The following guest post was written by Jacqueline in response to her birthday present in Vienna.
Ever since I surprised Ben with his birthday present in March, he had been teasing me about my birthday gift. Despite the “you might be angry with me” to “you won’t receive it until couple weeks after your birthday” remarks, I got very little clues about what he had install.
My first clue that he had something up his sleeve for our trip was when he offered to take care of all the logistics for this trip, and not send me any of the confirmations (normally, I keep track of all the logistics and expenses). This was confirmed when we checked in to our place in Prague, and I found out we were only staying there for 2 nights of our 5 night trip.
For the next two days, the only clues I got was that we needed Euros and we were taking an overnight train from Prague. Partly due to my lack of geographical knowledge in that area and the fact we visited the Dvorak museum, I narrowed potential destinations to Berlin, Salzburg, and Vienna. When we got to the train station that night, Ben pointed out that the train we were taking had the terminus station “Budapest”. I quickly skimmed the other stations the train was stopping at, but managed to miss Wien (aka Vienna). Later, he pointed out that we were going to Vienna, and not Budapest to watch (ice) hockey [Yes, it appears my Canadian bias come out occasionally].
Given Vienna is classical music central, I knew Ben had a lot of options he could surprise me with. The next morning, his grand plan was finally revealed. I was pleasantly surprised that he was able to get tickets to the opera, and two concerts. Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna Opera are extremely popular, and difficult to get tickets. First we went to the Vienna Opera House to pick up tickets for the opera later that afternoon. Unlike most shorter operas, Wagner’s Die Walküre has to start in the afternoon since it is an extremely long show (~5 hours with 2 intervals). Next we rushed off to the Vienna Philharmonic box office to pick up tickets to two more shows. The first concert was a matinee that day, so we only had a brief moment to Skype his grandmother before we found our spots in the Golden Hall.
Guest conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada, who is known for his hip-swaying conducting style, was at the helm. The orchestra played Bernstein’s Overture to Candide, Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn op. 56a, and Brahms’ Symphony No. 1. The precision and attention detail was highlighted throughout this entire concert where it seemed like not one of the violinists ever had their bow out of place. The lack of female musicians was also apparent unfortunately, but hopefully that will change over time. After the fabulous concert, we grabbed a late lunch near city centre. Since Ben was craving schnitzel, we found a nice restaurant with outdoor seating and soon found ourselves with two huge plates of food.
Then, we headed to the Vienna Opera House for Die Walkure. With a star-studded cast of Christopher Ventris as Siegmund, Jongmin Park as Hunding, Tomasz Konieczny as Wotan, Simone Schneider as Sieglinde, Irene Theorin as Brunnhilde, and Michaela Schuster as Fricka, it was an opera that drew you in. Despite being in the opera house for close to five hours, the opera never felt boring. With a “Lord of the Rings”-like plot and great music, we enjoyed the show greatly.
Afterwards, we headed to our hostel for some much needed rest for our busy day tomorrow.