Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, International, Museums, Performing Arts, Road Trips, TRAVEL

A Stroll Through Vienna

Now where was the boat?
Now where was the boat?


So, after a morning of museums, Bill was done with Vienna and ready to go back to the boat for lunch.  However, if we went back, I knew he wouldn’t be getting off the boat again, so I convinced him to at least have some lunch in the city.  I told you how that went.  Shame on you Rick Steves!  Now I’ll tell you about the balance of the day.

A Drizzly Walking Tour

Because he loves me and maybe a little bit because he’d loved the architecture he’d seen so far, Mr.Bill agreed to a stroll around the Hofburg environs for awhile.  I was able to show him on the map that I didn’t plan to get more than a block or two away from the palace, so he set his teeth and headed off with me.

Whereas Mr. Bill was trying to be cooperative, the weather was not.  The sun played peek-a-boo (more boo that peek) with us and whenever the sun disappeared, the drizzle would return.  Was is miserable?  Yes!  Was I going to let it deter me? NO!

The Gang at the Opera
The Gang at the Opera – a bit damp but quite happy!

Our first stop after lunch was the State Opera House.  I would have dearly loved to go to one of their productions or take a tour of the interior, but that didn’t fit into our  schedule.  I have to confess that the exterior of the venerable old lady was not one of my favorite edifices of the day.  It really pales in comparison to surrounding buildings.  However, that’s where we ran into our shipmates and that was a bright spot in the day.  I have to admit they pranked me.  They pretended they were lost and asked me to show them how to get back to the boat.

After that Bill trudged along behind me snapping pictures of the sights along the Ringstrausse.  I got him all the way down to the Rathausplatz before he mutinied and demanded to be taken back to the boat.  So we strolled through the Volksgarten towards the Grabenplatz.  I reminded him of the Dortheum, an auction house he’d shown some interest in during my days of research.  Rick Steves redeemed himself, because that was quite interesting.  Maybe not as interesting as Rick made it sound, but interesting – and dry.

3V Walk (60)The Dortheum is about half a block from Grabenplatz and from there we entered the underground at Stephanplatz.  We had a little difficulty purchasing our return ticket, but the problem was with the machine, not us and a nice subway attendant lady came and helped.  Soon we were back on board the Tor – just in time for our afternoon tea break.  Bill was once again a happy boy.

Dinner was a little later this evening than it was during the rest of the cruise, because they were serving a special meal to those heading out to a night shore excursion.  Had I known how the day would go, I would have probably opted for one of them, but part of the adventure of traveling is not knowing.  Sometimes that’s good and sometimes you end up having a quiet evening on the boat.  Since our friends were on the evening shore excursion, we had a quieter than usual evening, but a good one.  We still very much enjoy each others’ company.

I’ll share our pictures from our walk about, then I hope you’ll come back next week for The Wachau Valley.


DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Cafe Tirolerhof – a Rick Steves Fail

Still Raining in Vienna
Still Raining in Vienna


While many of the wonderful things I discovered on my Danube River Cruise I can attribute directly to Rick Steves,  he failed me miserably at lunch in Vienna.  Please don’t go to Cafe Tirolerhof.

Rain, Rain Go Away

When I first shared my dream day in Vienna with my husband, he balked at lunch and dinner in the city.  He couldn’t understand why we’d look for places to eat, when we had a perfectly good boat serving both meals without incurring any extra cost.  I explained how we’d be a bit of a stroll and a subway ride away from the boat in the Hofburg environs, creating both time and monetary constraints on our day.  He seemed to acquiesce to my research, but I don’t think he actually gave up on getting back to the boat for lunch.

When we exited the Treasury he was on museum overload and he really wanted that lunch.  We had a few tense minutes, but the sun was a little bit on my side and it appeared we were in for some better weather, so Bill agreed to take in some of the sites which were, by my estimation, within walking distance – but first he wanted to sit down and have a meal.

Cafe Tirolerhof

I read him Rick Steves’ description of Cafe Tirolerhof, “a classic Viennese cafe full of things that time has passed by: chandeliers, marble tables, upholstered booths, waiters in tuxes and newspapers.”  Sounds irresistible, right? And the cafe was only a block away.

Well, it’s not really that Rick Steves lied.  Everything he listed was there, but instead of being as charming as it sounded, it was creepy and somewhat disturbing.  My first complaint is that along with all the other things time has passed by, the Tirolerhof has a whole lot of dirt their staff has been passing by for a long time.  I’ve heard waiters in Viennese coffeehouses can be rude to American tourists.  Well, the Cafe Tirolerhof waiters are rude to everyone – a real equal opportunity situation.

What’s more the menu is downright weird. I pride myself on being able to pick something delicious off menus in unfamiliar places – even when the menus aren’t in English.  Well, the Tirolerhof menu is translated into English, but you want to believe something is lost in translation.  Let me tell you, it’s not.  The food is as weird as it says it is.  What’s more the cafe does not take credit cards and because the broken credit card machine at the Imperial Apartments had forced us to use most of our euros, I had to wander down the street and figure out the Viennese ATM.

The Gray Continues, But at Least the Rain Quit – For a While

Love is the only thing that saved me at this juncture.  The sun which had been on my side right before lunch had once again retreated, but it wasn’t raining right that minute.  Having already paid for lunch, Bill figured he might as well let me trot around the palace environs, especially since I promised we’d just be sightseeing, not paying fees and trudging through museums.

So we set off on the walking tour I had charted out in my head.  What else should you see when you visit the Hofburg?  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about our trek.


Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, International, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL

The Rest of the Imperial Apartments

In between the wonders of the Imperial Apartments
In between the wonders of the Imperial Apartments


So we’re in Vienna on Viking’s Danube Waltz Cruise.  I’ve just been through the Silver Collection of the Hofburg’s Imperial Apartments and my excitement level is at about 27 out of 10.  The Hofburg allows you to take all the photographs you want in the Silver Collection, but you have to put your cameras away for the Sissi Museum and Imperial Apartments, so you’re imagination (or the internet) will have to provide the visuals.  

The Sissi Phenomena

Austrians love their Empress Elizabeth and I can’t exactly figure out why.  Her story starts out pretty well.  Beloved daughter of obscure Bavarian royalty enjoys an idyllic childhood.  In her early teens, she tagged along on a trip with her big sister, who was being checked out by the Crown Prince of the Hapsburg Dynasty as a potential mate.  Once old Fredrick laid eyes on Elizabeth, big sis was toast.  Within days, Freddy and his “Sissi” were engaged, to the extreme joy of everyone in Europe, with the exception (perhaps) of big sis.

A few days later, the story changes.  Sissi is a drama queen.  She starts wringing her hands and emoting all over her diary.  Poor pitiful princess finds being adored a real challenge.  The rest of her life is one big panic attack.  I’m sorry.  I’m not suggesting panic attacks aren’t serious, but Little Miss Sissi makes a career out of them.  Pretty much her whole life can be summed up by the famous Garbo line, “I want to be alone.”

Now the woman’s life was punctuated by tragedies, but she’d already cast herself as the Queen of Melodrama long before any of them occurred.  By the time her son committed suicide, mama was already far along down the road to nutcase.  This is a woman who spent three hours on her hair each day and she thought her most important duty in life was to keep her eighteen inch waist.  No wonder her son was desperate for female affection and committed suicide when his mistress was going to be taken from him.

In spite of her complete failure in the wife and mother department (she did give birth to several children, but then promptly ignored them) she was adored by her rather stick-in-the-mud hubby and idolized by her subjects.  I just don’t appreciate all her hand-wringing.  I prefer somebody like Empress Maria-Theresa, who gets out there and does something more with her life than fix her hair, watch her waistline and write dreadful poetry.

So, with the opinion I have of the woman, you can imagine I was not thrilled with the “Sissi Museum” section of the Imperial Apartments.  It was interesting to see some of her clothes and other personal items, but I would have been happy with a small sampling, instead of room after room of Austrian swooning.

The Imperial Apartments at the End of the Trail

By the time we actually reached the Imperial Apartments I was worn out.  We’d been through the excitement of finding our own way to the Hofburg from our longship via Vienna’s underground and Graben Strasse.  I’d exulted over every item in the extensive Silver Collection and then been held hostage by the Sissi Fan Club, but we weren’t finished.  Now we entered the actual Apartments all tricked out as they had been during the reign of Emperor Fredrich and his tragic Empress Sissi.

Confession, I was underwhelmed.  Yes, they were beautiful apartments exquisitely furnished, but it just wasn’t my taste.  I much prefer Schonbrunn Palace or the delightful Linderhof.  Maybe if I had liked Sissi more or hadn’t been so overwhelmed by the Silver Collection, I might have enjoyed the Imperial Apartments more, but that’s the way it goes.  All three sections are included in the price of admission, so check them all out, but if your time is limited and you love Decorative Arts, spend your time at the Silver Collection!

So where did we go next on our rainy day in Vienna.  Come back next week and find out.

ART, Attractions, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, International, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL

The Hofburg’s Imperial Apartments – A Real Must-See

Here's a place you need to see to believe!
Here’s a place you need to see to believe!


Let me make one thing very clear, if you are in Vienna, don’t miss the Hofburg.  If I had gone there on my very first visit to the city I don’t know if I would have ever gotten to anyplace else in Vienna, ever.  Chances are, if I ever do get back to Vienna, I’ll be making a beeline the Hofburg and the first thing I will do is go visit the Imperial Apartments – again and again and again.

Getting There

The Stephanplatz is a good starting point for all things Vienna.  When you land there you are moments away from the Hofburg.  Enjoy those moments.  Gawk at the goods in the designer stores, people-watch and stop in Dremel for some chocolate.  Spend some time at Michaelplatz, the grand entrance of the Hofburg.  As if to prove this has been always been the center of activity in Vienna, you’ll find an archaeological dig with Roman ruins right outside the entrance to the palace.

Don’t hurry through the Michaelplatz.  Along with the Roman ruins you’ll see spectacular sculptures.  If architecture is your thing, turn around and gaze at the very plain bank building across from the palace.  A persnickety architect, built the building as his home to act as affront to what he considered the very gaudy palace.  Poor Bill!  I was desperate to capture all of this in photographs and he obliged me, but it wasn’t exactly the right day for great pictures.

Entering The Imperial Apartments

After enjoying Michealplatz, enter the palace and turn right.  You’ll be in the vestibule of the Imperial Apartments where you get your ticket to enter.  We had the misfortune of being there when their credit card machine wasn’t working.  Instead of being in a tizzy, trying to find out what was wrong and how to fix it like American cashiers would be, the attendant informed us we’d have to use cash in a very blase manner suggesting she really didn’t care whether we saw the museum or not.  I felt very American at that point.  I wanted her to sympathize with the fact that she’d be depleting almost the entire cache of our euros.  Euros Bill had been loathe to buy and besides that her city was raining on us.  This was all very distressing.  You’ll be glad to know I managed to restrain myself and cough up the necessary euros, but that didn’t mean I was happy about it.

Decorative Arts Heaven

My dismay was short-lived, because I was soon standing in Decorative Arts heaven.  I cannot begin to tell you how amazing and wonderful the Imperial Apartments are.  As I lay dying, with my life passing before me, a good portion of the pictures I’ll see will be from the Imperial Apartments’ Silver Collection.  Hyperbole?  Don’t judge me until you see this!

Calling this orgy of beauty the Imperial Apartments is a bit of a misnomer.  The Silver Collection is actually the first part of three very different attractions which have been rolled into one.  The actual Imperial Apartments are at the end of the line and while quite nice, they are nothing compared to the Silver Collection.

To help you better understand why I am so blown away with the “Silver Collection” you first have to understand silver is just the tip of the iceberg.  There is silver and gold and porcelain and linens and even the boxes they transported all these wonders in.  We’re talking flatware, dishes, epergnes, vases, platters, bowls, tureens, napkins, tablecloths – all in multiples like you would not believe.

I’m someone who will dutifully spend hours stomping through the rest of a huge museum for the privilege of spending time in the one small room most institutions devote to the Decorative Arts.  There are museums which have more Decorative Arts than others, for which I am grateful, but I’ve never been anywhere like this.

I think I’ll just shut up and show you the pictures Bill took for me.  Then maybe next week I’ll tell you about the rest of the Imperial Apartments.