Is this Tuesday? I’ve been walking all day, just drifting, one foot in front of the other, one vista revealing the next: stunning streetscapes, churches, fountains, cobbled side streets … every other vehicle a horse-drawn carriage (fiaker), elegantly dressed women and men … and countless cafés. I thought that the latter would become my favourites, but it’s the gelato palaces (ice cream parlours), all seemingly run by Italians with at least 40 flavours on tap, that have caught my fancy. Two creamy scoops for 1.90€ ($3).
“For all its grandiosity,” the Rough Guide confirms, “Vienna is a surprisingly compact city: the centre is just a kilometre across at its broadest point.” I found this out by accident, began walking at 9:30 this morning and, with the exception of an outdoor lunch and a whipped cream-topped kaffee, been in motion till now at 17:07. I’m not good with maps and directions and must have traversed the city centre more than once, literally walking in circles.
Within 45 minutes of arrival last night, the concierge had found me a fine seat for the evening’s performance of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. The Volksoper was filled to the rafters — and that on a Monday night. Ticket prices ranged from $3 to $275, the cheapest meant for students, way up in the nosebleed fifth balcony, standing room only. The play comes in two acts with a 20-minute intermission, just enough time for a piccolo of champagne. The plot is intricate and (for me) hard to follow (click for a synopsis), but the music pure delight. I recognized many of the arias and may have hummed, tapped, even sung along. Costumes and sets were stunning and at one point I counted 60 singers on stage, not including the tenor, soprano, coloratura, baritone, base, as well as three lads from the Vienna Boys’ Choir. All that stimulation notwithstanding, I may have nodded off half-way through the second act.
Enough already. As you can see, I’m fully immersed and enjoying this ‘vacation’ (from Latin, meaning freedom or release, being free from duty). Tonight, perhaps, a movie around the corner (the Julia Child one) and for tomorrow a ring-side seat for the matinée show at the Circus (in the big red tent in front of city hall). Not sure which museum I’ll visit (there are 96 in all!). I don’t do well in crowds, but wouldn’t mind seeing works of the Wiener Moderne painters Schiele, Klimt, and Kokoschka up close.
Painting by Egon Schiele (1890-1918) of a fellow-painter, done when he was only 20 years old.