River Cruise Day 5

River Cruise Day 5          Vienna                   Sunny and hot – 27 degrees

When we woke this morning, we were in Vienna, Austria’s capital.  Our first excursion for the day was a combined bus and walking tour of the city.  The bus took us through peak hour traffic, around the Ring Boulevard, which, as its name suggests, goes around the city centre.

We got to see the Parliament building, City Hall, the Opera House, the City Park and the statue of Johan Strauss as well as the building in which he lived.

The walking tour took us to St Stephen’s Cathedral in the centre of the city and we were able to go inside with a detailed commentary by our guide and this was one of the few churches of any size that we have been allowed to take photographs in.  It is an impressive building, which is currently undergoing extensive restoration on the external surfaces.  Unfortunately, the inside is still showing its age – the black candle smoke has made the sandstone discoloured and therefore the inside of the church is quite dark in appearance.

We continued our walking tour through the narrow streets of the centre of Vienna with the buildings in traditional pastel colours and were again reminded of the way in which Austria has kept the old buildings’ facades when renovating.  Only the ground floors have been slightly modified to present shopfronts that still fit and do not look out of place or detract from the overall traditional look of the old city.

We were then given some free time to explore the beautiful city of Vienna on our own.  We went to the Opera House and the Library before heading back through the shops to the meeting point to return to the boat for lunch.

In the afternoon, we went on an optional excursion to the Schonbrunn Palace, which was one of the former summer residence of the imperial family, the Habsburgs, and is considered to be one of the most beautiful baroque palaces in Europe.

Our tour of the Palace started in the Bakery with a demonstration of how to make the famous Viennese Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel).  Sandy was selected by the Pasty Cook to be his helper.  Her job was to get the big roll of Apple Strudel from the work bench on to the tray, and brush the top of the pastry, ready for the oven.  She was given an apron, a little hat and a certificate – see photos in gallery!

We went to the Palace Garden, which is absolutely magnificent – words or photos won’t do it justice.  It was built with paths that run parallel to the Palace as well as on the diagonal, with a beautiful fountain at the far end and spectacular flower beds, as well as trees that were trimmed to shape.

We then went into the Palace and were able to tour some of the former Empress, Elisabeth of Austria’s (known as Sissi) apartments – the Great Gallery, the Carousel Room, the Blue Chinese Salon and Napoleon’s room, to name just a few.

After dinner, we “dressed in our finest” (or as Sandy says “we got tarted up”) and were taken to the historical Kursalon to experience the “Sounds of Vienna”.  Kursalon, the building in which Johann Strauss presented his music to the people of Vienna, is in the City Park and was built in the Italian Renaissance style in 1865.

We were entertained by an Orchestra who played a selection of compositions by Strauss, Mozart and Haydn and also two ballet dancers and male and female opera singers.  We were captivated by this amazing experience of sitting and listening to music written by Strauss being played in the original setting that he presented it in.

On the way back to the Artistry, we were taken on a tour through the city to see the beautiful city lights.

When we returned to the boat, the chef had a midnight snack ready for us, so we enjoyed a small bowl of Goulash Soup and a nightcap, before heading to bed, absolutely exhausted after spending an amazing day in Vienna.  Our night was made complete as we lay in bed, watching the lights of Vienna (which were reflected in the river) as the boat made its way out of Vienna and towards our next adventure.

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