Sunday, June 1, 2014

Kings and queens and finer things - Austrian style

May 27-28,
Neither Blanka nor I have ever been to Vienna and looked forward to something really grand; full of tradition, history and sophistication. That is what we were led to expect and that is what Vienna is all about. Vienna was ruled by the Hapsburg family for over 600 years. The reach of the kingdom expanded and contracted over that time period but it is the longest ruling dynasty in European history. From an American's perspective that is hard to imagine.
Here is a brief tour of the city and a look into some of the incredible museums that give you an idea of the splendor of Vienna's past.
No kings or emperors rule Austria today but their presence is still everywhere.

Stately houses and shops throughout the city

The Vienna Opera House
And lovely parks ring the old part of town.
Official coat of arms of Austria.
Find a bit of land without cobblestones and you are most likely to find beautiful red roses like these.
Yes, it was overcast with some drizzle, some rain, brief periods when the sun peaked through!
St. Stevens Cathedral in the heart of the city. Parts have been renovated, other parts still show the black soot accumulated over hundreds of years from coal and wood fires.
Nice elegant tile work on the roof renovated in 1950. How long do roofs last in the US?
St Peter's Church packed into a very small square. Elegent symmetry and proportions with just one large dome inside.

Very Baroque!!
Huge sculpture depicting scenes from Revelations.
All around the sides were these beautiful (huge) paintings on the ceiling.
This newer building is an interesting counterpoint to all the old buildings; reflecting its surrounding neighbors.
And now on to the Hofburg - the royal palace and grounds. This happens to be the main entrance but what doesn't fit in the picture is that the building keeps going for about 200 yards in both directions.
In the square in front of the Hofburg are these excavations of Roman ruins dating back to about 50 BC. Vienna was an extensive Roman settlement but very little of it remains visible.
Insided the primary palace are several museums showing the incredible treasures that were just part of everyday court life for the Hapsburg Emperors. There are enough of these table center pieces to decorate a table 200 feet long.
How would you like to serve soup out of this gallon sized turren?
Ok, now which am I suppose to use for what?
One interesting note, there are no gold and silver from before the Napoleonic wars. All the royal silverware, silver plates, goblets, etc. were melted down to provide funds to pay for the war.
Blanka wanted me to take this picture - really gorgeous, but right after I took it, the guard said no picture taking allowed. So, all of the royal quarters, incredible furnishings, paintings etc. you will not see.
Ephesus Museum
This building is the National Library, it is at least two blocks long and holds the national archives as well as several museums. High on my priority list was to visit the Ephesus Museum.  

Amazing interior halls.
The Ephesus Museum houses the archeological finds from exevations from Ephesus and Samathrace. Not as extensive a collection as we saw in the Berlin Pergamon Museum but there is a greater connection to Christianity.
Most of these sculptures were created 250 to 100 years BC

The head of Hadrian.
In addition to spending hours in the Ephesus Museum we also managed to work our way through the music instrument museum and the armory museum.
from the 1400s! Lois, thought you would like to play on this violin.
Early organ, ca 1450

Instruments of all sorts - quite fun to see.

Halls and halls of knights in shining armor and horses, swords, maces, and other not so friendly things that do harm. This handsome rider and his horse were the most outlandish! If he were to come riding towards me I would probably laugh - until he took my head off.
And then to equally important activities like pastries and finishing with a cup of Austrian coffee. Don't expect refills, in fact don't expect much more than half a cup - very small cup. Blanka says that it really was good coffee, just not much of it!