One of the highlights of any visit to Vienna is Schönbrunn Palace, the summer residence of the Hapsburgs. The Baroque exterior of the palace dates to the late 1600’s, but the interior was redecorated in the mid 1700’s by Maria Theresa in Rococo style.The palace is huge with 1441 rooms of which tourists get to see 40. The palace is said to be the only one in Europe that can rival Versailles. It may rival it, but in my view it does not top it. Pictures were not allowed inside.The main gardens at the rear of the palace.The gardens, Neptune fountain, and the Glorietta on top of the hill.The palmhouse or green house was surrounded with topiary.
Vienna is a center of classical music and dance in Europe. Each year Vienna hosts a month long dance festival. Most of the dances seem to be pretty far out. We went to see a South African version of the ballet Giselle. The theater was nice but nothing extraordinary. The storyline is similar to the classic ballet, but the music was very modern and I’m sure the dancing was quite different. Having said that, the production was very professional and the dancers were very talented. I think I enjoyed it more than Susan who would prefer a more traditional version.
Deserts are very popular in Vienna. It is the home of the sachertorte, two layers of chocolate cake with apricot jam in between and covered with chocolate icing. I tried it twice. The first time I was disappointed as the cake was dry. The second time I added ice cream and the cake was moister. Yumm! Apple strudel is very popular as well. I had mine with vanilla sauce and thought it was excellent. But the thing you can’t help but notice is the large number of ice cream shops. There are three in two blocks near our apartment. Take out cones and cups are popular, but most have a sit down area where you can get a wide assortment of sundays. These places are packed in the afternoons and evenings. I don’t know how well they do in the winter, but they look like gold mines in the summer.
Vienna has one of the premiere opera houses in the world. It is closed for shows in July and August, but they perform one show a day the remainder of the year or 300 shows per year.Since microphones are not allowed, the singers have to rest their voices for three days after each show. This means that a different show is performed every day. They have a repertoire of over fifty operas and do eight premieres in a typical year. The sets have to be stored off site, so every morning a fleet of trucks arrives to deliver the sets for today’s show. If that wasn’t difficult enough, there is usually a rehearsal for one opera in the morning with its set and then they have to change sets for the opera being performed that evening.The opera was built by Emperor Franz Joseph so the exterior and front of the building are quite elaborate. However, the hall was destroyed by a bomb in WW II and was rebuilt in a more modern and simple style. It holds 2300 people including over 500 standing room spots. The occupancy rate last year was over 99%! Standing room tickets cost between 3€ and 4€. The most expensive seat is 270€.The stage is the largest stage in Europe. And do you have any idea of what the longest ovation would be. It was 1 hour and 20 minutes for Placido Domingo. I am pretty sure I am not capable of applauding anything that long.
Looking back on our six weeks in Europe, we both agree that our favorite part was the Viking cruise. Great food, being waited on hand and foot, and lots of interesting sites – what’s not to like. Our second favorite would be our time in Provence mostly because of the beauty of the region. In third place is Vienna. It is a beautiful city with lots to do, but the heat detracted from the experience. That leaves the Canal du Midi in last place, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t like it. The heat again was a problem and the lack of comfort on the boat after being on Viking was quite noticeable. It was still a great experience.
So what is next? Many of you know, but it will be a surprise to others. It is a really good thing that we liked our Viking cruise, as we are leaving in mid December for almost five months on a Viking world cruise from Miami to London. The 141 day cruise will visit 5 continents, 35 countries, and 64 ports including 3 nights in Cuba and two nights in a number of ports. There will also be a lot of sea days. This will be the first world cruise for Viking and they seen to be trying hard to make it successful. I would ask you to join us, but it has been sold out for several months now.
As always, thank you for joining us on our travels and a special big thanks to all of you who have taken the time to comment. We hope you will join us for what should be the adventure of a lifetime on our world cruise.