Viking Danube cruise, Vienna

After breakfast we suited up with our gizmos and water bottles, got on the bus, and drove around Vienna’s Ringstrasse as the guide explained what we were looking at. We saw government buildings, the University (the guide pointed out Freud’s favorite coffee house), the opera house, Hofburg Palace and lots of other landmarks and statuary about Mozart. We followed the old city walls and the guide told us that those walls defeated the Turks when they invaded. Good for them. The let us off in a city square and we followed our guide’s sign–they call them lollypops–to the Lippezzaner (have no idea how that’s spelled) stable. We saw some horses enjoying their heat baths and a chubby little stable cat. I really liked the cat. We got more history and government lessons, most of which I’ve forgotten, but it was a lovely hour walk. The guide left us to our own devices so Gordon and I investigated St. Stephan’s Cathedral. We stopped for Topfenstrudel and kaffee at a coffee house in the Plaz. It was good but frankly I make better pastry; guess that’s the SoDak in me. We tried to find a souvenir but the stores around the plaz were the same chains you find on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. I suppose I could have bought one of the traditional German dresses but I’d look like a Hereford in them. Besides, where would I wear such a thing? I finally bought a coffee mug with a Klimt design–the Viennese are very proud of Klimt. The only problem with it is it’s got gold gilt on it and I almost shorted out the microwave when I tried to nuke some coffee. It’s pretty but not microwave safe. Gordon got a sausage off a kiosk and it was probably the best thing we ate the whole trip. The Austrians sure know sausage. Unfortunately, we got so involved with sampling we missed the bus back to the boat. Another member of our crew, a Norwegian lady, also messed up the time. She was almost panicking until we told her we were going to take the subway back to the boat (the guide had explained what line and stops to take–they’ve probably lost lots of tourists in Vienna). I found it interesting that she spoke five languages but couldn’t handle the subway ticket machine. I suspect she’d never seen one before. Gordon, ever the gentleman, walked her through the process and we got back to the boat in time to catch the bus for our tour of Schonbrunn Palace. Our guide explained that this was Marie Therese’s summer palace. She built it outside the city walls to get a breeze. It’s HUGE. And impressive. We spent a few hours soaking in stories about Marie Therese’s sixteen children and the fact that she was the governor of the Holy Roman Empire. Talk about a busy lady. She had to do it, I guess; her husband had over 50 children that they know about so I don’t think he had a lot of blood left in his brain. We wandered around the extensive gardens and were early for our bus. I wasn’t going to miss another one. At dinner that night the Norwegian lady asked if she and her husband could join us at our table. Well, of course, they could. He was a retired finance guy so he and Gordon had a stimulating conversation. They told us that Viking doesn’t even advertise in Scandinavia. The owner is Norwegian but he couldn’t stand the taxation in Norway so he based the company in Switzerland and lives in Los Angeles. That explains why the trip was offered in the silent auction for the charity that Gordon advises. We also figured out that Viking’s marketing focus is on older Americans–you know, us PBS watchers. All the staff spoke English, the food was tailored to Midwestern tastes, and the only shows on TV were CNN, the BBC, and four seasons of Downton Abbey. They also ran American movies. The two English couples seemed a little bemused by it all but they were Downtown Abbey watchers, too. I don’t know how the Norwegian couple fit in but the man bought a Viking baseball cap and seemed pleased when I told him he looked American. We closed down the restaurant and went to bed. We were tired.

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About Barbara Schnell

I've dedicated my life to full-time employment avoidance. I've been an actress, renovated a 1921 California Bungalow, set a cash-winning record on $25,000 Pyramid, and came in last on Jeopardy. I live in Los Angeles with my patient husband and two cats.
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