Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Vienna, Vienna, City of Dreams

So goes a song from the 1920s.  One of those songs that becomes a sort of municipal anthem, at least in the eyes of outsiders.  Maybe for Viennese too, but I don't know.  It is a fabulous song.  Many sopranos and tenors include it on their aria anthology records.  Oh wait, I just dated myself. CDs?   Still not there, I know I know I know!  Whatever!  Andre Rieu has it on one of his CDs too.

The train arrived on time at the Westbahnhof, and we got a cab to the arranged flat.  Mr. Toad's Wild Ride!  I haven't had one like that since Hong kong in 1970, or earlier in Japan as a kid.  That was just the beginning.  We met the flat rental guy as scheduled.  The flat was not available because a gas line had burst and the building was under repair.  The agent had arranged for us to stay nearby in a larger flat that belongs to a friend of his.  That was good, because he could have returned our deposit with an apology that there was nothing he could do.

We have enjoyed the flat immensely.  Like the building in Paris, there is no elevator.  But, we are only up two flights of stairs instead of six!  Yay!  And the internet connection here works very, very well.  So it has worked out very well so far.  The supermarket isn't far away, and so we did our move-in-and-live-here thing.

After Paris, we had planned to hop on and off trains around central and eastern Europe, as far away as Istanbul.  But we abandoned that plan because we have too much luggage and no place to keep the excess.  We had thought to go to Italy, but we couldn't find a reasonably priced place.

So we chose Vienna, and have not been disappointed.  I love classical music, and also Viennese operetta.  Those kinds of lighter pieces only appear once, if at all, in a typical American opera season.  So it has been a treat to come to the one place in the world where there is still a season of operetta at the Volksoper.  We went to see Die Fledermaus and Vienna Blood by Johann Strauss, Jr., and The Merry Widow by Franz Lehar.  We had a marvelous time.  Penny actually enjoyed The Merry Widow.  I really appreciate her arranging all this, and being such a good sport about going along to things that I am really the one who likes it. Back in San Diego, she used to find me opera dates.  Those were friends whose spouses liked opera as much as Penny does.  That is to say...not so much!

Getting around has been easier than in Paris.  We are close to the Margaretengurtel U-Bahn station.  (Metro station.)  We priced it out and decided to buy a monthly pass that gives unlimited use within the central zone.  It has been quite liberating in a way.  I have been doing daily walks for exercise, and have chosen different places and parks along the U-Bahn lines.

Vienna is a very stately city, and quite pretty.  There are many parks, and the pace seems a little slower here than in Paris.  The language barrier is about the same as it was in Paris.  You can engage your surroundings, but only to a point.  I know some German, most of it coming from war movies or from opera librettos.  I have not had occasion to use some of those lines.  "What did you say, old witch?"  does not often come in handy.  Neither does "I am the Imperial and Royal Commissioner Count Lodovico Carnero."  But it's okay!  We get along.

They don't jaywalk against the traffic lights much here, and people do seem a bit more brusque in the stores.  We are glad we came.  We have planned a four-day jaunt to Budapest.  Penny found discounted round-trip fares on OBB, the Austrian railway line.

We know a couple of people here.  Dina Schorr was on the Antarctica cruise, and has just reported here for her first post as an American diplomat.  Philippe Spiegel is a relative of Karina von Baer, and we first met him in Chile.  He is a rising young opera singer.  A very talented man, and I am sure that one day we will be able to say that we know the guy on the album cover.  Oh wait, I just dated myself again!  Whatever!

Here are some photos of different things:
Schonbrunn Palace was the imperial family's summer palace in Vienna.
Fountain in the Schonbrunn Palace gardens.
The Prater is a Vienna landmark.
This is is the famous Riesenrad in Vienna's Prater park.Calling Mr. Welles!  Orson Welles!  Orson Welles!  Your transit visas are available for pickup inside the piano! (Nothing like mixing your movie references?)
In the Stadtpark, statues commemorate famous composers associated with Vienna.  This one is of Johann Strauss, Jr., the Waltz King.  It is temporarily moved from its normal setting which is under refurbishment.

Along the Margaretengurtel near Bruno Kreisky Park.
Night view from our flat's window on Schonbrunnnerstrasse.

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