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Report 1988: Yes, Zig Has Written About our Bavaria Trip!

By Zig and Georgia from Kentucky, Spring 2010

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Page 19 of 30: Friday May 28 - Vienna, Prater, Cemetery & Churches All Night

Because yesterday had been such a tough day on our feet we decided on a day without museums. It turned out to be a great day. Cloudy, but there were times the clouds drifted away and blue sky shown through.

We took the underground out to the Prater - a public fairgrounds so old that it was a favorite with Mozart. Georgia got really irritated with me because I got bored. It wasn’t yet 9:00am and the grounds wouldn’t officially open until 10:00. We saw large groups of children in the Underground obviously coming to the Prater and I said we should take the underground to the center of the Park then walk to the river and by that time the Park would be open and bustling with people. Amusement parks without people are not amusing, if you know what I mean.

She reluctantly agreed but balked when we got to the Olympic Stadium stop where there was a lot of construction and high-rise office-type buildings. She wanted to turn around and go straight back. I told her that I’d meet her somewhere if she wanted, and she reluctantly agreed to mutter along beside me. Two blocks along a busy road brought us to the center of the park. We then walked a diagonal dirt path though some deep unkempt woods where people let their dogs run free. Unfortunately all the rain made the path pretty muddy. Georgia was not happy. The park, you see, is gigantic - it stretches for miles, nestled between the canal and the Danube.

Finally through the woods we came to real meadows with playgrounds and mothers with baby strollers. Georgia’s mood brightened considerably. One young mother was trying desperately to interest her toddler in playing ball with her. She had brought a small soccer ball. I don’t think the child could have been less interested in the ball. But, he was fascinated by the clumps of grass clippings left behind by yesterday’s grass mowers. He would pick up a double handful, hold his hands up and watch, fascinated, as the grass trickled through his fingers. It’s really hard being a mother, trying to plan wonderful outings in the park. You bring the ball you will need and little Johann only wants to let nasty grass clippings trickle through his pudgy fingers. I bet there’s a lesson there somewhere.

We ate a huge schnitzel with pomme frites and some lovely beer. Yum. Watched the Austrian grade-schoolers. They were charming on their “kiddie rides.”

After the Prater we rode the Underground and a bus to the huge cemetery outside Vienna where Beethoven, Schubert, and Brahms are buried along with members of Mozart’s family. We found it and expected an entrance fee. Tried to give the guy at the gate €4. He looked at the money then at me like I was crazy. He said something to me and to the men standing nearby and handed the money back, motioning us through the gates.

There were some beautiful tombstones nestled among the mature trees and knee-high grass, but none of them were really as spectacular as the mosaic-covered stones we saw at the Cimiteria on the island of Murano or the tiny one-person stained glass chapels we saw in Florence. We strolled for hundreds of yards along a straight dirt road heading toward an enormous church that seemed to be in the center of the grounds. It was stupendous. Pure Art Deco. It must have been built around 1900. I took a bazillion photos and made sketches of the some of the interesting little design touches. And then we heard singing outside.

“Eyoo ar zee sonneshaine ov my laive!” The melody was familiar, but the words were a little odd. People were warming up for some local festival. There was free wine and sparkling water and interesting songs and music. We sat on the low stone fences around some of the grave sites and listened first to operatic arias, brass fanfares, folk quartets, duets, and left to wander the grounds before more “sonneshaine” broke out in my “laive.”

Close by the festival we found the graves of our immortals, each covered with fresh flowers. But, immediately behind Beethoven’s flower-strewn grave I found the grave of “Robert Weigl, 1852-1902.” Not so much as a dandelion on it. He must have once been famous, else why would he be buried among the immortals, but now I couldn’t even find him mentioned in the Britannica. Sic Transit Gloria.

From the cemetery we traveled back downtown to pick up our tickets for tomorrow’s concert and happened upon a series of church festivals called “Church all night.” As best I could tell all the churches were having an open house this evening. Saw a line forming inside one church to enter a small room off to the side. Figured that any line must go somewhere important. Unfortunately it was a lecture, in Austrian. We were all packed into this room like Japanese on the bullet trains. Luckily we stayed near the back and managed to open the door a crack and slip out. Found a bulletin board and saw that there were going to be concerts everywhere. Boy’s choir, organ concert, free wine (and clean restrooms), even an American Gospel choir in the Cathedral.

We took a pew in St Michaels Kirche. There was to be an organ concert later in the evening and we could see that the church was going to be packed. As we waited I studied the altar. It depicted the battle of Heaven with the Archangel Michael throwing Satan out. The concert itself featured Muffat, Johann Caspar Kerll, Johann Fux, but finished on a high point with Bach’s Fugue on the Magnificat. And it was truly Magnificat! On the organ he puts everyone else in the shade.

Each of the churches featured different treasures, and each was special in its own way. What with the free wine and snacks, and glorious concert after glorious concert I could feel myself starting to overload. We tried to move from church to church wending our way back toward St Stephan’s Haus. We arrived home late and sated. Somehow the room seemed to be spinning as I laid my head on the pillow. I don’t remember falling asleep.

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