I've had to keep notes over the last few days in order to remember everything that's happened so far.It's now Monday night and this is the first opportunity to sit down and update what we've been doing since we arrived.
But back to Saturday morning.The car from Taxi Global arrived promptly, as it always does, and we left our apartment at 2:30am.The roads between Leninsky Prospekt and Domodedovo were very wet, but despite this our driver insisted at driving at somewhere approaching warp factor 6 (close to 120km/h).Russians, particularly central Asians (of which our driver was one) don't like the idea of driving carefully or at least slowly, especially if there's space on the road.Despite the speed, he did have good reactions - as he showed when an idiot stepped out into the road on the section between the MKAD (Moscow circular road) and the airport.His language was a little choice but we were all safe.
Through the airport check-in procedures and time for a coffee before boarding our flight.There is a Café Vienna in the duty-free section at Domodedovo so there was no other choice!We didn't have a Viennese coffee, though - that would be saved for Vienna itself.The flight itself was quick and problem free, and we arrived at Vienna airport at 7am local time.After a short taxi ride into the city centre, we arrived at our hotel.Whilst extremely early for check-in, they kindly stored our bags so that we could get out and about during the day.
And we did just that!Following a short walk around the immediate area (where everything was still closed), we took up the offer of the hotel manager of booking us on a city tour.At 9am a minibus collected us from the front of the hotel and took us to the bus station near Vienna's Südbannhof (Southern train station) There was a slew of buses lined up here, all ready to take tourists on different types of tours around Vienna and its environs.We had booked a fairly standard "City Tour", to travel around the Ringstrasse (ring road) and take in the Opera House, Belvedere Palace, Hofsburg Palace and then out to the Schönbrunn, a palace outside of the city which was used as a summer residence by the Hapsburg family.Monarchical and empirical history brings an undeniable sense of grandeur for the modern tourist to enjoy.We were in a bilingual English/Italian group - our (Austrian) interpreter did a fantastic job!
The Belvedere Palace was a gift to Prince Eugene, who was himself not Austrian.He was French but left France when he was young, presented himself at the court of the Hapsburgs and became one of their most accomplished generals.This was his reward for the many victories that he won for them.On the contrary, the Schönbrunn is a beautiful palace set in grounds which at the time were outside the city limits - their dacha, if you will.Empress Maria-Theresa and the Royal Family plus all of their servants would remove from the palace in the city for the summer months.
The Schönbrunn was the only point on our tour that we actually got out and looked around.Valerie (our guide) took us around the principal rooms, telling us first in English and then in Italian (some in the group could of course understand both).Unfortunately, given the large number of visitors to the building, we couldn't linger too long in any of the rooms, and she gently encouraged us to move on after she'd done the relevant translation.
This was the final point on our tour, and we were returned to the city centre and dropped off outside the famous Opera House - sadly, not open.Vienna's city centre is fairly small so we decided to walk back to our hotel from there and have a bit of rest in preparation for the evening's concert.
We would have missed out by coming to Vienna - home of Mozart, Strauss and other great classical contemporaries - had we not attended at least one concert.Whilst she had been researching, Nat had found an advertisement for a concert in 'Mozart's House' - the building in which he lived and performed for three years. The basement is decorated in the Baroque style (i.e. lots of naked people everywhere with cloths carefully draped, holding wine glasses), and is just big enough to hold about 40 people.Four musicians who play together regularly gave us a wonderful concert, about 1 hour long, including excerpts from "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" and "Divertimento in D".It was the sort of concert where you thought to yourself, "oh yes - I know that one!"It was funny to watch the interplay between the musicians who kept smiling at each other throughout the (very professional) performance.The atmosphere was very close and intimate, the first time that I've been to anything like this before.
Afterwards, we walked back to our hotel and were astonished to find that there was nowhere open.I suppose that having lived in Moscow and New York you expect to be able to buy a pastrami sandwich at midnight if you want to, but everywhere was shut!The only coffee shop that was open was - yes, you've guessed it - Starbucks!Niche-market catering.But nothing else apart from the restaurants was open, and even then not all of those.And our hotel manager had warned us that the shops did not open on Sundays!