The Hills are Alive and KickingVienna, Summer '14

Last weekend was bliss-- we packed in a lot in a short amount of time, so this post is a bit lengthy, but hopefully interesting! We started off the weekend by going out to the Austrian countryside for our program overnight trip-- it was nothing short of amazing. First we went to Bad Ischl, a lovely little town where we saw Franz Lehar's villa (composer of The Merry Widow) as well as the Kaiser Villa (hot vacation spot for them cultured folks, I guess!) We then continued on to Steinbach am Attersee-- my future retirement location, I've decided. I've never seen a more beautiful place in my life. Situated in the Alps, there is a huge greenish-clear lake that reflects the beautiful mountains between which it resides, and it is blissfully peaceful. It is no wonder why composer Gustav Mahler spent many of his summers there, composing some of his finest works such as the Third Symphony. And the coolest part? We got to stay in that very same place. After a lovely evening swim, we had a delicious dinner followed up by sunset on the lake and a fascinating conversation and movie viewing about the great master Mahler himself. The next morning, I went out on the dock by myself, plugged my earbuds in, and sat staring out into the massive lake as classical music filled my ears and mind. It fit perfectly-- I could easily see how the location was conducive to composing-- and I didn't want to leave.
The lake at Steinbach am Attersee
Sunset on the lake
This place was truly bliss~
Seriously, stunning...
  We hit the road once more and made a stop at a lovely little flea market by the waterside. As I mentioned in my last post, I absolutely love markets as they both remind me of home and, perhaps more importantly, they really give you the chance to interact with locals and try your tongue at the language. With my extremely broken and limited German, I somehow obtained 3 items (a couple of rings and a nifty vintage record) for great prices! After this fun little break, we hit the museum world once more, this time visiting the museum of composer Anton Bruckner.
My catches of the day!
After the museum, we continued on to the monastery where Bruckner is buried, where we also saw stunning libraries with secret rooms, and other spaces of great magnitude. What I wasn't expecting, however, was to be accidentally locked into the pitch black crypt with a few of my peers, the long dead Bruckner, and 6,000 skulls (I guess we now know why there were so many...) Luckily, after realizing we were missing, the tour guide ran back to the wrought iron gate with her set of archaic looking keys and let us out of our cage. But hey, at least it makes for a great story.
What we were locked in with... only there were A LOT more...
She came back for us, huzzah!
Finally, we headed home-- as soon as we walked in to the door I booked two sets of tickets: one to Bratislava, Slovakia for the next day, and another to England to visit one of my closest friends from high school, as soon as the program ends. Bratislava is a perfect day trip from Vienna. Only about an hour and a half away via bus (and for an extremely cheap price too), it is a lovely little destination where you can experience a different culture and, as you'll see in the following photos, cuisine. We tried to hit up all of the important spots such as the castle, the blue church, and the cathedral-- but that's when we encountered QUITE a plot twist.
Homemade traditional Slovak gnocchi
 
Dough coated plums in a melted butter and poppy seed sauce with raspberry compote.
 
Lookout from atop the castle~
We had been noticing camera crews all throughout the city and thought nothing of it-- perhaps they were just filming a TV show or something, nothing too out of the ordinary, right? As we approached the cathedral, the amount of camera equipment increased dramatically and what was more, hoards of secret-service looking men with suits and ear pieces were stationed at every corner and doorway, along with various other policemen and security guards. Figuring we'd be dismissed immediately, we asked one of them if we were still allowed to enter the cathedral despite all of the commotion. With a smile, he gestured into the cathedral, encouraging us to go in. Nudged to the back of the church by still more camera-people and other official looking folks with clipboards, we finally got the chance to ask another 'secret-service' person what was going on. "Inauguration of the President" he said with a straight face. There was a brief moment of silence due to the disbelief, and after an exchange of glances, we tried to clarify-- "of the country?" "Yes." So in the end, we accidentally watched the president of Slovakia get inaugurated, by being in the right place at the right time.
Inauguration of the Slovakian president that we...stumbled upon.
  What a weekend! Next up: Salzburg! Stay tuned.   Of course, adding to the opera count, I’ve now seen The Bartered Bride, Fidelio, and The Merry Widow at the Volksoper, and  The Cunning Little Vixen, Ariadne auf Naxos, The Magic Flute, Les Contes de Hoffmann,  Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung (and finally, Das Rheingold tomorrow), and Meistersignaturen Staatsballet at the Wiener Staatsoper.
The Cunning Little Vixen at the Staatsoper!
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