My first Viking European river cruise itinerary this summer included among other spectacular destinations a one-day stop in Vienna. I was salivating over the many cultural opportunities there and planned my activities long in advance. The day before the Vienna stop our handsome Norwegian program director apologetically announced that one of the locks on the Danube was broken and our ship could not get to Vienna. We would have to disembark on the border between Austria and Slovakia and take a two-hour bus ride to the city center. Later, we would embark on another Viking ship that would wait for us on the other side of the lock. Unfortunately, this small inconvenience will translate into reduced time in Vienna. Oh No!
When one has three hours in Vienna, what is one supposed to do? Indulge in chocolate shops sipping coffee with the accompaniment of the famous Sachertorte, casually stroll down the beautiful old streets decorated by picturesque windows covered in flowers, run to the opera house, drama or comedy theaters, numerous concert halls, countless museums, spectacular palaces, intoxicating rose gardens and parks? Or maybe pay respects to the mind-boggling quantity of famous people residing here at one time or another! This list of geniuses can go on and on and would include representatives of all possible departments of human thought, philosophy, literature, architecture, art, science and of course music.
I do not know what other people would do, but I started my three-hour journey by paying homage to Mozart and visited his three-story apartment museum located in the heart of Vienna behind St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The first floor of the apartment is the authentic core of the building – the rooms in which Mozart and his family actually lived. It is the largest, most elegant and most expensive apartment that Mozart ever had – and the only one in Vienna to have survived. Mozart lived there from 1784 until 1787. During that time he composed a number of major works including Le Nozze di Figaro. I do not know what came over me but I suddenly got all teared-up. I could not believe I was walking on the same floors he walked on and looked out the same windows he did.
After drying my tears of (who-knows what), I jumped on a little pedicab (a bicycle rickshaw) and we headed to one of Beethoven’s many apartments. After a short and very pleasant drive masterfully avoiding masses of tourists and locals with little dogs on the leashes all going different directions; we arrived at Beethoven’s apartment address listed on Google map. The front building on the little street looked like a cute toy gingerbread house placed there by magician’s hand in preparation for Christmas festivities. To my dismay, neither my pedicab driver nor people in the neighborhood knew where Beethoven’s apartment was located. Eventually I found a plaque on the side of a building but the apartment/museum was closed for the summer holidays.
I was disappointed but my resourceful pedicab driver and a student of a local university at the same time had a very simple explanation. Beethoven often moved from one apartment to another when he was running out of money to pay rent, and that is why there are many apartments and museums of his in Vienna. If one is closed for the holidays it is not a big deal. At the end of my first hour in Vienna I kissed the closed door of Beethoven’s apartment, both figuratively and literally speaking. Well after all, life is going on and especially when you have just a few hours left in the middle of the European Cultural Chocolate Tort-Vienna. I had no choice but to collect myself and head to my next destination. And that will be the subject of my next blog.