Thankful Not to be a Hapsburg in Any Century

Vienna is beautiful. The architecture is spectacular. The history envelops you. And the paintings of all those people in all those layers of clothing and wigs and makeup – well that is just stiffling! It is baking here – at 10pm last night it was approximately 88 degrees. Right now – 93 degrees and 34% humidity which is an improvement! They finally have a probability of rain beginning this coming Sunday. I am praying they get it.

Weather aside, so far our time in Vienna has been enlightening. You are totally immersed in culture. They sell out the Opera here for a ten month season. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra sells outs (on a lottery sale basis) their New Years Eve concert tickets for over $1000 Euros per seat! There are art museums, design museums, art and music academies of many stripes. It is just part of who they are. (There was an admission from the guide today that the Rolling Stones are also favorites). Like Budapest, it is a very social city. Like Budapest, the religious heritage is Roman Catholic and Jewish. Like Budapest, this area has been the center of turmoil since pre-Roman times. Unlike Hungary, Slavakia and the Czech Republic, Austria avoided somehow the oppression of the Iron Curtain.  I can even parse out a good number of Austrian words – I always knew Latin would come in handy and that has been true here. Hungarian – that was another story!

Last night we attended a concert of the Vienna Imperial Orchestra at Liechtenstein Palace. The palace was worth the visit as it houses one of the largest private art collections in the world. We saw only a small part of the entry hall and the concert room but the art was spectacular. The concert – really there are not words to describe this. There were 10 musicians – 1st and 2nd violin, viola, cello, bass, flute/piccolo, clarinet, trumpet, percussion. They played Strauss, Mozart, Beetoven – all things I knew but had never heard played with such passion and finesse. There was a lyric soprano and baritone who did solo arias and a duet. Soloists from the Vienna Ballet danced.  We learned today that every program and function in Vienna always closes with Johann Strauss II’s Blue Danube Waltz followed by his Radetzky March. Tradition! What a great one!

Today we toured Schonbrunn Palace. This “summer” home of the Hapsburgs since 1642 (remember the comment about the clothes and the temperature) was a gift to Maria Theresia, the only female ruler of the Austrian Empire, on her wedding. She ruled Austria for 40 years. She made significant renovations and expansions to the property during her years in power. She had 16 children. The Hapsburg lineage continued through her until Charles I abdicated in 1916.  Charles I assumed this role since the nephew and heir-apparent of Franz Joseph, his predecessor, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914 setting in motion the system of alliances that resulted in WWI. 

What I found most interesting about the palace were the similarities of other noble palaces of Europe. The craftsmanship, architecture, fabrics, floors, gardens, fountains, and memorials are similar to those found in Catherine Palace, The Hermitage, and Peterhof in St. Petersburg and in Versailles in France. I laughingly told Steve that all that intermarriage between European nobility had resulted in the same (similar) design requirements!

I also learned that Napolean Bonaparte’s only legitimate son was a Hapsburg who died at the young age of 21 from TB and that Marie Antoinette was a daughter of Maria Theresia.  The world was small even then.

As we traveled through Vienna, we saw Parliament, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, State Opera, Vienna University, Hapsburg Imperial Palace (now the office of the President of Austria), the Stock Market (now an office building), drove round the Ringstrasse, many museums, Naschmarkt, Old Town Hall (City Hall) – you could spend weeks here and not see it all. I could come back here for an extended stay so this one stays on my “bucket list” for now. I do think I will choose a cooler month for my next go. And today we had to choose the Palace or the Spanish Riding School, home of the Lipizzaner stallions. I still want to see that, as well.

Hebrews 1:3a – The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being…

I am thankful for the opportunity to experience this. I do know, however, that in the grand scheme of life, the earthly trappings do not matter.

Still Choosing Joy