We disembarked the train just before sunset at Wien Praterstern, the stop nearest our hotel and our entertainment for the evening. We stayed near Vienna Prater because the Ferris wheel had the best view of the city at night (also, riding roller coasters in the dark!) even though it was a bit out of the city center. The Prater is a bit like Santa Monica Pier on steroids in that you can enter without paying (you pay at each ride), the views are beautiful, and the rides are old. It is a vibrant piece of the city with brightly-painted rides and street art, a sufficient number of nearby restaurants to grab a beer, and the perfect place to wind down after a long day of sightseeing.
Vienna’s rich musical history cannot be escaped as you walk through the city with its tributes to Strauss, Beethoven, and Mozart. If there was only one city in which to see a symphony or an orchestra, this had to be it. We enjoyed a full representation of Viennese musical culture at the Kursalon on our second evening in the city. We chose to see the Strauss & Mozart performance because it encompassed many aspects of the musical culture: waltzes and polkas, operetta and piano concertos, and opera vocals. Granted, due to it being more of a “variety show,” it could be a little tacky and it isn’t exactly a classy experience – but it was significantly less expensive than other venues and it was worth every penny (the next time I am in Vienna, though, I will splurge on one of the more sophisticated performances).
The Albertina, with its permanent exhibition containing many of the most influential masterpieces from the last 130 years, including Monet’s “Water Lilly Pond,” was easily the most beloved museum on our agenda. Imagine my excitement, then, when Dürer’s “Hare” was also on display for the first time in years. I’ve looked through dozens of art history books and seen hundreds of photographs of works by Monet, Picasso, Cezanne, Degas, Renoir, etc., but nothing prepared me for the sheer beauty of viewing them from less than three feet away. Nothing.
I would have left the Albertina with the biggest grin on my face had it not been for the Eric Fischl exhibition. His rendering of “Tumbling Woman II” and the “Falling Figures” collection that addressed 9/11 left me with tears in my eyelashes. It was brilliant, poignant, and respectful (contrary to what may have been thought previously).
-M. Ray Hall