Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Vienna day 4; Cafe Society

We had decided to make Friday a special dining day, so didn't schdedule ourselves any other major events. Instead, we had made a reservation for luncheon at the Cafe Sacher, in the posh Sacher Hotel, which is home to the famous Sachertorte. In the morning, we explored a neighborhood to the north of our regular path, in search of the Doll and Toy Museum. Vienna is a city of museums, proabley a consequence of having so much history, and there seems to be an infinite number of small specialized museums in addition to the large institutions. There is a Clock Museum, a Fire Department Museum, a Police Museum, and on and on. The smaller ones tend ot have quirky hours, so some we wanted to see, we never got to. After taking a wrong turning and going the long way around yet another massive church, we found the Doll and Toy Museum, only to find it with a rather permamanent looking "Closed" sign on the door. The expedition was not a total loss however, as it took us through more fascinating streets, and we found quite a good family run bakery shop, where we bought some sustaining snacks.

Another museum we went by but didn't get to go into was the Teutonic Order Museum, which is part of the headquarters of that order and next door to both the Order Church and the Figarohaus, which is where Mozart stayed while composing "The Marriage of Figaro." There are numerous memorial plaques and open houses for composers in Vienna, but about the most that can be said for them is "Mozart slept here" since very few artifacts associated with the great composers remain. The Teutonic Order Musueum is frustratingly open only two hours a day at varying times, and we couldn't hit it when we weren't doing something with a higher priority.

The Hotel Sacher is across an intersection from the Statsoper, and we got there a bit early to reconnoitre the Opera for entrances, etc., and noticed that guided tours were available. We decided to stop back after lunch.

There was a line for the Cafe Sacher, but our reservations got us immediate seating in the small but elegant dining room. This is just one of the eating establishments associated with the Hotel Sacher, including the Sacher Stube (or bar) and the Restaurant Anna Sacher, which is the high-end dining room. The Cafe is more for light lunches and of course, desserts, but we found pleanty to interest us on the menu, including a nicely written history of the Hotel and some of its more famous characters. We also noted that "Sacher" has become quite a brand, since besides the Sachertorte (TM) (others must say "Sacher torte"), they also have their own coffee blend and Sacher liquor on the menu. I ordered the beef gulasch with a cup of the Sacher coffee, and Georgie tried the schnitzel sampler plate. Both were very good. The gulasch had a rich red paprika sauce and was very tender and flavorful. Time for dessert, and of course a piece of the Sachertorte had to be sampled, along with a piece of the pastry of the day from the dessert tray that also looked tempting.

Now Sachertorte is one of those simple yet subtle things. It is basically a firm, but not heavy, chocolate cake in two thin layers. Apricot jam has been spread lightlty beween the layers, and the whole covered in a poured chocolate icing. We found it to be very good and not worthy of the scorn heaped on it by some guidebooks, who we think are expecting to get some kind of gooey "death-by-chocolate" concoction. Also, the city is full of knock-offs: you can buy them at just about any of the candy or pastry shops as well, which are in all probability not as good.

After lunch, we did go over and take the Opera house tour, which gave us a good look at where we would be Saturday night, as well as a talk on the history of the House, including its remarkable reconstruction after having been devastated by an Allied bombing raid in 1945. we were gnashing our teeth upon hearing that the Statsoper season is ten months long, and they mount sixty productions in a year! (By contrast, the Metropolitan Opera of New York is doing twenty-five productions this year; the Lyric Opera of Chicago, eight; and the Florentine Opera of Milwaukee, three.) Of course it heps that they have a huge government subsidy: they sell 97% of all their available tickets and still only cover 47% of the cost. It must be nice to have a government that values arts that highly. There is a considerable comittment to making the arts accessible. Unlike American houses, the Statsoper and other venues have "standing room" areas, which tickets are sold as cheaply as two and a half Euros staring eighty minutes before showtime, and frequenty sell out. Imagine seeing a major opera production for about $4.00? (The cheapest Lyric tickets are $31.00--). On the other hand, even with a rail to lean on, a standing ticket for a five-hour opera like "Die Meistersinger" is a serious commitment on the audience's part--.

Down the street from the Opera house is the Secession, an art gallery and meeting place founded during the early 1900's as a forum for alternative art and thought. Besides being an active gallery space still, it houses the "Beethoven" frieze by Gustav Klimt. Klimt has become another Vienna icon, and Klimt reproductions are very visible. This frieze, which gives a visual interpretation of the themes of Bettoven's 9th Symphony, "Ode to Joy," was intended as a temporary decoration for another artist's event, but was fortunately preserved. The freize exhibits Klimt's trademark stylization and use of gold and jewel tones and is very impressive and interesting to see in the real. i was facinated by the display of sketches for the work which showed that Klimt was a very skillful draughtsman who could have been a successful portratist had he been so inclined.
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