Monday, July 9, 2012

Tom here for Vienna, July 8:

First of all, I love Vienna. It's a beautiful city with very friendly people. This city really knows how to treat and handle tourists. They are proud of their heritage, and it shows.

Our first stop was the Schonbrunn Palace, the summer cabin of the royal family. Wow! The palace was decorated primarily by Maria Theresa, who later ruled the Austrian Empire after her husband's death. Mary and I took an audio tour that took us through 45 rooms. One of its rooms was the Great Gallery; this was the setting of a summit meeting between President Kennedy and General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev in 1961. The failure here to reach a settlement on the flow of East Germans to West Berlin and then to West Germany, prodded Khrushchev to give permission to the East Germans to build the Berlin Wall in the fall of 1961. The palace grounds were just as beautiful as the palace itself; it even includes the oldest zoo in the world.

                                                                  Palace Gardens

                                                           Schonbrunn Schloss (Palace)

The squeamish part of the day was our visit to the Foltermuseum. For the non-German-speaking people reading this, "Folter" means torture. Yes, we visited a museum of torture. When in Rome ... . It was a small museum of reenactments, demonstrating how certain methods of torture and execution were administered. The museum stated that its purpose was not to glorify these forms of capital and corporal punishment, but to warn its visitors of such methods being used today. Mary intends to use this material in her British Literature class, but between you and me, I think she wants to develop more creative threats for her miscreant students.

From there we toured Wolfgang Mozart's apartment (Mozarthaus) located just a few blocks from St. Stephen's Cathedral that Mary mentioned yesterday. The whole building has been converted into a museum: one floor dedicated to the history of Vienna, another dedicated to Mozart's music, and the last floor was his actual 7-room apartment where he and his family lived from 1784 to 1787 (he died in 1791 recalling Falco's Amadeus.) Mary and I left here with a greater understanding that this wunderkind was human: he had the same struggles (gaining employment), weaknesses (gambling), and self-doubt (bad reviews for The Marriage of Figaro) that most of us experience.

We concluded our long day looking for some magnificent gardens that a hotel waiter suggested we see. What we found instead was an amusement park (Prater). It seemed like a county fair setting with major thrill rides but no smash-up derbies. We were somewhat shocked to find several casinos in this family-friendly atmosphere, but I guess even adults need a place to play sometimes.

                                                                  Riesenrad (Ferris Wheel)

Tomorrow we'll take an afternoon train to Prague.


  1. I would have just sat outside the Foltermuseum, happy to read a book, any book.

  2. Caroline- with a cup of tea nearby....