Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Vienna Calling ...

I appreciate that as a freelance Goodwill Ambassador (and former international fashion model), I make a lot of demands on my bipedal attendants: I travel a great deal, I distribute food and medical relief to troubled nations, I have to be rushed to various functions with world dignitaries and heads of state, and be whisked about to photo ops - just to scratch the tip of my very big iceberg. But my bipedal attendants have been whining more than usual lately - a period roughly coinciding with our move to Bratislava - so I decided that enough was enough.

I took them to Vienna.

Vienna! - the home of sachertorte - the world's most famous chocolate cake - Mozart, waltzes, Gustav Klimt, Viennese coffee, the Vienna Boys Choir - and of course, wiener schnitzel. Unfortunately, of all these things, we only managed to have a coffee; there was a humongous line-up for the sachertorte, we skipped the museums, the Mozart we found was made of cardboard, my male bipedal attendant has 2 left feet and couldn't waltz to save his soul, we saw lots of boys but none were singing, and since wiener schnitzel first saw the light of day as a calf on a farm, we couldn't have any of that. Thank goodness the coffee was good!

Because we'll have other opportunities to visit Vee, we decided to make our first outing a walking tour and save the museums for a rainy day - which my bipedal attendants reminded me should be any day now. Personally, I don't think my bipedal attendants have earned the right to stand in the presence of Dürer, Rubens, Rembrandt, Raphael, Vermeer, Titian, Velasquez - and Klimt.

So we walked and we walked and we walked. Of course, my female bipedal attend
ant developed a dozen blisters during the course of the day - which we still haven't heard the end of - because her feet have yet to be acclimatized to wearing shoes rather than flip-flops (bears don't even wear footwear & I don't complain!), but in between the "rest stops" for coffee and beer and a pee, we did manage to see a lot.

And because we'll be back soon (there were no inspectors on our train to validate our tickets so they're good for another 30 days!), I'll just mention what for many Viennese is the very soul of their city: the Stephansdom - the cathedral of St. Stephen. Dominating the centre of the city - it is the Eiffel Tower of Vienna - its first incarnation was as a simple parish church in 1147 which itself had been built over an ancient Roman cemetery. Over the years it saw much rebuilding, expanding and redesigning in the Romanesque and later Gothic styles. It is now very big and very awesome - even by a bear's standards!

Its highest point - the South Tower - stands 136 meters (445 feet) tall and served as an observation point and military command post during both the Siege of Vienna (1529) and the Battle of Vienna (1683). The North Tower stands at about half its rival's height - money being tight and all, it never reached its intended grandeur. There is a story though that its architect killed himself over a girl before he could complete the tower and, as a hopeless romantic myself, I much prefer that tale. Poor architect!

It's also said that, one day, Beethoven saw birds flying out of the church's belfries (the Stephansdom has 23 bells!) but he couldn't hear a thing - and that was the moment when he realized that he had gone totally deaf. Poor Ludwig! The largest bell (weighing over 20,000 kilos) was actually cast from cannons seized from Muslim invaders - one of the best examples of recycling I can think of. One of the lesser bells is known as the
bieringerin ("beer ringer") which was once rung for last call at the city's taverns. We could use one of those in our house - but maybe not as big.

At one time, a mastodon bone hung over the main entrance to the church, so that doorway is now known as the Giant's Door. Poor elephant! On either side of this doorway are curious features - curious even for a church. Embedded in one wall are two brass ells - the ell being a unit of measurement roughly calculated from the shoulder to elbow. These brass markers provided the approved, standardized lengths for measuring drapery and linen in the city. On the other side of the door and also carved into the wall is another indentation (see photo, above left). Those people who believed that their bakers had cheated them by giving them small loaves of bread, could check these questionable loaves against this standard measure. With all this measuring of cloth and linen, I wonder if anyone actually went to the Stephansdom to pray?

There's so much more I could tell you about the cathedral - there are lots of miraculous stories and legends attributed to it - and about Vienna for that matter, but it'll all have to wait until we pop back for another visit. With Vienna only 1 hour away - in the immortal words of
Falco (Mr. "Rock Me Amadeus") - Vienna is always calling.


Anonymous said...

Dear G.B.
I can hardly wait to read more about Vienna from both you and your bipedal owners. (Or do you own them ?) Did you get to go in the Cathedral ?

Grey Bear said...

Well, I certainly don't own them because that would be slavery but I do employ them, offering them a very competitive salary with generous benefits. Still they whine!

We did go into the cathedral and it was breathtaking. Lots and lots of tour groups though which sort of dampens the atmosphere.

Frisco said...

Grey Bear,
Does your area of Europe have chicken coops? If you've never been to one, I highly recommend it.
It's like Disney Land for dogs, if you can relate. I would like to invite you to come to my house and I'll 'show you the ropes'. No harm is done to the little chickens (or the huge turkey and even bigger geese). Will your bipedal attendants let you?