This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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Das Original

vienna-26Today we wanted to have the cake and eat it, too. And it was possible, because Hotel Sacher both serves and sells its famous torte. But who knew that the lunch menu at Café Sacher was so delicious? And that the walls were a bright red, and the china sparkling white? And the service so graceful. It all really became less about the cake and more about the entire experience.

The cake shop clerk recommended to not buy a big cake but single-serving cakes, if possible. Because there is more chocolate and jam per mass, and that makes it all so much better. We agree.
vienna-27(Café Sacher, Vienna, Austria; February 2017)

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vienna-24Why would one make a simple brown or gray tiled roof, when one can decorate it green and gold? And finish with a great two-headed eagle, just for the flair?

Those who lived their lives in the gutter in ancient Vienna most likely never saw this beauty. It was probably visible only for those who either could afford a penthouse apartment, or were daring enough to climb onto the roofs.

Perspective. In this case you can buy it, but in most cases it needs to be attained by struggle.

(Vienna, Austria; February 2017)

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About books and worship

vienna-22There are people who travel just to see famous libraries. I should like to be one of those people. There ought to be a Michelin guide for libraries: where one star is an honor, two stars recommend a detour to have the experience, and three stars a special journey out just to see the place. The Austrian National Library truly is one worthy of traveling to just to see the place. vienna-21The Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI surely thought of a library worth three stars, as he constructed a State Hall in the shape of a cathedral and placed himself, surrounded by the sun-pattern on the floor, in the middle to be worshiped. One should better worship the books and knowledge and poetry, but with the Baroque splendor all around, one might just forget about the content and stand in awe before the building itself.
vienna-20Even books used to be so much more beautiful back then: golden inscriptions and delicate sizes, favoring multiple volumes over the brick-size murder weapons that some pocket books are today.vienna-18Should one’s eyes wander all the way up to the ceiling, they will most likely remain stuck there for quite some time. And no, the images are not about Christian Bible legends or Paradise, but about the great Habsburg dynasty, as if it were god-like.

Walking toward the radiantly depicted Holy Roman Emperor statue, below the fresco of Habsburg heavens, in a building designed like a cathedral, I was not quite sure if the said Emperor really had constructed the library as a haven for knowledge, or as a deification of himself. Perhaps not the humblest of perspectives, but then again, who expects an Emperor to be humble?
vienna-25(Vienna, Austria; February 2017)

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An der schönen blauen Donau

vienna-14On Donauinsel you can run a marathon by just running around the island. The thing is, though, it is only about 100 meters wide so you will be running back and forth on the same route.

vienna-15And at each top (or so I am told), you must dodge stark naked people bathing, biking, and skating.

But on this windy winter’s day, the Donauinsel was asleep, save for a few kids playing soccer, a few seagulls taking a stroll, and a few rays of sunlight. And we. 
vienna-16(Donauinsel, Vienna, Austria; February 2017)

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Music mass tourism

vienna-12Who cares that Vienna was twice sieged by the Ottoman Turks, had its shares of plagues and epidemics, and was taken by Napoleon twice. What is remembered of Vienna today is the art, the Habsburg dynasty, the horses, the cakes, the waltzes; and the good, slightly decadent, living. And of course the music: Haydn, Schubert, Strauss, Mozart, and the rest.

Unfortunately, businessy people know how well tourists remember. And so we toured a quite stripped-down apartment of Schubert, where the receptionist spoke little English and knew little of the person whose life was on display. And at night we went to the most beautiful, little, fresco-decorated music chamber, where the Mozart played was barely tolerable. I guess we have now been there, done that, and gotten the T-shirt.

But a little mystery was discovered: why did Schubert write his sheet music notes on the higher end of the staff as mirror image to what is published? If you look at the “upside down” notes they face left, not right. Was he left-handed or just lazy?vienna-13(Vienna, Austria; February 2017)

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Horses horses horses

vienna-11Why is it that perfect control over animals is viewed as a beautiful thing in our human culture? Why is it that a perfectly behaving horse or dog is seen as a perfect companion; whereas a cat that levels with a person and establishes a deep friendship, where it still usually does as it pleases, is seen as uncomfortable or even unappreciated? The Spanish Riding School claims to only enhance the natural behavior of the Lipizzaner horses, but why must they be perfectly controlled by straight-backed men (and a few women) for us to love them? As I sat watching the Morgenarbeid (Morning Work) of the horses in the Spanish Riding School, I could not help but think of the incessant need for dominion over animals and anything else that is one of the deepest drives of us humans.
vienna-23During the centuries, the horses have been involved in much human power play. Lipizzaner horses in the Spanish riding school in Vienna have an Italian name originating from a breeding place in Slovenia. European history in a nutshell. They were specially rescued during the World Wars and have been close to the hearts of the Austro-Hungarian emperors. Today they are close to the hearts of so many little girls and boys worldwide.

All Lipizzaners are born dark brown, nearly black. Most mature into a grayish white, but sometimes the brown color prevails. A dark stallion is a good-luck horse, a talisman that is said to protect the school, as trouble has ensued several times when the school has been occupied by white horses only. And the current dark resident was beautiful. Alas, no photos allowed of the horses, and this was strictly enforced. vienna-10(Vienna, Austria; February 2017)

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Coffee with cake and music

vienna-9Breakfast in Café Central, with white bone china. Where once Trotsky sat. And Freud, Adler, Tito, and even Lenin. The tea is still excellent, and so is everything else. Before 9 am it is quiet, but after 11 am there is a line lasting the rest of the day.

Afternoon coffee in Aida. One of the many pink places scattered around Vienna. Aida has a helpful guide for the bewildered tourist who thinks coffee is just coffee, whereas in Vienna it is avec a whole lot else, too.

And in Aida, cake is preferably taken “mit muziek”, or with music. Perhaps a shot of kirsch, or an amaretto. This fluffy pink establishment claims that in olden times, if one wished for a little shot of liquor, one only had to say one wished for a little music. Of course. (Only in Vienna….)vienna-19(Vienna, Austria; February 2017)

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Taverns in Vienna

vienna-7Wine, vaults, and wienerschnitzels. Viennese taverns are not really bars but restaurants where you can stuff yourself with delicious no-nonsense food and drink local wine. Either underground, or in heurigers (winemakers’ own local taverns). Expect simple comfort food and surprisingly good cheap housewines. And from time to time, awful local music.

And if you are not acquainted with Austrian wines, try a Riesling or Grüner Veltliner from Kamptal, or any -auslese (sweet dessert wines).

(Vienna, Austria; February 2017)

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The nameless library

vienna-6Is it 4 shelves of closed books, spines turned inward? Is it a bunker, doors forever closed? Is it a chamber with something precious inside? Who knows. But people did have opinions when the holocaust memorial on the Judenplatz was revealed in 2000. Even some Jewish people thought it spoiled the beautiful little square.

When the builders started digging into the street below, they uncovered the remains of an age-old synagogue. The story goes that dozens of Jewish people committed suicide on the same spot centuries before, to resist being captured by a religious persecutor.

Yes. History has a tendency of repeating itself. And we have a tendency of not learning from history. 65,000 Jewish people of Austria were killed during the holocaust. That equals 178 persons per day for an entire year. Imagine the slaughter.

(Vienna, Austria; February 2017)