Subject: Vienna Travelogue - Part 3
1 of December 1999 - Wednesday We got up early. I had to pick up our tickets for The magic flute, and they were opening at 9.00. By 8.30 we were sitting in the breakfast room. Plenty of cold meats, cheese and different kind of spreads (although I do not recommend the matjes spread unless you like herrings), boiled eggs, cereals, breads, butter, honey and jams. Twinnings tea and good coffee. All that you need for a long day sightseeing. There were a few retired women that were doing walking tours every morning, and two english couples. The waitresses were nice and attentive.

I couldnīt guess the temperature, only that it was cold, so we got our scarves and globes, and headed to do our work. First thing, we went to the tourist office. I picked up a few brochures in Spanish for Gabi (although in the hotel they have plenty of papers, they give you maps, programs), and for myself the Ball calender. I am seriously thinking about going next February or March to a ball, but first I must organize the friends.

>From the tourist office, located until beginning of next year in the K#rtner Strasse near to the Opera, it is just 5 minutes away from the Bundestheaterkassen, where we should pick up the tickets. Turn right, walk along the Sacher Hotel, and there, in front of you, you can see them. There are many advertisements for the various opera and theatre houses in Vienna, so you wonīt miss it. I carried a printed e-mail I had got with the reservation number, and I only had to pick up the tickets. I had already paid back in October, but I could have waited until 4 days prior to the representation day in order to send my credit card number or to transfer the money to the bank account they indicated in the e-mail. We got great seats, on the sixth row. Each of them costed 900 ATS plus 30 ATS as booking fee, a bit on the expensive side, but we wanted to have a fine seat. And at the end it deserved it.

After taking care of the small things, we headed towards the Kaisergruft in Neuermarkt. The way it looks in the outside, so clean and simple, doesnīt prepare for the graves to be found inside. Mum and myself had already been there, but nevertheless... Some of the graves are being restaured, and you could see them working on them. They did a good job on the Karl IV grave. Sisiīs grave was full with flowers, specially from Hungarians. The last one to be buried there, empress Zita, also has fresh flowers. She lived for a few years in Lekeitio, near Bilbao, after his husbandīs resignation, and their son, Otto, is still around in the European Parliament.

Practical things. I asked for a Pensionistenerm#ssigung. In Austria women can get discounts in many things (for the train you have to get an special card) once they reached 60 years old. For men is 65 years old. They didnīt ask for any ID, so it was 1 adult and two Pensionisten. I had brought with me my university card, but I should have got an ISIC card to get the student discount. From then on, any place we went, I was asking for discounts. You never lose, and you have many things to win.

Afterwards we headed to the Hofburg. We walked around the streets between K#rtner and Graben. In Graben we had our first and last punch of the season. Still I am not used to the glhwein, I find it too sweet and spicy. We decided that we only wanted to visit the Imperial Appartments. They arenīt anything special, too much of Sisi for my taste, but I suppose she draws the crowds. Now that I think about it, there is a fine book on Sisi by an austrian writer... Iīll post it at the end. At the Hofburg I had my breaking-point. Gabi bought a Sisi postcard, 8 ATS only, and she wanted me to ask if she could pay with DM. I am afraid I blew off my head, specially after she told me that the Mark was strong currency, and that poor countries are delighted to get some of them. I think I started to rant about the Euro, the fact that all of us are tied on to the Euro, and going down fast, fast, fast, including the Mark... So I headed towards the street, and waited there for a while, trying to breath in the cold air.

We thought about going to the butterfly exhibition at the Palmenhaus, in the Burggarten, but we were too tired and too hungry. Mum decided that it was time to humble me (sometimes she is not a real mother, and I agree with Calvin when he says that his parents come from outer space), so she opted for finding out a place that has been recommended to Gabi. Some self-service near the Auditorium, she had been told. I guessed it should be Rosenberger, just off K#rtner Strasse, because probably her friend was meaning the Stadtoper when she said Auditorium. Itīs OK, specially if you donīt feel comfortable with the language, although there were too many people. It was overcrowded, and we didnīt have so much, just roasted vegetables. For a self-service restaurant, I donīt think it was so cheap.

I had got a listing at the tourist office with all the musical cafés, and we thought of having a coffee at the Landtmann, but they didnīt have any music, and there was only one table. So... straight into the Christkindlmarkt, by the Town Hall. I think there are better Christmas markets than this one. It can get too glitzy and kitsch, although it is good fun to go there. After a while, I decided that we were really needing a break, so we tried the Café Central.There was piano music, cakes and we could relax for a while. We had two melanges (coffee with milk, afraid I am bit of a classical when it comes to coffee in Vienna, although sometimes I would opt for a kleiner Brauner), cake (Café Central Torte, with chocolate and nuts, itīs easier to eat than the Sachertorte) and camomile tea (Kamillentee. We drink it in Spain when you have an upset stomach, and itīs also quite useful when you need a coffein-free hot drink ). Including tip (never forget the tips in Vienna, unless the service was really lousy), 170 ATS. I donīt think it so expensive. You can stay as long as you want, get the papers (many times you also has english papers), and enjoy the view of the people sitting and chatting away. After almost two hours, we went back to the cold streets.

Café Central is located in the Palais Ferstel. During the ball season, there are many balls celebrated in that palace. There is a shopping arcade, with very nice shops, and a couple of courtyards. At this time of the year, the courtyards are decorated with lights and with punsch tents. Just when you cross the shopping arcade, you find the Freyung. In Advent and Easter there is a market, smaller, but much better than the one at the Town Hall.

We walked up to the hotel, crossing Am Hof and arriving to the Graben. I had planned to meet a friend late that evening, and we bought tickets for a gospel concert at the cathedral for my mum and Gabi. A bit expensive, though.

I met my friend at the Segafredo café in Graben. I know, itīs not a typical viennese café, but itīs a classical meeting point, and the italian coffee is good. He was going skiing on the Thursday, for the opening weekend of the season, so I enjoyed telling him that we had already had two weeks of ski season in Spain (not that there were so many open resorts, but...).

By the time I was back at the hotel, mum was already in bed. The concert had been a bit of a disappointment, because the public was on the cold side and didnīt react to the singers. Also, there wasnīt any heating at the cathedral (itīs normal, because heating can affect these old buildings, but not so nice for people staying inside for a couple of hours).

A bit of television, trying to find out it something was happening, and straight to bed. It had been a long and interesting day. More later... Covadonga in Bilbao