czech republic: the charming český krumlov

Sunday, October 1: This morning, we take our second ride with Comfy Tour, this time from Vienna to Český Krumlov.  Martina is our driver, and she picks us up at 8:30 a.m.  We have a lovely drive through rolling countryside, at one point passing a dog waiting patiently at a bus stop. Mike and Martina see it and burst out laughing; sadly I missed it. 😦

We arrive at our hotel, Penzion U Matesa, but can find no one manning reception.  We leave our bags inside the dining room and head out to explore the town.

Penzion U Matesa

On this cold and gray day, we head out along the Vltava River toward Český Krumlov State Castle.

first view of Český Krumlov State Castle

The first version of the striking Renaissance Český Krumlov State Castle was built in 1240 by the Witigonen family, a main branch of the powerful Rosenberg family; this was an influential Bohemian noble family that played an important role in Czech medieval history from the 13th century until 1611.   They were considered powerful lords of the Kingdom of Bohemia, a medieval and early modern monarchy in Central Europe (Wikipedia: Český Krumlov Castle).

Český Krumlov State Castle

In 1963, the town was declared a Municipal Preserve; in 1989 the castle became a National Monument, and in 1992 the entire complex was listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Monument (State Castle Český Krumlov).

Český Krumlov State Castle
Český Krumlov State Castle

The castle area is one of the largest in central Europe. It is a complex of forty buildings and palaces, situated around five castle courts and a castle park spanning an area of seven hectares (State Castle Český Krumlov).

Český Krumlov State Castle

The former St. Jošt Church, no longer used as a church, is now occupied by such enterprises as brand-name clothing Otavan, Bolero Restaurant, and the Marionette Museum.

St. Jošt Church

Český Krumlov State Castle soars over the town with its pretty painted exterior.

Český Krumlov State Castle
Český Krumlov State Castle
Český Krumlov State Castle

The town of Český Krumlov is endlessly charming, situated as it is within the tightly coiled curves of the Vltava River.

According to legend, the name Krumlov is derived from the German “Krumme Aue,” which may be translated as “crooked meadow.” The name is an apt description of the natural topography of the town.

The word “Český” simply means Czech, or Bohemian (actually the same), as opposed to Moravian or Silesian (History of Český Krumlov).

sign in Český Krumlov
Český Krumlov
town of Český Krumlov
Český Krumlov

We stop at a cute little restaurant, Pension Barako, for a lunch of bean and sausage soup and a sandwich.

After lunch, we climb uphill toward the Castle entrance, passing St. Vitus Church. While Český Krumlov State Castle and its tower represent secular power, the church tower of St. Vitus symbolizes Christianity’s might and influence, “which from medieval times functioned both as a counterpart and complement of the worldly powers,” according to St. Vitus Church in Český Krumlov.  St. Vitus Church is used today for religious purposes, as well as for classic music concerts.

St. Vitus Church

Castle Tower, a partly Gothic, partly Renaissance, rounded six-story tower, is the symbol of the town of Český Krumlov.  It was once described by Karel Čapek, the author of a 1953 five-parts travel sketch called “Along the Vltava River,” as “the towerest of all towers” (Castle No. 59 – Castle Tower).

Český Krumlov State Castle

In 1590, the tower was decorated with mural paintings and figural and architectural motifs. In 1947 an ambitious reconstruction of the tower was undertaken. In 1994-96 the paintings and murals were restored as well (Castle No. 59 – Castle Tower).

Castle Tower
Castle courtyard

Mike and I climb the 162 stairs of Castle Tower for a fabulous view of the city and its vicinity.  We can see the beautiful verdigris cupola of the former St. Jošt Church and the Vltava River.

view of Český Krumlov & St. Jošt Church from Castle Tower
view of Český Krumlov State Castle from Castle Tower
view of Český Krumlov from Castle Tower
view of Český Krumlov & St. Vitus Church from Castle Tower
view of Český Krumlov State Castle from Castle Tower
view of the Vltava River from Castle Tower
view of St. Jošt Church and Český Krumlov from Castle Tower

After our climb, we drop into the small Castle Museum.  The National Heritage Institute opened the current exhibition on January 11, 2011. Most of the exhibits show an inside look at the Rosenberg, Eggenberg and Schwarzenberg Krumlov estate owners.

painting in Castle Museum
detail of painting

Inside Castle Museum we find coats of arms, an exhaustive family tree, manuscripts, model boats, furnishings and rooms, porcelains and glassware, paintings, movie posters and a small movie theater.

I find the dining room at Castle Museum suggestive of old Europe with its nostalgic furnishings, wallpaper, curtains, table settings, palm trees and porcelain displays.

Dining table in Castle Museum
Dining room in Castle Museum

Today, we’re unable to tour the interior of Český Krumlov State Castle, as it’s only possible to do so by guided tour, and all tours are booked for today.  Tomorrow is Monday, so all the museums will be closed. As we’re due to leave Tuesday morning for Prague, it’s unlikely we’ll have time to tour the castle or the fabulous Castle Theatre.  An old friend of mine highly recommended the Theatre tour, so we’re disappointed to miss it.

After leaving the museum, we continue walking around the huge Castle complex, climbing higher and higher.

Český Krumlov State Castle
view from on high
Český Krumlov State Castle

Here we are at the top!

We find some interesting views from the ramparts.  I love the golden and orange leaves against the red rooftops.

framed view
Český Krumlov
Český Krumlov

The Baroque Castle Garden, founded in the 17th century, sprawls over the slope adjacent to the castle complex . We walk all around the garden through hedges and colorful flowerbeds and past the pool and fountain at the end of the garden.

Gardens at Český Krumlov State Castle

The fountain at the garden is regal and impressive.

fountain in the garden
Gardens at Český Krumlov State Castle

After walking through the gardens, we make our way back down from the precipice.  We have more views of the town hugged by the Vltava River.

Český Krumlov
Český Krumlov State Castle
Český Krumlov State Castle

Český Krumlov State Castle is situated imposingly on the Vltava River, adorned by terraces of greenery.

Český Krumlov State Castle

Cute canals wind their way through the town, with cafes overhanging the rippling waterways.

canal through the town
Český Krumlov State Castle
Český Krumlov State Castle
Český Krumlov State Castle
Vltava River
Vltava River

We see some rafters floating down a small rapids area near the castle.  They squeal with delight and surprise as they get turned around toward the bottom of the chute.  Watching from the shore, we laugh along with them at their crazy antics.

a raft goes down the Vltava River

We stop back at our room to check in and relax a bit. I have to say that the people who run Penzion U Matesa are not very friendly.  Maybe it’s because they don’t speak English.  Martina told us earlier this morning that they are Romani, more commonly known as gypsies.

We have brought with us a 2007 edition of Rick Steves’ Prague & The Czech Republic, which mentions a hike up to Chapel of the Mountain of the Cross.  Mike is determined to do the walk before we go out to dinner.  So, after a brief rest, we’re on our way in early evening on a walk through the town, with our destination being the hills on the outskirts of town.

evening walk through town

Český Krumlov is certainly the fairy tale town it is billed to be.  Between the pastel colored buildings, the pretty architecture, the narrow winding streets, the cute shops, and that fabulous Renaissance castle, it’s no wonder that it is so popular as a tourist destination.  In fact, we see busloads of Chinese tourists everywhere.  Apparently there are now direct flights between Beijing and Prague, which have opened the welcome doors for the upwardly mobile Chinese.

According to the directions in the Rick Steves book, we should follow the stations of the cross up the hill to the Chapel, where there are supposedly fabulous views of the town. We find the first station of the cross, but then after that, we can’t seem to find the next one and we wander about through the town, using the hill above us as our only compass.

first Station of the Cross

We walk through pretty meadows and then circle around a large stand of trees.  It turns out to be a much longer walk than we anticipated.

meadow on the way to the chapel

We finally reach the Chapel on the Mountain of the Cross.  The chapel is now abandoned and left to the elements.

Chapel on the Mountain of the Cross

We do have some nice views from up on the hill, though it’s rather hazy.

view from Chapel on the Mountain of the Cross

The derelict chapel looks a bit dark and threatening in the waning light.

Chapel on the Mountain of the Cross
Chapel on the Mountain of the Cross
view from the hill

Since we don’t see any mention of this walk in our more current guidebook, Lonely Planet Prague & the Czech Republic, we wonder if a more current version of the Rick Steves guidebook might have omitted this hike.

view of Český Krumlov

We find a more direct route back down the hill, and taking it, return to town enjoying views of St. Jošt Church and Český Krumlov State Castle and Tower.

St. Jošt Church

It’s hard to find a restaurant that’s open at this hour.  Many are closed, and the few that are open are packed and have waiting lists. Luckily, we’re able to get in fairly quickly to Restaurant Terasa, though we’re squeezed into a tiny table in the midst of a packed dining room.  It seems Český Krumlov is mainly a lunchtime town, often visited as a long day trip from Prague.

After dinner, we stroll through the town in the dark, enjoying the relative quiet and the spotlit castle.

Český Krumlov State Castle at night

Tomorrow, we have another whole day to explore Český Krumlov.  Mike is worried we won’t find enough to do here, and we’re both annoyed by the sheer number of tourists. We’re hoping since museums are closed on Monday, there won’t be so many tourists.

Ah the foolish folly of hope!

Total steps today: 19,796 (8.39 miles).

This walk is part of Jo’s Monday Walk challenge.  Visit her to find other great walks.

 

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austria: a bicycle wine tour in the wachau valley

Saturday, September 30:  This morning, we leave our hotel early to get to our Pedal Power Wachau Winery Bike Tour.  We take metro to the Vienna Opera, then walk 10 minutes to the Pedal Power office.

Heading to Pedal Power in the early morning

We arrive early, where we find the doors of Pedal Power closed.  We return to a cafe near the metro stop, where we have an espresso and croissant and use the restroom.  Because we stopped for this treat, we arrive exactly at 8:15, the appointed meeting time.  One of the Pedal Power guys who is checking people in gives us some good-natured grief for not arriving early: “When you fly somewhere do you show up right on time?  If you did that, the plane would leave without you!”

As a group, we take the metro to the U-Bahn stop, where we see an incinerator whose patchwork façade was designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the Verkehrsstation Wien Spittelau.  The waste incineration plant is one of three thermal waste treatment plants in Wien Energie.  The plant represents the second largest producer in the district heating network of the city of Vienna.

Verkehrsstation Wien Spittelau

Verkehrsstation Wien Spittelau has almost as unusual a façade as the Hundertwasserhaus that we visited the first day we arrived in Vienna.

Verkehrsstation Wien Spittelau

From the metro stop, we take a double-decker train for an hour and 10 minutes to Krems an der Donau.

Giovanni and Mike at the train station

Giovanni from Sicily, our fabulous tour leader, shows us a map of the area where we’ll be biking.  We’ll start at Krems an der Donau, stop at a small private winery, stop for lunch in Dürnstein, and then ride to another small winery in Weißenkirchen in der Wachau.  From there, we’ll take a ferry across the Danube and bicycle back along the south of the Danube to the bridge near Krems an der Donau, cross over, then take the train back to Vienna.  It’s to be a 26km bike ride altogether.

map of Wachau Valley
on the train

When we arrive at Krems an der Donau, Giovanni unlocks a small storage room and equips us all with bicycles.  We have sixteen in our group, ten friends who went to Loyola University Maryland together, four Brits, one of whom is a swim coach, and us.

Mike on his bike at Krems/Stein
me on my bike

We ride a while along the main road in Krems an der Donau, with Giovanni in the lead.  We have to cross a number of intersections with traffic lights, and some people get held up by the lights.  Mike has taken it upon himself to keep an eye our for stragglers.  I’m up in front behind Giovanni. At some point, we make a right turn off the main road onto a cobbled street.  I’m looking around for Mike and some of the others are looking for their friends, who have disappeared.  We wait and wait, and still the rest of the group doesn’t catch up to us.  Since we have turned off the main road, I’m worried that the rest of the group has gone straight on the main road and has no clue that we’ve turned.  Giovanni goes back to search for the rest of the group while we wait.

I call Mike on his cell phone and luckily he answers.  He says, “One of those guys doesn’t know how to ride a bike! I finally gave up trying to wait around for him.”  I ask him where he is, and by his description, which doesn’t sound familiar, it seems he has overshot our turn.  He eventually makes his way to where we’re waiting.  He tells us when he arrives that one of the guys in the Loyola group doesn’t know how to ride a bike.  “He rides a few feet, then puts his feet down on the ground and stops and then rides a few feet again. He’ll hold up our whole group.  He can’t come along with us!”

Some of the Loyola friends start complaining.  They imagine it’s their friend Kyle: “He’s been a freaking pain on this whole trip!”

How ridiculous!  Why on earth would someone come on a bicycle tour if they don’t even know how to ride a bike? Not only is it common sense, but the website for Pedal Powers says specifically: “Although we bike at a leisurely pace, you should be able to ride a bike!”

waiting for the lost bikers

We’re waiting for some time at this spot, while Giovanni figures out what to do.  During this time, I walk up and down the street at Krems an der Donau and take some pictures.

I find a beautiful church with frescoes on its façade at Krems an der Donau, as well as a fancy statue.

church in Krems an der Donau
statue in Krems an der Donau

Finally, Giovanni returns.  He tells us he took Kyle back to the storage room and put his bike away.  He then gave him instructions on how to catch a bus to meet up with the group for lunch in Dürnstein.  I guess poor Kyle will have a lot of waiting around to do, as well as having to catch various buses to meet up with us at points along the way.

Our first stop is a small private winery in a rural area in the midst of vineyards.  Giovanni has a key to the winery though the owners are nowhere in sight. It’s pleasant to be in a winery where there aren’t hordes of other people around.

approaching the private winery

Inside the first winery, Giovanni pops a cork and gives us our first tasting.

Inside the private winery, a cozy kitchen area occupies the main floor.

winery

Giovanni grabs a couple of bottles and brings them out behind the winery, where we taste several other wines while admiring the garden and the views of the vineyards.

Outside at the winery are some pretty gardens and seating areas.

outside at the first private winery

We leave the winery, and on the way to Dürnstein, pass through bucolic countryside with lines of vineyards flanked by low-lying mountains.

Wachau Valley
another wine cellar
vineyards in the Wachau Valley
vineyards

When we arrive in Dürnstein, we park our bicycles and head to a gasthaus for lunch.

I enjoy a dish of roasted vegetables in Dürnstein.

lunchtime in Dürnstein

We have about an hour in Dürnstein to do whatever we want.  Mike climbs to Burgruine Dürnstein, also known as Kuenringer castle, a ruined medieval castle perched on a rocky outcrop at 312 metres (1,024 ft) above sea level, while I wander around the town.

There are so many cute cottages and inviting shops in the town.

Dürnstein

On one street, I can see clearly Burgruine Dürnstein above the town.  The castle is known for being one of the places where King Richard the Lionheart, returning from the Third Crusade, was imprisoned after being captured near Vienna by Duke Leopold V of Austria. He was held there from December 1192 until his extradition in March 1193 to Emperor Henry VI, who imprisoned Richard at Trifels Castle (Wikipedia: Burgruine Dürnstein and Dürnstein).

view of Burgruine Dürnstein

In 1663, Conrad Balthasar of Starhembery purchased the castle, which is still owned by his heirs to this date. From 1679 on, however, the castle was no longer habitable and was abandoned. Today, the fortress is part of the “Wachau Cultural Landscape” UNESCO World Heritage Site (Wikipedia: Burgruine Dürnstein).

Burgruine Dürnstein above the town
cute yellow house
converted pigeon roost
Burgruine Dürnstein above the town

I love the window boxes with cascading pink flowers and the metal wall creatures (which remind me of the south of Spain) throughout Dürnstein.

Dürnstein

From the town, we can see the cruise boats plying the Danube.

view of the Danube from Dürnstein
Dürnstein
view of the Danube from Dürnstein

When our appointed meeting time arrives, we hop on our bikes and leave Dürnstein, bicycling through the Wachau Valley on our way to Weißenkirchen in der Wachau.

Wachau Valley
Wachau Valley
Wachau Valley
vineyards in the Wachau Valley

Upon arriving in Weißenkirchen in der Wachau, we park our bikes and climb a steep hill to the next private winery.

Weißenkirchen in der Wachau
climbing steps to the winery at Weißenkirchen in der Wachau

We have magnificent views of the valley, Weißenkirchen in der Wachau, and the Danube.

view of Weißenkirchen in der Wachau from the winery

What a pretty little town!

view of Weißenkirchen in der Wachau from the winery

Again, Giovanni has the keys to the winery, where he gets out several bottles of wine.  We sit on the terrace of this winery for quite a long time; the views are gorgeous, the weather is lovely, and the wines are fabulous.

entering the winery

Inside the winery at Weißenkirchen in der Wachau is a seating area and the typical cellar. Again, we have the place all to ourselves.

I take a short walk above the winery, where I find a charming house.  A woman comes out and chats with us about our wine group, asking where we’re from and where else we’re going on our travels.  She knows Giovanni from his many visits to this winery.

From above, I look down on the winery, with some of our touring group on the terrace, and vineyards, the town and the Danube below.

view of the winery terrace and our group from above

Weißenkirchen in der Wachau is the last town we’ll visit on the north side of the Danube.

Weißenkirchen in der Wachau
view of Weißenkirchen in der Wachau from the winery
view of Weißenkirchen in der Wachau from the winery

We make our way through the town of Weißenkirchen, where we just miss the ferry and have to wait a while for it to come back across the river.

Weißenkirchen in der Wachau
Weißenkirchen in der Wachau
Weißenkirchen in der Wachau

The ferry between Weißenkirchen and Sankt Lorenz is powered not by motor or sail, but by rudder set against the river current, anchored to a cable above the river. The ferry carries passengers, bicycles, motorcycles, and automobiles.

As we approach Sankt Lorenz, we see a strange nostril sculpture, called the Wachauer Nase,  on the shore.

approaching Sankt Lorenz

On the south side of the Danube, we ride along several long stretches of roads and through a couple of small towns until we come to a little camping area where we have fabulous views of Dürnstein from across the Danube.

view of Dürnstein from across the Danube
view of Dürnstein from across the Danube

The ride back on the south side of the river is shady, cold and windy, and we all are pedaling fast and hard to get back to warmth. By this time, my behind is killing me!

On the train back to Vienna, Giovanni distributes Drunken Apricots to all of us, which we enjoy! Apparently, Krems is the primary producer of Marillenschnaps, an apricot brandy.

When we arrive back in Vienna at around 7:00 p.m., we stop at an Italian restaurant which is so crowded that the maître d asks if we’d like to share a table with two British ladies, Jill and Liz. They are exuberant and chatty.  They met each other 36 years ago when they worked as au pairs for Vienna families and came back here on holiday to take a trip down memory lane.

I enjoy a dinner of tagliatelle with tomato and mozzarella and Mike has lasagna with Bologne sauce, accompanied by wine.

What a fun but exhausting day! This has been one of our favorite days on our trip.

Tomorrow, we’re heading to Český Krumlov in Czech Republic.

Total steps today: 14,725 (6.24 miles) + ~ 26 kilometers (16 miles) by bicycle. 🙂

vienna: the hofburg imperial palace, nachshmarkt, the belvedere and a cheesy show at palais palffy

Friday, September 29:  On our second day in Vienna, we stroll past fragrant flower shops and bushels of gourds, pick up coffees to go, and study the baffling foreign headlines in a newsstand, somehow keeping aloof from the world at large.

street scene near our hotel
Vienna squashes and gourds
Vienna flowers
Mike at the coffee shop
newstand in Vienna

We feel dwarfed by the lavish Hofburg Imperial Palace, where Emperor Franz Joseph and the reclusive and eccentric empress “Sisi,” ruled their sprawling empire.

Hofburg Imperial Apartments

Among roses at the Volksgarten, we encounter Greek gods and nymphs spitting water, and temples to mythical kings.

Triton and Nymph Fountain at Volksgarten
Theseus Temple at the Volksgarten

We are greeted by fine specimens of sculpted muscular men at the Hofburg Imperial Apartments, and we dream of being escorted like royalty through Vienna’s streets by horse and carriage.

statue at Hofburg Palace on Michaelerplatz
horse and buggy in Vienna

As we wander through the Imperial Porcelain and Silver Collection at the Hofburg Imperial Apartments, we imagine we are attendees at huge elaborate dinner parties with painterly plates, fragrant flower arrangements, floral and gold-leaf soup tureens, crystal goblets, and napkins folded in the shape of swans or flounder. The tableware collection is opulent and overwhelming all at once.  The royals apparently entertained up to 800 guests at a time.  If we had attended, we would have undoubtedly been overlooked. The collection we see is intact, as this area was never bombed during WWII.

Oh, the excesses of the royal Habsburgs.

a plate from the Imperial Porcelain and Silver Collection
the Imperial Porcelain and Silver Collection
a soup tureen from the the Imperial Porcelain and Silver Collection
Imperial Porcelain and Silver Collection
multiple me with the Imperial Porcelain and Silver Collection

Click on any of the images below for a full-sized slide show.

 

We walk through the Sisi Museum, where we see paintings of the narcissistic and mysterious Empress Elizabeth, wife of Franz Josef, as well as her jewels and gowns.  Sisi was reclusive, a child of the Bavarian countryside, and she loved writing poetry and riding horses. She also spent much time maintaining her beauty, obsessively dieting and applying potions to her skin.  She loved the Hungarians and traveled extensively: to Britain, Eastern Europe, and Greece. In 1889, Franz Josef and Sisi’s son, Prince Rudolf, after venturing into drugs and sex, apparently killed his lover and himself in a suicide pact; this tragedy, known as the “Mayerling Affair,” caused Sisi to withdraw further from public life.  Nine years later she was assassinated in Geneva by an Italian anarchist who hated royal oppressors and craved notoriety.  She was the longest-serving Empress of Austria at 44 years.

Sadly, no photography is permitted in the Sisi Museum or the Hofburg Imperial Apartments.

We then walk through the Hofburg Imperial Apartments: the Audience Room, where citizens could meet privately with the emperor, and the attached Waiting Room, where the commoners waited. We pass through a Conference Room, where the emperor discussed policy, and his Bedroom, where he apparently had mistresses, while photos of his wife Sisi watched over his shenanigans.  We enter a Large Salon for royal family gatherings and a Small Salon, created in memory of the emperor’s brother, Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, who was overthrown and executed in 1867; this salon was used as a smoking room.  We continue our walk through the Empress’ Bedroom and Drawing Room, and her Dressing Room/Exercise Room, where servants worked on her famously long hair for hours each day while she studied Hungarian.  She also exercised and got massages in this room.  We see Sisi’s copper tub and towel-warmer in the Lavatory.  Next, we go through the servants’ rooms, and then get a parting shot of the Empress’ Large Salon, painted with Mediterranean landscapes.  The Small Salon shows Crown Prince Rudolf, mentioned above, the royal couple’s only son (Rick Steves: Vienna, Salzburg & Tirol).

We take a tram and long walk to visit Naschmarkt, and on the way, we find the  Third Man Tour stop, surrounded by ornamental grasses.

Third Man Tour stop

At one end of Naschmarkt, we find the Secession Building, an exhibition hall built in 1897 as the architectural headquarters of the Secession movement. Secession artists explored art outside the confines of academic tradition. They hoped to create a new style that owed nothing to historical influence.  Rebel artists, in effect, seceded from the long-established fine art institution.  The motto of the movement, inscribed in German, is “To every age its art, to every art its freedom.”  The building is apparently nicknamed the “golden cabbage” for its gilded rooftop of laurel leaves.

The Secession
The Secession
building across from The Secession

Naschmarkt is a food market and flea market.  Walking down the length of it, we find Turkish butchers and spice vendors next to Polish sweet shops. Austrian and other foods can be found here in abundance: regional wines, honey products, aromatic oils and vinegar, chocolate, cheeses, breads, and paprika stuffed with cream cheese.

Naschmarkt

We are enticed here by dried fruits, fresh fruits, flowers and vintage goods such as handbags, glassware, silverware, linen, and decorative items.

Mediterranean and Asian restaurants and snack bars are interspersed with Viennese cafés.  After we walk up and down quickly, we stop for lunch at an Asian restaurant.

Hot and sour soup and mushroom soup warm us up, accompanied by mango juice and hot tea.

hot soup at Naschmarkt

After lunch, we explore Naschmarkt at a more leisurely pace, finding baklava and other desserts, as well as warm winter hats.

Stuffed dates, grape leaves, and stuffed peppers, called paprika here, entice us.  We even buy a sample of some of them which we take with us on the tram, along with the dried mango that we bought before lunch.

stuffed peppers at Naschmarkt
stuffed peppers at Naschmarkt
buildings surrounding Naschmarkt

Before long, we’re at the Vienna Opera, where we get on another tram toward Schloss Belvedere.

Vienna Opera

Schloss Belvedere includes two Baroque palaces (Upper and Lower Palaces) the Orangery, and the Palace Stables. The buildings are set in a Baroque garden landscape.  The grounds are set on a gentle slope and include decorative tiered fountains and cascades, Baroque sculptures, and majestic wrought iron gates. The palace complex was built as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy.  Though the prince was short and unattractive, he was well-loved for his successful battles against the Ottoman Empire.

Schloss Belvedere – Upper Palace
Schloss Belvedere – looking toward the Lower Palace

The Upper Palace is now a museum that houses an impressive collection of Austrian art dating from the Middle Ages to the present. At the heart of the displays of “art around 1900” is the world’s largest Gustav Klimt collection.  Sadly, we don’t take the time to stop in; I regret we didn’t have time for this.  This is our last day in Vienna proper, and we use our time to walk around the grounds, quite expansive, instead. Luckily, we have a beautiful day today.

Schloss Belvedere – Upper Palace
Schloss Belvedere – Upper Palace
Schloss Belvedere – Upper Palace

The Upper Palace and the reflecting pool is quite impressive.

An elaborate gate leads us to the Alpengarten, or Alpine Garden.

gate at Schloss Belvedere
bamboo in the Belvedere gardens
Mike and friend at Schloss Belvedere
Looking at the Upper Palace from the Baroque-style gardens
the Upper Palace

We make our way down the slope and past the Baroque fountains, heading for the Lower Palace and the exit.

fountain at Schloss Belvedere
side view of fountain
fountain
view from the gardens
gardens at Schloss Belvedere

The Lower Palace leads to the exit, where we’ll catch a tram back to The Opera.

Lower Palace

When we get off the tram, we walk past the Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum) and Maria Theresa Square.

Naturhistorisches Museum

Maria-Theresien-Platz is a large public square in the Museum District. Facing each other from the sides of the square are two near identical buildings, the Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum) and the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum).  Sadly, we don’t have time to visit either one.

statute of Maria Theresa

We want to take a little break, so we stop for beers in the old world Cafe Eiles.

Cafe Eiles
Mike has beers in the cafe

We are going out to a Mozart and Strauss Concert at Palais Palffy tonight, so we mosey on back to our hotel, check in, and relax for a short bit before going out to dinner at Fromme Helene.

At Fromme Helene, we enjoy wine with our dinner.  I have Homemade Pierogi (filled with spinach and feta cheese) with melted garlic butter.  It’s no wonder, with all the gnocchi, spaetzle, pierogi, and other pasta I’ve been eating on this trip, that I manage to gain back a few of the pounds I lost in Japan.

me at Fromme Helene

As we walk down our street, we see the city as the lights come on.

We take a tram to the Opera, where we get off and walk to Palais Palffy.

Mike taking the tram

We have a little time to kill before the concert, so we stop for dessert at the Guesthouse Brassiere.

We take our seats inside the small and overly heated Figaro Hall in the 14th century Palais Palffy, where, in 1762, Mozart gave a concert at age six with his sister.  Later, in 1786, Mozart performed his opera, “The Marriage of Figaro,” to a private audience here.

We sit in very uncomfortable chairs and watch and listen to the Mozart & Strauss Konzerte.  Each concert consists of two parts: First Mozart in historical Baroque costumes, then Johann Strauss in historical Biedermeier costumes.

This is most definitely a tourist-only venue, and the performance is fairly cheesy.  The real Vienna citizens I’m sure are at the Opera or some other fancy venue.

We do get to enjoy a beverage midway through the concert.

On our way home, we admire the steps of the Albertina Museum.

steps of the Albertina

Tomorrow, we have an early start for our bicycle wine tour of the Wachau Valley.  This turns out to be one of our favorite days on our trip. 🙂

Steps today: 16,419 (6.96 miles)