Last visit to Vienna: music in the key of life and death

Our last full day in Vienna, June 26, was a Sunday.  The Vienna Boys Choir sings Sundays at the Imperial Chapel, but one pays 10 € for hearing them at a church service, and tickets are hard to get.  Instead, we took Rick Steve’s advice (for once) and headed for the Augustinerkirche, and equally lovely church, also part of the Imperial complex, where excellent music happens.  Lucky us!  We managed to arrive in time for the Anton Bruckner Mass in E Minor, plus a whole lot more.   The service went on for 2 hours!  But fortunately we had comfortable chairs (instead of sitting in the rock hard pews or standing up) and we didn’t mind.  How could you mind when listening to music in that setting?




After that, we walked around the Innerstadt


water fill up/fountain on Graben in Vienna--Mountain Water take note!


Donner's fountain to the rivers in Neumarkt Platz



detail of fountain


man digging for coins in fountain to the rivers in Neumarkt Platz














and visited the Capuchin Church, home to the crypts of the Hapsburgs.   The crypts are beautifully ornate and I find it interesting that death is actually acknowledged, personified and raised here to a level of art, rather than glossed over in a shiny casket.













detail of tomb of Elizabeth Christine

death = life veiled?















detail from the casket of Kaiser Karl VI



We then moseyed over to the MuseumsQuartier, in hopes of finding some live music from South Africa, because we had seen a poster for a South African Festival being held there.   No music, just a lot of art and crafts, but interesting none the less.  Also a fabulous imperial looking sandcastle!



sandcastle at Museumsquartier


The MuseumsQuartier plaza-a lively place

The Leopold Museum is in the MuseumsQuartier and was open.  Hooray, at last!   They have a fabulous permanent collection of Egon Schiele as well as a decent grouping of the works of Gustav Klimt.  What is even better, (unlike the MUMOK), they also have very good explanatory notes in German and in English!  The current ‘exhibition’ was on photography and Ansel Adams was included there!



Egon Schiele - still life flowers


detail of life, from Life and Death by Gustav Klimt



Ansel Adams photos on display: left, Rocks and Limpets, 1960

We finished our day by walking back to our hotel, taking in the sights along the way.



reflection along the street in Vienna


Having access to all of this art and art history has been fabulous.  I think I will look at what I see in Missoula with new and expanded eyes.

Thanks for reading!

Going Away Heuriger

You know time in Austria is drawing to a close when you receive the memo and invitation for a going-away Heuriger**  for all Fulbright grantees.   How did all these months slip by so quickly?


We headed to Vienna once again for this event, on June 24, and because Bill was helping with interviews for 2010-13 student Fulbright grantees on Monday, we stayed the entire weekend. This meant we were able to attempt an exploration of the Wachau Valley (up the Danau), a simple (?) day trip out of Vienna.  Sweet!


It was great to see all the people we had met in early March, and compare stories and experiences. (We had missed the mid-way point seminar in Altemarkt due to my back injury.)  The party was also for Austrian students and grantees who were soon beginning their Fulbright in the USA.  We had a great time, even when the skies opened and it poured buckets for 20 minutes.  On the way home we came through an umsteingenpunkt (exchange point) at Spittelau where we saw the thermal (garbage burning)  plant, a fabulous creation by the artist Hundertwasser.  His work is known all over Europe (maybe also all over the world), and was on my list of things to see.   I nearly jumped up and down.  OK, I did jump up and down!  So excited, even if it was almost too dark to see it!


outdoor garten at the heurigan; inside - the music, which is traditional at heurigans; Bill with Fulbright colleagues Isaac and Jim; staff of Fulbright office


an entire street of Heurigans, and the rain!

Hundertwasser thermal plant

**Heurigers are restaurants that are licensed to serve only their own (produced) wine; usually this wine is ‘new’ wine.  They are normally limited to serving a buffet of foods, not offering a selection from a menu.  There are lots of Heurigers (from the German Heurig meaning  this year’s) in Vienna; they are comparable to the Styrian Buschenschanks I wrote about early on.

Coffee House Repast

One of the things Vienna is known for is der Kaffeehaus.  Tradition has it that you can sit down in one of these establishments, order a cup of coffee, which is served in exquisite china on a silver tray and accompanied, always, by a glass of water and a small spoon; after that first cup, you may spend as long as you want, reading your paper, working on your book, answering email, conversing, playing cheese, whatever, with fresh tap water resupplied at no cost or request.  The word LINGER comes to mind.

I think I mentioned in a previous post about a Starbucks opening in Vienna. We’ve since learned there are FOUR of them.  We saw one, near the Graben, but did not notice one china cup, any trays or water, or any lingering.  I personally think it would be a shame if  Vienna – and the rest of Austria where we have also enjoyed the coffee house gemütlichkeit (warm, relaxed coziness) – were to adopt any of the coffee-grabbing-drink-on-the-run-culture so prevalent in the US.

On our most recent trip to Vienna, we visited the famous Demel Coffee House, which is a konditorei (specialty bakery) with an extensive food menu.  (The actual title is  “K. u. K. Hofzuckerbäcker Ch. Demel’s Söhne” -“Imperial and Royal Court Confectionary Bakery Ch. Demel’s Sons”). It has changed hands several times since the beginnings in the late 1780’s (in the mid-1800’s at its current location) and is now owned by a corporation.    We were there for the midday meal.  It was crowded but we were a little on the early side and were seated immediately.  Deciding took a while, ordering took a while.  Time for conversation and relaxing.  As we ate, long lines accumulated.  We tried to ignore all that and get into the gemütlichkeit.

The waitress was attentive but did not hover or expect us to hurry along just because there were 25 people waiting to eat.  I do not know if she addressed us in the third person formal (what would SHE like?  What would HE like?)  as is the supposed tradition at Demel.  Mostly she said “Bitte?” which is the more common form of invitation to order.   When it was time for dessert, we were escorted to the throne table of desserts (one on every floor where there is seating), where the tortes, kuchen, strudel,and other confections awaited.  Choosing which one probably took as long as it did to eat our meal!  The gemütlichkeit was working!

On the way out, we watched the pastry chefs work and wandered a bit around the shop to oogle all the enticing treats.   It was too bad we had to catch a train back to Graz, or we might have stayed all day!


the cheese souffle, and ceasar salad, Bill with cappucino, outside of Demel, chandelier from Murano, chocolate truffle cake


Konditoren working at Demel


some of the confections available at Demel

Below, a list of types of coffee to order in Vienna….



Kleiner Schwarzer – small espresso

Grosser Schwarzer – double espresso

Espresso – basically the same as Kleiner Schwarzer

Kleiner Brauner – Kleiner Schwarzer with milk

Grosser Brauner – Grosser Schwarzer with milk

Melange – a less strong Grosser Brauner with a little steamed milk

Mocca – klein oder gross – synonymous with Schwarzer

Kapuziner – black coffee with milk added until its color is that of a Capuchin monk’s robes

Franziskaner – black coffee with still more milk, to achieve the lighter color of a Franciscan monk’s robes

Nussbraun – coffee that resembles the color of nuts

Nussgold – lighter still, like a “golden nut”

Gold – coffee the color of gold, i.e. quite light

Milchkaffee – half coffee, half milk

Verlängerter – an espresso that is “lengthened” by a shot of hot water

Einspänner – originally, the name meant a one-horse carriage. In coffeehouse parlance, it means a Grosser Mocca with whipped  cream on top, sprinkled with cocoa and served in a tall glass

Fiaker – named after Vienna’s horse-drawn carriages and their raucous drivers. Strong, black coffee laced with hot kirsch, topped with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry

Türkischer – Turkish coffee, sweet and black, served in copper cups

Eiskaffee – cold black coffee with vanilla ice cream, topped with whipped cream

Capuccino – in some Viennese coffeehouses, black coffee topped with whipped cream; in other coffeehouses and Italian restaurants you get it the original Italian way: topped with steamed foamy milk

Kaffee Maria Theresia – Mocca with orange liqueur and whipped cream



Vienna Walk-About

The great thing about many European cities is that they are immensely walkable.  When we’ve stayed in Vienna for a few days (mostly due to Bill’s professional meetings) I’ve had the time for and pleasure of walking around.  Sometimes there is a small trip via the well-positioned and timely U-bahn but mostly it’s step by step.  It’s my favorite way to explore a city.    Maybe you don’t get to all the tourist destinations but you see so much more that way.

Quite near our favorite pension just off the Grauben, there are two lovely but quite different churches and then a little further away, the amazing and in-the-throes-of-reconstruction Karlskirche.  Vienna is primarily a city that exudes Baroque/Rococo and Neo-classicism.  Aside from Stephansdom, in its Gothic splendor, many of the churches and Important Buildings reflect the embellishment, massiveness and, to modern eyes, sometimes-over-the-top gilding of the late 17th century to early 19th century architectural styles, inside and out.  Ruprechtskirche, a Romanesque church, and the Secession building, offer refreshing oasis in the midst of all this opulence.

Here are a few glimpses of some of the sites and impressions in my walk about Vienna.

On the way to Karlsplatz, one finds the lovely museum, the Secession, an icon of the Secessionist movement in Vienna. From Wikipedia: “Unlike other movements, there is not one style that unites the work of all artists who were part of the Vienna Secession. The Secession building could be considered the icon of the movement. Above its entrance was carved the phrase “to every age its art and to art its freedom”. Secession artists were concerned, above all else, with exploring the possibilities of art outside the confines of academic tradition.”  The building is commemorated on the Austrian € 0,50 piece.

a bit of whimsy! Love it!









Across the street was a surprise, however!  The Nashmarkt – hello Missoula Farmer’s Market X 100 !  Asparagus in 3 varieties: white, green and wild, cheese whose smell knocks one over, fish, meat, flowers, prepared food from any culture you can name!  Too bad it was only 10:00 AM and not time to eat or drink!



As one heads from the Nashmarkt to Karlsplatz, you find the unexpected:  The  Vienna University of Technology with some pretty interesting ornamentation, the old Karlsplatz stadtbahn station (another icon of The Secessionist movement), a park with children, ducks on/people by the reflecting pool in front of the Karlskirche, and someone setting up for maybe an outdoor concert.


And then, right there, is Karlskirche, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI’s tribute to his saint namesake (Charles Borromeo), in gratitude for the end of the plague (1712).



It’s huge.

Inside it’s as baroque as they come,










but the outside is perhaps more famous, with the huge dome and the two towers of bas-relief.  They are working on Karlskirche, restoring the frescos and other elements.  You can take a ride almost all the way up to the very top, and then walk up the rest of the way, so I did.  (You know, in the US, they would never permit people to do this!)  I doubt I will ever be as close to a ceiling fresco again.  It’s amazing how UN-detailed the painting is close up!



view from through a high window, ceiling fresco closeup, money=prayers, the way up


Rick Steves says not to bother with the museum that is also part of Karlskirche but I bothered anyway.  Aside from a wonderful exhibit of modern photos of the church, there was an exhibit of various depictions of Christ.  Amid the drawings and sculptures by school children,  there was this, by artist Oskar Kokoschka whose work I had also seen in the Belvedere a few days before!


Later that day, I wandered into the Peterskirche, another baroque church, and just in time for a horn and organ concert.  If I had been on some kind of timetable, I would have missed it altogether!  This clip is actually from the rehearsal, just prior to the concert.



The next morning, I strolled past Peterskirche, and over toward the Danau Canal, and Ruprechtskirche, quite possibly my favorite church of all I’ve seen in Vienna.

Although there is currently some debate whether the Ruprechtskirche is truly the oldest church in Vienna (possibly founded between 796 and 829), it is simple in design and felt  like an oasis to me.   It is dedicated to Saint Rupert of Salzburg, patron saint of the salt merchants of Vienna and is located in one of the oldest parts of the city, the section of the Roman Vindobona. It’s not a parish church today but used for religious meetings…maybe even meditation?  I had a little conversation (auf Deutsch) with the caretaker who was present about the age of glass (~700 years old).  The one you see in the center below is  Romanesque.


Ruprechtskirche was notable for the absence of tourists – only two other people and myself were there that morning to enjoy the stille.  But we were the lucky ones.

Thanks, as always, for reading!







Opera….my aunt introduced it to me when I was a little girl. She lived in Arlington, not too far from our home in Alexandria.  It was just far enough away to seem exotic, at least to an 8-year-old.   Occasionally, I would spend the night with her on Fridays and stay at her apartment through part of Saturday.  She always had the radio on to the MET broadcasts, on Saturdays, and, still dressed in pajamas,  we listened together.  If the MET was not in season, we would listen to 78 rpm opera recordings on her turntable! It was one of the highlights of my childhood.

Since that time, I’ve seen Light Opera in Ohio, operettas and opera theater in other venues, Missoula included.  The MET’s radio broadcast plays on KUFM when we drive up toward the Flathead on weekend.  Somewhere in our collection of vinyls is Madama Butterfly with Leontyne Price in the title role.  I nearly wore that one out!  Still, we never have attended a full-scale opera in what is considered a ‘big’ house.

So, one of the things we knew we wanted to do while in Europe was attend an opera.  We did that early on in Graz (Don Giovanni) and later in mid-May while in Budapest (Otello)and again in Graz [Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi (The Capulets and the Montagues]) with opera-loving friends, when they visited.   And, at the recommendation from these same friends, we made arrangements to see Nabucco in Vienna when we had to be there anyway for a meeting in early May.  We loved the feel of the Wienerstaatsoper, from the elegant yet simple ‘house’ to the custom of storing coats without asking for payment (unlike any of the performance venues we’ve visited here in Graz!).  For attire, we saw everything from elegant long dresses to jeans!


It was marvelous.  Although opera companies in Europe are known for their ‘modern’ adaptations of opera, which occasionally startle, this one was exquisite in its contemporary staging.  It was a timeless portrayal of the persecution of Jewish people beyond the experience of great exile into Babylon.  (think WWII)

the 'slaves' chorus for Nabucco

We were treated to a masterful performance by Maria Guleghina as Abigail (Nabucco’s vengeful, power-hungry ‘daughter’) and the Philharmonic was amazing.

Maria - second from left

We had great seats in the mittel-loge


we sat here - dead center, second row.

but next time maybe we’ll check out the standing room only tickets at 4€ each!  They were right below us!  (the problem is, you have to stand for 3 hours!)  Even the standing room places have viewing screens with English and German subtitling!  No neck strains here!

On our way to the opera, we visited the sobering Monument Against War and Fascism in the Albertinaplatz.


After the opera was over, we walked by the ‘star’ for Nabucco’s composer, Verdi.


And we would have finished with a slice of cake at – where else – the Hotel Sacher or the adjacent Sacher Cafe but we had done that the night before! (I know…a pity not to have that much chocolate twice!)

Hotel Sacher with elegant doorman


the cafe next door - a little more laid back with rock music playing in the background

sachertorte - must have with schlagoobers!

For those chocoholics among us, you can buy the whole cake!

With or without the accompanying cake,  Bill thinks he may actually like opera as well,  so perhaps we will sign up for the MET series simulcasts in Missoula which are broadcast at the renovated Roxy Theater.   Although it’s fun to dress up for a night of elegance,  Verdi or Puccini sound just as fabulous from the comfort of my jeans.

Pass the popcorn.


Beauty in the eye of….

Vienna is a wonderful city for art.  From classical to modern, it has both in abundance.  On several trips to Austria’s capital city, I’ve had the chance to take in some of each.  In early April, I spent nearly all day in the Kunsthistoriches, Vienna’s collection of pre-modern art.  In early May, I spent maybe too much some time at the MUMOK, one of Vienna’s modern art museums, and then more time at the Belvedere, Prince Eugene of Savoy’s  ‘country’ palace and one of Vienna’s first public art museums.  Some art I had hoped to see was either ‘on loan’ to another museum (good for them, bad for me!) or simply rotated out, but there were plenty of redeeming works to make up for it!

The Kunst has an extensive Reubens collection, a smattering of some from one of my all-time favorites, Caravaggio (the wizard of ‘lighting’ in oil paintings), and a whole roomful of huge assembly of Breugel, to say nothing of a few by Rembrant, Bosch, Dürer, Raphael, etc.

Madonna of the Meadow - Raphael

Caravaggio - the passion of Christ













Hieronymus Bosch

Bruegel - Peasant Wedding















Imagine coming ‘round the corner, expecting but not finding Gone were most of the Arcimboldo works of ‘portrait vegetable art’ – but how could I complain? They were on loan to Washington, D.C. and Italy!



Equally enjoyable was watching modern artists try their hand at reproducing the masters.














The MUMOK (MUseum MOderner Kunst) is the largest Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Central Europe with an extensive Collection of international Art from the 20th Century and the Present.  Unfortunately for me, I didn’t thoroughly check the website before going or I would have learned that much of the collection of was rotated out.

The minimalist abstract art exhibit wasn’t all that bad – it was good for its genre, but there was so little of it.  (heh heh)


Richter - Fuge in Red and Green


However, I started on the bottom floor with “Actionism” and some VERY disturbing photos/videos of self-and other-mutilation.  Perhaps that is the point – to shock.   I found it just plain creepy. And  I didn’t see anyone trying to reproduce this stuff!


John Cage’s music action was simply great, however!  See it here.  My parents used to watch I’ve Got A Secret.  It was funny to hear it dubbed in German! (no dubbing needed for the actual music however!)


But there was nary an Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Joseph Beuys, Jasper Johns and Roy Liechtenstein to be seen anywhere. Boo!

In between the extremely noisy exuberant students who were having a lesson with docents,

group of young students meeting; this was at their quietest. Mostly they were running around all over the rooms!











I found these two gems!

Paul Klee - Boats and Cliffs

Kadinsky - Obstinate









Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely support that art museums encourage love and knowledge of art at an early age and keep right on doing that up through older age.  And I am not the ‘don’t touch the books and don’t make noise librarian-type’, but the activity did make it a wee bit hard to concentrate or even hear the audio guide!  Sometimes the art becomes the people IN the museum, which is maybe what actionism is all about!  The fact that I am still thinking about all that modern art is a testament to its gift to stimulate pondering and discussion!


The Belvedere I visited after our trip (on non-trip) to the American Embassy (whoops – we needed to visit the consulate instead – that’s in another part of town!).    Side note:  A sad sign of the times, apparently – the American Embassy is cordoned off from the rest of the world, where as the French embassy is on a beautiful street, merely surrounded by a simple, elegant wrought iron fence.

The French Embassy in Vienna

The US Embassy in Vienna












No photos were allowed inside the Belvedere, but there I found a happy marriage of the old and the new(er) in this museum devoted mostly to works by artists of the central European region.  The medieval art – the carved altarpieces, and sculptures were stunning.  Works by late 19th and early 20th century artists Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Oskar Kokoschka both delighted and probed.

All photos courtesy of the Belvedere Museum website.

Gustav Klimt - The Kiss

detail of Znaim Altarpiece











The Kiss is like an icon, both figuratively and literally, with so much gold overlay!  The Znaim altarpiece is the biggest one I have ever seen!  It must have been 15 feet high!

Oskar Kokoschka - TigerLion

Egon Schiele - Embrace











The extensive outside grounds had lots of potential but the gardens were still ‘in preparation.’  It was a cold and blustery day!

Upper Belvedere Palace

Looking toward Lower Belvedere Palace and the Stables

Statue near Upper Belvedere













Patterns of (potential) garden between Upper and Lower Belvedere

Cascade of waterfalls and fountains in the middle of the walkway











Next time I will post about some of the churches we’ve seen while in Vienna.

Thanks as always, for reading!

Pummerins, Prancers and Palaces. (Palaces)

So now we come to the third in the trilogy of Vienna:  Palaces.  Vienna is chock full of them.  There are the Imperial Palaces where one can see the jewels and crowns of the Holy Roman Emperors, plus the apartments where the royals lived; and there is Schönbrunn, the ‘country’ palace and grounds which, like so many monuments in Vienna, has morphed from early medieval use to depredation by invaders to lavish restoration by the Hapsburgs.

In truth, Schönbrunn was little more than a hunting lodge and grounds for the earlier Hapsburgs until the time of Emperor Charles VI who gave it to his daughter, Maria Theresia, after which it really took off!

Because of the beautiful gardens, the beautiful day as well as the beautiful rooms, we chose to tour Schönbrunn and were not disappointed!  Because photos inside are prohibited you will have to visit HERE if you would like to see what we saw. There are some very good virtual tours at this site.

Schönbrunn Palace, in the high baroque style, is so immense, it is hard to fit it all in the camera’s view!


the palace from the back or garden side

As you walk out the ‘back door’ so to speak, you are greeted by gardens on either side, an immense statue called Neptune’s statue, and a huge edifice on a hill, the Gloriette, which was used as a sort of secondary dining room for the royals and their guests.  Some kind of almost al fresco dining!


The Gloriette beckons!

Unfortunately, it was just a little too early for the amazing plantings that happen in the gardens at Schönbrunn but we could get a sense of how lovely they might be at the height of summer.



the gardens await!

Everyone was very busy preparing for the summer season.  Even the statues were getting a cleaning from the winter grime (and moss, no doubt)!  This would be a lot of fun on a summer’s day but this day it was really windy, probably not too much ‘fun’ for the hose man!


washing off Neptune and 'friends'


You can get a sense of the layout of the gardens better from (almost) the top of the hill.


looking back at the palace and gardens at Schoenbrunn

There was a reflecting pool with mergansers landing amid other ducks.  Next time we’ll carry our compact binoculars so we can make the definitive identification!



reflecting pool with ducks, joggers, sitters

Also a really great view of Vienna!

We were more than fascinated by the Gloriette, with it’s massive columns and faceless statues.


It echoes perfectly the main palace that sits opposite.  Not a mistake!



'faceless' statue signaling the strength of the Austrian Empire

Austrian water is VERY good and safe to drink….something the Austrians are rightly proud of!


water fountain at the Gloriette

We were delighted to discover that the al fresco dining room of the Hapsburgs has been replaced by a working cafe.  The prices were a little steep but nice to get in out of the wind and enjoy some schokolade!  As with any caffeinated beverage, it is always served with a glass of water and a small spoon for eating up that yummy schlogoobers or whipped cream.




Vienna is famous for the elegance and hospitality of its coffee houses, which I hope to visit more on an upcoming trip.   Evidently Starbucks has tried to open a place or two there without much success.  The Viennese just don’t get drinking coffee from a paper cup and while on the go.  I think the Viennese know a thing or two. 🙂

Behind and beside the Gloriette, there are miles of more gardens and paths, and the Schönbrunn Zoo, one of the first in Europe.  We took a wooded path down and soon found ourselves being stalked by a two footed ‘friend’.



It's a Mandarin Duck, an introduced species, with some breeding pairs on the grounds!

The literature mentioned a Roman ruins, and we thought that would be interesting.   We could see what looked like a ruins from the top.



what looks like 'ruins'....

Alas, with their fondness for antiquity, the architects of the palace had created a Roman Ruins for the entertainment of the royals and their guests.  It did look a bit staged!!!!


Roman "ruins"

Some not so fake beauty lay in the grounds themselves.  Spring just arriving and all that!


spring arrives in the woods around Schoenbrunn

The squirrels were active, and much different looking than the ones we have in Montana!


hello. I am not the Easter Bunny!


We got some great views of a very common bird around Austria.  This one is MY photo! (unlike the previous photo which I had to borrow!)


Great tit in spring plumage

And some interesting flowers which I can’t find the name for in our Blumen book.  Oh well.  Not everything must be named to be enjoyed!


cool wild flowers


Until next time, thanks for reading!  Auf wiedersehen!

Pummerins, Prancers and Palaces. (Prancers)

Our last few days in Vienna were devoted purely to sightseeing.   Bill’s birthday wish was to see the Spanish Riding School again, this time in performance.   OK!  Since I grew up riding, anything with horses is fine with me!

The performance isn’t that much different than the practice session we saw, except it is narrated in German and in English, which is helpful in explaining all the exquisite moves these horses do.  I was able to surreptitiously sneak a few photos before the attendant spotted me and asked me to stop.  (not sure why they didn’t get the guy down the way who was taking FLASH photography… perhaps it has something to do with the overpriced videos they sell in the shop!)



the stables for the Spanish Riding School

one of the stallions


The stables are very clean, and simple.  I’ve seen fancier stalls in Kentucky.  What is amazing is how calm these stallions are…considering they are all stallions!


our view of the hall - great seats!

One of the main differences in the Practice Session and the Performance (besides the huge difference in cost!) is that the track is completely groomed, and attended to during the performance if, say, one of the stallions needs to use the facilities, which they did, much to the delight of the little girls watching!  They must not be from the country!



little girls (most) always love horses, even when the horses poop!

The riders enter in a line and remove and replace their hats to the painting of the royalty opposite from where we sat, all in slow motion.



entering the hall

The horses perform in groups of six, beginning with the youngest stallions, who are about 6 years old, and who are still changing from the black they are born as foals to shades of grey to the full white coat of mature stallions.


they moved in various formations

A lot is made of the airs above the ground moves the horses do, both on long line and with a stirrup-less rider (I never would be able to do that!), but I found the passage (a movement done at the trot, in which the horse has great elevation of stride and seems to pause between putting down its feet –it has a great amount of suspension in the stride) and the quadrilles (a choreographed horse ballet) done at the half-pass or diagonal to be the most interesting to watch!

All in all, a great time!  Piber, the stud farm where the horses are bred, is close to Graz and opened for visitors mid-April, so that will be our next trip concerning horses!



Pummerins, Prancers and Palaces. (Pummerins)

Once we got settled in our hotel in Vienna (the afternoon of April 6), no small feat in itself (another story), we were able to relax a little and start to enjoy all that is Vienna.  Our hotel was right off the Grauben, Vienna’s big shopping street.  It’s a wide pedestrian walkway (except for the early morning delivery hours and then watch out!), and with the warm weather Austria has been having it was packed!  Or maybe it is always that way.  Lots of tourists, lots of regular Viennese, all milling about.

One of the charms of the street are the buskers.  We saw everything from classical musicians to very bad break dancing.  Definitely NOT candidates for So You Think You Can Dance!   This group, however caught our fancy.  Have a listen and see what you think!

From Graz-April 6 2011-to Vienna = train accident and requiem

They were certainly lively and collected a lot of coins!

Many of the people on the Grauben were headed to Stephansdom, and after dinner, so were we!  I’ve already posted (Remember) about the Kentucky High School singers who performed the Mozart Requiem.  The next day, we were able to spend some time in this remarkable cathedral.

Stephansdom dates back to 1147, when the first Romanesque church was erected on-site.  Like most of the churches in Austria (and other parts of Europe) the  building has been added to and reconstructed over the years.  Probably the most famous parts of St. Stephans are the towers, emulated by nearly every church in Austria.  The south tower was finished in 1433 but the north tower languished and finally, with the great Gothic period over, was capped off at 223 ft, or half the height of the south tower in 1578.  The entire structure burned after it was ignited by sparks from a WWII bomb, and the bell, the roof and many main features of the church were destroyed or damaged.  Nevertheless, all of Austria pitched in to rebuild, and it looks like the rebuilding goes on even today!


twin towers or pagan towers - oldest part of Stephansdom


Stephansdom-north tower with its cap

Stephansdom - under construction, again!

We took the elevator ride up to the North Tower, the South Tower being closed (and who wanted to walk 325 steps, anyway?)  There were great views of Vienna, the roof, the street and the Pummerin Bell. The Pummerin (Boomer) officially  is named for St. Mary. Pummerin weights 21,383 kilograms (44,380 pounds). It is the second largest swinging bell in Europe (the biggest one is Peter in Cologne Cathedral).  It only rings on special occasions–we thought it would be ‘fun’ to hear it when we were standing right there.


view from north tower stephansdom

looking down from stephansdom

bicycles for rent, at stephansdom


the south tower over the roof - stephansdom

Pummerin (boomer) Bell in north tower- stephansdom

Bill had to leave mid-morning for his meeting, but I rented one of the audio-tours and was able to access other parts of the cathedral off-limits to people NOT taking the tour.  What is hard to remember is that this, first of all, is a place of worship.  At the same time that individuals and groups were touring, another group was making a film, construction workers were hauling cinder-blocks up to the construction site, and church vestry members were getting ready for the next worship service at Noon, people were lighting candles and praying.  I did my own kind of praying as I considered the exquisite skill that went into carving the pulpit or craft the magnificent pillars, windows and paintings of this church.



candlelighter at stephansdom


construction in stephansdom


one of the chapels open for prayer



pulpit stephansdom

Like so much of the building, the pulpit is replete with symbolism.  The wheels on the stairway roll up or down from heaven, depending on which way you are going.  The church fathers sit on the foundation, giving gravity and substance to the priest’s words, the little dog at the top guards against any ill-conceived thought or sin that happens to make its way to the top. Best of all, though, is the artist of the pulpit who designed himself into it!


wheels turning upward to heaven or back again on pulpit at stephansdom


church fathers and evangelists on pulpit

dog to guard against sins of priest ascending the pulpit at stephansdom

self portrait of artist of pulpit - stephansdom



Prince Eugeny’s Chapel and grave – stephansdom

Mozart funeral mass was held in the Prince Eugeny Chapel.



one of the windows in the transept of the church

The oldest glass is up by the high altar, and was incorporated when the windows were redone after the war.


oldest glass in the church - window to right of high altar - Stephansdom


The old organ (as of the 1950’s) is no longer used at the Stephansdom.


older organ in stephansdom

Instead a newer organ, built during Pope John 23rd’s reforms, is used.


newest organ - stephansdom


font of baptism in chapel at stephansdom – evangelists at bottom, saints around the top


By 11:30, it was time to say goodbye to St. Stephans, as Mass would be starting soon, anyway.  More about Vienna, in future posts!



We are in the middle of Lent, that particular time of the Christian year especially given to insightful self-reflection, spiritual discipline, and preparation for the celebration of resurrection. Personally, I believe this kind of work should be our practice every day, for each moment presents the opportunity to accept our death, to die to our self-absorption, and to observe and honor the life that is unfolding before us.  Some begin the Lenten period with the imposition of ashes and hear, “Remember, O mortal, that thou art dust and to dust thou shall return.”  Never in one day have I been reminded so profoundly of the truth of these words.

Wednesday morning, April 6, dawned, and with it the trip to Vienna for the meeting of the European Geological Union, where Bill would give a paper.  We made our way to the tram and then to the underground passageway,  lined with small shops and eating places, leading to the Hauptbahnhof in Graz.

Almost immediately we came upon a group of polizei standing near a body –  a man stretched out in front of one of the shops.  He was dead.  It was so startling and unexpected, and very hard to shake.  I don’t think we are meant to shake off things like this.

After buying our ticket we proceeded to the platform to await the train, a small conveyance – engine and 4 cars – one of the many that travel from Graz and point south to Vienna each day.  Occupying the platform with us was a man, obviously agitated, talking to himself.  We could understand nothing of his speech but the body language was clear.  He waited until one train pulled out and then jumped down and over the tracks to the platform on the opposite side, something I think is strictly verboten.  Soon he returned and leapt across the tracks to our side once again. His agitation increased, he confronted several people standing near us, wagging his middle finger in their faces.  Suddenly, he jumped back down into the track well, just as our train was starting to come in!  He seemed oblivious to this peril.  A woman stepped up and yanked  him out of the well. Yet again he started to turn  into the path of the train.  Another man came forward and pulled him back, motioning to the train which had now arrived.  I wonder what happened to him, after that.  Was he on some substance that made him crazy?  Was he mentally ill?  Was he trying to end his life?  Was he just unaware, as we all are, sometimes, unaware?

We boarded the train.

All was proceeding normally.  We passed through villages and towns whose names had grown familiar to us in our one and a half months residence in Austria.  Looking out the windows we could see the meadows in bright green attire signaling the freshness of the season.  Angling up the hillsides, furrows of dirt, newly turned, awaited seeding, or maybe already held the beginnings of next fall’s pumpkin seed oil or corn.


Spring arriving on the hillsides

We had passed the town of Kapfenberg, and later, the ski area in the mountains with skiers eking out the last turns on rapidly disappearing  fields of white.  We entered a section of forest where one could see both the fresh tips of pine trees and wildflowers emerging.  Who would have thought that these dense woods, so still and yet so bursting with the promise of new life after the winter, would be the scene of something so disastrous?


the woods near Wiener Neustadt

Not too far from the town of Wiener Neustadt the train gave a long whistle and then there was the sound of something impacting the train.  It sounded like stones.

At first we thought there had been a rock slide, but there are no mountains adjacent and no where from rocks to appear.  The train came almost immediately to a stop and over the loudspeaker, an announcement, most of which we could not understand, but we did hear the word gescholssen, which meant closed.  And we were not to get off the train.

The conductor – a young woman – and the concessionaire – a young man – disembarked and began walking the length of the train.  A man who had been riding his bike on the dirt road next to the tracks turned around.  Phone calls were made and soon there appeared an ambulance.  Soon after that, several police cars, and an ÖBB train inspector.  Then a fire truck drove up.  There was much interviewing going on of both the bicyclist and the train engineer.   Intermittently the conductor came back on the loudspeaker to tell us the tracks were still closed, and finally that we would be here at least another hour.  The ambulance left, but was replaced by two other medical personnel.  Next, a photographer and another official donned protective blue gloves and began walking past us to the end of the train.  Finally, two men in a hearse arrived.  All the while the passengers stood or sat peering out the windows, silent for the most part.   What was only a guess early on became clearer as events unfolded:  the train had hit a human being.

It was a horrible moment, that realization.    Several  people wept.   Those on the train reached out to one another in gesture and in words.  Remember, O mortal…

Later we found out that Ernst Weber was the football (i.e. soccer) team manager of the women’s national team and of ÖFB junior selections.  He was, as the newspapers report, 62 years in life. In life.    He is survived by his wife Gabi and a son.  His colleagues said “Ernst Weber was a good coach. But above all, Weber was a uniquely helpful and lovely person.”

Remember O mortal, that dust thou art and to dust thou shall return.  Remember, how fragile is this life and how beautiful a gift. Remember to perceive and honor it with each step, each gaze, each breath.

That night, we went to the Stephansdom, Vienna’s great medieval monument and cathedral, which itself has seen many rebirths through the years.



To approximately one thousand people gathered there, a choir from the Louisville Kentucky Performing Arts High School sang the Mozart Requiem.  They sang for Ernst, for the man in the passageway, for the man on the platform, for those caught in wars and violence not of their own making, for all of us who mourn, for all of us who have or will eventually die, for all of us to remember the preciousness of life.


Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Te decet hymnus, Deus, in Sion,
et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem.
Exaudi orationem meam,
ad te omnis care veniet.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and let perpetual light shine on them.
You are praised, God, in Zion,
and homage will be paid to You in Jerusalem.
Hear my prayer,
to You all flesh will come.
Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and let perpetual light shine on them.


Click on photo to open the video.

From Graz-April 6 2011-to Vienna = train accident and requiem