Sunday, February 6, 2011

Introducing Central Europe to Rick and Lindsey

We had the honor of having both Rick (my hubby's brother) and Lindsey (my hubby's sister's daughter) here with us at the end of January. It was rare to see both of them at the same time. Rick lives in China now, and we hardly ever get to see him any more. The last time we saw him was more than 2 years ago. And, in terms of Lindsey, the last time we saw her was when she was still a toddler. She is now a grown up lady and studies in France.  And, magically the time both Rick and Lindsey could visit us coincided. My hubby also magically had more time to entertain them throughout their visits, so he went to Prague to pick them up at the airport and spent a couple of days there before driving them down to Brno, where I was semi stuck finishing up my consulting project.

The plan was to take off to Vienna the next day, so we only had one evening in Brno. We took them to a booming neighborhood restaurant called White Lamb and fed them Czech and Slovak dishes such as pork knuckles and halušky. Had a great talk over great dinner and great Moravian wine.

The next day we headed off to Vienna. Our furry son gG also accompanied us. We were packed into a small car including gG's litter box, and it wasn't all that pleasant, but we made it to Vienna (yes, after being lost in the center of Vienna for a while).  The hotel Rick kindly reserved for all of us was right in the middle of the old town, and it was just so convenient.  We quickly checked ourselves into the hotel rooms (Rick and my hubby in one room, and Lindsey, me and gG in another room) and went out for a walk towards the Hofburg Palace, which was only 5 mins away.  Although I had been there before, it was nice to visit there again during the winter time when few tourists were around. There was no long line going into the Sisi Museum for instance. So, we went again to the museum. This time the audio guidance was also available (last time they had run out of headsets), so I got to listen to the explanation in Japanese for a change.

It was already around 5pm when we got out of the museum. We strolled towards St. Stephen's Cathedral and peeked inside quickly.  The air was getting a bit too chilly to walk around more, so we decided to head back to the hotel. On the way back, we again managed to get ourselves lost, and accidentally found a very popular bar, where we stopped to warm ourselves up with drinks and snacks.

Next morning Rick was already leaving for Frankfurt. After saying good bye to him, Lindsey, my hubby, and I decided to go to Schönbrunn Palace, which was 20 mins train ride away. The palace is famous as a place where Maria Theresa and her 16 kids including Marie Antoinette spent most of their time.  Maria Antonia later tried to recreate this atmosphere in her little palace called Petit Trianon in France.  There is also a cute rumor that the 6-year old Mozart asked Marie Antoinette to marry him after finishing playing in the palace.  The palace is huge with 1441 rooms. There are two kinds of tours: Grand Tour which takes you through 40 rooms, and Imperial Tour which takes you through 22 rooms. We decided to go with the latter, as it covers pretty much the main part of the palace. The funny thing was that the credit card machine broke down just at the time we reached the ticket counter after waiting in line for a while. We were stuck there for about 15 mins and finally got a paper-based ticket. The tour also came with audio guidance that gave you an overview of how the nobles spent their lives in the palace. The most interesting story for me was that Maria Theresa had her favorite child, Maria Christina, who was the only one allowed to get married to her choice of sweetheart. The rest of the children had to marry those their mother chose for them, and Maria Theresa's favoritism divided Maria Christina from the rest of the siblings.

After educating ourselves with more Habsburg stories, we headed towards the center of Vienna. Had a quick lunch and went to the Belvedere Palace to see The Kiss by Gustav Klimt. Of course the museum carries much more than just The Kiss or Klimt, and I really enjoyed the audio guidance here as well to learn about each painting.  But I have to say that I most enjoyed Klimt's section. I was surprised that there were so many unfinished paintings by Klimt. What was also interesting was that most of Klimt's paintings were on a square canvas. The Kiss was much bigger than I imagined - 180cm x 180cm with an interesting composition of heads almost touching the end of the canvas. Klimt's paintings are very sexual. He himself seemed to be rather obsessed by sex as well. He is known to have fathered 14 children although he never got married.

After enriching ourselves with lots of art, we headed back to the hotel, rested a while, and went out for dinner to a nearby cafe called Cafe Central, which opened in 1860 and is one of the most historic cafes in Vienna, loved by famous people like Sigmund Freud. We filled ourselves with good Austrian cusine and lots of cake :)

It was a quick but a great trip. Hope Lindsey and Rick enjoyed it.

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