On Friday, the study abroad group of students took a bus to Vienna, the capital city of Austria. It used to be the capital of the massive Austro-Hungarian Empire until the end of World War I, and the city is filled with huge palaces, museums, libraries, opera houses, and many other amazing things. There is so much history to everything, and signs of the 600-year Habsburg rule are everywhere in this city.
Saturday morning started bright and early with the Naschmarkt, a flea market every Saturday that starts at 6:30 am. I left the hotel with two of my friends, Emily and Lucia, at 6:20 am, and we walked over to the market square. It was probably similar to most flea markets. There were tents set up in rows, and people were selling all sorts of things. There were boxes of old postcards, some of them written on, which was interesting, but I thought it might be kind of odd to purchase a postcard from someone I never knew… It was intriguing though. There were some beautiful pocket watches, and so many other random things. Lucia was looking at a tea cup, and the woman at this stand came over and started to talk to her in German. She was trying to sell the set of tea cups to Lucia but soon realized that Lucia couldn’t understand German very well. So she turned to me and said something in German like, “you pay 40 Euros for the set of cups.” It was a statement, not a question. I told her that I didn’t want the tea cups, and after asking Lucia, told the lady that she didn’t want them either, but thanked her for the offer. This lady though, she did not give up. The last offer she gave me was 25 Euros for the set, and the only bartering tactic I used was to tell her repeatedly that I didn’t want the set of cups. After, once again, telling the woman that I didn’t want to buy the cups, we kept walking around the market, and had a long conversation with two guys, an older man and a younger man, from Graz who were selling antique woodworking tools. They were just doing it as a hobby, and we talked with them about all sorts of things. The older man said that he could, to an extent, speak in 9 languages! He spoke some German and some English with us, and he told us about his family that lived in Canada. He visited Canada once, and told us about all of the trips he went on there. It was nice to find a couple people more interested in interacting with others at the flea market rather than selling and making no personal connections. Obviously for some, the flea market is an important source of income, so I can respect that side of it too. We talked with those two men for about a half hour, but then had to head back to our hotel to eat our breakfast.
Later that morning, most of the study abroad student went to the Kunsthistorische Museum (the historical art museum). The building (seen at the top) that houses this museum is amazing on the inside and out, but what’s more amazing is that there is a second identical building across the square that houses the natural history museum. Pretty much every building in Vienna is impressive. We got a short guided tour through the art museum to some of our tour guide, Eva’s, favorite pieces. The one I liked most was probably Vermeer’s “The Art of Painting.” One funny thing that happened was that this older man sort of hitchhiked on to our tour without asking. He followed us and listened in to everything our guide had to say, which I thought was funny, but our tour guide didn’t seem too pleased.
In the afternoon, Emily and I walked to the Belvedere Palace, one of many Habsburg palaces. The sheer amount of wealth that the Habsburg family had is ridiculous and hard to grasp. The Belvedere Palace was the Habsburg’s winter palace because they, apparently, needed somewhere to get away to in the winter from their palace in central Vienna that has something like 2,500 rooms! Belvedere was converted into an art gallery though, and we saw some very interesting pieces. There were several pieces from Gustav Klimt including “The Kiss” and “Judith and the Head of Holofernes.” Then we also saw a painting by Albin Egger Lienz, who is the artist that my dorm building and the road I live on in Salzburg are named after! After walking through the art exhibit, we made our way through the Belvedere grounds and went back to the museum of natural history to meet up my roommate, DK, and dorm hall neighbor, Spencer. We visited the Habsburg crypt and saw many sarcophagi of the Habsburg family, including Emperor Franz Joseph II’s sarcophagus. We got dinner at a small Austrian restaurant called the Marienhof later that night, and I called it a day.
On Sunday morning we left the hotel and visited two places on our way back to Salzburg. Our first stop was Schloss Schönbrunn, yet another Habsburg palace. There we took an audio guided tour of the royal residence, where I saw 40 magnificent rooms. What I found most impressive were the floors in some rooms that were covered with intricate inlayed wood designs. I saw the room where Mozart gave his first concert at the age of 5, and the hall where JFK met with Khrushchev in 1961. It was an amazing palace filled with so much history, and I found out that people to this day still live in Schloss Schönbrunn (not in the royal residence though). I walked around the grounds for another hour before our bus left for the Stift Melk Monastery. It’s a huge monastery that was started by a donation from the former ruling family of Austria, the Babenbergs. The monastery was rebuilt during the baroque era, and place is monumental. There are 1,365 windows, which may give you an idea of its size. We got a guided tour through a small exhibit on the Benedictine monks that lived (and still live) in the monastery. Their main focuses are praying, reading, and working. The library room and the church were amazing, but photography was not allowed.
Stift Melk Monastary (the cathedral facade)
And that, for the most part, sums up my trip to Vienna. Like most cities, you could probably live there for a lifetime and still not visit everything there is to see, so there’s a good chance I’ll return someday.