Tag Archives: Vienna

Rome, Italy : Happy 2,763rd Birthday

Standard

Of course I had to attend the birthday celebration of the Eternal City, Rome, on April 21st! 

When you reach my age, you appreciate those who are in your league.

………….but let us go back to the beginning of this grand matriarch of Europe…I will begin with Aeneas, son of the goddess Venus and the mortal Anchises, who left the burning city of Troy, at the end of the Trojan War, with his son Ascainius.  After many adventures, they arrive at the city of Laurentum on the west coast of Italy, whereby Aeneas marries Lavinia, the daughter of Latinus, the king of the area, and founds the town of Lavinium in honor of his wife.  It is then that Ascanius, son of Aneneas, decides to build a new city which he names Alba Longa.  The mother of twins named Romulus and Remus was a Vestal Virgin named Rhea Silvia.  She was the daughter of Numitor and the niece of King Amulius of Alba Longa.  Numitor was the rightful king and the usurper was his bother Amulius.  Amulius feared a future challenge from Numitor’s descendants and to prevent this challenge, forced the daughter of his brother Numitor to become a Vestal Virgin….and you thought your life was complicated!!!  The penalty for violating the vow of chastity was a cruel death (notice there were no rules of this sort for the guys) ……..anyway…….Rhea Silvia was impregnated by Mars but she survived long enough to give birth to her twins – Romulus and Remus and thus the story of Rome begins…………………   (I know you are saying …………finally!!!) 

As a sidebar, Rhea was buried alive in punishment for breaking her vows of chastity.   

Of course King Amulius ordered the twins to be put in a basket and left to die in the Tiber River.  As luck would have it, the basket washes ashore and is found by a kind she wolf (lupa) who suckles the twins and a woodpecker name Picus who feeds them until the shepherd Faustulus finds the twins and brings them to his home…….lucky boys!!!  ……by the way the Lupercale (a cave) was uncovered on the Palatine Hill in Rome and some think it is the Lupercale in which Romulus and Remus were suckled.

 
When they grow up, Romulus and Remus restore the throne of Alba Longa to its rightful ruler, their maternal grandfather and set out to found their own city………here it comes folks…but not so fast…….sibling rivalry leads Romulus to slay his bother Remus and therefore he becomes the first king and founder of the city of ROME on one sunny day in April 2,763 years ago…….and for those of you who are interested…..Romulus’ end came when a thunder-storm wrapped itself around him and he was never seen again…..but, by then we had Rome.

whew!………well some 2,763 years later I step into the scene and become fully entranced by all the beauty and history that is modern-day Rome with all her glorious history nestled in the very heart..

Arch of Constantine

Of couse one of the most famous of sites is the Colosseum, her grandeur standing proudly in the center of the old city………..ahhhh but if you listen carefully enough you can still hear the jeers and screams echoing off her walls.

 

Today the gladiators, lions and poor victims have been replaced by hundreds of feral cats.

So entrenched in the daily lives of current day Romans are these felines that local politicians who come off best in a difficult situation are referred to as the best cat in the Colosseum.

It is really quite amazing to walk about a modern city and gaze upon ruins of this majestic, ancient civilization

…………….and of course those “borrowed” from other ancient cultures and incorporated into Roman art……..

One of my all time favorite buildings is the Pantheon………

The Pantheon was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa as a temple to all the gods of Ancient Rome, and rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian in about 126 AD. The building is circular with a portico of large granite Corinthian columns (eight in the first rank and two groups of four behind) under a pediment. A rectangular Vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered, concrete dome, with a central opening (oculus) to the sky. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.

It is one of the best preserved of all Roman buildings. It has been in continuous use throughout its history, and since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a Roman Catholic church dedicated to “St. Mary and the Martyrs” but informally known as “Santa Maria della Rotonda.” The square in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza della Rotonda.

The ancient Roman writer Cassius Dio speculated that the name comes either from the statues of so many gods placed around this building or from the resemblance of the dome to the heavens.

…………and of course there is The Trevi Fountain……

Located in the Trevi district of Rome, the Trevi Fountain stands 85.3 feet high and 65.6 feet wide.  It is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world.  The fountain is at the junction of three roads (”tre vie”)   In 19 BC, supposedly with the help of a virgin, Roman technicians located a source of pure water, this scene is presented on the present fountain’s façade.  This ”Aqua Virgo” led the water into the Baths of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa.  It served Rome for more than four hundred years.  The coup de grâce for the urban life of late classical Rome came when the Siege of Rome (537-538) broke the aqueducts. Medieval Romans were reduced to drawing water from polluted wells and the Tiber River, which was also used as a sewer.

The Roman custom of building a handsome fountain at the endpoint of an aqueduct that brought water to Rome was revived in the 15th century, with the Renaissance. In 1453, Pope Nicholas V finished mending the Acqua Vergine aqueduct and built a simple basin, designed by the humanist architect Leon Battista Alberti, to herald the water’s arrival.  In 1629 Pope Urban VIII, finding the earlier fountain insufficiently dramatic, asked Gian Lorenzo Bernini to sketch possible renovations, but when the Pope died, the project was abandoned. Though Bernini’s project was never constructed, there are many Bernini touches in the fountain as it exists today.  An early, striking and influential model by Pietro da Cortona, preserved in the Albertina, Vienna, also exists, as do various early 18th century sketches, most unsigned, as well as a project attributed to Nicola Michetti.
Competitions had become the rage during the Baroque era to design buildings, fountains, and even the Spanish Steps. In 1730 Pope Clement XII organized a contest in which Nicola Salvi initially lost to Alessandro Galilei – but due to the outcry in Rome over the fact that a Florentine won, Salvi was awarded the commission anyway.  Work began in 1732, and the fountain was completed in 1762, long after Clement’s death, when Pietro Bracci’s Oceanus (god of all water) was set in the central niche.  Salvi died in 1751, with his work half-finished, but before he went he made sure a stubborn barber’s unsightly sign would not spoil the ensemble, hiding it behind a sculpted vase, called by Romans the ”asso di coppe”, the Ace of Cups.

The Trevi Fountain was finished in 1762 by Giovanni Paolo Pannini, who substituted the present allegories for planned sculptures of Agrippa and “Trivia”, the Roman virgin.

It was a joyous celebration of this old matriarch, who has seen and contributed so much to our lives……even today the Trojans march in her honor

…..as we leave this beautiful city in her celebration, I thought you might enjoy some Roman quotes:

Roma caput mundi : Rome, Center of the World
Tutte le strade portano a Roma : All roads lead to Rome
Roma non fu costruita in un giorno : Rome wasn’t built in a day
Quando ce vo’ ce vo’ : When it’s needed, it’s needed – meaning there is no choice
Fammo alla romana : Let’s do as the Romans do
Quando sei a Roma : When in Rome
la citta eterna con le sue virtu e i suoi vizi : The Eternal City with its virtues and its vices

Vienna, Austria

Standard

On the train to Vienna — what a chaotic scene — a group of loud — (yes and ugly) women have claimed the first class car as their own.  It is apparent they belong in second class car and here come the conductors to remove them.  Immediately the smell and general atmosphere improve.  We decided to move to the dining car and had a marvelous time sitting next to a couple from Kansas (Dorothy’s home planet).  The chef and waiter just had a wonderful shouting match in Czech!  I loved it and could not help myself.  The dining car was full of English speakers so I pretended to interpret and said such things as: “stop bringing me all those orders, I want to sit down and have a cigarette!  I can’t be cooking all the time!”

We have arrive in Vienna!  We check into the Ibis hotel and rest a bit and off we go into the center of Vienna to the Hotel Sacher so that August can have one of his favorite things on the planet — Sacher Torte!  We decide to have complete dinner here, rather than just the Torte.

We begin with Pikante Gujasuppe Czardus Furstin for August and Sacher – Gaseleber Torte for me with a bottle of Grurer Veltliner Kemser Regl.

That is a spicy beef soup for August and a liver pate cake for me with some wonderful dry white wine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our main course consists of Wiener Schnitzel with turmeric parsley potatoes and salad for me and Edward Sacher’s Tafelspitz for August – a boiled beef steak with veggies and a fried potato cake.

Ending with one of the most famous dishes on the planet…………..The Sacher Torte!

We go back to our hotel after strolling through the streets for an hour or so. We are tired from out travels, but exited to be here. The architecture is so extravagant and beautiful. We look forward to our exploration tomorrow.

We wake early and prepare for our day. After breakfasting at the hotel (Ibis Hotels offer the most amazing breakfast buffets) Our first stop is the most wonderful and breathtaking Schonbrunner Palace (www.schoenbrunn.at). We tour and are humbled by the history through which we walk. We stand in the concert room , where at the age of 6 Mozart had his first public appearance with the Royal Hapsburg Family — amazing!

As we walk the palace grounds the majesty and beauty dwarf our very presence. The day is warm and we venture into a cafe on the grounds for sme refreshment and rest.

Back onto the metro to venture to the heart of the city to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The stone of the cathedral so finely carved that it seems to be lace stretched into the sky.

We wander the streets of old Vienna and visit the Hofburg Imperial Palace and enter St. Michael’s Church — we marvel that outside the doors are hundreds of people from all over the world walking the streets as like ants on a slice of sweet bread — inside this grand church built in the thirteenth century, filled with the most incredible huge marble carvings and so many chapels, I do not bother to count them, there are no people.

As we exit we move about the streets and stop at many a sidewalk cafe to watch the people go by and to take a refreshment. The buildings that surround us are works of art all in themselves.

We stumble upon the famous golden Strauss statue just 40 meters away from the Kursalon Wien.

The following morning we forego breakfast and hop the metro to explore the Danube. First we cross to the island to the marina area, which we find quite charming. We have arrived too early and all the cafes are closed.

We make our way, by metro, to the station in the center of the bridge over the Danube and disembark to admire the beautiful river.

Back onto the metro to the Naschmarkt, the largest of 26 permanent street markets in Vienna. We meander among the booths offering all varieties of fish, fowl, cheese, olives, produce, nuts and spices.

We stop at the sausage hut and enjoy some very fine sausage, bread, mustard and olives. We are surprised to find so many Asian and Turkish restaurants and vendors here.

We have an early dinner at the Vietnam Bistro and enjoy our spring rolls and pho. The owner is a very nice man who visits with us often during our meal.

We spent the evening sitting on the back patio of the hotel Ibis, enjoying a great Chardonnay from Venice that was only 2 euros at the grocery store! It has been a great stay here in Vienna, but now it is time to head off to Salzburg!

Prague, Czech Republic

Standard

Today we are traveling to Prague.  We awoke early full of excitement for the next leg of the journey.  Of course, we had breakfast at our favorite gas station in Berlin and then headed for the Hauptbahnhof to await our train to the Czech Republic.  The train was very nice.  The first class cabin is almost empty so it is nice and quiet. We pass through beautiful countryside.  It is so green and lush here — not like our poor parched Texas.  We move to the dining car for a change of scenery and some wine.  We are now in Dresden and have stopped to allow passengers to embark and disembark it is 11:00 A.M., the wine made August sleepy and he is dozing off.  As we enter the Czech Republic the route becomes so scenic and beautiful we follow the course of a river to our left with charming villages nestled along its banks.  The hillsides are so verdant and lush.  We just passed a beautiful castle on the hillside overlooking the river.

 

We will be in Prague in one hour. We arrive in Prague and disembark our train, we make our way to the taxi stand and the driver wants to charge 980 crown to take us to the hotel — $98 U.S. dollars, we decide he is a bandit and walk away, before we get far the price has dropped to $30.00 so we keep walking and find the tourist information center. Behold — we find that the hotel is within walking distance! So away we walk and find our hotel in the midst of an old town square. We rest and change clothes to venture out. It is very beautiful here. The war has not hurt this old city.

We find a lovely traditional Czech restaurant, Nostalgie (www.restaurace-nostalgie.cz) and promptly plant ourselves on a back patio and dine on sausage cooked in vegetables with rye bread and herbed butter accompanied by a Czech beer — yummy.  We await our second course; roasted pork served with potato dumpling, cooked cabbage and bread dumplings — marvie!!!!!

 
The food was delicious, the pork cooked to perfection and the cabbage so tender and tasty. We barely spoke during the meal. Teh pastry all looked so wonderful, but we were so full from the meal we passed………….for now. We stopped at the grocer and bought some wine, water and pastries. Back to the room to relax, drink wine and eat pastries!

We decide to have breakfast at the hotel and catch the early train our of Prague. this city has been the least fun in our trip. It seems that perhaps the East has not been able to shake off the cold war. The people are dowdy, ugly and unfriendly. On to Vienna……..

Even the breakfast was sad…………….