Thu 2 Jan - Vienna, Austria

A last lazy day in Vienna.

After a full walking day yesterday, today was much quieter, with a long slow morning at home, then an early home made lunch of fish burgers, made from leftovers of another night before really doing anything.

Just before noon we set out towards StaatsOper (the State Opera) for a 1pm guided tour. We reached the State Opera by 12.30 and joined the queue to get tickets. Clearly the tours (at 1,2 and 3pm) are popular (and well rated in TripAdvisor) and they run each tour in about 5 languages to cope with demand.

Di joined the queue.

Meanwhile we watched the ticket touts trying to drum up business. They seem to largely sell tickets to a tourist concert called Mainly Mozart, but every now and then try to convince you to buy tickets from them for tonight's ballet at the StaatsOper (hmm why wouldn't you just buy them from the box office around the corner?) We kept clear of them.

The tour waiting area was arranged with the usual Germain efficiency. A clear signboard of each language group (5 different for 1pm only).

You just bought your ticket and stood near your sign waiting for a guide to arrive. English and Deutsch had the large crowds and by 1pm this room was packed full.

The English group was split into 2 and we headed off with our guide, sorry no name as she did not introduce herself.

In total there were 6 tour groups roaming the building but again they had coordinated so that we never were in the same room together. All very professional.

We started our tour in this room, in one of the intermission salons. These were all recreated in the rebuilding between 1946 and 1955. Only the facade, front entrance and main staircase survived a huge bomb blast during the war in 1945.

This room directly above the from entrance survived as well. It's called the Wagner Room as Wagner (yep, the composer) was musical director here for 10 years from 1887 to 1907 and was hugely influential in how opera performances changed (back to being performed in their original language) and audience "rules" were introduced (no eating, drinking, talking once in the auditorium).

These rules still stand for opera performances today.

The room is beautifully decorated with sculptures of famous composers and paintings above them of scenes from their most famous opera. Here we see Rossini with scenes from "Barber of Seville".

A quick inspection of the Royal intermission room followed. Our guide was the lady to the right with the blue scarf. She spoke well and clearly and we learned a lot.

The Royal room can now be hired for private use during the 20 minute intermission only at a cost of 500€.

Onto the main staircase and we heard about the 2 architects of the building, 140 years ago, who were hugely criticised for the "sunken box" they built. One even committed suicide as a result.

As far as we can see the public were wrong. What remains of the original is a lovely building. Here passed 2 other groups but again Germanic efficiency meant that all went smoothly with little waiting.

Di always near the front with the guide (yep, she wants to hear every word and be able to ask questions).

The StaatsOper's auditorium is lovely and busy almost every night from September to June each year and is the busiest opera/ballet company in the world. They never do the same performance 2 nights in a row, so tonight is the ballet of the Nutcracker, and tomorrow is the Operetta "Der Fldermaus" by Strauss.

The StaatsOper employs more than 1,000 people and performs 55 operas and 12 ballets each year, interchanging them 6 days a week. The backstage crew work very very hard - starting at 7.30am they change the stage and scenes on average 3 times a day! The first early morning "undoing" of the stage from last night's performance, then second set up for midday rehearsals of upcoming performances, then set up for tonight's performance.

Whew! We watched fascinated by how smoothly it all runs.

The auditorium was all rebuilt after WWII but in the original horseshoe style. No microphones or amplification is used here. Yep, the acoustics are great.

You can get a ticket for a performance as cheap as 3€ but you have to stand the whole time. Either on the upper 2 levels or in the middle box at the back behind our heads. Definitely worthy of a selfie...

Translations to English and German are available for each opera on your own little screen. Fantastic idea.

The orchestra pit. The musicians are aspiring Vienna Philharmonic performers. To apply to be in that orchestra you must first prove yourself here for at least 3 years. We figure they must be musicians of a very very high standard.

Hans was fascinated looking into the side wings of the stage.

Even the seats looked comfortable. Plenty of leg room. BTW, this was the Italian tour group.

And our final stop - onto backstage. Yippee.

Listening to the technical details of how this stage works we were super-impressed. The 27 metres of the front of the stage can be completely dropped down, the props and people cleared in a hurry to a subterranean space, and a new set dropped or wheeled in. They even change the floor each night to suit either ballet or opera.

The guys finishing off...

We loved the StaatsOper tour and were inspired to return for a ballet or opera on our next visit to Vienna.

From here we just meandered generally homewards, away from the crowds and down past fond memories.

One more shot of the lovely Hotel Sacher. We could not believe the queue for the cafe. It was about 30 people long. When we were here we had walked straight in. Lucky!

Another few "The Third Man" location memories. This doorway was used as a place where Harry Lime was supposed to have lived and where the porter had explained to Holly Martins that he had seen Harry killed by a car and was "gleich tot", meaning immediately killed.

And the statue and fence where Harry Lime's friends were supposed to have laid his body after collecting it from the road.

Of course the magic of movies, Josefplatz, as this is called is just one of the many courtyards of the Hofburg Palace grounds - not your typical residential street.

The palace is ridiculously huge and covered with lots of ornate statues and crests. Including this one over the apartments of Empress Sisi. We never went to the palace, and perhaps should be ashamed that all we know about Sisi we learned from an episode of Kommissar / Inspector Rex.

We wandered very quiet back streets, seeing other "The Third Man" locations, and then searched out a place for coffee and cake to finish up our Viennese experience. Nice tradition but this was not as good as yesterday's.

We realised that we did not want to become experts of the best coffee and cake, as we would be fat fast, but had enjoyed this temporary tradition.

Home just after 3pm for more lazing. Tomorrow is a big traveling day, train to Zurich, and we wanted time to reflect and relax before packing up.

Leftovers of various pasta dishes for dinner, with salad. Tomorrow we hit the restaurants again. Sigh...

A couple of glasses of wine and we called it a day. Good night from Wien for the last time...

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