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Venice - Verona - Padova - Vienna Trip Report

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TRIP REPORT
VENICE - VERONA - PADOVA - VIENNA
MAY 5 - MAY 17 2013

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DAY 00 - May 05
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Linda and I had been to Venice in March 2004, but only for a couple of days, and there was a cold rain most of the time, so we were anxious to see Venice with more time…and, hopefully, better weather.

USAir flight 714 (nonstop Philadelphia to Venice) departed a little late. Dinner was good (for airplane food), but, as usual, I got very little sleep. The plane was nearly full with no place to lie down. Can’t complain – our tickets were acquired using bonus miles from a new credit card with the annual fee waived.

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DAY 01 - May 06
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Arrival in Venice pretty much on time. My ATM card would not work in the airport machine, but I felt OK because I brought about €60 saved from last year’s trip to Spain. In any event, the Alilaguna Vap ticket office accepted credit cards. Got off the boat at Fondamenta Nove. The walk to our hotel – 10 minute on Google maps – took a little longer going up and down the three bridges with our wheeled carry-ons.

Checked into Locanda La Corte early and dropped our bags. I highly recommend this hotel. Everyone there was friendly and helpful, the room and breakfast were excellent, and the location was far enough from the crowds to be in a charming (south of Ss Giovanni e Paolo), uncrowded area (right on a small canal) but only about a ten-minute walk to San Marco.

We then took a walk we found in our book 24 Great Walks in Venice – this one covering where Marco Polo grew up, between our hotel and Santi Apostoli. Gave us an easy way to take in the city without taxing our sleep-deprived bodies too much.

Back at the hotel, they told us where the nearest bank was – about 2 minutes away – and we set out to get some cash. Scary moment – the ATM outside the bank wouldn’t work either. I went inside, and the man told me I’d have better luck with the inside machine – which worked perfectly.

Quick lunch at a pizza place between our hotel and San Marco. At this point it started to rain a little, but by the time we left the restaurant, it was stopping. Then back to the hotel to occupy our room and take a short nap. Then off to the Correr Museum. I think the part I liked best was the collection of maps and globes.

I had bought Museum Passes (€18 each) online before we left. This got us into the Correr, the Doge’s Palace, and the Glass and Lace museums on Murano and Burano respectively. If you’re going to the two islands, it’s a good deal; otherwise, you need to do the math carefully before buying it, depending on what you want to see – Ca’ Rezzonico (covered by the pass) was closed for renovations.

Arriving back at our room, we were exhausted. Fortunately there was a little restaurant – Osteria da Simson – right outside our door with outside tables on the canal. The food was not spectacular, but it was quite good, inexpensive, and close. I had the tagliatelle ragu and Linda had cannelloni. We shared a mixed salad. I should warn everyone that we are definitely NOT foodies. We like basic food made from fresh ingredients at a reasonable price. I, in particular, am somewhat of a coward when it comes to trying new food.

After dinner we took a very short walk around the neighborhood before turning in for the night.

MORE SOON...

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    Did you go grocery shopping at the cavernous Coop that is just south of the Ospedale Vaporetto stop on the fondamente?

    I always use the Deutsche Bank ATM next to JP Tod and Ferragamo near Piazza San Marco.

    What a nightmare that you didn't get to see the spectacular Ca' Rezzonica!


    Thin

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    DAY 02 - May 07
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    Breakfast at the hotel was wonderful…the usual array of yogurt, meats and cheeses, rolls, juices, etc., dining in a beautiful courtyard. Tommy the cat who, in the words of the employees, “owns the hotel,” kept us all company, though a few people complained so much, he had to be shut in a store room – fortunately they left the next morning.

    The hotel didn’t take credit cards, and my daily ATM limit was about €350, so I went to the bank again for more cash. Then we walked over to San Marco. The line for the basilica was pretty long, so we decided to do the Palazzo Ducal first. It’s good to be the Doge! Afterwards, the San Marco line had shortened so we toured it, the treasury, and the museum. I absolutely love great mosaics…and that church has them in abundance.

    By this time we were pretty hungry. We found the first of two recommended placed – Berreria Forst on C. Rasse. Had some nice turkey sandwiches with beer and a huge salad. We really liked this place. Great atmosphere, tasty food, friendly service, and lots of locals (including many gondoliers) dropping in for a bite.

    After lunch we took the Vap up the Grand Canal to Ferrovia just to take in all the wonderful palazzi. (We bought a 72-hour Vap pass so we could hop on and off at will as often as we liked.) Then we took the Vap back to San Tome and walked over to the Frari church. This had a few really fine paintings including Titan’s Assumption and Bellini’s Madonna and Child…plus Donatello’s John the Baptist statue. There are so many interesting churches to see…there is a risk of getting “churched out”, but if you limit yourself to one a day (or perhaps two on occasion), you’ll be fine.

    We then walked back (across the Rialto bridge) to our hotel. Our personal recommendation is stay away from that area – way to jam-packed – except for the mandatory quick visit that every tourist requires.

    After a nap, we returned to the Osteria da Simson (Fondamenta Felzi) for dinner. Linda had the tagliatelle and I had risotto with mushrooms (and a shared salad and wine as usual). Then to bed.

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    DAY 03 - May 08
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    After breakfast we headed out on our lagoon exploration. Catching the #12 Vap from Fondamente Nove, we skipped Murano (for now) and got off at Mazzorbo. Someone on Fodors had recommended it, and it was great advice. The 10-minute walk along the water and across the bridge to Burano was lovely…and taking the back way through Burano gave us a quiet path through the beautifully painted homes. I, too, recommend it to all.

    We really enjoyed the Lace Museum (covered by the Venice Museum Card). The technical and historical displays were super and the many lace items on view were excellent, but the highlight for us was watching the women demonstrate making the lace. The speed and skill of these practitioners made us understand why good lace costs so much – too much for us. 

    Next, we took the #9 Vap to Torcello. The short walk from the vap stop along the small canal brought us to the “town.” The main attraction was the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta…and it did not disappoint. The mosaics were really impressive – no photos allowed, unfortunately. The Last Judgment on the back wall is the most famous (and truly magnificent). Then back to Burano to catch Vap #12 to Murano.

    Our first thing in Murano was to walk to the Glass Museum (also covered by the Venice Museum Card). We are big fans of art nouveau, and there were scores of beautiful pieces there. I took a bunch of photos. We were starved by then, so we stopped in a market, bought some cheapo sandwiches and drinks, and had an impromptu picnic on the dock of one of the hotels – can’t remember which.

    Then we walked back to the “main” part of town...packed with people. There was a mix of shops with beautiful, expensive items and shops with loads of tourist crap. After sharing a gelato (The strawberry was exceptional.) we seeked out a glass factory for a quick look at the workings. My take on Murano: it’s nice to see once, but I wouldn’t go back on a second trip to Venice.

    We had planned to stop at the Cimitero (cemetery) on the way back, but it was getting late, and I still hadn’t bought a SIM chip for my phone (for calling home), so we skipped it and walked from F.te Nove to the phone store and got our chip, then took the Vap to San Marco. We stopped into San Zaccaria to check out the crypt. (I forgot to mention on Day 1 that we had taken a self-guided walk around the San Marco area but S. Zaccaria had been closed in mid-day.) Then back to the hotel for a rest and dinner – are we tired or just lazy? – at the same restaurant, having chicken cutlet, potatoes, and mixed vegetables. Then to bed.

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    DAY 04 - May 09
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    One of the trip highlights (for me) happened at breakfast this morning. The woman who takes care of the food asked my wife, “Is your husband Italian? He speaks so well.” I am not Italian and I do NOT speak Italian that well – I get by with a limited vocabulary and simple conjugations – but my pronunciation is pretty good…so I guess that rated a complement.

    A word about our overall plans. After three nights in Venice, our plan is to take an afternoon train to Verona for a one-night stay. Then another afternoon train to Padova for two nights (including a day-trip to Vicenza). Then a mid-day train back to Venice where (after a few hours sightseeing) we will get the night train to Vienna.

    After checking out and leaving our bags, we walked to San Marco and took the Vap to San Giorgio Maggiore. To me, this is a must-see in Venice, even for first-timers and ultra-short-trip visitors. The church is lovely and the view from the campanile is spectacular. We thought about going to the Accademia, but changed our minds because we wanted to do some more walking and we had a 15:20 train to Verona. Instead we took a self-guided walk between San Marco and Rialto with lunch back at Berreria Forst. Then back to the hotel to pick up our bags and a Vap ride from F.te Nove to Ferrovia to catch our train.

    After arrival in Verona, a quick bus ride from the stazione dropped us at Piazza Bra, a block from the Hotel Giulietta e Romeo. This is a modern, but small, hotel that was a little different than what we usually pick – we prefer older-looking, perhaps family-run, places. But the room and the service were great (ultra-modern), the breakfast was as good as it gets, and the location was perfect. I do recommend it.

    After a short rest, we decided to take a walk around town – the evening passeggiato, if you will. What a disappointment! Not the evening stroll amid a “tree–lined paseo” as you might find in Spain. Throngs of people checking out all the modern stores on a narrow pedestrian walkway. In addition, the Piazza Erbe was loaded with cheap souvenir stalls. If I were the town fathers, I’d clean that out.

    We did have some good gelato, however, and a good dinner of grilled chicken and pasta at Osteria al Duca. This was a very small family-run place with locals and tourists having a good time. In fact, the family (three generations) of the woman in charge was having dinner at a nearby table as we ate. We walked around a little more and then hit the sack. Tomorrow is our day to see the good sights in Verona.

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    DAY 05 - May 10
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    After badmouthing Verona on my last post, I must tell you that today, as short as it was, was packed with great things. We absolutely refused to visit the so-called “House of Juliet”. We live in the Philadelphia area, and this is sort of like the Rocky statue that was on the steps of our art museum – a tribute to a fictional character. We heard Juliet’s home was packed – each to his/her own taste, I guess.

    Our first stop was the Roman arena. We had picked up a Verona Museum Card at the station (along with our four bus tickets) yesterday, so we had entry to the arena, castelvecchio, San Zeno and Santa Anastasia – the four places we would see today.

    The arena is, obviously, smaller than the coliseum in Rome – but it has a certain feeling to it because it has been in continuous use since that time – its claim to fame.

    There was a threat of rain, so we had gone to the arena first, but none had materialized yet. We walked to the castelvecchio. The castelvecchio was built in the 14th c. by the Scaligeri family as a defense against outside attack and local rebellion. It is now an art museum; we liked the sculpture and roaming the ramparts and the views of the river best.

    Next was a walk down to the San Zeno church. Naturally there were plenty of the usual frescoes, but the highlight was the beautifully-sculpted paneled bronze doors.

    We were getting hungry but only had limited time before our train to Padova, so we popped into a “smoothie” place and had a snack – yogurt and muesli. Then we decided to take a little walk to the northern river’s edge. There we went into the Santa Anastasia church, which had the most beautiful painted ceiling and tiled floor.

    Picked up our bags, took the bus back to the station, and caught our train to Padova. At the TI at the station, we picked up our Padova Cards (which we had bought online at home) and took the bus to our hotel. We stayed at a wonderful little place – Albergo Verdi. The location was perfect, the breakfasts were great and the people were friendly and helpful. (The elevator was so small our two carry-ons had to make a separate trip, nearly filling the car.) We then walked over to the Scrovegni Chapel to pick up our timed-tickets (also bought online earlier) for tomorrow’s visit. The combined €17 cost of the Padova Card covered the chapel, public transport, and several other places we visited...but you need to book a specific time for the chapel online before you leave the US.

    We took a quick walk around the neighborhood, stopping at the Baptistry (free with Padova Card) which had some really exceptional frescoes. Then dinner at La Lanterna – a very nice restaurant where we had artichokes, pizza and salad. Great service with lots of people running around and checking constantly on us. Then home to bed.

    At this point I realized I was coming down with a cold. When Linda gets a cold, she has some sniffles. With me, it’s different – all I can say is that Venice is lucky the Grand Canal isn’t as convoluted, mis-shapen, and drain-resistant as my sinuses…otherwise they’d be in trouble. [Too much information? Sorry!]

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    I am LOVING your trip report! Fabulous info and I am enjoying your style of writing.

    So thrilled with your 'Italian breakfast compliment'.

    Last night I booked our holiday to Venice - Salzburg - and Vienna, so your trip report is just my cup of tea right now!

    I wait with bated breath for more, thanks for posting! Hope your cold did not drag on too long.... :(

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    DAY 06 - May 11
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    Nice breakfast this morning. Good omen…but…

    Today the plan was to take an early train to Vicenza, see the Palladio-designed Rotunda and a few other city sights, and return home in the afternoon for our scheduled Scovegni Chapel visit.

    As our train neared Vicenza a mild rain started. We figured that wouldn’t stop us, so we decided to walk into town and pick up a Vicenza Pass (discounted rate if you have a Padova Pass). The walk was a lot longer than we thought, my cold was worse than I expected, and the rain got worse. We picked up the tickets and got on the bus back to the station where we hoped to catch the #8 bus to the Rotunda.

    Unfortunately, on Saturdays the bus only ran once an hour! We shouldn’t have wasted any time walking around…now there was little chance we could go to the Rotunda without risking getting back too late in Padova. (NOTE: I am usually a great pre-planner, checking bus, train and attraction schedules before I leave the US. In this case I really messed up. Not only did I mis-read the bus schedule, but I forgot that the Vicenza pass did not cover the Rotunda, so there was no need to pick it up first.]

    I was feeling pretty bad – physically as well as emotionally – and Linda bailed me out by suggesting we just go right back to Padova so I could get out of the rain and rest up a bit in the afternoon. She said she really didn’t care about the Rotunda, and would rather rest, too, rather than walk around in the rain.

    We had had reserved (non-refundable, too – yet another of my mess-ups on this day’s planning) seats on a train to Padova, but the fare was so low on the regionale train (€3.60) that it was painless to return. By the time we got back, the rain had stopped and the weather looking good. The restaurant in our hotel building – I think it was call Dai Gemelli, but I’m not sure – had no soup on the menu but made up some minestrone for us anyway, which we ate with wine and bread. Then we went upstairs for a well-deserved nap.

    The Scrovegni Chapel/Padova Card includes the wonderful Pinacoteca Museum with many great art treasures (including Giotto’s crucifix), which we checked out first, but the real treasure is the Chapel. Giotto (and his assistants) painted the walls in frescoes often described as the first modern art.

    The chapel is climate-controlled. At your appointed time the door to the ante-room opens, and you (and perhaps 25 others) go in – and the door is shut. A 15-minute orientation video is shown while the temperature and humidity are stabilized. Then the doors to the chapel open and in you go for your 15-minute visit. Sort of like airlocks on a spaceship, but it is really a “back-in-time-ship”.

    The chapel was everything it was hyped up to be and more. I won’t go into a description of what each of the panels depicts – you can read that elsewhere on the web – only to say that they are spectacular. The incredibly well-preserved color, simple perspective, and humanity of the faces were revolutionary for their time (1303-1305), and they are a marvel to see.

    If you are in Venice, this makes a great day trip…about 1 hour by train and tram to the chapel. I’ve been told you can buy your tickets at the museum a few hours in advance, but I do not recommend it. The time slots fill up pretty far in advance, I believe. We bought ours online bundled with our Padova Card before we left the US – picked the card up at the train station and the Chapel tickets up the day before at the museum.

    Since our Padova Card also covered the Palazzo Zuckermann – right across the street – and we had a half-hour before it would close, we popped in. There were some nice furniture and ceramic items we saw in our brief “drive-by viewing.”

    For dinner we returned to La Lanterna – spaghetti arrabiata (spicy tomato sauce) for me and a pasta and meat sauce dish for Linda. NOTE: I haven’t mentioned the drinks with most of our meals…mostly wine with dinner and beer with our lunches.

    Then to bed.

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    Wonderful report! I will be in Venice for a week at the end of September, so this is very pertinent info for me. The Scrovegni chapel sounds like a must. I've only been to Venice for three days in 2009 and have wanted to go back ever since. Love the descriptions of the small islands--I only saw Burano on my last trip.

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    DAY 07 - May 12
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    After breakfast we paid our bill, left our bags at the hotel, and headed out for our final item in Padova – St. Anthony Basilica. A very interesting church with a number of the saint’s relics, including his tongue and his tunic. His tomb is there as well with a series of reliefs chronicling his life. Not being Catholic or knowing much about St. Anthony, I found my printed explanation (Rick Steves!) of each scene very helpful. It was Sunday and mass was being held, so we couldn’t get really close to the altar. There was also a little museum with some nice items including some very good wood inlay pieces.

    The weather was beautiful, and we had a little time, so we walked over to the Prato delle Valle, a beautiful park, to relax a bit. Then we had a quick snack-lunch (yogurt & muesli), picked up our bags, and headed to the station for our train back to Venice.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: Before we left the US, and even while we were in Venice, people were telling us that Verona was great but Padova was not worth a visit. Verona was, indeed great, if you could ignore the throngs in the center. Padova, however was wonderful. The Baptistry, Scrovegni and St. Anthony’s were first-rate sights. The main piazzas were much nicer than those in Verona…for instance the Piazza de Erbe really was a market piazza. Don’t let anyone talk you out of going there, especially since it is so close to Venice.

    We arrived in Venice at 2:10 pm with an 8:57 sleeper ticket to Vienna, so we had some time to spend. We checked our bags at the station and headed out for some walking. We did two self-guided walks, both near the station. The first went from San Alvise to Ponte Tre Arche in the ghetto. The second from Tre Arche along the Cannareggio Canal to Piazzalle Roma. Near the end we were getting pretty tired, so a rest at the Giardino Papadopoli was welcome – a very pretty spot. This was our last few hours in Venice, and it hit home to us how nice it is just to walk around the city.

    We got to the station around 7:00, retrieved our bags and sat around waiting for our train to Vienna. A nice old woman came by and sat with us. She was with her daughter and two grandchildren, and they were waiting for their night-train back to Paris.

    Here is the cool part: She spoke practically no English. (Her grandson did, but he was immersed in his smart-phone video game.) Linda understands some French and can speak a little as can I (very little). But Yvette could speak some Spanish, and my Spanish is better than my French. We talked for an hour, about travel, family, and even a little politics. Our mutual understanding was, at times, taxed, but we carried on bravely. (In a pinch, she would interrupt her grandson’s gaming and ask him the English word for something.) It was a real highlight of our trip – the kind of thing you hope for but rarely experience in international travel.

    At about 8:30 she and her family went to board their train, and fifteen minutes later so did we. We had a double compartment – very small, but it was nice to be able to lie down, and the Austrian Railways had put a bottle of wine in our compartment – very nice! We turned in our breakfast order sheets and went to bed…though I did not sleep very well due to the excitement of going to Vienna, even though I took a Nyquil for my cold.

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    DAY 08 - May 13
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    Nice little breakfast on the train before we pulled into Vienna’s Westbahnhof. Bought 1-week transport cards. Like Paris (and unlike London) Vienna 1-week cards go from Mon-Sun rather than a 7-day period starting on any day. We were OK with that – today was Monday. Unless it is obviously illogical (e.g., if today were Saturday), I’m a big fan of multi-day or 1-week passes. We like to freedom to hop on and off at will, especially when we know we will often be tired as the day progresses. Even though central Vienna is small and walkable, we still used our passes a lot. The U-bahn took us to the Herrengaße station, three blocks from our hotel.

    Our hotel was Pension Nossek, right on the Graben in the center of the pedestrian area. About two weeks before leaving the US, they emailed us saying that their elevator upgrade was behind schedule and would not be operational during our stay. We wrote back that we were in our 60s and hoped it would not be a problem. They said they would put us on the first floor.

    We carried our bags up to the first floor – no hotel! I left Linda and the bags there and headed up – 30 stairs per floor. At the third floor, there was the Nossek sign…but also a sign indicating that the office was one more floor up. I hadn’t realized that “first floor” meant THEIR lowest floor. I asked if there was a nearby hotel that we could switch to. There was, but it was €35 a night more. I was disappointed that they didn’t offer to pay the difference, since they had advertised and assured us in their confirmation email that they had a lift. Oh well…we’d have to make do with our situation. Our room would be ready in an hour or so.

    We checked in and headed out to Stephansdom. The beautifully-colored tiled roof and fantastic figures on the pulpit were particularly good. Back at our hotel (a three-story climb) we were able to get into our room and unpack four our 4-night stay. The room was large and very nice, overlooking the Graben.

    We had a very nice lunch at Ofenloch, just a few blocks from our hotel. Linda had a nice fish dish and I had veal…yes I know I shouldn’t eat veal, but this was an exception…forgive me. We rewarded our stair-climbs with a wonderful dessert of plum cake topped with plums.

    After lunch we did a self-guided city center walk. Since we were near the opera, I decided to pick up my opera tickets (for tomorrow) that I had bought online – way back in December. Unfortunately I did not have the voucher with me, so I ran back to the hotel, up three flights of stairs, came back with the tickets, and picked the, up.

    After a short rest at the hotel, we went out to dinner at Beisl zum Scherer in Judenplatz. We both had goulash, potatoes, salad and beer – very nice dinner, not too expensive, and a friendly server. That completed our day.

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    DAY 09 - May 14
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    The museum ticket system here as complicated as a cell phone or cable TV plan. Various combo tickets – bundling, I guess you’d call it – but no bundle that hits the exact combination of sights you’d want. We settled on a combo-ticket that included the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Neue Burg (with its musical instruments museum), and the Treasury. We decided we did not have time to also do the Schönbrunn… …we thought this would give us a varied look at things rather than a mega-palace tour.

    The Kunsthistorisches Museum was really great. It had an amazing Caravaggio (“David with the Head of Goliath”), lots of cool Breugels, a few excellent Velazquez’s, and, of course, my favorite, Vermeer’s “The Art of Painting” as well as a few other excellent 17th c. Dutch paintings. We were there into the afternoon and decided to just have some soup in the beautiful café (rather than a real lunch) and have an early dinner. We got back around 2 pm, and my cold was in full flower, so a long rest was in order, especially with the opera slated for this evening.

    Dinner was at Rheinthaler’s Beisl, and it was delicious. Linda had the schnitzel and I had schweinbraten. Linda’s came with a truly great salad that we shared…lots of interesting veggies and marinated potatoes…but our minds were on the opera.

    A few points: I do not consider myself an opera fan, but I love all kinds of music and can listen to opera and enjoy it. We bought the tickets, because, having never been to an opera and despite our worries that we might find it too long and inaccessible, we figure this was the place to experience it.

    The performance was La Traviata. Before we left the US, we watched it on video (with subtitles), so we were familiar with the plot. We were not prepared for the real-live experience – it blew us away. The voices were incredible, the music was great and the staging was perfect. I cannot speak for other operas or other opera venues, but, unless you hate opera, you should not miss this if you are in Vienna when La Traviata is on the schedule. Not so amazingly, I didn’t notice my cold at all during the performance.

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    This a wonderful report, so well written, sensitive and intelligent.

    I became an opera fan in middle age when th
    E conjunction of great staging, beautiful orchestral music, and the splendor of the human voice overwhelmed me. The disease doesn't go away!

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    I enjoyed reading your report and agree wholeheartedly about clearing away the tatty stalls in the Piazza Erbe in Verona - I would extend that to all the cr*p that ruins the Piazza Navona in Rome too.

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    DAY 10 - May 15
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    After breakfast we headed out for the Treasury. There were a number of nice items – the crown of the holy roman emperor, for instance. In strict terms of jewels, it can’t compare with the British crown jewels…but we didn’t expect it to…more of a collection of historical treasures.

    We took the U-bahn out to Landstraße (Wien Mitte railway station) and then walked over to the Hundertwasser Haus and the Kunst Haus Wien Museum. Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s quirky “straight lines are godless” architecture style and Klee-like painting style were something Linda remembered from a small show of his work during our 1960’s Berkeley days, so we had to check these out. This museum is not for the casual fan – many, many similar works – but if you like Hindertwasser or if you like Paul Klee, you’ll enjoy this museum a lot.

    We walked back to the Wien Mitte station, and I decided to check out the ticketing system, since we would have to get to the airport on Friday. The woman there was extremely helpful. It turned out that I did not need to buy a ticket from Wien Mitte to the airport. Since I had a transport pass, I only had to buy a ticket from the outer-most station of the center city zone to the airport…a small savings. I carefully wrote down the instructions on how to use the ticket machine, since our early flight meant that we would be at the station before the ticket office opened.

    Next stop was to take the tram to the Wien Museum Karlsplatz – the city history museum. We always make it a habit to visit city history museums if possible. Both London and Paris have great ones. This one did not disappoint. First, we had a quick lunch in the café – wurst (hot dogs), beer and sacher torte (the ultra-chocolate and apricot jam cake that one cannot miss in Vienna). Then we then toured the galleries. There were great maps and models, a fine sample of local artists, and lots of other historical displays and artifacts. I recommend this, because this kind of museum gets past the focus on the rich ruling class and lets you see a little more of the real city’s history.

    We took the bus home and, still fighting my cold, took a long (2-hour) nap. We went back to Rheinthaler’s Beisl for dinner. We both had the delicious schnitzel and salad…a more leisurely dinner, since we weren’t in a hurry to get to the opera this time.

    We had read that taking the ring trams at night would be a nice experience, so we walked to the opera and got onto one. Unfortunately, there really wasn’t much of a view, so we got off a Stubentor and decided to walk back. It was dark, and I couldn’t navigate by the sun, so we took a somewhat (a few blocks out of our way) circuitous path back to the Graben. My usually reliable dead-reckoning skills failed me as, apparently, we walked within 50 meters of Stephansdom without realizing it at one point. It was a fun walk, however, and we had the added bonus of finding a nice place, Konditorei Heiner, that displayed some great-looking chocolates. It was closed, but I made a mental note of it for tomorrow, since we wanted to bring some chocolates home for the neighbor that collected our mail.

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    DAY 11 - May 16
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    Our last day – tomorrow we fly home. My cold was a little better today, so we planned to make the most of the day.

    A word about breakfast at the Nossek. It was a nice breakfast, but it was the only hotel of the four we stayed at that charged extra for juice.

    This morning we visited two sights on our combi-ticket.

    The Imperial Apartments (including a full section on Sisi) were just about the right size for us. We got to see some history (Sisi) and some luxury (the apartments) in doses that were not too large. Given our short (4-day) visit, I think we made the right choice doing this instead of the Schönbrunn – though other Fodorites might disagree since I don’t know what I missed. We’ve been to Versailles – twice – so large palaces would not have the “wow” factor for us that they might for some others.

    The Musical Instruments Collection in the Neue Burg (New Palace) was a real treat for me. It not only had a large collections of strange old instruments, but the free audio guide allowed us to listen to many of them. If you are a musician, this should not be missed.

    Next we took the tram to the Belvedere Palace. We had a nice light lunch – actually a very light breakfast and cake – at the beautiful café, and then we checked out the paintings. This museum is best-known for its collection of works by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. There were a bunch of really good ones. The Schiele portraits, though not as well-known as the Klimt works, were top-notch in my opinion.

    We took the tram back to the ring and caught another one to Stubentor. Then duplicated our walk to the chocolate place and picked up our present. This time we made it straight back to the Graben, up the three flights of stairs, and into our room to pack and pay our bill.

    Dinner was back at Beisl zum Scherer, the place we had dinner our first night. I repeated my goulash order. The waiter suggested to Linda that she try a pork goulash, which she did. It wasn’t as good as the regular, however, so I gave her a little of mine. Then we walked a little bit around the Graben area to savor our last evening in Vienna.

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    DAY XX - May 17
    –––––––––––––––––––––
    Up really early. I didn’t need the alarm I set (and the Nossek neglected to give me the wake-up call I asked for).

    We collected our things at about 5:15 am and walked to the nearby Stephansplatz U-bahn station. At the Wien Mitte train station, the instructions I had written to get the cheaper ticket were not working. Fortunately, a nice Austrian couple (also heading to the airport) showed me how to do it. The train to the airport took about 25 minutes, and we got to the airport a little after 6 am.

    Check-in was easy, though we had some seating issues. Since each of our tickets had been purchased with our own miles respectively, we were on separate locators. Re-doing our seating assignments for the Vienna-Frankfurt leg was a snap. The Frankfurt-Philadelphia situation could have been difficult. Somehow, probably during a schedule change a month or so ago, we had lost our side pair of seats (Airbus 330 with 2-4-2 config), and none were free when I checked before we left the US. However, the people at the Austrian Airlines/Lufthansa desk managed to get us back on the side. Good service!

    We then got some breakfast and waited for boarding. Everything went well and the flight to Frankfurt was pretty much on time. Unfortunately it was too cloudy to see the Alps – a beautiful fly-over on our flight in to Venice. The connection in Frankfurt went smoothly – though it involved a lot of walking through a huge airport – and we landed in Philadelphia on time. Only things left to do: unpack, get the house up to speed, and being writing this trip report. Oh yeah…and start thinking about our next trip to Europe.

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    END OF TRIP REPORT
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    Thanks so much for this lovely trip report. I enjoyed it greatly. I found your observations and impressions interesting and useful. You and Linda sound like wonderful travel companions. Best wishes!

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