We tried to visit the cathedral, along with about 4 million other tourists. We went in one door, hesitated a little bit then went out the other door. I guess some people would count this as a visit. There are, after all, some pretty fast bus tours. We, on the other hand, will be returning on a week day.
This was pretty much the measure of most of the day – crowds not other hands. There were also an awful lot of bus tours; groups of tourists pattering obediently behind someone grasping an umbrella, barely above their head.
This is so different to China where all of them are forced to wear the same colour hats and the guide doesn’t do anything other than keep a rough head count. Clearly they lose some but I guess they figure, adults can, ultimately, look after themselves.
In Europe, the tourists are told to stick to the umbrella instead. And there was a lot of this going on this morning. As we entered the Hofburg Palace Complex, they appeared to be everywhere. At one stage, a group followed me (even though I didn’t have an umbrella), making me feel a little like the Pied Piper. I wanted to lead them over a cliff but couldn’t find one.
The Palace Complex (we didn’t go inside anything today as it was more a general walking around touristy type day) was first built as a fortified castle back in the 13th century. It was home to the Hapsburgs from 1279 (good old Rudolph I) until 1918 when it all came a-cropper under poor old Karl I. Here he is, on his horse, waving his sword around uselessly.
We passed through a few massive gates and under some impressive arches, emerging from the Palace Complex at Michaelerplatz and an odd little archaeological dig. I haven’t been able to find out anything about it and there was no sign there. All a bit weird.
From here we wound up in a wonderful little typical Viennese cafe. We hung our coats on the coat rack and I put my hat on a hook. We had lovely coffee in the warmth before venturing out once more.
We ended up down by the canal. This is a canal that was originally a branch of the Danube. It was turned into a controlled canal (a word which has associations with open sewers, in German) in 1598. Still, it’s a bit of the Danube, just with man-made banks.
The Danube conjures up all sorts of romantic notions of waltzes and enduring love, while the canal, upon which we cruised this afternoon, is pretty much as far from that notion as is possible to be.
Don’t get me wrong. We went on a boat, something we both love and try to do where ever we travel, which in itself is fabulous but, sadly, the scenery wasn’t what you’d call particularly…err…scenic.
Firstly there was the traffic. Two big roads run parallel to the canal and provide the outside passengers with an almost constant thrum of engines.
Secondly there’s the apartment blocks which, while not quite as artistically destitute as some in London, border on the depressing.
Thirdly, there’s the wonderfully colourful graffiti.
I’m being a bit obtuse. I loved it but didn’t think it bore any resemblance to anything I’d call the Danube. I should also add that it was definitely not anything like an open sewer! It wasn’t smelly or dirty or as toxic as the air in Beijing.
Following our boating adventure, it was a long slog back to the hotel with a brief pause at a shop where Mirinda bought another diorama to go with the one in her office. This new diorama is of a shop and a good deal bigger than the other one.
We had a jolly good rest (our feet were very thankful) before heading out in search of dinner. We had tried to book a place through reception (they claim to do this for you) but without luck. The receptionist told me the restaurant wasn’t taking bookings tonight but we could turn up and wait if we wanted. We went there first to discover that rather than not taking bookings, they were actually booked out. We wandered off and found somewhere else.
I had a lovely goulash and dumplings while Mirinda enjoyed a Weiner schnitzel. Naturally we finished the meal off with apple strudel with an odd tasting custard. We were in a Beisl which is a traditional Viennese bistro, pub, hearty food type of place. Apart from the odd tasting custard, it was lovely and very filling.