Today was bright and crisp as Misti and I wandered the streets of Vienna guided, via our iPods, on a fascinating "Audio Tour Through The Hidden City" by a rather personable historian named Duncan J. D. Smith. We took pictures.
The walking tour involves 22 different locations, and we only made it to 10 before chilly evening air forced us to retreat back to Wahringerstrasse. So we may keep this going for a couple of weeks.
We started at a place called Shottentor, which is the tram stop/subway station just down the way a bit. We are there a lot, but little did we realize that it is the location of all sorts of historic things … but, like the statues, historic things are almost everywhere in this city.
|Beethoven Composed Here|
Let's start with Beethoven. He lived on the fourth floor of this building (which is actually the top, or fifth floor the way Austrians count things) when he was writing his only opera, Fidelio, first performed in 1805.
He also wrote a couple of his symphonies while there. He was notorious for dumping his chamber pot down onto the street in front of the building.
|The Assassination Attempt|
Just at the end of the building, on what was then a cobblestone road following an ancient Roman wall, a Hungarian nationalist with a knife tried to kill Emperor Franz Joseph in 1853. The Hungarian didn't succeed but a beautiful church – our favorite in the city -- was built after the attack to make the emperor feel loved.
Around the corner from Beethoven's place is a house where three sisters were wooed by Schubert. I'm certain some music resulted, but I'm not sure what it was.
And around the corner from that is "THE DOORWAY." This is the doorway in which Orson Wells stood, hidden in shadow, in "The Third Man" movie. A black cat walked by his well-shined shoes. That isn't Orson in the photo, but it is the doorway.
And it is the very same door. Nothing has changed since the movie was shot back in 1949, the year the guy in our photo was born.
Later in our walking tour we came to one of the seemingly countless palaces that populate the city and, encouraged by our audio guide to go into the courtyard, found a striking statue of a woman lying on what appears to be a sarcophagus (see photo at top). Turns out, it is just a piece of art … for now. The current owner of the palace had it done so that one day he could be buried there.
Next was an old church in Minoritenplatz with two remarkable features. The first is the steeple. Much of it is missing because it was shot off by a Turkish cannon in the 1600s. I didn't realize cannons could shoot that high in the 1600s. Despite the intervening centuries, resentment against the Turks for hitting the steeple remains, according to our guide.
Inside the church is a full-sized mosaic, commissioned by Napoleon (his soldiers lived in the church), of da Vinci's Last Supper. The mosaic, by Giacomo Raffaelli, weighs 20 tons and is remarkable.
|It's a Mosaic|
|Misti and the Skull|
Outside the church one of the walls is decorated with the headstones from the old cemetery. Note the skull at the bottom of the one Misti admired.
And given the history of warfare and religious turmoil here, we weren't surprised to step out the door and see three very holy-looking figures armed with arrows, a sword and a crude wood cross. The middle one is also holding a little dragon or lizard or monster of some sort. We don't know what that symbolizes.
|Old and Older|
As we walked down a nearby street we were told that many of the ornate old buildings are really just plaster shaped to make the buildings look like they were constructed of heavy blocks. The reality is many were made with ordinary brick, then dressed up. In our photo the building on the right has the "faux" exterior, whereas the building at the end of the street is the real thing. The faux buildings aren't new … they're just … faux.
As we strolled we passed by a bakery window with spectacular wedding cakes, which we'd like to share with Jennifer, our cake-making friend. The cakes included photos of the bakers.
The Turkish Horseman adorns an otherwise unremarkable corner and we learned it is there because during one of the several Turkish invasions a baker at the location believed the Turks were tunneling under the walls of the city – and his bakery. Nobody believed him. So he sat a barrel in his cellar, stretched animal skin tightly over it, then put pebbles on the skin.
He knew that if there was tunneling below, the pebbles would bounce. There was, they did, and the Vienna authorities came and diverted massive amounts of water from a nearby canal into the cellar, which drowned the Turkish tunnel diggers below and saved the city.
The balcony on the church pictured here is where someone important announced the end of the "Holy Roman Empire." And next door is the building where Mozart gave a concert as a 6-year-old, apparently to good reviews.
|Mozart Played Here As A Child|
Nearby is a clockmaker's cottage, tucked between two flying buttresses on a narrow street. One buttress was cut away to allow tall carriages through. Across the narrow street is the Uhrmuseum, which is filled with old clocks. Inside is the world's smallest pendulum clock -- it fits inside a thimble.
|Mozart Walked Here?|
The narrow street, we're told, would be recognizable to Mozart as it is much as it was back then.
Across the square from Mozart's debut hall is perhaps the nicest fire station in the world.
And around the corner, down an alley, and through an arch or two, is a fountain with a story. The statues, legend has it, were made by a sculptor who wanted to make some extra cash by smuggling cigars into Vienna. He allegedly filled the statues with cigars, then died before he could remove them. The fountain was built and the cigars are still there. Nobody has actually seen the stogies, but the water has stained part of the fountain brown, so the story must be true.
And finally, we've been told that Vienna embraces Christmas like no other city. There will be open-air markets, festivals, and celebrations filling the streets. We got an inkling of that today when, in the first part of October, we saw workmen setting up Christmas trees and other displays.
Erin, it's your dream come true.