Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Viennese Weekend

For my final weekend trip while living in Budapest, I went to Vienna with four of my roommates.  Kyla, one of said roommates, has a sister, Chanda, who lives in Vienna, and who graciously agreed to host and feed us.  That was so nice, because Vienna is expensive.  I don’t think I could have made it work without free food and lodging.  And such good food.  After cooking for oneself for four months (aka lots of pasta and chicken), varied meals with lots of seasonings tasted fabulous.  She can also get skim milk, which tasted oh so good.

We took the train to Vienna (a three hour ride from Budapest) on Wednesday night, arriving at Chanda’s apartment around 9:30.  We ate supper, watched a few episodes of “That 70’s Show,” of which Chanda owns seasons one through three on DVD, and then slept like rocks until 10:30 the following morning.  We took it slow getting ready, and finally headed to the Fine Art Museum around 12:30.  It was a gorgeous building.

Kyla and I particularly enjoyed the museum because they have an Italian Renaissance exhibit right now.  If you read this regularly, you might recall that we are currently taking an Italian Renaissance art history course.  Just three days before going to the exhibit, we had studied Titian, Bellini, Giorgione, and others in class, and while at the museum we actually SAW Giorgione’s “Pastoral Concert.”  Now, I doubt that excites many of you.  But Kyla and I had trouble breathing we were so overwhelmed.  This piece of art is one that we studied in depth and will be tested over next week.  Believe you me, we will not have any trouble remembering it!
Mary, Christy, and Chandra, our other roommates, were not as enthralled, and left the museum to hit up some Christmas markets about an hour before Kyla and I finished.  Of course, as soon as Kyla and I were done in the museum, we went to a Christmas market too, where we enjoyed some warm punsch (a traditional Viennese Christmas-time drink) and potato wedges.
That evening we went to the spa.  Now I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that it was wonderful.  The pools aren’t as warm as the ones here in Budapest, but they have water massage stations.  There are six stations, and you go to one until a buzzer sounds, and then everyone rotates to the next one.  And it’s just so cool to be in a huge hot tub outside, with the steam rising from the water, in December.  We went down to the gender specific saunas, too, and enjoyed them the European way.  I won’t elaborate on that.  ;)
Friday morning we went to the KunstHausWien, which the artist Hundertwasser designed.  There are no straight lines there at all.  His art his very colorful and vivid, and I liked it more than I thought I would.  It was pretty neat stuff.  He had some radical ideas about returning to nature.  This is the exterior of his house.

From there we wandered through a park for awhile, just killing time.  We had to be at the opera house at 4:30 to stand in line for tickets for the performance that night, and we had about two hours.  It was cold, though, so we ended up going back to Chanda’s apartment before going to the opera.  The park was beautiful, though, and had it been warmer I’m sure we would have spent our whole two hours there.
As I said, Friday night we went to the opera.  I had never been to an opera before.  We saw “Der Rosenkavalier” which means “The Gentleman of the Rose” in German (or something like that).  It is, according to Chanda, who is an opera pianist who has lived in Vienna for seven years now, the most Viennese opera there is.  It did seem as though there were some Viennese jokes that other people got, and it was in German, so she must be right.  We didn’t buy seats, because they are outrageously expensive, but standing tickets are only 2 euros apiece, so we got those.  This opera happens to be four hours long, and after the first act, which was kind of boring, we were thinking maybe we wouldn’t stay for the whole thing.  We decided to tough it out for at least one more act (there were three, total), and the second act was fabulous!  It flew by, and we really wanted to see what happened in the third and final act, so we decided to stay, and were glad we did.  2 euros for four hours of beautiful Viennese opera is not a bad deal.
Anyway, needless to say we were pooped after four hours of standing at the opera, so we went straight to bed upon returning to Chanda’s apartment.  We were still wiped out the next day, so we visited the least touristy Christmas market, made some fabulous purchases, and went back to Chanda’s.  We made lunch there with her boyfriend, Olivier who is a wonderful French cook, and then we watched more of “That 70’s Show” until we fell asleep.  Olivier woke us up at 4:30 to tell us we had tickets to see the new James Bond movie, so we all went to that, which was not cheap, but it was fun.  We ate more good French-cooked food afterwards, and then went back to bed so that we could get up early on Sunday morning.
We were leaving Chanda’s by 8:30 on Sunday morning because we wanted to see the Vienna Boys’ Choir during 9:15 mass.  We made it, and were planning on just standing in the back (it’s free that way), but a woman offered us tickets at the last minute.  She was a tour guide, and had prepurchased the tickets, and then her group backed out, so she had the tickets, but couldn’t ask money for them.  We were glad to take them off her hands!  Unfortunately, she only had four, so Kyla very graciously said she’d stand instead.  So we bought her a punsch later.  The boys sang beautifully, and posed so adorably for pictures after mass was over.  Unfortunately I don’t understand German, so I have no idea what mass was about, but the music was very nice.
We did a little more Christmas marketing after that, but the market was very touristy and had a lot of junk, so Chandra and I went to the Belvedere Palace for a few hours and the other three went to see a Picasso exhibit.  Chandra and I had thought the Belvedere would be more castle/palace-like, but it is really just an art museum, and we were a bit art-ed out, so we ended up just wandering in the gardens for awhile.  Then we had lunch back at Chanda’s apartment, and took the 3:45 train back to Budapest.  All in all, it was a very cultural but also relaxing weekend, and a nice way to finish up our European tour.

Posted by Emily MacLeod on 12/05 at 02:48 PM
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