Our European Odyssey

This blog covered our month-long trip to Eastern Europe -- specifically the countries of Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria and Slovakia.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Our Operatic Debut (Sort of)

Yesterday in Vienna started out as another sunny, beautiful day. (But of course, we did get rained on before the day was over.) We took advantage of the early sun by sitting in a park between the Fine Arts and Natural History museums and reading. We then decided to go to Stephansdom, the cathedral that lies in the center of Vienna's Inner Ring.

Stephansdom is a 12th-century church that offers supposedly beautiful views of Vienna from its two towers. After touring the inside, we decided to ascend the North Tower. The North Tower goes higher than the South Tower, but it requires using stairs instead of an elevator (343 stairs, to be exact.)

After paying our $4 apiece, we climbed the stairs and were greeted with a magnificent view of ... scaffolding. First of all, the view is from the inside of a room with tiny windows. They are also doing restoration work, so what tiny views we had were mostly obscured by the scaffolding. To add insult to injury, the room was filled with adolescent boys whose parents haven't told them about deodorant or showering regularly. We have climbed towers in almost every place we have been. The costs were much lower in the other places, and the views were much better. Needless to say, we wished we could have gotten our money and time back.

After that debacle, we decided to do a walking tour suggested by our guidebook. It was quite enjoyable. We hit back streets, old churches and historic buildings, but Vienna is still no Prague.

After lunch, we visited one of the University of Vienna buildings for its elevator. It contains one of the last paternoster elevators in the world. It is an elevator that consists of a chain of open compartments (each usually designed for two people) and moves slowly in a loop up and down inside a building without stopping. Passengers who are agile enough can step on or off at any floor they like. It received its name from its resemblance to the Rosary beads, with "Pater Noster" meaning "Our Father," the name of the Lord's Prayer. (The below image was taken from the Internet; we will post our own photos when we get a chance.)

It may have been the highlight of our day. We had a lot of fun riding up and down. It is easy to understand, however, why they are a dying breed, as it would be very easy to get hurt (or crushed) using one.

With our thrill-seeking over, we enjoyed the exterior views of Parliament and the Rathaus. The Rathaus is Vienna's town hall. (Jake thinks the name is apropos.)

We then went to the Volksgarten to enjoy the last of the day's fleeting sunshine. Volksgarten is filled with hundreds of different rosebushes in a myriad of colors. It was beautiful.

For our evening's entertainment, we headed to the State Opera House to get standing room-only tickets. We waited for 30 minutes for our tickets and then waited another 30 minutes before we were allowed in. We didn't realize until getting our tickets that we were going to be seeing a ballet and not an opera. However, it was the first time we had watched a performance in an opera house.

For 2 euros (about $2.50), we got tickets for the rear of the highest balcony. Although we were very far away from the stage, our view was quite good. We enjoyed the first half of the performance but decided to leave at intermission because it was very hot and we were quite hungry. (Always thinking with our stomachs.)


At 7:19 AM, June 09, 2006, Anonymous Josh said...

Wow, I bet that elevator ride was different. It looked a little more ragtag than I expected. I hope at least a few of those stickers/papers on it were warnings or disclaimers.

Hope you guys are having a good time! And good work thinking with your stomachs- that'll never lead you wrong.

At 4:42 PM, June 09, 2006, Anonymous Ashley said...

Could you tell what ballet you were watching? And as for standing at crowded musical events, I recall an evening we shared at Three 6 Mafia. I am betting the ballet was better.

Please keep posting! Your blog was such a good idea and reading it is fascinating. I hope you are having a wonderful time.


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