Vienna: the name was filled with history, romance, beauty, glamour. So much to see, do, and experience. A full day in the Kunsthistorisches art history museum, I told Sherrill—several days, maybe. And the Belvedere museum—all those Klimt, Shiele, and Kokoschka paintings! And the Schonbrunn Palace and....
We started with the museums, but also were drawn into the city beyond, from time to time stopping at Vienna's famous cafes and coffee houses. Good coffee and pastry (mit schlag) can do a lot to revive sore feet. We checked out the massive Opera House, restored since the War, and explored St. Stephen's Cathedral—where we saw St. Valentine's sarcophagus and several reliquaries with the remains of saints collected over the centuries. One day, we lunched in the basement restaurant of the neo-gothic Rathaus—city hall—and chatted with locals at the next table who told us not to miss the Vienna Woods.
We took their advice and bussed out to see the forest that inspired Strauss and sheltered the Mayerling tragedy. It's all too easy to feel lost and vulnerable in a strange place, no matter how much you've studied in advance, when you don't know the language or customs. You don't want to be rude or thoughtless or just another thick-headed tourist. However, people like this couple made us feel less like strangers and more like friends.
Sherrill couldn't miss Freud's home and I wanted to ride the enormous nineteenth-century Ferris wheel in which Orson Welles revealed his evil side in The Third Man, so of course we did both.
Number 19 Berggasse looked the same as the other nineteenth century buildings in the neighborhood, but in one of its apartments Sigmund Freud had lived, received patients, and written his books. Back then, the apartment still was remarkably like when he was there, bookcases jammed full; cabinets, desks, and tables crowded with his collections; paintings, photographs, and drawings covering the walls; and a tall tile-covered stove in one corner. We worked our way slowly through the old-fashioned rooms, studying the photographs, the bookcases, even the couch where his patients once reclined. We could imagine the doctor's ideas evolving in these rooms as he talked with the men and women who came to him for help.
Eventually, we made our way to the Prater and the Ferris wheel.
"In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias," I recited, as the giant wheel slowly turned, the park sliding past far below us, "they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance." Sherrill gave me a patient, long-suffering look, but didn't interrupt. "In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace -- and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."
Sherrill patted me on the cheek. "That's okay, dear. Orson Welles, you're not."
"Too bad you need to be good at math," she sighed, "to be an architect."
Sherrill took me to the Schonbrunn Palace gardens and the 1881 Palm House, the largest greenhouse in Europe. We hiked up and down winding flower-adorned metal staircases and through the huge glass rooms holding more than four thousand plant species, including a 350 year-old olive tree. Occasionally, she made a note about a plant that intrigued her.
"I don't think that would fit in our house--or garden," I murmured once.
"Don't worry about it. It'll be okay."
The old city, itself, was a delight to stroll in, despite the crowds, but our main objective like almost everybody else was to visit the buildings where Mozart was born and lived. As is often the case, we were surprised by how small the rooms were. The composer—along with the wildly popular musical and movie The Sound of Music—had transformed the town of his birth into a money machine. Mozart chocolate balls, Mozart rubber ducks, Mozart ice cream, and then the Trapp family: the opportunities to spend seemed endless.
"We might as well...?"
"Go on to Munich," she'd finished. So we did.
We didn't ignore the splendid art museums in Munich, but the big event while we were there turned out to be the annual Oktoberfest. Essentially a city within a city, devoted to beer, food, and insane entertainments, with block after block of large tents jammed with people, sizzling meat, and varieties of beer. Hefty barmaids pushed and shoved their way through the crowds in the tents, astonishing numbers of foaming beer mugs held against their chests by the strength of their arms. At one point, the surging crowd in one of the tents pulled Sherrill and me apart, taking us further and further away from each other until we couldn't see each other. Finally, struggling back, I found her clinging to one of the sturdy posts holding up the tent.
"And I don't even like beer!" she groaned.
To be continued....