November 3, 2019
After our previous 2 full days in Vienna, we were looking forward to returning, and we were not disappointed. After breakfast, we joined a one hour bus tour of the city around the Ringstrasse, the ring road that surrounds the historic section. This is where the original wall stood, encircling the old city and the ring road totally replaced it by 1960. The magnificent St. Stephen’s Cathedral is in the very center of the ring. We saw many of the sights that we had explored last week including the beautiful Opera House, which is the largest in Austria and considered one of the best in the world. Like so many historical buildings, it was largely destroyed in WW II, rebuilt and reopened in 1955. Our guide, Michelle, was a wealth of knowledge.Then we had a walking tour and we explored the Hofburg Palace with its 18 courtyards (we didn’t see all 18)! The Palace has thousands of rooms but we did not tour the inside. It is also the home of the crown jewels, relics of the Holy Roman Empire, the Vienna Boys Choir and the famous Spanish Riding School. It houses the world’s 4th largest art collection.We saw the Lipizzaner stallions in their stables and I did get some photos of them. Beautiful. The new riders start with the oldest horses to learn as the horse teaches THEM!
The city is known, of course, for music and the main composer is Johann Strauss. Every concert here includes the Danube Waltz. Vienna remains the last great capital of the 19th century ball with over 200 still held every year, some with as many as 9 live orchestras! We were fortunate to have attended 2 concerts previously and had an extraordinary string quartet on board after dinner too.
The city has 1.8 million people and it is quite large in area, 4 times larger than Paris. There are really no slums since the city has ordinary housing in amongst the beautiful historic buildings and this works well.
After our walking tour (many items covered in my first Vienna post), we ended at the Cathedral during mass. I walked in just to hear the music. Then we returned to the ship for lunch since we were on the Walk for Discovery tour in the afternoon.
What an experience that was! I wrote that it is the first time it is being offered. There were 26 of us in the group. We went on a 1 hour bus ride back towards Bratislava to a small town called Hainburg. We were met by two guides in traditional dress. The town is on the banks of the Danube and the ride here was beautiful- thousands of windmills, many vineyards and views of the river too. The wind generation of power is one of Austria’s biggest industries.
The hike took us along the river, to the ruins of the castle of Rothelstein and then into the forest and up to Braunsberg, a limestone massive rock overlooking the Danube and the views were stunning. (Posted some pics on Facebook). It was windy at the top and many families were flying kites up there. It was a strenuous walk, but the group made it! We will see how many continue on the next 4 of these special events! Our guides entertained us with history and legends all along the way. We ended with a short walk to the center of Hainburg where we heard some of the bloody history near the old city walls. Then our guide entertained us by playing the hurdy gurdy in the shadows of the ancient wall. A great way to end the day here.
It was dark on the way back to the ship and also a bit rainy- we were glad it held off all day.
After dinner, a string quarter came on board for a one hour performance which was just wonderful. Tomorrow is our last day in Austria – the town of Melk.
This afternoon I have to say we had our cell phones tuned to the NY Marathon site where our son Adam was running in his third NY! We could follow his run and were so proud of him. Congratulations, Adam.
Our other son Mark and his wife Ramsay are on the first leg of their 2 month honeymoon.
Adventures all around in our family. Stay tuned for more.