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Monday, October 10, 2005

Vienna - Day 3

It’s off to visit Schloss Schönbrunn, it’s Vienna’s most popular tourist spot. So I’m on my way by 9am. I decide to take the lazy way and catch a taxi. Like most things, the public transport spots are not really that close to the attraction, I’ll leave the extra walking for when I’m done visiting the Schloss.

On the way to the taxi I pass by a mac shop and ogle all the latest mac's that are for sale
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they sure have the latest cutting edge software and computers here!

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By the number of people here at this hour, it’s not going to be empty like the Liechenstein was - and by the busloads of people arriving behind me, its only going to get worse.

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I opt for the grand tour of 40 rooms, you can go for a 22 room tour. At the secondary entrance you obtain the digitial guide and then it’s up one floor to start the tour.

The audioguide can best be described as totally crap. It’s so boring and repetitive and you can’t fast forward through any of the yabbering. They are the guides that look like remote controls so you have to keep it up to your ear - a bit much when you’re going through 40 rooms.

The rooms themselves are surprisingly spartan - there’s nothing that makes you gasp or go wow. There is also so much perspex sheeting up that it destroys any mood the room might have. Unlike Schloss Charlottenburg where at most a velvet cord separated you from the room, here you are herded through perspex lined passages. Any part that might be contactable by a vistor has also been sheilded. It’s a similar feel when you go to the italian relatives home and all their furniture is plastic wrapped. It just doesn’t look any good.

You also get stuck behind groups of, in my case, japanese tourists who have a live guide. These groups basically block the narrow pathways and if you manage to get past one, there’s another in front of them. The enjoyment factor is severly tested. Really I think that the Schloss is a victim of it’s own success and it’s own greed. Groups bring in money and that’s all that matters and they will put through as many as they can. I hate to think what it’s like when it’s really busy, later in the day.

They are really also trying to create a “diana-like” status to Queen Sisi. I don’t think much of a women who didn’t share the family dinners because she wanted to stay thin, yeah that’s a person who has their priorites correct. By all accounts she sounds quite vein and self centered but if you get sucked in you can buy the Sisi movie, the Sisi books, the Sisi diaries, the Sisi jewellry, the Sisi china...you get the idea.

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After an hour or so I was on the road again. The train line near the Schloss is the one in which the Nashmarkt can be found. This is Vienna’s street market.

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It's a stall lined path - in which you can find the usual suspects, fish, meat, vegetables, fruit, cheese, flowers, oils, vinegars, coffee, tea, spices, junk. There are delicatessans and eateries are interspersed along the Nashmarkt’s length.

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The dried fruit stalls were interesting by the number of what looked like wasps hanging about the fruit - you wouldn’t want to bite into the wrong thing.

Like most markets, so many delicious items and it makes you want to have a kitchen to be able to enjoy the produce.

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It’s also worth nothing the architecture of the surrounding buildings - there are some quite ornate buildings. These are the Wagner Apartments.

At the end of the Nashmarkt you’ll also find the Secession - which happens, as it seems most of Vienna is, under renovation.

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Secession, designed by Joseph Maria Olbrich in 1898 in "jugendstil" style is a gallery - it has that woven gold ball on it’s roof and is certainly eye catching.

Since I’m now at Karlsplatz it’s only a stop to Stephansplatz and St Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom). But as I’m finding out, because there’s an entrance to the underground, it doesn’t actually mean the station is anywhere near by. I enter a shopping expanse and it takes a good 10 minutes to reach the platform - more by luck then by good signage.

Stephansplatz station is remarkably where you think it is. You appear under the shadow of St Stephens (also under renovation).

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The first church was built in 1147 and subsequently enlarged and rebuilt over the ages. The current church is Romanesque and Gothic designed and is 107 meters long. The main tower is 136 meters high and is known as the "Steffi". Like so many things, this church sustained damage during the second war world and reopened fully, in 1952.

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You’ll see a lot of guys in Mozart costumes, that I can understand, but I don’t understand the people dressed like American Indians. The Mozart guys according to what I've read are actually a bit of a scam. They try to sell you Mozart tickets that they claim are cheap - in fact they are probably twice as expensive as you could buy them normally.

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I didn’t get to see too much of St Stephens since it was closing for mass and wouldn’t reopen until 1am. People here also don’t take much notice of the huge Silence sign that greets as you walk in the church. Nah, people just yap on at full voice. It still annoys me the lack of respect people have.

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I also don’t know why you’d put a bin here right up against the wall of St Stephens!

Another impressive feature is the patterned roof - there's said to be over 230,000 tiles!

This mosaic of the double headed eagle symbolises the empire ruled by the Habsburgs and sits above the choir
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the other side shows the coat of arms of the city of Vienna and the republic of Austria

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This statue depicts the saint Johannes Capistrano standing over the defeated Turkish invaders.

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This is the North Tower - it was originally planned to match the south tower but was never completed. It's only 68 meters high.

St Stephen’s is a very attractive church especially with that lovely tiled roof and it’s undeniably a large church but its real size is stifled by the closness of the surrounding buildings and the canyon like effect they create. It’s only from a distance, like from Schloss Belvedere that you appreciate it’s size. In some ways it suffers in the way that Colognes Dom does.

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Part of the queue of carriages that run the length of St Stephens - try not to stand down wind of here (if you get my meaning). You can get 15 minutes on one of these things for €60. Stop laughing - I’m serious.

After my brief dalliance with St Stephens I consulted the map and decided to visit the nearby St Peters (Peterskirche).

On Graben street is the Plague Column (Pestsäule) which is currently under repair (it’s also totally understandable seeing the hygiene of Austrians (and europeans in general) why there would be a plague and it’s only a matter of time till there’s another).
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It’s also shrouded with netting, which seems to plague (no pun intended) Vienna. Sure it may keep the birds off but the net effect (no pun intended) is that you make what you’re trying to save ugly.

I reach what should be destination, I look at the map and scratch my head. It should be here I think to myself. It's times like these you need a pantomine audience shouting “behind you behind you”. Sure enough, I turn around and there it is.

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This is such a lovely church and unlike St Stephens only a handful of people are here. It was built in a baroque style by Lucas Von Hidebrandt between 1702-1708.

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It really is glorious, in the true of the word, the frescos, the gilding, the beutifully proportioned dome - the tones - it’s spirtually uplifting. The altar is bedecked with statues and icons and paintings, it’s a feast for the senses. It’s a real jewel for the city. The photos just don’t do it justice.

I don’t know if i’ve mentioned it but the trams virtually end at the inner ring - to travel around the centre you have the options of the metro and 3 (usefully named 1a, 2a, 3a) bus routes. At St Peter’s there a bus stop so I hopped on board to see where it took me.

Luckily it was headed towards the site of two other churches.

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This is the Dominican church (Dominikaner kirche)

Now if there was a handful of tourists at St Peter’s there a fingerful here.
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This church was quite different in that its heavily decorated with plasterwork - it looks like a mad cake decorator took to the interior and piped an array of cherubs and decorative effects in white icing. It doesn’t have that coldness of a white washed Lutheran because the guilding and the frescoes add the warmth. The pews were also carved and I loved the off centre ball balanced on the end of each row.

A stone throw away is the Jesuit Church (Jesuiten Kirche) - it’s hidden amid the old university buildings and takes a little while to work through the maze of streets to get there....but suddenly it appears

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The interior was a total suprise - I didn’t expect to see something so beautiful - and have the added bonus of being there alone.

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no, that’s not a dome, its a tromp l’oeil! The frescoes are by Andrea Pozzo - he was known for his use of a technique called quadratura.

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After the surprise of finding three incredible churches I decided to call it quits - best not to push my luck and head back to the b&b.

To see more photos from today click on the appropriate set
Vienna Set
Naschmarkt Set
St Stephens Cathedral Set
St Peters Church Set
Dominican Church Set
Jesuit Church Set

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