After and Austrian breakfast of bread rolls, jam cheese and hot chocolate we were out on the streets by 9:30. with no clear idea about where to go, we walked down to the Oppenring, stopping to look at the memorial to W.A. Mozart and the rear wall of the collosal Hofburg Palace, then following our noses up the Kartnerstrasse to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the heart of Wien. Being a Saturday, there was plenty going on and we spent a couple of hours just wandering the streets watching rock bands, buskers, puppeteers, folk singers and assorted street theatre.

We spent a couple of hours in the Museum of Fine Arts, stuffed full of paintings by Rubens, van Dyk, Bruegel and many others, most of them rather over-the-top religious pastiches. The Egyptian and Austrian sections were very interesting too and the building itself was magnificent: built from marble and stone with sweeping staircases, balconies, domes and pillars, with statues filling every spare corner.

Culture Vultures.
Awaiting entry to the performance of Tannhauser at the Vienna Staatsoper.

We returned to the Hofburg Palace after the museum and drank hot mulled wine while we wandered among the crowds. From there, we walked over to the Staatsopera Haus and queued up for Standing Room² tickets for the evening performance of Wagner’s Tannhauser. We were let in once the paying guests were all seated and we stood at the top of the ornately plush chamber for 5½ hours while the cast and orchestra ground through the long and tedious story which apparently revolved around some bloke falling in love with Venus, nearly being killed by his peers, then going to the Pope to ask for permission to carry on. It all went well over our heads!!³

¹Hermann Broch was an Austrian writer considered to be one of the great Modernist authors. In his book Hugo von Hofmannsthal and His Time, Broch wrote of Vienna: “The city was a dream, and the Emperor a dream within the dream…”

²These tickets, as the name implies, allowed people to view the opera while standing in various corners of the opera house and between the rows of seats.

³The German composer Richard Wagner was renowned for his long, heavy operas. And Tannhauser is regarded as one of his more turgid and weighty numbers!

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