Thursday, May 28
Vienna:: Free time or tour of Vienna and the Shonbrunn Palace with Renate Hofbauer/travel to Prague (4 hour drive)/dinner on your own/hotel in Prague
We’ve hit the halfway mark of the trip. It is hard to believe we have been together for almost 8 days already.
We set out with Renate, our tour guide, who told us about buildings and associated stories around Vienna. She shared a novel of information. It’s 51 percent green space, Johann Strauss is from Vienna and wrote the Danube Waltz there. It is 3500 Euro to stay at the Imperial Hotel and anyone famous who visits stays in it—examples: JFK, Queen Elizabeth, and Liz Taylor.
We drove past sites like the Swartberg Palace and Karlskirche (St. Charles’s Church) a baroque church, architecture by Otto Wagner and the “Neo-” buildings. Instead to tearing anything down, it was updated in the same style that it was built. Neo-gothic, Neo-classical, Neo-everything. We were informed that the Charles Church has all the hearts of the Habsbergs. Embalmed bodies have no organs, but theirs were kept safe, hearts in the church, entrails elsewhere.
Other trivia: Mozart is buried there, died at 36, but is in a common grave. Vienna University was founded in 1365. Thanksgiving Church, a large Gothic church, was built to thank God for sparing the life of Francis Joseph; the church is made of limestone and is porous, taking on the pollution in the air. Over time, the church has been cleaned, many pictures of it have striking black and white edges because of that pollution. It is currently being cleaned again. Vienna also has Egon Schiele work and Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss.”
The bus stopped in front of the Shonbrunn Palace and we all walked to the gardens. Roses of all sorts are everywhere. The gardens, expansive with gravel walkways and wrought iron trellises, are probably the size of 6 or 8 football fields. They span from the castle to a building way in the back of the gardens. Renata explained the designers placed that building at the very back gardens to stop your eye from continuing on to the natural horizon, so you look at the space.
A short stroll and then we went to the museum. I learned on that stroll that Fr. Jay is going to take ownership of the castle, but he’ll probably only use 10 rooms; it would be ridiculous to use more. (He was joking…I think.)
Before the castle tour we met with the other group members who’d been out and about earlier this morning. Eric and Sam brought me a postcard of “the Kiss” because I didn’t see the original. (Awe, thanks guys!) And we went inside…
Renata lead us through 40 rooms in 45 minutes! We saw Baroque (symmetrical) and Rococo (asymmetrical) art in the rooms, heard stories of the Habsbergs members and tried to stay together as a group. It was full today. Shoulder to shoulder bodies listing to audio guides and struggling to get the next room. Interesting tidbits about Mozart being portrayed as a child and busts of Marie Antoinette stick out to me.
The tour was quick and hit the high points. We were in the bus shortly after it concluded, meeting up with the remaining members and on our way to Prague. Besides a pair of controversial bright yellow shorts, the day went very smoothly.
We had a four-hour drive today. The landscape is changing. We’ve gone from ornate skylines to blocky buildings, from grape vines to rolling hills that look way too much like Wisconsin.
Entering the city is like traveling to an alternate universe. Somethings are familiar and many things not so much. Money is really different here. 25 of theirs is 1 of ours.
More images online at: