exactly what to listen to on the audio guide. The most interesting object in the palace to me was a clock that sat on a table in front of a mirror. Because of it’s location, it was custom built to sit there with a face on both sides. Here’s the best part, though. The face on the backside was reversed so that when you looked in the mirror it showed the correct time!! That was just too cool.
The palace visit was shorter than I expected, and soon we were back outside debating what to do next. We decided to walk behind the palace and go through the gardens. This was an excellent choice. I would guess now that almost a foot of snow has fallen since we’ve arrived in Vienna, so the gardens were amazing in the snow! We walked around a frozen duck pond, complete with ducks walking on top of the water. The trees were shaped very rectangular, and in the snow, all the pathways were picturesque. We tromped around through the snow and took millions of photos. I’m not sure how I’m going to cull them down for this post. =)
Towards the back we made it to the Vienna Zoo and I was curious to see a zoo in the snow. I don’t know what the animals would be up to. However, we are planning to go to the opera tonight and we really only have an hour here before we have to be back on the u-bahn. The zoo map was very large and we opted out. Later I was incredibly disappointed with this decision, because we found a link to a youtube video online showing the baby panda at the Vienna zoo playing in the snow as it was the first snow for him! I can’t believe I was so close to watching a baby panda play in the snow. Oh well….
We finally allowed ourselves to walk out of the schloss grounds and back to the u-bahn into the city. Our goal tonight was to get tickets to the Vienna State Opera. However, since we didn’t have tickets yet we had two options. One was to stop by the last-minute ticket booth and hope something was available. However, what we thought would happen is that we’d have to line up at 3:30 for standing-room-only tickets. This requires standing in a line for 1.5 hours, then securing your spot in the standing room only section of the opera seats by typing a scarf to the railing. Only at this point would you have about 45 minutes before the opera started to wander around and maybe even have time to grab some food.
So, we stopped off at the tourist info which had the last-minute-tickets and found out that we are very lucky people! Not only was there a ticket available, but these were the personal seats of our ticket agent. We were confused at first when we asked about tickets and she sighed heavily, and said yes in a very melancholy voice. Then we learned that she and her 90-yr-old mother were planning on going tonight but with all the snow, her mother was unable to go out in such weather. So, we were able to buy her tickets at the last minute ticket price which was pretty much dirt cheap. And they were box seats! Like really good box seats, too. Wow. So, we had to act sad buying her tickets while inside we were ecstatic at our luck. So now we didn’t have to line up for standing room tickets or arrive so early or anything! We had time to slow down.
We also had time for a proper meal. So, we headed to a restaurant called the Goulash Museum which served about 20 or more varieties of goulash. A warm lunch sounded like just the ticket on a cold, snowy day. We were very happy with our choices.
We thought about doing more out, but with all our traipsing around in the snow, we were pretty wet. We figured it was best to go home and dry off and eat some dinner at home. And that’s just what we did. I brought a bottle of raspberry chipotle sauce with the intention of pouring it on some brie and eating it with crackers. It’s delicious if you’ve never had it. We were able to find brie easily, but for some reason it was impossible to find any crackers in all the grocery stores we looked in! How strange. We found something that worked well enough though, and had a lovely dinner at home before dressing up to go to the opera.
We saw Der Rosenkavalier performed by the Vienna State Opera. The Opera House was gorgeous on the inside with many ornate halls and rooms much like the rooms in the museums. We arrived with enough time to walk around a little. One of the awesome parts of having a box seat is the ability to store your coat in the box. The box had two rooms and in the outer room was the coat rack and a mirror. The other room was of course the seats. There were 3 rows of seats and we were in the second. 7 seats total in our box. All the normal people had to check their coats at the coat check which had lines.
We also got to check out our translation boxes too. Each seat got a little electronic box mounted on it with a language option to get translations of the opera during the show. How neat! Several photo ops later, we settled in for the 4-hour long performance. Actually, it might have been more like 4.5 hours. It started at 6:30pm and with two intermissions, we were out by 11. The music was amazing and the full orchestra playing in the pit did a marvelous job. As a band nerd who has played in an orchestra before, I felt sorry for the wind section as I know they end up sitting there counting 115 measures of rests only to get to play one note and then 90 measures of rests more to play another note and so forth. They all played amazingly.
The opera singers were all amazing too. Everyone did such a great job. I’m impressed that everyone was able to perform for so long, too. We definitely left happy. After the opera we headed back towards Stephensplatz and found a cafe still open for another dessert torte. We are pretty good about finding tasty desserts while on vacation. =) It can be quite a shock going home though……
What another wonderful day in Vienna.