Friday, August 06, 2010

Vacation report, part 7: Durnstein and on to Vienna

The ruins of the castle above Durnstein

Friday was the last day of the Backroads part of my vacation.  We had the option of a short loop ride along the Danube or a hike up to the castle ruins above Durnstein.  I chose the ruins, as I love old castles and King Richard the Lionheart had been imprisoned there.  

There isn't much of the castle left, but the view of the town, the river, and the surrounding countryside was spectacular.  




We also got to tour the church in Durnstein, which served as a preview of the kind of ornate decoration I would see in the churches in Vienna.





We said farewell to our guides and boarded a bus for Vienna.  I got to my hotel around 1 PM, dropped off my bags, and went out sightseeing.  

My first stop was St. Stephen's Cathedral, the most prominent building
in the city.





I took the elevator to the top of the spire and had a panoramic view of half of Vienna.  (The roof of the cathedral blocked my view of the other half of the city.)



Next up was the Hofburg, the residence of the Habsburgs, once the ruling family of the Austrian Empire.  On the way I stopped at Michaelerkirche (St. Michael's Church) and saw the incredible decorations on the altar and columns.  

Michaelerkirche (St. Michael's Church)

The altar at Michaelerkirche
The altar at Michaelerkirche

The entrance to Hofburg

My guidebook recommended that I skip the Imperial Apartments at the Hofburg and see something else, so I skipped them in favor of the Kunsthistoriches  (Art History) Museum.  

Kunsthistoriches (Art History) Museum

The museum reminded me of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, with the Greek and Roman exhibits, the Egyptian mummies, and room after room of portraits and landscapes.  Although the Met doesn't have a room full of art by Rubens, or this portrait of a young Franz Josef II (note the resemblance to Jeffrey Jones) and his brother, the Grand Duke.


I left the Kunsthistoriches Museum just before closing and wandered past the Staatsoper on my way to the Haus der Musik, Vienna's homage to its musical heritage.  The museum dedicated its first floor to the Vienna Philharmonic, with artifacts from the orchestra's 180-year history and a theater showing their most recent New Year's Eve concert.  The second floor had exhibits on how sound works and I can see the appeal for children.  The third floor was the big payoff for me - rooms devoted to Vienna's musical masters: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Johann Strauss, and Mahler.  

The Mahler room.  I liked the nature theme.
The Mahler Room at the Haus der Musik

Finally, the fourth floor had more interactive exhibits and a game system that let you put together your own sonic composition.  I ended my day with dinner at Greichenbeisl, a restaurant once frequented by Beethoven, Schubert, and Brahms, though presumably not all at the same time.  


Sitting there drinking wine, eating strudel, and people-watching was a satisfying way to finish my first evening in Vienna.

No comments: