Travel: Vienna

Finally, a blog post to cover Vienna–a magical city with so much history and influence.

I was amazed at the impact music has had on Viennese culture. Mozart, Strauss, Schubert, Haydn and Beethoven all resided in Vienna at one point or another. Wow! That is quite the line up of some of the most influential composers and musicians. We had the privilege of seeing Schubert and Beethoven’s respective residences, and learned that Mozart married in St. Stephen’s Cathedral at the very center of Vienna. We listened to the bells that Beethoven one day realized he could no longer hear, due to his loss of hearing.

Vienna boasts stunning rose gardens, Sigmund Freud’s practice, Schonbrunn Palace, tens of fascinating museums and 23 districts. It was wonderful to have two and a half days to explore the city in between competitions.

Day 1: We departed Baden in the morning and immediately began a bus tour of the city. After gawking at the magnificent St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a group of us wandered through alleyways and ended up at a crepery–best decision yet! We ate crepes filled with brie and walnuts, mexican beans and salsa, viennese meat and vegetables and a variety of fruit. On our way back to meet the group, we stopped at a tea room, which was so fun!

That afternoon we were educated on the Habsburg dynasty–the ruling monarchs from 1276-1918. We toured their winter palace (I mean, really, who has a winter palace?!), and it was pretty incredible. We also saw the church where Mozart premiered his Requiem–ahhhh so cool.

After quite a long time walking that afternoon, I took a marvelous nap back at the hotel in which the windows of our room were open and the sounds of Austrian traffic swirled through the room. I woke up and saw my best friend Abi sitting by the window, quietly people watching.

We had dinner that evening at a restaurant named “Hansy.” They served us a great meal that was strangely similar to fried chicken and salad…it just had an Austrian spin (essentially healthier with a different dressing).

Day 2 held much excitement for us: free time and a masterclass with Gerald Wirth, Artistic Director of the Vienna Boys Choir. For two and a half hours, Wirth gave us incredible insight and really helped shape some of our pieces, specifically the love song “O Schone Nacht.” We were so inspired by him and thankful that he shared his gifts and expertise.

We ate a quick lunch and made our way to Schonbrunn Palace– the gorgeous summer palace of the Habsburg family. Before the official tour began, a few friends and I were determined to walk up and down the huge hill in 15 minutes. Matt Taylor and I got stuck in the rain (he graciously carried my camera under his jacket as I didn’t bring an umbrella…or jacket) and sprinted all the way down to meet the group. I must admit, it felt a little like Pride and Prejudice!

As it continued to rain, a coffee shop and a book sounded so tempting, so the afternoon was well-spent there. After caffeine and hilarious dinner conversation, I went with a group to the Applied Arts Museum. It was open (for free!) until 10 and we saw the coolest things–an exhibit of a 400-year history of chairs, the most beautiful tapestries displayed and an evolution of graphic design (I was nerding out big time).

It was late and curfew was approaching, but we were determined to see the city from up high. We stopped by to say hello to Strauss’ statue and booked it to the ferris wheel. Unexpectedly, it was pretty terrifying, so the six of us sang “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” on the five-minute ride as we desperately clung to the sides (maybe that was just me?). Regardless, the day ended with McDonald’s and lots of laughs.

Day 3: We rehearsed that morning and then were freeeee! Our excellent tour guide Siggy took us through the Fine Arts Museum. My favourite was the Egyptian exhibit, which my roommate was very pleased about seeing. We then took a few tram stops to grab sandwiches, and sat just overlooking the white-washed Parliament building. Afterward, we spent 45 refreshing minutes in the rose garden, which grows 100 different types of roses. It was quite the sight!

Some of the choir stayed in town, but I camped out at a coffee shop with a few friends and a book until we were due to head back in to the city for our concert that night.

Our last night in Vienna was also our last official concert of the year. We were all fairly emotional, and then we sang “Beautiful Saviour” and the tears just flowed–with thankfulness and sadness. There’s a sense of finishing that comes with a concert. It’s the culmination of so many years of work, and for some it may have been their last time singing in a choir. The concert was beautiful, and the audience was so sweet. I even met an English family, and the dad is my grandma’s doctor! What are the odds?

The next day was a travel day, which meant an obligatory “vocal rest” day for all of us. It was much needed. BUT before the no talking rule was enforced for the day, we spent the morning at Cafe Demel. I drank the acclaimed “best hot chocolate in the world,” and let’s just say I didn’t disagree…

We loved Vienna, but were so ready to get to Tours, France! Until the next post!

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