Here we were. Our ultimate goal. Still tired, still sore, now raining, but our car had made the night without acquiring any violations, Aed had slept the night through, and we were ready to see what there was to see.
Ian was our Sight-Seeing Director and knew that the Hofburg Palace would be a good place to start. So a-walking we went.
It was a nice walk despite the rain and we got to laugh at the German movie posters..
We walked passed the museum quarter, which as far as we could tell had not only lots of museums, but also concert halls.
This was the first ‘ooooooooo’ building that we saw :)
As we approached the Hof, we slowly gathered that 1) it is huge, and 2) it is not all in the same place. We found the area with the biggest crowd and stood in line, a little unsure of what we would be seeing. The sign we eventually saw bragged of the Imperial Apartments and the Silver Collection.. Sounds good to us!
As we were waiting in line, Aed graced us with his unhappy consciousness, so we spent the duration of our visit to the Hof feeding him snacks and carrying him around. No problem for the one of us that has voluminous hips, but the other got tired fairly quickly :)
We started in the Silver Collection. This included anything used to prepare or serve a meal. The sheer volume of serving and cutlery sets was mind-boggling. We didn’t photograph much because sometimes it wasn’t allowed, but also because well, it was plates and cutlery. However, when we saw this bad boy, we snapped a few photos.
Apparently this centerpiece, whose base is entirely mirrors, can stretch to 30 meters depending on how long the table is that it needs to decorate. How about that? These Hapsburgs weren’t fooling around with their dinnerware.
We continued through the Imperial Apartments and saw all the palacey things you’d expect. However, we found the tales of Franz Josef I and Sisi to be quite captivating. The story that they tell at the Hof is naturally quite a bit more interesting than the one told on Wikipedia, however :) We learned of a compassionate emperor who took his role to heart, waking early (as in 3:30am early!) every morning to fulfill his duties. These duties included things such as mornings spent hearing from his subjects by appointments that were made so they could come freely and present their concerns to him.
His wife, however much he loved her, was not quite so enthralled with her position. Sisi has become quite the legend in the former Austro-Hungarian empire. She was everything but what she was supposed to be, a daring horsewoman preferring a more country-esque life to anything involving Vienna. She traveled frequently and was always pushing the limits of what was expected of her. Ian and I were quickly caught up in her story (despite the squirming bundle we were hauling around) and continued to muse about her and her relationship with Franz long after we left the Hof. We could certainly empathize with Sisi’s desire to distance herself from the rigors of royalty. Even a meal was full of expectation with always intentional seating arrangements and countless courses, each requiring different etiquette.
We moved on from the Hof with the sense that there was much more to see, but satisfied with what we had been able to see.
A statue within the Hofburg, including the double eagle (the gold emblem on the building) and one of many green domes.
ERT Tip #4: It is important to realize that no one – I mean no one – else will be attempting such a feat with an 11 month old. Everywhere you go you will only see families with children over the age of 7. After noting somewhere along the way how few babies we had seen, I finally realized that this is not a normal undertaking with a child still so dependant. People will be fairly compassionate toward you, but you will be a minority!
This is the National Library, which contains all kinds of amazing documents, but we remain amazed only by the outside :)
This seemingly nekkid baby is actually clothed in all the important places and ready for breakfast in his special high chair! His bare skin is testimony to how hot it was everywhere we went! Constantly sweating, our little Scottish bairn was not prepared for such temperatures, but handled them like a champ. We decided that this chair harness was almost assuredly the most useful thing we purchased in preparation for our trip. We used that thing day in and day out, hotel, flat, wherever. It was awesome.
ERT Tip #5: Be prepared. Take everything you can think of that you might need for the day regardless of how heavy it makes your diaper bag. Some places will have no changing tables, don’t count on napkins ever, be prepared to buy water if your not toting some around. We always had this harness handy, as well as countless wipes, a change of clothes (which became very important on another day.. a very priceless photo you have to look forward to), endless snacks, and at least two meals. Not to mention a few toys, sleep blankey, and paci. This may seem obvious, but I felt like I was constantly trying to think of every scenario the first few mornings until we go the hang of it.
The next day we headed out to see Belvedere Palace. Not so much for the palace itself, but for the art that lay within those walls. The grounds were gorgeous, so we picnicked in the gardens before going in.
We got to see the likes of The Kiss and many other works by Klimt, Shiele, Rodin, and more. This may have been my favorite thing that we did. I really like the quality of Klimt and Shiele’s work, so it was wonderful to see it in person. There was a great variety of paintings and sculptures and it was really interesting to see artwork from such a different culture, and to see what the culture prides itself in through its artwork.
We moved on from Belvedere to go find St Stephen’s Cathedral and along the way we found some other little gems..
This lovely memorial (which again, we think was a war memorial) was our first little rest stop.
We came upon this statue, to which I said, ‘That looks like Beethoven!’
Turns out upon closer inspection, it was Beethoven! :)
Ian couldn’t resist this one..
(That is Kant, though it looks a bit like Kanf, and 'gasse' is the word for street)
We got to an open area and we knew the Cathedral was close; it was just a matter of finding it. I turned around and got this view..
and knew we were there!
The gothic Cathedral was gorgeous.
We also got to treck to the top (well, not quite) of the steeple, which allowed a stunning view of the city.
This bell is huge. It weighs 44,380lbs, is the largest bell in Austria, and the third largest swinging bell in all of Europe. Amazing!
ERT Tip #6: Know that most of your knowledge of the things you saw will come from researching them before or after you saw them. Unless of course, you speak many languages. Or there is an English audio guide :)
As we left the Cathedral, I decided it was high time for some ice cream. We found what I have no doubt is the best ice cream in Vienna! And.. Mama and Daddy weren’t the only ones that had a taste..
But, Mama and Daddy weren’t nearly as heartbroken when it was all gone.
ERT Tip #7: Be ready to share your ice cream. Be very ready.
As we journeyed home for some well-earned dinner and rest, we passed some lovely views of the city.
The next day held more driving.. To the lovely city of Prague!