Fri. Sept. 28, 2018:
I woke up to the sound of horse hooves clopping on the cobblestones outside- a new one to me. I was really confused: what time was it?! Turns out I had slept in, it was almost 10am. We took the subway to get to Schonbrunn Palace, it was too far to walk. The original plan had been to take the subway to the train station and switch to a streetcar there but while we were on the subway we found a more direct route that only required us to switch to another subway line. To give an idea of what we were up against: there were 6 different subway lines. The first train we were one was old, the second one was much newer. At first it all seemed so confusing but it was all clearly marked and we made it to Schonbrunn no problem.
Once at the ticket booth we split up, Brent went into the regular line and I took my place in the self-serve kiosk line. It was madness how many people were in the building. The admission prices were confusing because it did not list the zoo- I assumed it must be free like the Lincoln Park zoo in Chicago. Just a nice small zoo set in a giant park. It made sense, palace grounds with giant gardens and an accompanying zoo. Adding to the confusion, there was a sign at the info desk stating that there was a 2+hr wait. We later found out that this referred only to tours of the palace itself. The most annoying guy in the world was lined up behind me. I was ready to bail and go join Brent in the slower line. Except as soon as I had that thought Brent showed up. At least now I had a witness to the unbelievable experience I was having. Brent asked me if there was a grounds map anywhere, the guy quietly as if to his friends, said yes and it’s €20. I pointed out that they were over by the information desk. Then the guy asked us why we weren’t using the free kiosk up ahead. The screen of the kiosk was displaying a computer starting error. It was a black screen with garbled code on it. Why were we not using it? Seriously? We ignored him. He started whistling Christmas carols. He legit made me uncomfortable and sent shivers down my spine.
We had an hour and a half before our palace tour so we decided to meander through the gardens and make our way over to the zoo. The first set of gardens were pretty nice, rose bushes and fountains, the usual. Then there were some tree-lined paths with sculpted bushes. It was oddly satisfying to see all the trees lined up perfectly, their tops cut to match up evenly with all the rest.
When we got to the zoo we found out it was separate admission. We decided to go in anyways. It was the world’s oldest zoo and from what we could see through the fence, it looked awesome. We have been on so many palace tours, it all starts to run together after a while. The first animal we saw was a dwarf mongoose. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. Throughout the zoo they had some historical exhibits, showing for example an old bear enclosure.
We saw a koala, who of course was fast asleep in a tree. The lions were by far some of the best. One lioness jumped up onto a rock but she did it so stealthily and quietly. Apparently the lions spend a lot of time lying on top of the fake rock cave, so the zoo designers created a window so that people can walk behind the cave and look up at the lions through a window. We got to see a lioness’s belly. It was really cute seeing her fidget to get comfy.
We walked through a darkened building full of bats zipping about. It was unnerving to say the least. Just as I was starting to get used to it, one brushed against my hand as it flew by and just freaked me out. The pandas were laying on their backs, lazily munching on bamboo shoots. The flamingoes gave the penguins a run for their money in the smelliness department. There was a walkway high above the zoo on an adjacent hilltop. From the forested walkway we had a view of the zoo down below, Schonbrunn Palace past it and the city in the background. Along the walkway there was information about the local flora and fauna. There was a small working farm and a restaurant/beer garden as well. I couldn’t look at the beehives, even though I really wanted to see the bees hard at work.
Back down in the zoo we watched an enormous tortoise awkwardly and slowly settle in for a nap. For lunch we had bratwurst. I had tried to order it on a plate but the guy didn’t really understand and I ended up getting bratwurst in a hollowed-out bun. There was so much ketchup and mustard in it that when I bit in, it all leaked out. Brent ordered what turned out to be a cheese sausage and on his second bite cheese squirted everywhere.
Up next we were going to do the hedge maze which had been included with our Schonbrunn admission ticket, but on the way to it Brent noticed the Panorama Terrace (also included) and we decided we would do that one first. The terrace was located at the top of a giant hill, thus making it a good vantage point for a panorama view. Instead of taking the slow, easy way, winding our way up- we cut straight up the hill. It’s ok, other people were doing it too. I was huffing and puffing real hard. At the top it was confusing because there were- what appeared to be- 4 different entrances. We kept picking the wrong one. There were staff entrances, an entrance to a restaurant. Nothing was clearly marked. Once we finally got to terrace, we had an amazing view of the gardens and the Schonbrunn Palace. It had been well worth the effort of struggling up the hill. The hedge maze sucked and we quickly bailed on it. On our way out we tried to visit the Orange Garden but it had just closed. We peeked in through the gate and at least we had a glimpse of it.
We took the subway a few stops to the Nasch Market, hopefully finding dinner at the market. At the hedge maze I had tried to buy an ice cream from the vending machine but it rejected my coins. The market was all outdoor stalls but it was mostly butchers and dried goods sellers. I had been hoping for a sausage stand but there weren’t any. On our second walk through we found a small restaurant with deli in the name. That seemed hopeful. I was sold as soon as I saw that they sold sturm. I was all for getting to try it second time. The menu was more complicated than I had anticipated, a lot of vegan and weird stuff. I had thought it was a deli, I wanted a sausage or a sandwich. Not a salad or some soup. Brent ordered the pastrami sandwich, I stole a few bites. It was better than I had expected but I am still not a fan of pastrami. Sturm #2 was way stronger than our first try. It was much closer to, maybe even above, the 10% of the 4-10% range I had read about. It was also not the best idea to be drinking it on an empty stomach. Walking back to the hotel we stopped at the Spar grocery store to stock up on a few more drinks and get some snacks. We also stopped at a sausage stand, Wienerwurstl, just off the main Hoher Square by our hotel. Brent had the currywurst and I had the bratwurstl which was a white bratwurst served with a slice of rye bread. We ate on a ledge at the back of the stand (there were no tables available). The food was served on proper plates, we would have to return them. As we ate, Brent regretted not having ordered a beer. I pulled out my wallet (there’s a bottle opener keychain on it) and opened one of the beers we had gotten earlier at Spar. I opened the Ottakringer radler for myself. It was the perfect meal. It was much better than the sausage stand nearby that we had gone to previously.
We walked back to the hotel, trying to covertly sip our drinks. We passed a guy drinking a beer but he gave us no nod of solidarity. We had some time to relax in the hotel. I caught up in my book and finished my radler. I didn’t get to finish writing because I soon had to get ready. We were going to a concert of Mozart music. On the walk over, we wondered if it was going to be related to all of the people we saw around town, dressed as Mozart trying to sell tickets to a Mozart concert. If so, we were way overdressed for a tourist trap. We reasoned it couldn’t be, our tickets had been so expensive online and the Mozarts about town seemed to be selling a cheap experience for tourists. We got there with only 5 minutes to spare. We found the back entrance to the Musik Verein and we knew we were in the right place because we saw a Mozart standing outside the door vaping. The sight of him also confirmed our suspicions: we were going to the tourist trap performance.
We went upstairs thinking we had balcony seats. Nope, it was just rows of chairs in the back section of a large (very ornate and pretty) room. Our view was partially obstructed by a pillar. There was a stage set up at the front of the room. Sure enough, all of the musicians were dressed like Mozart, for one must dress as Mozart if one is to perform his music. It made no sense, only the conductor should be in that costume. The performance also included some really bad opera. The performers were only good on the last song and it made me wonder if everything prior had been bad on purpose, a campy take on opera? The drummer also ruined two songs with his incessant pounding. When we first sat down a guy walked in front of us and seemingly said to no one, “I need to charge my phone.” It was really funny also to see all of the cellphones up before it started, all ready to record but then an announcement came on in a bunch of languages, saying no recording or photography allowed. At the intermission we saw that some other people had also dressed up, we felt less alone. Especially given one lady was in a fancy evening gown. It was weird to look over and see a guy in ripped jeans and a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt standing nearby. It was an odd juxtaposition.
At the intermission the ice-cold Pepsi revived me from all of the earlier drinking. I also ordered a little pink dessert. It was super sweet and had really thick icing. It was like an overboard cakepop. At one point during the opera portion, the lady was just shouting in short bursts at different pitches. Brent said it reminded him of Home Alone and I asked if he was referring to the shaving scene. He started laughing because what he meant was that the music sounded like a song in the movie. As the performers took their final bow all of the cellphones came up and the screens lit up. It was over so now they were free to take pictures to their hearts content.
The building was beautiful from the outside. I had trouble appreciating the performance hall just because of the show that took place there. The performance made the hall itself feel fake and tourist-y even though it actually wasn’t. In the end it was actually quite an enjoyable (if overpriced) show. It entertained.
Walking back, all of the patios at the bars were crammed full of people. Clearly it was the weekend. It was a nice evening so we walked over to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. It was all lit up and I was regretting not having brought my camera with me. I was also mad I hadn’t brought my postcards with me, we walked right by a mailbox. By the time we got back it was too late to read. I still had to finish writing in my notebook and pack up all my stuff.