Wasn't That Andre Rieu?
By Simon Pontin ~ Posted Mon, 12/08/2008 - 5:49pm
We left Salzburg fairly early on Sunday for a two hour trip to Linz, third largest city in Austria, for a passing visit on the way to Vienna. Linz is a large industrial city on the brown (as our guide put it, "Only Johann Strauss thought it was blue.") Danube. We've been very fortunate so far in the choice of guides. They're very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. For instance, the woman who led us around Linz during our brief stay carried a portable sound system and went into intricate details of the history of the city while pointing out the important landmarks. Most of Austria's large cities were bombed during WWII and among the beautiful nineteenth century buildings, here and there, are ugly (IMHO) architectural relics from the 1950s. The weather has been getting wetter and colder each day, but our group enthusiastically (mostly) trails along, trudging quite long distances to absorb all the information. We learned that the cathedral in Linz is the largest in Austria (and there are some big ones), seating twenty-thousand people. Christy and I snacked on Linzer Torte, from a recipe that goes back to the seventeenth century, and then we were off again in the coach piloted by our Austrian driver, Peter, headed for Vienna. It's about a two hour drive, and it's a very large city (1.8 million in the city alone) so the suburbs stretch quite a way out from the center. Our first impression was of the grandeur of even apartment blocks on the edge of town, not to mention an incredible assortment of palaces, churches, government and commercial buildings. I've never seen such a cohesive collection of structures. It's difficult to summarize in a blog one's impressions of any large city, so I'll try to talk about some of the things we did with our time here. Sunday night, we took the coach to a suburban restaurant called Marchfelderhof where we were greeted at the door with welcome signs, red carpet and singing waiters (Collette Vacations must bring a lot of customers here!) and, inside, a trio of musicians playing Viennese favorites. Fact is, almost everywhere you go in Vienna, someone is playing Viennese favorites! The walls of the restaurant (did I say walls--every square inch) are covered with bric-a-brac--musical instruments, stuffed animals, tools--you name it! The food was plentiful and excellent and the strolling musicians eager to please. Darn good time was had by all. Then back on the bus and to the grounds of Schonbrunn Palace for a concert in the Orangerie (formerly the source of citrus to prevent scurvy). A 'salon sextet' gave us their crowd-pleasing collection of Mozart and Strauss favorites, with the help of a pair of singers and two dancers. Very tasteful in every way, although the acoustics were very 'boomy' and Metro-like.
Monday morning, after a lavish hotel breakfast, we hopped on the bus--sorry! coach--and toured the center of Vienna. It's a beautiful city and we had an excellent guide named Rudy (good Austrian name) from Holland. We went back Schonbrunn Palace for a proper conducted tour, marred only by the damned tourists! The Palace gets between seven- and ten-thousand visitors a day, so they rush the individual tour groups through at three minute intervals. The mixture of mostly Italian, Japanese and occasionally US groups gives the whole endeavor quite an international flavor. We followed the Palace visit with a walking tour of the old center where all the shops are, and after a nice piece of streudel and a cup of coffee, here I am back in the hotel room at the (two-fingered) keyboard.