Day 121 Wednesday 13 June
In the end, I enjoyed my two days in Vienna. I was sad not to see my friend Niki though, who had to call off our planned meeting due to pressure of work. There’s a lot of it about, it seems, except for me.
I didn’t have much of a plan again, except that I was expecting to meet Niki after she finished work, we’d provisionally said 5.30 at Karlsplatz metro station. I thought I’d go and see the Prater Wheel – the big ferris wheel made famous in the film of The Third Man – and also I really wanted to see the River Danube, as all I saw yesterday was actually the Danube Canal (the Hapsburgs had it redirected) and the river Wien, which really is a bit of a joke. I feel I’ve got a bit of an affinity with old Father Danube now, so I wanted to make a point of visting him.
It was a grey and gusty morning, and it’s showered on and off all day. I studied the maps over breakfast, but still did my usual trick of ignoring/forgetting what I was supposed to be doing/going somewhere because it looked interesting and thinking I could turn later and go along parallel and still somehow find where I was intending to go… This was compounded because I was trying to follow the public transport maps as well, and sorting out the U-Bahn (underground), buses and trams. But I half thought I’d walk anyway.
I set off, and I can’t really remember what I thought I was doing, but I ended up at an intersection of two wide boulevards, waiting to get across without knowing whether that was really were I wanted to go, but there was an interesting looking fountain and sculpture over the far side, so when the lights finally turned green I went over. Behind the fountain was a war memorial, a tall pillar with the Unknown Soldier on top (have they still not worked out who that guy was? Sorry, uncalled for and unfunny I know, but I have the same thought every time I see it). Interestingly the writing on the wall behind was in Cyrillic script, so presumably it was for the Russians, or the Bulgarians, or somebody. I really should have checked the date, that might have shed some light on it. It’s no wonder I never finish anything, is it, when I keep going off on one like this?
Anyway, the most interesting thing in the square, in my opinion, was the modern sculpture, which is a temporary exhibit (but extended from November 2011) of black metal cogs and round things joined together and piled up to make shapes you can walk between and that make noises.
OK, that’s enough of me trying to describe modern sculpture, fortunately I’ve remembered that it was called The Morning Line and Googled it and found the link for you.
Incidentally I now know that it is in the Schwartzenbergplatz, which I also googled, and found that the memorial is actually to member of the Soviet Army who died in the battle for Vienna in the Second World War, which I found quite surprising.
Well, I haven’t got far through my day, but I did like The Morning Line sculpture and took lots of pictures of the typical Viennese Art Nouveau (or Secessionist) buildings through it.
I walked on and found myself at the entrance to the Stadtpark – this is the way I came back yesterday, although then I stuck to the road and today I went through the park. I stopped and leant on a rail to look at the River Wien, which is a concrete channel with a very low water level and a couple of ducks almost paddling rather than swimming. It comes out of a tunnel, which made me think of the Third Man. There is a Third Man Museum and Third Man walking tours, which I found out about yesterday, but they only run on certain days of the week. I googled that as well yesterday evening, which reminded me that the story was written by Graham Greene (which I knew but had forgotten), and got me wondering if I could have downloaded it for the Kindle, bit late now though.
I walked to the end of the park, where there was a U-bahn station. It occurred to me that if I was going to walk all the way to the Prater park it would take up most of the day there and back, and that I’d already walked part of it yesterday, and it wasn’t terribly interesting. So I decided to go by U-Bahn, and then go on a bit further to the Danube, by tram so I could get a better look.
I got a 24 hour ticket, good for trams and buses as well, to the park in the first instance. It was an old imperial hunting ground that was handed over in the 18th century to provide recreation for the people, bit like the original Vauxhall Gardens would have been I guess, and now is basically an amusement park with the Riesenrad, the big wheel, as its symbolic heart. Strangely, I’d only planned on going to see it, but having got there obviously I had to ride on it. Although it was decidedly windy, I told myself that if there’d ever been an accident on it I’d of heard about it, so surely it must be OK. I have to say though that the wind did howl, and the windows of the carriage rattled rather disturbingly when we were stopped in the air. It was erected in 1897 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Emperor Franz Joseph, and rebuilt (but with fewer carriages) after the Second World War. Oh, here you go then: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiener_Riesenrad
I have to say I didn’t think it was as good as the London Eye, and the journey was shorter, but to be fair it is a century older, and it was a lot cheaper.
My plan after the ride (and after consuming an XXL Hot Dog), was to take the tram along the bank of the Danube and back over the Danube island and into the city. I thought I’d found the right tram from the map, but the map didn’t show all the stops, so I couldn’t really tell whether I was going in the right direction or not, but it didn’t show me quite what I was hoping for, but disappeared into the suburbs (to put it politely). I kept thinking I would get off at a station and catch the next tram going in the opposite direction, back where I’d come from, but then at one of the stops there was the sign for a U-Bahn station, so I got off there, because at least on those lines you get a full list of the stations and can tell whether you’re going in the right direction.
We did go over a bridge over the Danube, and I got out hoping to take some pictures, but it wasn’t very picturesque, I have to say, and I caught the next train back to the city centre.
Plans for the afternoon were to visit the Butterfly house and have coffee and cake somewhere. I combined the two by having the coffee and cake at the Palm House, which is where the butterflies were. Really it was a way of getting into the warm and dry, but they were very lovely, I spent a lot of time trying to make films of them which I may post later.
What else: postcards bought, written in café, then search for post office – philatelie shop – text from Niki saying she wouldn’t make it – quest to find post office – wandering through centre – old style jazz buskers – left my umbrella – found post office – went back and found umbrella – walked through side streets – opera – big screen outside showing Marriage of Figaro – dinner – hotel – bed.