We left the country of Hungary and cruised to Vienna, Austria, which meant we had to change currency. Though Hungary is part of the European Union, they still use Florints, not Euros. Assuming the exchange rate of Florints was roughly the same as Euros, I mildly panicked when Jerry shelled out 300 Florints each for us to use a public restroom in Budapest. Afterwards, I learned that the exchange rate is $1 U.S. to 312 Florints. (It’s $1 U.S. to .85 Euros, a big difference!) So, the money pictured here of 2000 Florints can basically buy you a sandwich in Hungary. Euros will be the currency used for the rest of the countries we visit.
Sound of Music and More
When I think of Austria, I picture an aerial view of Julie Andrews twirling on a lush carpet of flower flecked grass at the foot of snowcapped mountains. The blockbuster movie “Sound of Music”, released in 1965, was filmed in Salzburg, Austria. Austrians did not love the movie and Maria was not as sweet as you might think. More on that later.
Vienna!! It has been called the “City of Music” because many famous composers such as Beethoven and Mozart lived there. It has also been called the “City of Dreams” because it was the home of the world’s first psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, who specialized in dream interpretation.
Vienna is also known for its great quality of life. The city has consistently ranked high in innovation, prosperity, culture, infrastructure and markets. For 10 successive years it was rated No. 1 in “Quality of Living” after comparisons with hundreds of cities throughout the world.
For our first night in Vienna, there was an option of purchasing an excursion to the famed Vienna State Opera Theater to attend a Mozart concert. Most of the ship’s guests took the opportunity to attend this great performance. After an early dinner, we waved goodbye to them as they boarded buses, dressed in their fine theater attire. We, however, opted to venture out on our own to explore and experience world-renowned Vienna at night.
Central Vienna was filled with groups of young people socializing and walking about the famous sites of the city in the warmth of the summer night, with the faint smell of alcohol and marijuana wafting through the air.
Cafes and Gelato
We walked past outdoor cafes and busy gelato shops to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, considered the most important religious building in Vienna. The original structure was built in 1137, but carbon dating of tombs discovered beneath the structure date back to the 4th century, so the church was likely built on an ancient Roman cemetery. Through the centuries, there have been many changes to the structure due to expansion, fire and reconstruction.
St. Stephens Cathedral
The lights projected on the magnificent cathedral accentuated its intricate Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Crowds meandered around us on the church plaza as we craned our heads upwards to see the tip of the tallest spire lit up against the nighttime sky.
Upon returning to our ship, we reunited with the returning concert goers and found that the chef had prepared goulash for all of us as a bedtime snack. The steaming bowls of the thick stew tasted much like a robust chili, and it was delicious!
The next morning, we boarded buses for a tour of Vienna. The stone buildings in the city center were large and regal and crowds filled the public spaces and shopping areas.
We passed many coffee shops, packed with customers enjoying the famous Vienna Coffee, accompanied with scrumptious pastries. It is common for locals to spend all day in coffee shops, sipping, nibbling, talking or reading and likely people watching. What a great way to pass the time in Vienna!
A Tragic Past
Vienna’s Monument Against War and Fascism commemorates the victims of hatred and hostility throughout history. It is a reminder of a very painful time in Austria when they were under Nazi rule between 1938-1945.
Pictured here is a rendering of the gates of a concentration camp, with all the tragic imagery associated with that. The small figure in the front depicts a Jewish man being forced to scrub anti-Nazi phrases off the street with a brush. The sculpture is wrapped in barbed wire, not as part of the heart-rending scene but rather to prevent visitors from sitting on it.
Now about “The Sound of Music”. When the film premiered, Austrians were surprised to learn that it was filmed in their own country. Apparently, filming was pretty low key in Salzburg. Austrians have mixed feelings about the movie. For one thing, there are historical inaccuracies, and Maria was harsh on the children, often using corporal punishment. Salzburg refused to name a trail after her for that reason. However, because of the movie tourists come in droves to visit the locations where it was filmed
Up next, the Vienna market and more food!
Posts on the Viking Grand European River Cruise started here.