14th October 2017: Arrival and the Inner ring: Butterflies and Dinosaurs
Between flight and transfer to the city on Saturday morning, I arrived in the city of Vienna at 1pm. As my hotel was between the station and the city centre, I took my chances for an early check in and I was lucky – it was. After dropping my luggage I headed off to walk around Vienna’s Inner Ring, the Ringstrasse, which is a big boulevard that runs around all the old city of Vienna (Unesco World Heritage Site). A bunch of things were on my way and it seemed easy enough to find one’s way around. My hotel was located in a building close to a park, and had three floors, on the 11th, 12th and 13th floors of a building, which gave me some views of the city.
On Saturday the plan was wandering around, but as I am who I am I ended up improvising. My first stop was the outer Vienna State Opera, the Wiener Staatsoper, where a young man dressed as Mozart tried to sell me tickets for a show.
I continued on my walk and I saw the Albertina, a modern art museum, but I was actually heading to the Imperial Palace greenhouse, which is the home of a café and the Schmetterlinghaus, or Imperial Butterfly House. This is an area of the greenhouse where a bunch of butterflies are free to fly around and feed on a bunch of flowers, plants and pieces of apple. I was lucky enough to catch a few good shoots and I was very happy to have decided to go in (albeit I have to say that I was really keen on going there since I had seen that it existed). I really had a blast and enjoyed this, so it was a must that I don’t regret having missed, especially since the 6.50€ for the ticket. I spent around forty minutes in there chasing butterflies.
Then I saw the Austrian National Library, the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek.
After that I back I walked through the Hofburg Palace, Hofburg Wien, and the Michaelerplatz or Saint Michael Square.
After that I crossed the palace in the opposite direction and ended up at the Heldenplatz, which gave way to Naturhistorisches Museum, the Natural History Museum
to see dinosaurs, because there were dinosaurs, which is the home of the Venus von Willendorf, a tiny statue of stone dated back 29,500 years. The museum also holds a collection of minerals, meteorites, preserved animals, dinosaurs, an animatronics dinosaur and a multitude of artefacts from Prehistory to the Middle Ages. I also saw the same dunkleosteus that they have in the Tokyo Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsukan. Have I mentioned dinosaur animatronics?
Following the museum I continued down the Ring Boulevard and it did not take me long to stumble up the Pallas Athene Brunnen (Monument to Palas Athena) and the Austrian Parliament Building, Parlamentsgebäude. The latter was under reconstruction.
I continued my walk until I found the Vienna Town hall, called the Rathaus, where there was a kind of Videogame trade fair or something going on.
Then I went on walking towards the university and the church of Votivkirche, a neo-gothic building next to the university.
Afterwards I went down to the hotel because this is not summer vacations after all, just a weekend escapade and I seriously did not have that much energy. On my way I walked past the stables of the Spanische Hofreitschule (Spanish Riding School) stables and I saw some pretty horses.
And even from the hotel (literally from bed), as my room had views, I could take some pictures of the sunset and the lit buildings. And then I went to sleep at a horribly early hour because I was beat and for some reason I managed over 8 hours of sleep.
15th October 2017: Palaces, churches and the Cinema
Because my hotel was **** for a change (I have to say that when I think about the whole weekend the word “decadent” is what comes to mind), I had a kettle and instant coffee ready for me – this was my breakfast. After that I did the online for my flight the following day and of course running into technical difficulties, and I left the hotel at around 9:30, which was a bit later than I had intended.
I was coming up to the Belvedere Palace, and on my way there I took a diversion to see the Karlskirche or Karlskirche (St. Charles’ Church), which I could see from my hotel and illuminated at night. This is a baroque church that sometimes holds classical music concerts.
taking a wrong turn once or twice this I headed out to my original target, the Schloss Belvedere (Upper Belvedere Palace). This is a Baroque Palace (seriously, Vienna is full of Baroque) that has been turned into a painting gallery. The most famous author in this gallery is Klint, but if I have to be honest, I’m not too appreciative of him – must be my likings for the realists. In the end, I liked the palace itself better than the painting collection, specially the reception room and the staircase.
As I had bought a three-combo ticket including Upper and Lower Belvedere and the Winter Palace, I walked down the Belvedere Gardens to the Unteres Belvedere (Lower Belvedere), which holds the “Medieval Treasure” and temporal exhibitions. The best thing was the gold and mirror room and the marble gallery.
Then I headed off to the centre of the city to see the Winterpalais des Prinzen Eugen (Winter Palace of Prince Eugene), which was not the best thing ever but hey it came within the three-museum combo.
Then I headed off to Domkirche St. Stephan (St. Stephen’s Cathedral), which is the gothic Catholic cathedral. It is not Baroque but Gothic. The entrance was free, but it also had a paid area, including the catacombs. Unfortunately I was too late for the current tour and too early for the following one, so I decided not to stick around, else I would have got the combo for the catacombs, the tower and the treasure.
As it was, I saw the cathedral and then headed off down different streets and saw the outer area of Katholische Kirche St. Peter (Catholic Church of St. Peter).
And then headed out to the Michaelerplatz to check the inside of the Michaelskirche (Catholic Church of St. Michael).
I checked the Spanische Hofreitschule (Spanish Riding School) for tour tickets, but I was late for that and it was all sold out, so I decided to go to the station and buy some food in the supermarket for both lunch and dinner. On the way I crossed the Stadtpark to see the floral clock and the Johann Strauss monument – Johann Strauß Denkmal.
Finally, I headed off to get some rest at the hotel, and have a shower. At 18:15 I walked down to the cinema at the corner of my hotel building, the Gartenbaukino, because in the end that was the reason I was there – to attend the Austrian premiere of the X JAPAN documentary We are X as Yoshiki was going to be around for a Q&A session afterwards.
There had been a small mix-up with the ticket numbering (all of them had been printed out with the same seating number!), which was solved efficiently. We watched the documentary We are X and then there was a Q&A with Yoshiki himself. There were emotional moments as the fans thanked him for everything he had done and for his music.
After the Q&A some of us stayed talking at the cinema gate and the manager, who had solved the ticket problem, came out to close – and he told us where Yoshiki would be leaving from. And that’s… the story of how I got to talk to Yoshiki, I got his autograph and took a picture with him and I will never, ever, ever forget the rush of that.
I have to say I did not sleep much that night. All the excitement caught up with me and I kept replaying the scene in my head over and over again. in the end I think it was around 2:30 that I could turn the lights off.
16th October 2017: Airport Monday morning
After checking out of the hotel I walked back to the train station and took the CAT towards the airport. I had taken an earlier train than I had already planned and boy was I glad to do so when following arrows at the airport took me as much as 20 minutes. Something I learnt in this trip is how friendly Austrian people are, and that they have a great sense of humour, as apparently one of their star souvenirs is “no kangaroos in Austria”. The return flight was not as good as the first, but it was on time and I could arrive to work smoothly for a crazy week.