Austria · Music · Travel

Prague/Vienna Trip – Day 4: Haus der Musik

It was the second day in Vienna for Jacqueline and I, and although we weren’t planning on spending nearly as much time listening to classical music as the first day, it would still form a central theme in all of our activities for the day. We needed to fit in all of our tourist activities by the evening, when we needed to be at the Musikverein for the evening performance by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

The rain was starting to fall a little bit, and so when we went to the Naschmarkt near our hostel in search of breakfast, we found it largely abandoned. We walked up and down as the shops were starting to open up and settled upon some pastries with which to start the day. Fuelled up and ready to go, we walked down to the U-bahn running underneath the surface of the street and travelled east of the city to see the Schönbrunn Palace, a half hour train journey from our hostel. Schönbrunn Palace was the summer residence of the Habsburg monarchs during the Austro-Hungarian Empire for several centuries, and formed a large part of the history of central Europe in the second half of the second millenium. We arrived at the front of the palace and bought our tickets from the ticket office on the side of the large, square entranceway and headed inside. We went on an audioguide tour through the private and state rooms on the first floor of the palace, learning about the work ethic of Franz Joseph I, the third longest-reigning monarch in European history, and admired the ornate, gold Great Gallery, which once housed a meeting of heads of state of the US and USSR. Of interest to Jacqueline was the rooms where Mozart had performed to the monarchs as a young child.


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We then went out and explored the gardens behind the palace. Like many imperial palaces, the gardens were large and expansive, many times bigger than the palace itself. It was a beautifully warm day, and so we didn’t have any qualms in soaking up the sunlight; it is often hard to come by in Cambridge. The closer parts of the garden were a series of neat circles and straight lines, but further up the hill, the garden became more wild, which appealed to both of us. We wandered all the way up to the Gloriette, which stood on a hill overlooking the entire gardens, before heading back to get a train back into the city centre.

The second attraction for the day was the Mozarthaus Vienna. This was an apartment complex in which Mozart lived during his latter years in Vienna, and has since become a large tourist attraction in the city. The museum shows period furniture based on an inventory left after his death, and contains many displays of his scores and music. Jacqueline was fascinated, but it was only a small part of what was to come.

From the museum, we walked the short distance, via a bakery, to the Haus der Musik, a museum celebrating sounds and music in the heart of Vienna. There were several floors of the museum, each with a distinct theme. We ended up spending nearly three hours exploring the museum. The first floor, up a staircase which played musical notes as you climbed, was dedicated to the history of the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra. It featured individual displays of each of the head conductors and their respective political machinations. The second floor was all about the science of sound and music; how our ears and brains process and respond to differences in sound and interpret them. Many of the displays were interactive, distorting sounds input into a microphone. Finally, the third floor featured small displays on a number of the most famous composers to have lived in Vienna, including Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert and Strauss. The last exhibit featured a display where you could virtually conduct the Vienna Philharmonic. Jacqueline played the music cleanly, but I tried screwing it up and the system eventually gave up on me.


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For dinner, we headed to a pub just to the east of the centre of the city called Schnitzelwirt. As the name suggested, we were after some Viennese schnitzels. We sat in a small table at the back of the restaurant, and ordered what we expected to be regular-sized schnitzels. However, when my order was eventually served, we were shocked to find that what we had expected to be one regular-sized schnitzel was in fact three Australian pub-sized schnitzels. Jacqueline had it slightly easier, though her stuffed schnitzel was of a slightly more reasonable sized.

Full to the brim, we headed back into the centre of the city and back to the Musikverein once again. We were once again going to an performance by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Having now observed the process of filling the standing spaces at the back of the Golden Hall once, we were now slightly more aware of what was about to happen. We were ushered up the stairs and stood in an orderly queue. But, as soon as the buzzer went, there was a rush to race into the standing area and snag the best standing spots. We managed to get a place in the front row, but partially blocked by one of the columns supporting the gallery above. The performance featured Bernstein’s First Symphony and Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Once again, the sheer artistry of the orchestra was phenomenal. On many of the difficult runs, the entire orchestra kept completely in sync, where many others would fall out. The Mahler was more entertaining than the Bernstein, but we both left thoroughly entertained and excited. We headed back to our hostel for what would be our last night on the continent. Home awaited.



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