Note that my trips are paid for by me, myself, and I, so the opinions are my own and I'm not being sponsored by anyone.
Picture it! Doha. 2021. I'm attempting to check into my flight to Budapest at Hamad International Airport and was asked by an airline representative to go to a special counter. Confused, I walked over and was asked by the ticket agent if I was vaccinated. "Yes," I replied. "Where did you get your vaccine?" "Here in Doha." The ticket agent then went on to inform me that the Hungarian authorities did not accept vaccines administered in Qatar. If I had of gotten my vaccination in the USA or in the United Arab Emirates, I would have been able to enter Hungary by air. Therefore, I had two choices: I could either fly to a nearby country and enter Austria via a land border or change my ticket and go to another country. Annoyed at the ridiculousness of COVID regulations, I decided on the latter and re-booked my ticket to go to Vienna. I just wanted to go somewhere with Christmas markets and proper holiday scenery. I couldn't imagine a Christmas season in the desert.
Vienna is lovely and the Jewish history, in particular, is fascinating. During a Jewish Quarter walking tour, I walked by one of the houses of Adele Bloch-Bauer's family. They were a prominent Jewish family in Vienna prior to the Nazis taking over. Adele's niece made headlines for suing the Austrian government to retrieve a famous painting by Klimt of her aunt that was stolen by the Nazis. There was a 2015 movie starring Helen Mirren called the "Woman in Gold" that documented the court case. It was sad to see so many paintings in museums with signs that said, "If you know the owner of this painting, please contact..." Many items owned by Jews were stolen by the Nazis and their sympathizers, and have yet to be returned to their rightful owners. The second season of Russian Doll highlights this sad part of history.
One of the houses of Adele Bloch-Bauer's family
During another walking tour, I saw the art school that rejected Hitler twice. According to my tour guide, the entry requirements for this university were low, but Hitler's paintings were terrible even by the school's standards. Interestingly, Hitler admitted that his Jewish clients always paid what was agreed upon for his paintings. On the other hand, his Viennese clients were notorious for shortchanging him or taking his paintings and paying nothing. Many often wonder what would’ve happened if Hitler had been admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts, or if that clerical error hadn't been made allowing him into the German military.
On another tour, I learned more tidbits about the rise to power of the man who was unable to put together a proper portfolio for art school. Hitler mentioned the professor who rejected his admission to art school in his infamous book: "Only a genius can judge another genius" (paraphrased). Luckily, the professor died before the German invasion into Austria, otherwise he most likely would've been jailed and killed by Hitler. The professor was not Jewish, but the petty seems strong with this one.
Academy of Fine Arts
On a lighter note, there is a debate about who has the best Sacher-Torte: Café Demel or Hotel Sacher. Unfortunately, I didn't try either of the cakes. I simply ran out of time during my trip to Vienna. The film, Sachertorte, piqued my interest in putting in my two cents on the debate in the near future.
I went on a tour of the Opera House and the guide told us that €10 "standing" room tickets were available if we lined up two hours before the show, and I was able to score tickets to Mozart's Don Giovanni. The guide said that, due to COVID regulations, all guests must have assigned seats, so COVID was the best time to get cheap tickets and have superb seating. I was able to get a ticket right under the box where the Emperor used to sit...not bad for €10. While you are in line getting tickets (the line starts outside on the Operngasse Street side of the building), there will be guys telling you that free tickets are sold out and that they have cheap seated tickets. Ignore them. The tickets they have are seats with a column blocking your view.
From the Don Giovanni:
"Among these are peasant girls,
Maidservants, city girls,
Women of every rank,
Every shape, every age.
In winter he likes fat ones.
In summer he likes thin ones.
He calls the tall ones majestic.
The little ones are always charming.
He seduces the old ones
For the pleasure of adding to the list"
We all know someone like this.
Vienna Opera House
THINGS TO DO
Mozarthaus: The upper middle class apartment of Mozart. He made more than a doctor, but his gambling problem kept him in debt. This was the nicest place he'd ever live and he was only there for 2 years.
Albertina Museum: Vienna's modern art museum that houses a superb collection, both permanent and temporary. It was once a palace and some rooms have been preserved and are part of the exhibition. The palace was bombed during WWII.
Schonbrunn Palace: Was this 18th century palace worth €23? NO! Given the price, I expected more rooms to be open to the public. However, the free gardens are nice. I can only imagine how exquisite they are during the summer. Photos weren't allowed inside, but there were only a few rooms that wowed me.
Belvedere Museum: The Belvedere Museum has the largest collection of Klimt paintings including his masterpiece: The Kiss.
Central Cemetery: The cemetery is the final resting place of Beethoven, Schubert, and Strauss, among others. There's even a Jewish section. I noticed that no Star of Davids are on the headstones, only Hebrew, which is in contrast to the prominent Christian crosses throughout the other sections.
The Museum of Contraception and Abortion: Interesting museum that is in a non descript apartment building. You have to ring the doorbell for them to buzz you up.
Leopold Museum: I loved the museum's collection of early 20th century furniture and early works of Klimt.
Museum Hundertwasser: Houses the works of Friedensreich Hundertwasser who lived his best painting-naked-on-his-houseboat-and-travelling-the-world life.
Haus der Geschichte Österreich (House of Austrian History Museum)
PLACES TO EAT
phil (cafe and bookstore)
Café Central: The likes of Stalin, Trotsky, Freud, and Hitler were frequent guests.
Am Nordpol 3: Has some awesome weiner schnitzel. Cash only.
Beethoven's grave at Central Cemetery
The Kiss by Klimt at The Belvedere Museum