Prague to Brno to Vienna
Posted by kernelbob on August 4, 2009
We left Prague two days ago. (I’ve completely lost track of what day it is.) The bus took us to Brno, which is the second largest city in the Czech Republic. Nonetheless, it has a small town feel. We were just in Brno for one night. We had a couple of hours for sightseeing in the afternoon, then another hour in the morning. The choir performed in Brno, but I bagged that concert.
Yesterday morning, the bus set out for Vienna in Austria. The ride took about three hours. The surprising thing about both the Czech and Austrian countryside is that there are no houses. There are lots of villages, but practically no houses outside the villages. I wonder why.
What the Austrian countryside does have is windmills. Big, multimegawatt units are all over the place. While we were driving by, they were barely turning over. The wind must have been light.
Vienna appears to be a much bigger and richer city than Prague. We took a bus tour through the old parts of the city last night, and there was a castle, a church, or other significant public building on every corner. I can’t say I know what any of them are, though.
Afterwards we went to Schönbrunn castle, built by one of the Hapsbergs. It was large, ornate, and hot inside. In fact, heat has been a problem on this trip. It was hot but bearable in Prague, but Prague is at a high altitude (200 meters?) and since we left, we’ve been at low altitudes and the temperatures have been high. None of our hotels are air conditioned, and I’ve only seen four ice cubes in the whole trip (to be shared among 72 people). The Czech bus that took us from Prague to Vienna had air conditioning, but it wasn’t strong enough to cool the bus.
After the castle, we went back to the hotel and went out for food on our own. We found a fine little sidewalk bistro a couple of blocks away, but not until we found out that the three nearest pizza places (according to Google Maps) are all closed in August. I can’t blame them, given the heat.
Today, we went to Baden, which is a hot spring resort town 26 km from Vienna. We went into the local church and the choir climbed into the [place at the back of the church where the choir and organist perform]. Our organist got to play the big organ, and the choir sang. It was a planned event but completely informal — there was no audience except for random lucky tourists. The music was Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus. The piece was composed for, and was first performed at, that church. Four pages of the original score were on display on the wall, as well. So it was a history-drenched moment.
Because it was informal, I wandered around the chapel shooting video of the choir and the interior. I won’t know how it came out until we get home – the netbook hasna’ the power t’ play it. But the audio seems to sound fine from the Flip Video’s tiny speaker. The actual experience sounded amazing. Next, the organist and Caleb, our 12-year-old soloist, did his solo from Chichester Psalms. Finally, the organist played Organ Fanfare by Proulx (I think. I just got a glimpse of the music, as I’d climbed into the choir by then.)
After we left the church, we saw the house where Beethoven composed his ninth symphony and the house where Johann Strauss and Franz Schubert had lived. Then we dispersed for lunch. Anne and I went to a grocery store called SPAR and bought some bread and yogurt. Thus, we took the SPAR at Baden. (-:
Then we went to Eisenstadt and saw Esterházy Schloß, where Josef Haydn had lived. Anne and I elected not to take the castle tour, since I hadn’t been able to hear anything in Schönbrunn castle. Instead, we walked to the Orangerie, which is a greenhouse on a grand scale.
It is now late Tuesday night (I did figure out what day it is) and I’ll write about the rest of today later.