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V Marks The Spot

We’ve seen a lot of treasures on this trip so far. From the Crowned Jewels in Scotland, to the treasury in the basement of the Cathedral of Seville, we have seen some serious bling. But nothing prepared us for what we saw today at The Imperial Treasury here in Vienna. The treasury is accessible through the Swiss Courtyard of the Hofburg Palace where we were only a few days earlier. There are over 1,000 items on display from the Holy Roman Empire and the Austrian Empire.

Behind the vault doors…

…are some of most impressive pieces of royal regalia I’ve ever laid eyes on.

Like this extremely detailed embroidered crest.

And these royal robes that are…

…well… fit for a king!

The Imperial Crown of Austria.

A whopping 492-carat Aquamarine!

Or a super-whopping 2860-carat Colombian Emerald!!!


They even have a “Unicorn” sword

(actually its from a narwhal, but who’s counting?)

And the Holy Lance that pierced Jesus’s rib cage…

and this agate bowl that held his blood, that some even regard as The Holy Grail!!

Beat THAT Fort Knox!! You ain’t got nuthin’ on Vienna!

Miles To Go Before I Eat

Yesterday we tackled most if the inner ring of Vienna, so today was dedicated to seeing some of the sites outside of the ring. Bianca and friends live right down the street from Schönbrunn Palace and it’s literally a 5 minute walk to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Location, location, location!

[click for panorama]

We first took a tour of some of the exquisite rooms inside, including a music room where a young Mozart performed for the emperor of the time. We weren’t allowed to take photos indoors, so you’ll have to use your imagination. Just close your eyes and imagine the most elaborately detailed and well furnished palace. Yeah, it was kinda like that… only better. Really, it’s a must see. We only took the “Imperial Tour” which covers about 30 rooms with a self guided audio tour. If I were to go back I’d probably select one of the other tour options to see more.

Once we finished with the tour inside, we went outside…

…to explore the backyard.

I’m not sure if you can even call it a yard as it covers an area larger than a small city at 500+ acres! I thank my lucky charms I wasn’t the son of Emperor Leopold I. Mowing that lawn would have taken a lifetime!

With so much land at the royal famines disposal, they had to find things to occupy the grounds. Not one to be outdone by the entire city of Madrid, the emperor had numerous fountains installed.

In one direction you will find perfectly trimmed trees leading the way towards the Obelisk Fountain…

In another is the Round Pool.

And in the Round Pool is a perfect living replica of a duck decoy!

The obelisk sits atop a giant spitting mouth spewing water.

(note: giant spitting mouth is pictured on the left).

Continuing along the path to the right is of course, yet another fountain. This one is the Roman Ruin Fountain.

…and to the right of that fountain is the Neptune Fountain.

And behind the Neptune Fountain is a large hill that lead up to The Gloriette…

…which of course must have it’s own fountain of sorts.

Those royal families really know how to live it up! Just check out the view of the palace from atop the hill where The Gloriette sits, overlooking all of Vienna.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been a member of a royal family, but if there is one thing they teach you in kingdom class, it’s that you simply can not have a  palace without it’s own zoo with pandas.

I mean come on! How can you call yourself a king if you don’t have pandas running around in your backyard? Seriously!

When you have this much land, and you start to run out of things to do with it, you are forced to get a little creative. And that’s when it dawns on you… I need a labyrinth of shrubbery!

Ha! I bet the king of Switzerland doesn’t have one of those!

Nor does he have a childrens sweatshop playground for the little royal rug rats.

I tell ya, this whole “keeping up with the Henry’s” thing has just gotten out of hand. It’s exhausting and it’s making me hungry. How about some Sri Lankan cuisine?

Eaten the traditional way… sans forks. Just devouring it like savages, using our meat paws to paw meat (and rice).

It’s not easy, but it’s fun. Almost as much fun as sipping on some sturm at a winery up in the hills of Vienna with our friends…

…and learning some new Austrian vocabulary.

We spent so much time trying to say the word “knopf” but our mouths just aren’t designed to say it. We are defective. It’s really quite difficult. Try it yourself. It sounds like you are saying “knopf” but the N is replaced with the popping sound you make when your tongue snaps off the roof of your mouth. And don’t forget to include the K sound at the beginning of the word too. Make sense? No? Oh heck, just forget it! I can’t describe it. Just watch and listen to these two sister do it.

Running Rings Around The Ring

There’s no more efficient way to navigate a new city than with the help of a local. Luckily we had a few locals on our side that we’re more than willing to share their wealth of knowledge about Vienna. Bianca and all of her flatmates gave us so much great advice on how to best see the city. Bianca even escorted us to the train station and helped us obtain a city map and then sent us off on our own with a long list of things to see.

The first stop was a restaurant/brewery that was actually brewing beer. You could smell the barley and hops wafting across our table.

They had a delicious chili beer that was a tad bit spicy. Very tasty! Jay also tried their hemp beer. The schnitzel was highly recommended, so we ordered some as our main course after a delicious creamy garlic soup appetizer.

Almost all of the major sites in Vienna are located within “The Ring” and all easily accessible by foot once you are inside the ring. Our first destination was the Imperial Palace. Along the way I snapped a few photos of some of the many cool looking buildings in the city…

…and their reflections in other more boring buildings.

To get to the Imperial Palace, you have to walk past the Kunsthistorisches Museum and Naturhistorisches Museum…

…which have identical exteriors and face each other across a plaza.

After crossing by those two amazing buildings, we walked through the outer courtyard of the palace.  Off in the distance you can see Rathaus which is where the mayor and city council of Vienna govern.

And on the other side is the palace itself.

There are some unruly individuals guarding the palace. This guy clearly doesn’t see the sign nearby that forbids this type of barbarian behavior!

Outside of the palace walls are some more friendly (and cuddly) guards.

Perhaps it’s because they only have to guard a church.  Stephansdom is a huge church smack dab in the middle of The Ring…

…with lots of shopping nearby…

…and street performers.

If you ever have a chance to try the iced tea pictured above, do so. It was some of the best tasting and most refreshing iced tea I’ve ever had.

Our hosts were planning to make us a traditional Austrian dinner this evening, so we headed back to the flat. We had just enough time to check out the Technisches Museum before they closed. Here are just a few photos from their vast collection of stuff that does things. And stuff.

Wake Up Wien

Something tells me I’m going to like it here in Vienna. When you get off a bus and they have clever ashtrays like this giant cigarette…

…you just sort of get the feeling that this is one of those cities that has some smarts about it. Sort of like Tokyo, only with trash receptacles.

Furthermore, our CouchSurfing host Bianca met us at the bus stop and gave us a personal escort back to her flat. I already feel like I’m at home! Even more so when we sat down to dinner with the flatmates for some crepes!

I also feel at home because as odds would have, there was a “secret concert” that night by the band Port O’Brien and they happen to be from our backyard in the bay area — Oakland, CA.

I had never heard of the band before, but they had a good energy about them. They really got the crowd into the show when they passed out pots and pans and various other noise makers for people to bang on to the rhythm of their hit song Woke Up Today.

So far, Vienna has really high marks… We’ll see what else the city has in store for us when we Wake Up Today tomorrow.

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