I had all these great intentions of blogging every night so I could keep track of all the amazing things I did in Vienna... but time flies when you're having fun. We got back early this morning so after sleeping the day away and celebrating Chihiro's birthday with Japanese food, I finally have a moment. On Wednesday, we toured the Wiener Staatsoper and it was probably the coolest thing we saw during the trip. Not to insult the rest of the Ring or the Hapsburg family's other (very expensive) displays... but the Staatsoper takes the cake.
We weren't sure if we would get standing room on Friday, so we decided to spend the 3,50 Euros on a guided tour of the opera house. (It's a bummer I turn 26 soon, there's great discounts everywhere in Western Europe if you have a student ID and are under 26.) The Staatsoper was mostly destroyed during WWII, but one intermission room and a few small parts of the building are original. They reopened the opera house in 1955 with a performance of Fidelio conducted by Karl Böhm. He and Herbert von Karajan are very important figures to the Staatsoper; the plaza outside the opera house is named for von Karajan, and we saw busts of each conductor.
The tour was definitely, definitely worth the 3,50 euros. We saw so much that we may not have otherwise seen during the opera on Friday night. The tour guide was very knowledgeable, and her English was impeccable. We were allowed to see the Imperial intermission room (which is always closed during performances), where Franz Josef would have enjoyed his pauza with champagne. It is apparently available for rent during opera performances, it costs 500 euros for one intermission. 500 euros just to sit in the empty room for 20 minutes with no food or drinks provided. If I were a rich businessman, I would pay for it because it is such a beautiful thing to see.
After touring the opera house, we walked towards Stephansdom and found a little shop called Vienna World. It carries every trinket and knickknack you could possible imagine with instruments on it. Lindsey found a bassoon keychain and phone charm for Chihiro, which is apparently a rare find. I bought a French horn pencil (obviously) and a cute little journal with Dvořàk's signature on the cover.
We walked towards the Burggarten, another Hapsburg family creation. We passed Goethegasse on the way there:
The Burggarten was one of my favorites. It was modeled after English gardens, and has been open to the public since 1919. Since it was such a beautiful day, people were sitting on blankets and enjoying the weather with their friends, kids or dogs.
Dogs are very much integrated into Austrian society, as long as owners pick up after them and muzzle them on the trains they can basically go anywhere a person can. I wish America was more like that, I would love to be able to bring Rudy into a shops and cafés!
Further down the ring, we saw the Austrian National Library.
It was an enormous building, next to the anthropological museum (that Alice was very excited to tell us about, as a social anthropology major) and across from Heldenplatz and the Volksgarten. The number of public gardens in Vienna is astounding. Along the ring there were at least 5 from what I recall.
Vienna is my absolute favorite European city so far. I love the shady streets, bike paths, outdoor cafés and laid-back mood coupled with the efficiency and organization of the Germans. The clean, sleek trains are on time, the (FREE) bike stations almost always worked (one exception), the bike path system never stopped amazing me, the streets were immaculate, the city was easy to navigate with clearly marked sights laid out perfectly on the Ringstraße. I loved every moment of it. More to come (day 4 and 5) tomorrow!