Thursday, April 24, 2008

Waltzing in Vienna

Well not really waltzing but I did recognise some Strauss waltzes at the Opera
Actually I have now arrived in Salzburg but will leave that till later. I will only send messages when I can use wifi and my own computer, grappling with a German keyboard (the z & y are opposite and whenever I try to use shift key I end up with a <) is too difficult ) I also forgot in my last message to thank those of you who have sent me good wishes, much appreciated. Caught train on Friday morning to Berchtesgaden and it was great to see the mountains appearing covered with snow not long after leaving Munich. My hotel was as expected, with the room having a terrace with the view seen in the photo below
It was too cold to sit long on the terrace but I had the same view from within the room and from the Breakfast room. The train station can be seen at the bottom and yes it was a hard slog to drag my case up all that way, much easier going back.
Having settled myself and had lunch in a courtyard in the town, I went back down to the station and caught a bus to Obersalzburg which is up a very winding road, glad I was not driving, cars had to stop on bends to allow the bus to take the full road.
I had some difficulty finding the Dokumentation Center, not many tourist this early in the season and most do not arrive by public bus. This is a fairly new museum devoted to Hitler’s time in the region and the horrors of World War 2 . I only had an hour and a half before closing and the audio guide takes 2 hours. The top floor was about the development of Obersalzburg before Hitler chose it as his summer residence and the houses he and his mates built. He at least had good taste in something. Houses were built not just for Hitler but also the other usual names like Goering and Goebbels. Even here their character was displayed as those locals who did not want to sell their homes were sent to prison. Downstairs are the displays of the many atrocities of the Nazis and then a long corridor displaying the history of World War 2 in all theatres including maps until you finally enter the bunker system built into the hill which is huge. I knew Hitler’s holiday home “Eagles Nest” would not be open until May. There was still some snow beside the road even at this lower elevation. Apparently it was a present to him but he was not overfond of it as he suffered from height sickness, good.

I was the only passenger on the bus back into town. My hotel had dinner in a beautifully decorated Bavarian room, sorry about the deers whose antler decorated the walls. The hotel is old but I was in the new section so had the best of both worlds.

On Saturday I headed by another bus to Königsee for a boat trip on the lake. I took this trip back in the 70’s on a day trip from Munich and was looking forward to going further up the lake but sadly discovered the summer season began the next day so again only made it to St Bartolomai’s Chapel (next photos). At least an excuse to come back. The boat captain plays the horn at one point and a faint echo can be heard even on my camera recording. However it was possible to do some hikes from this area and so after a hot chocolate I set off up to what was signposted as the Ice chapel. It was very steep although steps and grade much more even than found in the Blue Mountains near home. After about an hour, including many stops on the thoughtfully provide seats, I reached the snow and was told by a couple coming the other way that they had turned back as the snow was too deep over the path and they did not have snow boots. So I also turned back. The deciduous trees are still bare at this height but there were several lovely little flowers growing. The German lady named one as anenome but only knew the the German name for the other translated as “Keys to Heaven”
Back to the wharf and to the town of Königsee where I had wursten and coffee and the bus back to Berchtesgaden . Went for a walk through the town with it's beautifully decorated buildings but it got colder and began to sprinkle (there had been some light showers while hiking) so I returned to the hotel for a rest and was glad it had an excellent restaurant as it was pouring down by dinner time. Was surprised after ordering a Vienna schnitzel to be served a salad only. The meat and potatoes came later and I discovered this is normal to serve the cold dishes while the other is being cooked.
The next morning the view from my room was completely white so glad I had seen it the day before with the sun rising on the snow caps. Blue sky began to appear as my train left just after 9am.

With a change at Salzburg, I reached Vienna about 1.30. I had stayed in this hotel in 2000 so was not disappointed at a tiny room with no view, in fact the only window was glazed. You pay for location here.
At 5pm I was due at the StaatsOper for a performance of Der Rosenkavalier by Strauss. I received rather a shock when I opened the envelope collected from the ticket window to find the ticket for Monday nights opera. Fortunately it was fixed up, so much for the expensive agency I used. However the performance was booked out so I could not have waited until arrival. The building is as important as the performance , beautiful to wander around at interval although they do not spoil it with crass signage which made finding one’s seat a little difficult. Unlike Sydney, everyone is well dressed but I did not feel I was the worst in a shirt and tie but jumper no coat. They have to allow for tourists.
Each seat has a small TV screen before it, beautifully finished in red to match the decor and you choose your own language.
I saw Der Rosenkavalier in Sydney probably 30 years ago and was not overly impressed but this time I found the music beautiful. I do not really understand why Strauss made the hero, Octavian, a woman. I guess it helps when she masquerades as a maid for much of the opera and is only suppose to be a 17 year old youth anyway.
The programmed singer, Angelika Kirchslager was sick and the part was sung by Daniela Sinhran and she was very warmly applauded. Other main characters were Ricarda Merbeth, Wolfgang Bankl and the conductor was Donald Runnicles. At 4 hours including 2 twenty minute intervals it is rather long but this time I found the music wonderful and there is something about watching an opera in the city in which it is set and by a composer who lived in the city. The Viennese are rightly proud.
Also at interval, I found the gallery contained many display cases of photos and programs from Von Karajan’s time at the StaatsOper since one performance in 1937 and then many from the 1950’s. This month is the centenary of his birth.

On Monday I wandered around the centre of Vienna, past the Hofburg, a quick look into St Stephen’s Cathedral and also through some of the gardens. I spent 3 days here in 2000 and did not want to spend money revisiting the museums so soon.
However in the afternoon I met another internet contact, Martina for coffee and strudel in an historic coffee house. We had a very pleasant few hours getting to know the real life person and then Martina took me walking through the town showing me some things I missed until we parted near her home so I could return to my hotel for a rest before the next opera or rather operetta.

At least I now had my ticket, guess Sunday’s ticket was at the Volks Oper but I did not bother to check. I had been to this opera house in 2000 so knew the way. It is reserved for lighter material and in 2000, it was in Italian with German surtitles which only gave me a slight idea of what was happening. I knew Lehar’s “Land des Lachelns” was in German so was pleasantly surprised to find the songs had English surtitles and there was a brief English description of the rest of the action. Of course the jokes were beyond me.
I knew to expect “You are my heart’s delight” which I love and was pleased to hear it is reprised but found I also recognised a lot of the other music as well so again had a very enjoyable evening. At least it was shorter just 2 and a half hours with one 20 minute interval
I came out of the theatre into pouring rain and joined the stampede for the U-bahn station, glad my hotel was near the entrance at the other end of the journey.

1 comment:

Doorman-Priest said...

I sang in St. Stephan's Cathedral last Easter with The Leeds Philharmonic. Isn't it FANTASTIC?