Vienna – May 15

Detail from the Pestsaüle showing a kneeling Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I
Detail from the Pestsaüle showing a kneeling Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I

Our tour returned to its starting place, Vienna, on May 15, 2015 after 12 days on an Insight Vacations bus visiting major cities and key sites in Austria, Hungary, Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic. If you count our drive-through of Slovakia while heading north from Budapest to Kraków we visited six countries.

***

May 15 was our last night with the tour – and our last Vienna night in a 5-star hotel! We were happy to see our local expert from May 4, Peter, on the 15th. Peter took us to the Hofburg Palace and then inside Stephansdom, Vienna’s great 13th C. cathedral. We walked around the old parts of town, including the Jewish section and had a peek inside the simple, Romanesque St. Rupert’s Church, c. 800 A.D., with the oldest bells and stained glass windows in Vienna. Peter also showed us two things related to the plague that hit Vienna in the 7th C:

  1. The Pestsaüle (Plague Column), featuring Leopold I with his huge Habsburg-inbred jaw, and
  2. A restaurant called Der Liebe Augustin, after the famous 7th C. piper minstrel named Marx Augustin who brightened up those scary plagued times and wrote O Du Lieber Augustin, a simple, forgettable ditty that somehow is remembered still today – well… until my day anyway. The restaurant has an upward staring, yet somehow iconic, Augustin, complete with pipes, in a cellar below a barred trap door as you enter the place. He is sprinkled with hundreds of bright, copper coins.

Later, Kari Anne and Alex took us to a lovely farewell banquet in the Palais Auersperg that was followed by a beautiful concert in the same palace put on by the Vienna Residence Orchestra. From the first chord I realized we were in for a treat. They played, sang and danced favourites by Mozart and Johann Strauss II, with the de rigueur performance of the Radetsky March by Johann Strauss I.

Concert Tickets :))
Concert Tickets :))

A beautiful end to a fabulous bus tour of Central Europe. We spent four more fascinating self-planned days in Vienna. More later on those…

Some photos from may 15:

Vienna – A First Taste

Klimt's The Kiss welcomes us to Vienna
Klimt’s The Kiss welcomes us to Vienna

On May 3 we landed smoothly in Vienna at about 08:40, more or less on time, after an overnight flight with three names operated by Austrian Airlines direct from Toronto. If one must wait for one’s bags and be bombarded by marketing, let it please be four illuminated panels of The Kiss. Always. I’m very OK with that. We had selected Insight Vacations’ Highlights of Eastern Europe bus tour because it began and ended in Vienna and included Budapest and Warsaw, where we had friends-well-met on our 2013 Camino Santiago. This enabled us (well, me) to add a precious four more days of self-guided sight-seeing in amazing, once-imperial-still-magnificent, Vienna before flying home on May 20. The itinerary also included two nights in Budapest, Kraków, Warsaw, Berlin and Prague plus one night in Cesky Krumlov. As bus tours go, Insight delivers one of the best. They use excellent tour directors, more legroom on the bus and centrally located, classy hotels. We weren’t disappointed. Out of seven tour directors on as many tours with Insight since 1995, we had six who were stellar and only one selfish, mercurial, intimidating, paranoid, should-have-retired-long-ago jerk. That was on a 2011 tour of Spain, Portugal and Morocco. Say no more. We had a welcome dinner planned for that evening with our tour director, Kari Anne. Her poster asked us to meet for roll call at about 17:30. Our room was ready at 10:40 when our transfer arrived at the Hilton Hotel near the Stadtpark, on the western edge of the famous Ringstrasse, a 12-minute walk to St. Stephens Cathedral, Stephansdom.

They still like real, paper, vintage books in Vienna
They still like real, paper, vintage books in Vienna

Continue reading “Vienna – A First Taste”