Today, plans and serendipity combined to provide a wonderful experience.
We set off early for the Danube, via the metro. It is always a relief to master the metro in a new country, although you come to realise that there is a formula common to all. When we arrived, the area was almost deserted, with only a few cyclists, skaters and photographers in evidence and all the cocktail bars and cafés closed. Of course, 10 am Sunday morning is not prime time for Danube culture. There was evidence of revelling the previous night – a few bottles and glasses abandoned on tables and windowsills, but the cleaners must have been, as there was no rubbish.
The river wasn’t blue – perhaps it would have been if the day had been brighter, but it was there, with pleasure boats waiting to be filled with tourists, and a commercial barge heading west.
As we walked back across the bridge we noticed a beautiful church, with flying buttresses and wooden doorways. We were able to slip in between the English and German masses and were invited to stay for coffee. Memories of international roast at church morning teas led us to decline, but David managed to put his ear to the door and listen to the organ for the beginning of the next mass. It is a really beautiful church, overlooked in many of the tourist recommendations. St. Francis of Assisi church was built between 1898 and 1910, and is the main English speaking church in Vienna. It is located in Mexicoplatz, so,named as Mexico was the only country, except Russia, which protested about the annexation of Austria.
Next stop was a ride around the city in a horse drawn fiacre. We had been observing these since Krakow, and decided it was time to indulge. Fortunately we found another couple who were also contemplating the trip, so we shared the ride – and the cost. There is no choice of horses – like a taxi stand you take the next one. Our driver was completely devoid of warmth and when we asked her to take photos with 2 cameras she was not impressed. We kept an eye on other carriages and many drivers seemed the same, although others did talk to their clients.
After a quick lunch we divided, as I was keen to see the natural history museum. We had noticed lots of people in Austrian dress during the morning, and had seen the edge of a festival somewhere during our fiacre ride, so on a whim I followed a pair of lederhosen up the escalator from the metro. I found an amazing festival which seemed to be some sort of celebration of farming. Lots of beer and food outlets as well as crafts for children. All the usual suspects until I followed the sound of voices and found an Austrian choir singing what I know as the hymn “we plough the fields and scatter….”. There was a church service on a stage , complete with priest, large choir and candles.
My motive for going to the museum was to see the Venus of Willensdorf, thought to be made between 22,000 and 24,000 BCE, one of the oldest known statues of a woman. It was so amazing to see her after viewing her image in uni lectures. And with no crowds around, I could just stay and look and look and look – and come back to look again at the end of the visit.
When I emerged from the museum I heard a brass band, followed it and found a parade of floats, all led by tractors, and exhibiting various produce. The floats were interspersed with bands, and those of us standing on the edge of the street taking photos had to watch for trams. The last band was followed by street sweepers, a few police motorcyclists, then the traffic resumed. I tried to find out just what it was , but all I could get was that it as some sort of farmer celebration. I just call it a harvest festival.
The evening was Schnitzel followed by Sachertorte, both more remarkable for their Austrian significance rather than their culinary expertise. On the way home we saw an opera singer busking, amazing voice, but very sad body language. After a few arias, she picked up her money, collected her children and headed off.
I will definitely remember Vienna.