Tag Archives: wine

Vienna -Day 1

 

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While most took a bus into the city centre on our first morning in Vienna, we jumped at the offer of an optional walking/transit tour.   The ship was just a five minute walk to a subway station and, from there we took a 10 minute ride into the city centre.

We walked from the Vienna Opera House (built in the mid 1800s), past beautiful Baroque style buildings as our guide oriented us to the city and its history. He  suggested we try sacher torte or various other delicacies in the Viennese coffee houses, pointing out the famous Demel Cafe with its amazing sugar sculptures in the windows.   He even recommended we check out the 19th century public toilets. Since each large cubicle was replete with tiny washbasin (similar to that in a sleeper on a train) – I couldn’t help but take a photo.

In the Jewish quarter the Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial (or “Nameless Library”) was in stark contrast to the historic  buildings surrounding it.   A steel and concrete box, the walls resemble library shelves filled with books with their spines turned inward.  The books represent the vast number of Holocaust victims and the concept of Jews as “People of the Book”.  I found it very moving.

That afternoon we went to the Naschmarkt and then to the Belvedere Palace to see the Klimt collection.  Built in early 1700 as a palace of two buildings and garden for Prince Eugene, the complex now serves as an art gallery.  The most impressive group of paintings is that of the Austrian, Gustav Klimt.  They provide an interesting chronology of his work and the changes in his style over the years.   We were sorry not to have realized earlier that the Belvedere also had a special exhibition of Ai Wei Wei.  There was not enough time to take advantage of it but we could see one of his installations, called F Lotus, in the entrance park.  Composed of 1,005 life jackets arranged in the shape of the letter F and floating like lotus blossoms,  it is the artist’s statement about the current refugee crisis.

That evening we went to a spectacular concert by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra (VSO) in the beautiful Wiener Musikverein.  Inaugurated in 1870, the hall is of neoclassical design and the acoustics are outstanding.  Thankfully, we lucked out with good seats in the first row of the balcony which gave us an excellent view of the orchestra (people just one row behind us would have had limited visibility).  With a history of conductors such as Joseph Krips and Herbert Von Karajan, it was no surprise that the orchestra was superb. We were treated to a return performance of 92 year old Georges Prêtre, conductor of the VSO from 1986-91, who was obviously a favourite of the audience.  Viennese pianist, Rudolf Buchbinder, played an arrangement of Die Fledermaus and conducted as well as played Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.1.

We had anticipated to wind up the evening having dinner in a quaint little Viennese restaurant but were disappointed to find very few places open for a meal.  We ended up in a rather funky American-style restaurant called Sparky’s!

Wachau Valley Winery

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After returning to the ship (finally docked in Melk) around mid-day, we set off again towards Krems through “the Wachau” (another UNESCO World Heritage site).  Reputed to be a lovely stretch of the River Danube, it was cool and rainy so I don’t have too many photos of the medieval villages and ruined castles in the hills. I popped out occasionally to the open deck at the bow but I’m afraid shivers make me shake the camera, so I have deleted most 😉

The winery in the Wachau Valley was the one “optional tour” that we took (i.e. paid extra for) and we were very pleased we did.  The winery is a cooperative for the multiple small growers throughout the valley and, although they produce just 3% of Austrian wine, it is reputed to be amongst the best in Central Europe.  As we toured the cellars and saw the various production tanks and barrels, we were treated to 5 tastings in all and we were pleasantly surprised at each – all were dry and very good.  We were also treated to an excellent 4-D movie which highlighted the region, its terroir, the viticulture and processing. The 3-D photography was beautiful and it was enhanced by the smells of the apple blossoms, the earth, the grapes, the musk, and finally the wines themselves.

Sadly, I doubt we can get any of their wines in BC. But – I will definitely check for that Riesling!