Although our friends are going back to the UK today, it is still a packed day. Starting with the options of church and/or horses, it is then lunch and architecture and then for us, a chance to do something at a slightly slower pace.
The Augustinian Church
If you were not looking for it, you probably would not find the Augustinian Church
because its entrance looks like any other stately doorway on a graceful Viennese building. Inside it is a different matter however
and because we were there just after the doors were unlocked, we had it to ourselves. The church is famous because it was the Parish Church for the Imperial Rulers and many Hapsburg weddings took place there including that of Emperor Franz Joseph to Duchess Elisabeth of Bavaria in 1854 (Lisi).
I particularly liked Antonio Canova’s memorial to Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria. Later on when we passed by on our way to coffee, there were long queues outside. Obviously it is best to get there early when you can have it to yourself.
The Vienna Boy’s Choir
In my youth I was a chorister at one of the best choir schools in the country. We always strongly felt that we were a professional choir singing to the highest musical and liturgical standards and the Vienna Boys Choir (VBC) was more of a commercial choir than anything else.
No doubt this was a biased view based on childish rivalry but we were not a bad choir.
In the picture which appears about 10 seconds into this YouTube track, I am the boy in the front row on the left as you look at the picture.
We never actually performed with the VBC, we just thought we were better than them (and any one else !)
Today I got the chance to see and hear the VBC perform in the Imperial Chapel - the Hofburgkapelle. Perform is an interesting word to use for a choir singing Schubert in B flat as part of a very high church Roman Catholic Mass presided over by a Cardinal.
Although there are some people there who have come for the Mass, most have come to hear the Choir sing and hence tickets are sold. You cannot see them, they are up in the top deck.
The church is unremarkable as Viennese churches go - rather plain but suited for its purpose, namely celebrating mass.
When the mass had concluded, the choirboys came down and did a party piece in front of the altar for the benefit of those who had stayed.
And it turns out that we were better than the famous Vienna Boys Choir - the lead treble was out of tune throughout the whole service and the choir often followed him and sung out of tune as well. It would never have been allowed when I was a choirboy ! (and frankly I expected better of them).
Viennese Coffee Houses
Vienna is known for its coffee houses, places where you can go an relax, read a newspaper, eat cake, drink tea or coffee, take your time………. Having attended mass, we felt we needed a reward and since it was cold, we found a nearby Coffee House - the Cafe Tirolerhof.
Inside it is just as we imagined a coffee house to be,
with people just sitting there, talking
and reading the newspapers
and eating cake.
Lunch is at the Hotel Sacher which dates from 1876. It is a five star hotel and its rooms cost about three times what we are paying at our lowly four star hotel!
When you go inside, you immediately see that it is a five star hotel.
The toilet foyer contains numerous pictures of the famous who have stayed there
and the toilet is painted the same colour as their famous desert.
We are having our last lunch together in a private dining room
and the table is laid out perfectly with crisp white linen etc.
One of the hotel’s "piece de resistances" is Weisswurst (White Sausage) which in fact is Pink and is served with two flavours of mustard.
For the sole vegetarian in the group, because Asparagus is in season, that is what I am given (and very good it was too).
The Hotel is also the other home of the Sacher Torte and that is what we had for desert - superb.
On the way back to the airport (for the rest of the group) we stop at the Hundertwasser House. This is an apartment house designed by Hundertwasser and Krajina. Built in 1983, the house contains 53 flats, 4 offices and 19 terraces and 250 trees. Probably to the disquiet of those who live there, it is one of Austria’s most visited buildings.
Hundertwasser describes the house as
an unusual house,
that does not correspond to
the usual cliches and norms
of academic architecture
a house conceived and designed by a painter
an adventure in modern times
a journey to an unknown land
a journey into the land of creative architecture
where there are window rights and tree tenants
and uncontrolled irregularities
uneven floors, woodlands on the roof
and barriers of beauty
a journey into the land
where nature and man meet in creation
a report about the first free house
a painter dreams
a painter dreams about houses and
a beautiful architecture in which man is free
and this dream becomes a reality
As we stop outside of the house to admire it, we get the chance for a rare duo photograph.
Adjacent to the house is a shop
and a set of toilets which we understand were designed by Hundertwasser in response to the number of people who were coming to see his house.
They both match the style of the house although it is important to note that he only did one of anything - one house, one set of toilets
and one boat.
We spent the afternoon at The Albertina Gallery