We slept okay, but not as long as we wanted.  Justin was woken up by a crazy humming rattling from the wall.  It sounded like some sort of pump or motor, and it would come on for maybe 10-15 minutes, then go away for hours.  Very odd.  Because of going to Bratislava yesterday, we had four full days for Vienna, and we didn’t have too many concrete plans.  We figured that would be more than enough time, but the 4 days we were here were not any old 4 days, however – they were, in order, a Sunday, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and Boxing Day.  Because of this, there were going to be lots of odd hours, closures, etc., that would complicate things.

One thing we knew for sure was that today was the only day for the Lipizzaner show, so we decided we'd check that first thing.  The show was set for 11am, so we had a good amount of time to head over there.  Crystal noted that the shower was not draining well at all, so there was an inch or two of water at the bottom.  Justin noted that the showerhead had water coming out of only 1/3 of the nozzles.  Fortunately Justin was tall enough to just reach, and used his fingers to clean them out.  So far the hotel was all sizzle, no steak.  The service was great, the common areas and rooms were very ornate, but the actual guts of the hotel were sorely lacking.

Our hotel was right on the ring, so everything was very close.  Headed clockwise from our hotel, the State Opera House was just a block or two away, and then the Albertina Museum was just a block after that, and then the Hofburg Palace was just past that.  So we walked on the ringstrasse until we got to the Hofburg Burggarten, where we amazingly saw some palm trees.  Justin guessed they must have been Trachycarpus, which can take extreme cold.  It was nice weather outside, by far (and that’s not saying much) the sunniest and warmest day so far.

There was some giant building next to the Burggarten, which we assumed was the backside of the palace, but we weren’t sure exactly.  We knew the Lipizzaner stables and performance arena were part of the Palace complex, so we knew we were somewhat close, but didn’t know how to get around the complex.  Luckily there were signs around showing points of interest, but even then it wasn’t 100% clear how to navigate paths and hallways and whatnot.  We kept almost getting to the horse area, only to realize we’d walked past it or taken a wrong turn.  When we could smell the manure, we figured we had to be close.  We saw people in line, with tickets, so figured that had to be the performance area.  But we couldn’t see any obvious ticket spot. 

So we kept walking around that building, then saw stables across the street, but again no ticket spot.  We stopped at the stables for a minute or two, as it was only 10:20.  The stables looked like there were about 20 or so horses, just hanging out.  We crossed back across the street and kept walking around that building (it was an enormous building), and eventually we saw the ticket place, which was kind of a mess.  In line, it was getting closer and closer to 11.  Near the front, could hear the ticket agent stating there was only a single seat, plus the standing area.  When it was finally our turn, we quickly told her two standing area seats.  She started to put that in, and realized they'd just - that instant - been sold.

But since we'd walked around the whole facility now, we surmised they'd have to walk the 50 feet from the stables to the performance area, so we asked her if that was the case.  She said yes, so we walked back to stables and set up right at the gate, one of us on either side.  And sure enough, just before 11 they came right by, within five feet of Crystal and one foot of Justin.  The horses were not as big as we would have thought.  Most of them were white, but some of the younger ones were a charcoal gray.  We missed the performance, but this was arguably even better, because we were so much closer and it was free.  With that behind us, we had to figure out what to do next.  Since it was nice outside, and supposed to be gray/raining the next two days, we audibled and decided to see as much of the outside of Vienna as possible today, even if that meant some backtracking and return trips the next couple of days to see the insides of what we saw outside today. 

We started walking towards Belvedere Palace, a little outside the ring to the Southeast, and passed by some building that looked amazing, but we had no idea what it was.  There was a small Christmas Market, geared towards kids, in front of it.  There were some farm animals, like goats and pigs.  We hoped it was all hygienic.  Then we passed by some monument that looked like it was dedicated to the Soviets, which we figured couldn’t the case, but sure enough, it was titled Heroes’ Monument to the Red Army.  We assume this was for the Soviets forcing the Nazis out at the end of the WWII.

We came into the Belvedere Palace at “lower” Belvedere, and then walked towards “upper.”  It was crazy to think that this was the *third* nicest palace in town.  The grounds had nice statues, lawns, fountains (not on, since it was winter), and more.  At the upper Belvedere building there was a nice Christmas Market on the back side, and good views from the reflecting pool at the very top of the grounds.  We got some sausages and some turbo punch for lunch.  The next planned stop was Schonbrunn Palace.  It was further away than we thought, and not in walking distance – or at least not in walking distance we were willing to spend the time on.  We decided to try Uber again, since the Metro to Schonbrunn looked very circuitous.  We had a much better experience today, as we got picked up right away, it was an easy drive, and Justin’s cell phone battery didn’t go kaput.

Not surprisingly, there were tons of people at Schonbrunn.  Since it was further away than we thought, we audibled again, and decided to just see the inside today so that we wouldn't need to make a second trip out here.  We walked around outside first, heading up to the Gloriette, which is at the top of the grounds and looks back over the whole area.  Justin decided not to look back until the top, just looking ahead the whole time.  At the very top, there were great views over the grounds as well as the city.  There’s a restaurant at the Gloriette (usually booked well in advance), and we walked around the area for a bit before heading back down.

As we headed back down, we stopped at various vantage points, including the Neptune fountain, which was about halfway down.  Inside, we got the Sisi pass (which we had thought we would’ve purchased at the Hofburg, but then we changed plans).  The Sisi pass saved us the 150 minute wait (you read that correctly) for the normal guided tour of the royal apartments.  We had an audio guide with headphones.  One good thing about audio guides is that everyone is listening, meaning very few are talking.  No photos were allowed inside the royal apartments, but here’s the one sentence summary – these people had entirely too much money. 

The palace was enormous, and we saw only a tiny fraction of it.  One thing we weren’t aware of was that Marie Antionette was actually a member of the Hapsburg family.  Most of the tour focused on Maria Theresa and Franz Josef, who seemed to have been the two longest lasting rulers.  Maria Theresa ruled during the mid 1700s, and Franz Josef was the last ruler of the Empire, during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  We finished our tour a little before 4, and went outside to a nice – but very busy – Christmas market outside the front of the building.  Justin went back to the back to take some twilight photos, while Crystal got a pizza pretzel and a turbo punch.  We met back at the giant Christmas tree at 4:30, and some singers were just starting to sing Christmas carols for everyone.  We walked around a little bit more, then headed back into town.

We dropped some stuff at the hotel room and did some laundry.  There was laundry service available, but the cost of laundering one item was roughly equivalent to what the item actually cost – this was not surprising, but it was still crazy to see with our own eyes.  We went downstairs and gave the doorman from yesterday morning the dessert we’d brought back from Bratislava.  He was taken aback at first; maybe he didn’t remember us, as he’d seen us for only about 2 minutes the day before.  But he did remember telling us about the boat, and was very thankful. 

We went to dinner at Santo Spirito, which had been recommended by Justin’s friend Steven.  We had in our notes that it had good food, drink, and classical music – this is exactly what we experienced.  When we first got there, classical music was playing on speakers.  But after about 15-20 minutes, the proprietor started showing video of a performance from the night before, with 4 opera singers, a whole orchestra, plus the Vienna Boys choir.  We talked a bit with the proprietor about Vienna and how to go about getting standing room only tickets at the State Opera House.  He recommended that we be in line at least two hours before the performance was due to start.

It started to rain whilst we were there.  We walked over to Cafe Sacher, which is a Vienna institution for their Sacher Torte, a chocolate cake that sometimes has a thin layer of some fruit such as apricot.  We didn’t have the greatest experience.  We were waiting in the rain, standing there despite there being at least a dozen empty seats inside, which we could see through the window.  They could have seated everyone who was in line.  Instead, a person came outside and told us to re-arrange the line so as to not be in front of window (where there was some cover from rain), but instead out in the full rain.  Justin asked Crystal in a loud enough voice that he hoped someone would hear "Should we tell him about all the empty seats in there?" Crystal is a saint for putting up with Justin on our travels.  We gave up, and just walked back to the hotel and crashed.

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