Orchestral Manoeuvres On the Train
28.01.2017 - 31.01.2017 -6 °C
It was with a tinge of regret that we left our apartment in Prague for Vienna. Ian had already spent a few quiet moments the evening before looking up apartment prices, as we were both envious of those who had the luxury of being local, albeit we don't necessarily want to spend winter there every year. But the morning found us raring to go as usual, keen for the next adventure.
We navigated trams and metro with the alacrity of a kozica and in no time had popped up at the main railway station, from whence we were to depart for (Ahhhh) Vienna. Cath had done her homework and already had our tickets booked, PDF files with details and thus armed we waded in..... only to be informed that no, we needed printed copies. So began a trying experience, first ascertaining an internet place (one floor up past the coffee shop in the Forex office) where we could login and print; secondly negotiating our emails so that we made sure we had the right details and then finally printing out the ticket sheet. The whole process set us back half an hour, though at least it gave Ian the opportunity to convert our remaining kroner into euros. It was draining, however we rushed down the causeway to platform 4, up the stairs and there we were confronted by a stylish blue Czech rj75 train. Not sure which carriage to climb onto, we approached a conductor who assured us that our printout was in fact a "description" of our ticket, not an actual ticket. Although we were by now clearly freaking out, he told us to get on the train and we would sort it out on the journey.
What ensued was an awfully trying experience, as the train internet wasn't working properly and until she finally figured out the obscure logging on process, Cath was beside herself. All credit to her, she worked it out and finally, as the train had already left the station, she downloaded the tickets just in time for the inspector to come and scan her iPhone. Thank f**k for that!! The moral of the story? Don't bother printing tickets, but do make sure you have pdf's of the actual ticket on your phone....
So finally we sat back, relaxed, accepted the kind offer of the waiter for a bottle of Pilsner Urquell and started enjoying the scenery. And what beautiful scenery it was. The countryside was decorated in snow and like so much Christmas cake drifted quietly by, two adoring children drooling over it and wishing it would never stop. For those of us used to a green, brown or red continent, the snow truly is the icing on the cake, especially when viewed from a warm and comfortable train carriage. Roll on....
4 beers and a sausage later we entered Austria, big rivers, frozen rivers with ice skaters and stranded swans greeted us.
Vienna, city of wedding cake buildings and OMG look at that building, moments; classical, gothic, art nouveau and art deco design is everywhere; very pleasing to the eye of architecture lovers.
On arrival we decided to give Uber a go instead of taking a taxi or using the metro, mainly because the apartment owner made the metro sound awfully difficult. As we soon learnt that was untrue. As we have found in European cities, public transport is the easiest and cheapest way to get around. Well Uber was not such a great experience, we were unable to find the supposed driver and ended up taking a taxi anyway, the driver appeared to be unsure of whether the apartment building was actually accomodation at all, making us a little nervous. We had booked this stay using Booking.com instead of the usual Airbnb and it is not as reliable as meeting an Airbnb host. However, on entering the building we were met by Patrick, a young Serbian guy who grew up in Darwin; yes that is what you read, Darwin NT. His parents still live there, they were refugees from Serbia during the 90s and Patrick is now studying in Vienna, he very kindly helped us up to the 3rd floor (no lift) with our luggage and suggested we head straight to the shops as they close very early on Saturday and are almost all closed on Sunday. In fact almost all of Vienna is closed on Sunday, quite odd for a large European city, although it is true of Paris on Monday I guess. So a few supplies sorted and we were ready to head off to the theatre for a night with the ORF- Radio Symphony Orchestra at the Golden Hall, Musikverien.
We were to collect our tickets at the Musikverien an hour before the show commenced and arrived to find that in true Germanic fashion the building would not open until exactly 6.30, not 6.29 or 6.31 so we took the opportunity to take a few photos of the building and it's neighbours. We were very happy when the doors opened however because it was a freezing night. We had assumed that one dressed up a bit for this type of event and did our best; the best one can do out of a suitcase that is, but we need not have bothered. The following description is not a joke, ugg boots and tracksuit pants, yes tracksuit pants!!!! Cath, who had told Ian he should not wear jeans, was aghast and happy to give looks of disdain to those who had turned up looking ridiculous. However on the other end of the scale were the couple dressed in black tie. At least we were somewhere in the middle and had made some effort. The hall of the Musikverien was built in 1870 before modern technology but is renowned around the world as one of the best acoustic venues and it did not disappoint. Neither of us would profess to be classical music lovers but this was a mind blowing, visceral and emotional experience. It is really difficult to put in words our reactions to the sound and spectacle of a full orchestra and the guest pianist for the night Gabriela Montero was quite extraordinary, at one point in her performance she asked the audience for a theme and improvised for 10 minutes; what a talent!
We were concerned that we may not last the distance, 3 hours of classical music did sound like a lot but it flew by. Days later and we were still discussing our reactions to the concert, if you have not had the chance to experience a concert like this, take the next one you get, it is quite unlike anything either of us have done before.
Day 2 of our Vienna trip and we awoke to light snow and naturally decided it was best to go for a walk to see the Rathaus, the city hall and museum quartier. What else do you do in the snow but walk? In all seriousness though, we walk so that we have an excuse to be able to eat and drink whatever we like. The front of the Rathaus is a winter wonderland where families ice skate around outdoor rinks, have fair ground rides and stalls with hot chocolate, gluwhein and of course pastries. A delight in front of the impressive gothic style building. For a brief moment Cath consider having a skate but then noticed the small children, some only just walking age smoothly doing their thing and decided she did not need to be shown up by a 2 year old.
Injury to ego and possibly bum avoided, we wandered off to peruse some of the other awe inspiring buildings in the central part of Vienna, churches, museums, halls and apartment blocks are all so prettily decorated and some just so big and beautiful it starts to hurt your eyes. The cold raised our appetites once more and we headed off to find a schnitzel from one of the 8 best places in town, which took us to what seemed to be a dodgy suburb, but it was well worth it. We arrived at Gasthaus Kopp at 2:30 in the afternoon to find a traditionally decorated place packed with families, students and dogs, where we were seated at a table with 2 young guys. It was a bit odd and we were a little uncomfortable, but it didn't take too long to strike up a conversation and we enjoyed their company over a few beers and the biggest schnitzel ever seen, with a side dish of very nice potato salad. Suitably nourished and warmed we were off to our neighbourhood pub- Bierometer to watch some football (soccer), enjoy a few more steins and chill out. Not needing to eat dinner or maybe not needing to eat ever again after that schnitzel, we had a night at home playing cards, drinking vodka and getting into trouble for having the music up to loud, oops!
Day 3, and we were off to see Klimt and Schielle at the Leopold museum of art. Again we are by no means art experts but we know a little bit and Cath particularly was excited about seeing Klimt's, The Kiss; no such luck. Both the Klimt and Schielle exhibitions were disappointingly small. We did however learn some history of the Secessionist movement that occurred at the beginning of the 20th century and there was quite an impressive collection of Josef Hoffmann furniture and collectables. Hoffmann worked closely with the great Scottish artist and designer, Rennie Mackintosh, a favourite of both of us. Having caught the Metro into the city we were delighted to find St Stephen's Cathedral right in the middle of the mall and went in for a quick look, mass was on and Cath got a quick picture to prove to her mum that she had in fact attended a mass in the last few years!!!
A quiet night in with a delicious home cooked carbonara, saw us both off to bed early. Next stop, the fabled Budapest!