Friday, June 19, 2015


Vienna has been warm, apparently unseasonably, with most days reaching 30’C.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I really enjoyed the light operetta, Grafin (Countess) Maritza on Wednesday.  I went to both Siegfried and Gotterdammerung (Twilight of the Gods) by Wagner and so fulfilled a dream of seeing all of the Ring Cycle in the Theatre.  They are not for everyone and I would not quickly go again, with Siegfried taking 5 hours and Gotterdammerung nearly 5 and a half (each with 2 half hour intervals) but the music is glorious. I was lucky in timing, as each was presented just twice this year.
That was on Thursday and Sunday.

On Friday I went on a round trip to the Wachau-Danube Valley. The train took me to Melk and the huge Benedictine Abbey sitting up above the town. Photo 1 is in the Abbey church, Photo 2 is part of the extensive gardens and Photo 3 is a view from the Abbey over the countryside.

After lunch, I boarded a ship for a 2 hour journey down the Danube through the Wachau Valley.  The photo shows the castle at Durnstein above the town. This was the castle where King Richard of England was held captive on his way home from the Crusade. There were a number of castles along the river.

I left the ship in Krems and returned by train to Vienna.  On Saturday I went to Schonbrunn castle but just spent my time in the extensive gardens.

That evening I again went to the VolksOper (Light Opera) and saw Carmina Burana, ancient poems set to music to create a cantata by Carl Orff in 1936.  This is usually a recital by Symphony and Chorus but this performance was put on by the Vienna City Ballet.

On Monday I went hiking in the Vienna Woods but chose a short hike, probably just 8km but up 300 metres, due to the heat. The views over the city were not very good due to the heat haze. That evening I went to the much shorter but bloodthirsty opera, Salome by Richard Strauss.

Yesterday, I flew to Dubai where the temperature was 40’C. Today I found my way to the Historical museum at the Al Fahidi Fort, not easy when you make a wrong turn in the heat.

However the underground and airconditioned museum told the story of the development of Dubai. Then I wandered in the huge Dubai Mall, apparently the world's largest but only bought a much needed juice and lunch then a book for the plane. Outside I took a look at the world’s tallest  building, Burj Khalifa but did not pay the $50 to go up to the top.

Tomorrow I will make the long flight back to Sydney and then it will back to Dunedin on Monday.

Thursday, June 04, 2015


The weather has certainly improved for me, thanks for your good wishes. Sorry if I sent the bad weather to Dunedin.
As you can see from the photos it gradually got better during my 5 days in the Salzkammergut region of Upper Austria. It is now quite hot in Vienna but I know I must not complain.
The blue skies have made it hard to choose the photos to post.

I fell in love with the town of Hallstatt when I stayed there back in 2008. It is a UNESCO heritage town on the edge of a lake with wonderful mountain views. However to get there you must catch a ferry over the lake from the train station so this time I chose to stay in the bigger town of Bad Ischl instead and have easier travel to the various lakes and mountains.  I had an apartment right in the centre of town with shops and restaurants underneath and my window looked down on the river rushing below. However the bedroom and bathroom were up a narrow winding staircase from the lounge/kitchen which became a bit tiresome.

On the day after my arrival (Saturday) my departure was delayed due the panic caused by a misplaced credit card (I had hidden it from even myself). Once solved it was too late to do what I planned (left to Sunday) and probably just as well as there were still clouds and one or two brief showers.

I caught a bus to Bad Gilgen and waited an hour (over a coffee of course) for a ferry that took me along the Wolfgangsee to where a steam cog railway went up to Schaftsbergspitz at 1732 metres. I have included this photo showing a bit of the train and track.

On Sunday the bus went in the other direction to Obertraun and the Dachstein chairlift. Here 2 cable cars lifted me up to 2100 metres and a  20 minute walk (difficult at that height ) took me to the 5 fingers viewing platform.  This photo shows the platform and explains why I had to pluck up all my courage to go out on it

from where this photo looks down over the Hallstattersee mentioned above.

You can see there were clouds but it was possible to get a photo with some patience and jostling as only 2 people can stand on each of the 5 fingers at any one time.  The next photo is the view from the path across the Dachstein Mountains

I returned back down the top cable car and took a tour of the Dachstein Ice Cave. This involved climbing 70 metres to the entrance where we met the guide who then told us it was 0’C inside but not to worry as we would be climbing 500 steps to keep us warm. I was probably the oldest and while I can manage the steps, I would prefer to take a bit more time. However I probably handled the temperatures better than the mainly Asian young people with me. The ice shapes were intriguing. I think this photo is the best of my attempts to show them.

On the way back I stopped for an hour in Hallstatt.  Being Sunday afternoon 31st May, I found it much more crowded than my previous visit in late April  2008. The views were still great and the town probably improves in the evening after the tourist coaches leave. I bought  an ice cream.

Monday I caught the train to Gmunden on the Traunsee and, again after an hour over coffee and cake, it was on a rather small ferry along the lake to Ebensee. It is a beautiful lake and the photo also shows just one of the many water activities even on a week day.

At Ebensee I walked a kilometre to another cable car (they get a bit addictive) this time only 1600 metres but apparently one of, if not the first cable cars in Austria. There were lots of ski chair lifts at the top but not in operation at this time. I walked about 35 minutes each way looking at the views one of which is in this photo.

On Tuesday I was again on the train past Hallstatt to Bad Aussersee then a bus to AltAusseer which is on a smaller lake and I was able to walk around it in about 2 hours (6 and a half km). The final photo shows one of the views.

Unfortunately rather than wait and catch the bus back I decided to walk not realising it was another 5 km although much was along the river bank. The bus passed me at the last stop before the town so only about 5 minutes quicker.

I never got round to visiting the museums and castles in Bad Ischl. Left that to a rainy day which never came.

Yesterday I again packed up and caught the train to my last stop in Europe, Vienna.  I have a lovely apartment and the owner has been most helpful. Opera is my main interest here and, after rushing to pick up the tickets before 5pm and then buy a few foodstuffs as today is a public holiday (Ascension day) and even supermarkets close on public holidays as well as Sundays, I went to the Volksoper  (Folk Opera) which was my 4th visit there.  I did not know much about the light opera Grafin (Countess) Marizka by Emmerich Kalman but the music, staging and dancing were delightful. Fortunately English is displayed above the stage although I found it a bit above my line of sight to see the action and I gather some contemporary jokes were added to the script but not in the English. Many of the songs are still running in my head especially ‘Komm Zigany (Gypsies)’ and ‘Komm mir nach Varazdin’ (I visited Varazdin in Croatia back in 2013.)

Today I am relaxing, as I have a much heavier opera (Wagner’s Siegfried) at the Staatsoper starting at 4pm this afternoon and finishing at 9pm