This morning we purchased The Vienna Card, which gives us free use of subways, buses, trolleys and commuter trains in the greater Vienna area for three days, plus discounts here and there. All for 150 schillings per person. Our first destination was Schloss Schoenbrunn, about four miles from the center of town.
This was the Hapsburg attempt to outshine their rival's palace at Versailles; it consists of several buildings and huge gardens on about a square mile of land. The emperors thought of it as a weekend place.
The big lot full of parked tour buses near the subway station should have warned us, but we foolishly went to the eingang and paid our admission to see Entrance to Schloss Schoenbrun the castle. Big mistake. It was crowded with tours; guides were having to speak louder to be heard. Those that weren't with tours had picked up speaker tours in various languages that they held up to their ears. We just wanted to stroll through, kind of eyeball the furnishings, read a sign here and there. We kept getting bumped into as people jostled around. So we decided to thread our way through. It was a great challenge, but we succeeded. Nobody understood our "Entschuldigen sie mir, bitte." Finally we got out of the castle. We might go back, in the dead of winter in a hailstorm, when the crowds would be smaller. The interesting thing was, it was just a run-of-the-mill palace. Once again we noted that the curator did not seem interested in relating what we were seeing to life in the year 2000, in Austria or anywhere else.
We took a short walk in the beautiful gardens, and then decided we'd try out our transportation passes some more. As we returned to the station there must have been another hundred and fifty people who just got off the subway and Otto Wagner building were walking towards Schloss Schoenbrunn. Join the crowd.
The funny thing was that if you just went somewhere in Vienna that was not one of the prescribed tourist spots, it was beautiful and quiet; it's really a great city to walk around. We took two subways and got to the UNO area, which is an ultramodern skyscraper place. It being Sunday, everything was buttoned up. Austria has one of the strongest economies in the world. Unemployment down around 3.4%, good GDP growth. In the UNO area, skyscrapers were going up everywhere, and big leasing signs were posted.
The concierge had told us the map of the transportation system was "too large." Translation: the hotel didn't have it. We found one for sale at a tobacconist, who also sells postage stamps, lotto tickets, transportation cards and maps; it's a Vienna tradition. You just have to know that the tobacconist is the place to buy everything. Anyhow, we spread the map out and planned a route.
We took bus 92A, got off at the right stop (was this luck?), immediately got on Bus 83A, over three bridges, got off at the end of that line, and then Secession Building door capital boarded streetcar 18. Vienna has preserved its trolley system; trains of two or three cars glide along majestically, not as fast as buses, but with regular planned stops. They are great for tourists like us who want to stare out the windows.
Next we changed back to the underground, getting off at the Naschmarkt. We were interesting in seeing the origin of the word "nosh" but were a little disappointed because the market was closed up tight on Sunday. But on the theory that good things happen when you don't expect them, we found a gloriously decorated Otto Wagner Jugendstil building that had been illustrated in Michelin, and then the Secession building, where the radical turn of the century artists hung out.
We finished off by walking back to the hotel, working on our reports, and reading books. We're having trouble with sending internet mail; we can receive it all right, but we are often encountering server trouble, or some other kind of trouble, and so our mail doesn't go out. We apologize to our readers who get a batch of four or five reports at once.