Tue 31 Dec - Vienna, Austria

Silvester celebrations...

We awoke to an overcast New Year's Eve so took our time getting organised this morning. Just before 10am we headed out, to immediately return for our umbrellas as an occasional drizzle had started (and unfortunately continued).

Hans wanted to check out the Prater, the huge Vienna park with a very famous Giant Ferris Wheel, explore that area and could not see how a few occasional drops of rain would cause any issues in doing that.

Di set out along with him but soon decided walking to a park and picnic did not make sense to her and considered alternatives.

Bye Di and Hans continued on...

Hans' name seems to feature in the most different and odd situations.

Check out the alcohol prices. A tad cheaper than Australia wouldn't you say...?

Hans entered the Prater area through this gate. This section of Prater where the Ferris wheel is, is essentially a huge amusement park.

Prater's Giant Ferris Wheel was built in 1897 and unlike other giant wheels around the world, has survived natural disasters and tests of war. Most of its technical installations and cabins were destroyed after the 2nd world war, but operations recommenced in May, 1947. The cabins are made of wood and can each hold a significant number of people. The one that Hans was in had perhaps 15 people or so.

Some stats...

  • Total height: 64.7m
  • Diameter of wheel: 61m
  • Total weight of all iron structures: 430 tonnes
  • Turning speed: 0.75m/s
  • Number of cabins: 15 (before 1945: 30)

The entrance to the Riesenrad or Ferris Wheel with good ol' Harry Lime from yet again "The Third Man" movie at the left.

The cost for one lap is 9€...

The ride and the lap takes perhaps 20 minutes due to frequent stops letting people out and others in from other cabins. The inside of the cabins are beautiful and in timber although many visitors thought that their signatures and comments would improve the walls and ceiling even further.

A selfie is obviously required up there... Behind Hans are pictures and explanations of what you would see in the various directions.

Looking down, down, down... You could see that they could easily have twice as many cabins on the wheel as they had now.

A couple of vista shots... Towards Altestadt...

...and towards Vienna's central business district which is 180 degrees away from the earlier picture and not anywhere near Altestadt at all.

After finishing the ride, Hans sat down on one of the benches inside the Riesenrad's visitors centre, had a cup of tea from the thermos that he had brought and observed the surroundings. There were lots of Italian tourists judging by their voices and not many kids as perhaps the Ferris wheel is more an attraction for adults than for kids.

Moving right along... Hauptallee is a very long and straight road into Prater which is no longer accessible by cars, providing free reign for other vehicles such as pushbikes, but it was quite empty this New Year's Eve.

Alongside Hauptallee are further walkways and one can always cycle the dog here.

Hans then meandered back towards town and... walked right into a running race.

Sometimes you just feel that you are in the wrong spot at the wrong time...

But off the runners went, passing the 4km mark.

We stayed at this Hotel Post when we were here last time in 2006, with our window then overlooking the alleyway to the right.

Hans was home around noon and had some lunch in form of trout before relaxing and enjoying the stillness.

Di remembered the Prater Giant Ferris Wheel all too well from 2006 - one ride was enough for her - she was terrified the whole time, as the old carriages tilt and sway, and her fear of it has not reduced over time so Hans would be alone up there anyway.

Prater will be revisited another day as Di still wants to go to the park and wander to the Danube.

Today instead Di visited the National Library of Austria which was lovely. We both like old libraries, like the Bodleian at Oxford, and this one fitted the requirements. A very old collection displayed with a stunning backdrop. It is part of the Hofburg Royal palace buildings but is no where near as busy as the Sisi apartments and other museums.

The main gate entrance to the Hofburg palace buildings gives an indication of what a tourist attraction the palace is, with horses and carriages lined up waiting for the punters.

And lots of tour groups...you can see one to the left in this photo with their matching orange umbrellas. Cute.

But the library is around the back and very quiet. With this great statue above the doorway.

Unfortunately only the State Hall of the library was open today, the globe and papyrus museums were closed. Not sure why.

The State Hall has an entrance fee, exempt if you are under 19, (Di does not quite make that limit) but was worth the money. Its beautiful, with frescoes everywhere and old books of course, and peaceful. A few photos of the main dome and room.

The collection is quite small compared to other national libraries, with 10,000 pieces, but many date back to 13th century and nothing is younger that the 1800's. Still its a big collection for this small space so they seem to have got inventive in storage. Yep, racks behind too.

The library has a collection of precious old globes and about 4 were on display here but this one was Di's favourite for obvious reasons (look closely).

A bit of the story of the globes design and features.

Statues seem to be in every nook and cranny, most without names and most looking quite poncey or silly. Here are a few as an example.

Yep, Di was happy exploring in the library for an hour on a rainy day. She got told off once for a photo she didn't even take! A bit zealous these librarians...but this one seemed ok...

Time for tea, and a visit to the well known cafe of choice, Starbucks. Seriously we wished it was another way but their tea is really good and cheap compared to other prices in a tourist town like Vienna.

Then back on the damp streets to wander a bit more past famous places. Not too many others wandering though...good!

StaatsOper, the State Opera House, holds guided tours but Di got put off by the tour groups and buses stationed outside (cut out of this photo) so ventured further.

Next stop Maria Theresien Platz - Di was drawn here by very loud salsa music being played. A stage is set up here for tonight and a band were rehearsing. Sounded fun.

This Platz is also known as the museum quarter, which has the Art Gallery on one side and the National History Museum on the other, and in the middle...an ongoing Weihnachtsmarkts (will they never end???) you can see the roof of one of the small huts at the base of the statue.

And being in the heart if tourist town they had tourist prices like 5€ for a hot dog. Yesterday we paid 2.50€ at Schwedenplatz.

Moving right along Di gradually made her way home taking streets that looked "new to her". Still drizzling rain though...so out came the umbrella again.

Without a map, Di stumbled onto Freyung Passage, which is a lovely old shopping arcade a bit like the strand in Sydney. On a rainy day it probably should have been avoided - a definite crunch - but everybody was patient and in a good mood, which helps.

Home just before 1pm to make some asparagus soup for lunch, to accompany the picnic bread rolls that did not make it to Prater.

Afternoon was relaxation and warming up before going out to enjoy Vienna's New Year's Eve festivities. Another home made dinner and wine.

Around 8pm, we rugged up and out we went...

During the day we had researched the venues in the Altestadt for music on NYE and decided to limit ourselves to about 3 or 4 venues.

The first one at Freyung Platz was literally just up the road. The band was a cover group playing as far as we could tell of Austrian Pop and Rock songs. The crowd seemed to all knew the words and actions, but we thought most of it sounded like schmaltz (but hey, they did include "Macarena"...)

Lining up for our first (and worst) Glühwein of the evening.

Still we drank it, bopped along with the locals and enjoyed the atmosphere.

Moving right along, in the hope of better music, and we struck gold, Jake and Elwood!!

This was a seriously good Blues Brothers cover band called "Blues Brothers Connection". We stayed for the rest of their set and joined the crowd demanding an encore, which we got. Several times. Cool!

Jake and Elwood looked and sound authentic and the band and singers were very tight (meaning great and professional). But heck, it was tough getting a good picture of the lads as they were never still. This was the best of a bad lot.

Di singing and shaking her "Tail Feather"...

All good things must end and so did the Blues Brothers Connection so we continued to the Rathausplatz for tonight's third stage to check out what was doing there...

First though... a Glühwein.

Hans voted this Glühwein much much better than the last one and the scenery couldn't be beaten either.

So good we had another... Medicinal of course.

The band here was substandard - called the "New Commitments" but we gave them the thumbs down. Poor choice of songs and poor singing.

We walked away from the stage and enjoyed the views. Here it looks crowded but it wasn't too bad as there are 12 stage venues throughout the city and each location is a Platz (or square) so there is space.

Across the road is the lovely Burg Theatre which also looked great at night, with an old tram making a nice accessory.

Back to the second stage to see and hear what was next after "Blues Brothers Connection". This building with projected well wishes is immediately to the right of the stage.

"Blues Brothers Connection" had been replaced by these guys, perhaps "Soul Brothers Connection" as that was what the black dude mostly sang. This was again very good, the dude could sing and in particular his guitarist and drummer were very good indeed.

The band played "Dock of the Bay", "Stand by Me" and "It's a lovely day... lovely day... lovely day... lovely day..." among other songs.

Di got into the spirit again...perhaps it was the Barry White song that did it. Maybe a few Glühwein helped?

As the soul guys finished their set, we returned back to the first stage. A few pics from old town Vienna NYE around 10.30pm...

Still not too crowded, but certainly more people now than when we arrived.

The first stage was quiet and between sets and we continued just a little bit further into the real thick of things before turning back. The first stage can vaguely be seen there in the distance.

OK, that was enough for us oldies and we decided to venture back to base when somebody threw a very loud firecracker into the crowd close to our feet. We reckoned that it would only get worse as the night progressed. The "ende" for us for tonight.

Our local Rudolfsplatz was almost deserted tonight though and looked just a little bit sinister a la film noir at this time of night.

Of course, nothing happened to us and soon we were inside our 1956 retro lift taking us up to the 5th floor were we stay. A final experimental shot...

As 2013 drew to a close, we briefly switched on the TV to watch part of a live concert from Brandenburger Tor in Berlin, but the music was poor pop so after a cup of tea and not yet midnight, we went to bed.

That concludes a very interesting and satisfying year 2013 for us (of course) and as tomorrow will be 2014, we wish all our readers a very happy and prosperous new year.

From us now, it is Gute Nacht and Prosit Neujahr from Altestadt in Wien.

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