Sunday, July 03, 2005

Vienna

Sunday mornings in Vienna are silent. Even the escalators seem to move more slowly as if they too were afraid to disturb the hush that falls over the city. And yet, as I wandered through narrow, medieval cobbled streets I turned the corner and found where the Viennese spend their Sundays. A town square opened up before me, filled with families, friends, neighbors, laughing and talking. Whether they had just finished church or were merely using the square as an excuse to meet, I do not know, but their laughter and conversation filled the quiet air, resounding off the ancient bricks.

I have to admit, I do love Vienna, and if I had to spend a month anywhere, I´m glad it could be here. I feel as though there is a neverending list of things to see and places to go and I shall never accomplish it all. My first day here I traveled "The Ring," the street that surrounds the inner city. I got to know what was where and how to find my way around. I even got lost a few times, just to see what I could discover as I walked down narrow alleys and garden parks. When I felt as though I had a feel for the city I headed to the center - St. Stephan´s Cathedral. The Cathedral is the landmark of Vienna and all distances are measured from here. I toured the cathedral from top to bottom, taking an elevator up to the bell tower so I could get a magnificent view of the city. Then I headed down into the catacombs where the dead in Vienna were buried until 1767. There were so many bodies below the church, that at one point in time they had to dig up the bones so new bodies could be buried. The old bones were stacked like firewood one on top of the other and still remain. Looking at the bones which seem to go on forever made me realize how damaging Disney really is. As I looked at the bones I couldn´t help but think of "Pirates of the Carribean" and I don´t know how much the reality of the bones sunk in - these were not crafted by engineers, these were the actual bones of people who had died - some of the plague. There were so many bodies beneath the church that at one point in time they had to close the church because of the smell....yum. Beneath St. Stephan´s also lies the organs of the Hapsburgs, the rulers of Austria, and at one time Germany and the Holy Roman Empire. Their organs are kept in metal urns except for their hearts which are in Augustine Kirshe, a church which I was lucky enough to visit while someone was playing the organ. I say someone becuase there was no scheduled organ mass and I swear the woman´s backpack was beside the organ and she was wearing shorts and a t-shitr. But she was very good, so maybe she was supposed to be playing. The church was small, and located in the Hapsburg complex. While not as ornate as the Cathedral, it had beautiful chadeliers hanging all over the ceiling. Continuing our "death of the Hapsburgs" tour I went to Kaisergruf which is where the bodies of the Hapsburgs lie. Coffin after ornate coffin, row after row, room after room. The coffins were engraved (can you engrave metal?) with skulls, flowers, and depictions of the people inside. The more recent/famous are strewn with flowers. I was tempted to bring flowers myself adn pretend I was visiting relatives graves but I was afraid they´d be able to tell I wasn´t a Hapsburg and then be real offended so I didn´t - although the flowers here are glorious and I bought a bunch to brighten my room.

The first night I also took in the theater, which when visiting Vienna is a must! I saw The Merry Widow at the Volksoper. This was also a good choice because the Viennese consider it theirs. Franz Lehar wrote it in Vienna and it premiered here. The operretta is also a Viennese creation. Ther performance was wonderful and even with my limited German I was able to follow along (it helped that the scene titles were in English). I don´t know if this is an Austrian thing or peculiar to this show, but between acts there was a man dressed as some mythical forest creature...perhaps a fawn? who interacted with the audience and ran back and forth on stage. During the second act he even came out into the audience...while we were watching. It was definitly on the strange side.

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