We were up before the alarm again, but at least it was closer to the alarm time.  We’d checked out what we could do today with it being Christmas, and interestingly more stuff would be open today than yesterday.  Most of the stuff was fairly close to the hotel, too.  Before heading out, we asked the concierge if he could make us reservations for any time after 7:30pm at Oswald & Kalb, which we had checked the night before would actually be open tonight.  Then we headed over to stand in line for the 9am tour at the Opera House.  We’d asked the concierge how early we needed to get there to ensure we’d make it in, and he said 20-30 minutes should be no problem.  We arrived there around 8:30, and there were not too many people in line.  It was actually snowing a tiny bit, not enough to stick, however.  We’re not sure whether this qualifies as a “White Christmas,” but our guess is no.

Around 8:50 or so they let people in to purchase tickets, and then had different meeting areas set aside for the tours in the different languages.  Then at 9:00 they had maybe 20 or so of us in the English group go to one area, the next 20 go to a different area, and so on.  It seemed like it was a round robin to prevent too many people from being in the same place at the same time.  Our tour group started near the stage, where the set designers were taking down the backdrops from the night before (Hansel & Gretel) and putting up stuff for the performance today (The Nutcracker).  Today was actually an unusual day in that there would be two performances instead of one.  We had originally considered going to one of the performances today, but since we were planning to see the Magic Flute tomorrow and had gotten tickets to see The Nutcracker in Budapest in a few days, going today would be overkill.

80% of the Opera House was damaged in WWII (the US was the one that dropped the bombs – we’re not sure whether that was the target or not).  The Opera House was smaller than we thought, with it being more vertical and less horizontal.  Some seats – mostly those closest to the stage on the sides – had really poor viewing angles, but apparently back in the day people were there mainly to check out other rich and powerful folks in attendance.  Our guide showed us the standing room only seats, confirmed what we had read about where to get in, how early to come, etc.  This confirmed that we would try for the Magic Flute tomorrow, assuming the line wasn't too nuts.  Also on the tour we saw some of the original bar areas (the side closest to the Ring was the least damaged, and that’s where one of the bar areas was), some of the intricate stairwells, and the Royal Box that apparently can still be rented out for special occasions for a small fortune.  The whole tour went about 45 minutes.

When we exited it was still snowing/raining, and was cold.  We passed by a famous sausage stand, Bitzinger, and didn’t get a sausage but did get a giant hot pretzel.  It was awesome, very soft with a ton of salt.  Our next stop was the Hofburg Palace.  We used our Sisi ticket (which Crystal had wisely kept in her purse the last two days) to get into the Silver Collection, Imperial Apartments, and Sisi Museum.  The Silver Collection had an audio tour that had a “full” tour and a “highlights” tour – we opted for the shorter one.  As with the Schonbrunn Palace, our takeaway was that these people had entirely too much money.  The most glaring example of this was this special dessert set (which, to be fair, looked phenomenal) that literally could not be used because the porcelain was extremely breakable.  Suffice it to say that they had enough other options to use for pretty much any occasion.

The Imperial Apartments looked a lot like those at the Schonbrunn – this was not surprising.  This was the “winter” palace, and the Schonbrunn was the “summer” palace, so aside from the gardens in Schonbrunn it makes sense that the designs would be similar.  Also like the Schonbrunn, no photos were allowed (although we did get this one from the stairs heading up), but a lot of the stuff is probably easy to find on Google searches.  The Sisi Museum was a bit odd.  First, a bit of high level background.  She was Franz Josef’s wife, and was quite young when he married her.  He was the Emperor for decades and decades, meaning that she was in the limelight for decades and decades.  She was not a fan of this, and alternated between acting out and flat out disappearing throughout her tenure as Empress.  She was killed in 1898, and from we heard on our tour, probably welcomed it.

After her death, she started to take on a bit of a cult following, and some movies in the 20th century reinforced this.  Her following is not at all commensurate with her accomplishments as an Empress, and interestingly, at the very beginning of the audio tour the narrator stated that she'd become famous for odd reasons, and all the attention lavished on here was probably unwarranted.  So it was then ironic to then proceed to spend 45-60 minutes on an audio tour devoted entirely to her, especially where the audio tour seemed to be tacitly acknowledging they were perpetuating a myth.  She’s perhaps most famous for being crazy thin (less than 20” waist), having ankle-length hair, and for convincing her husband that he should treat Hungary better (which led to Franz Josef making Hungary a mostly co-equal partner in the Austro-Hungarian empire).

From the Hofburg we walked across the ring (past the Volksgarten) to the Kunsthistorisches Museum (“the Kunst”).  It was raining pretty good - not a downpour, but much more than the other days.  Some snow was still falling as well, but it was mostly rain, so thank goodness it was only 5 minutes or so over to the Kunst.  There was another smaller Christmas Market in front of it.  We’ve lost count how many markets we’ve visited on the trip, or even just in Vienna alone.  For some odd reason the line for Kunst tickets was actually outside.  It was taking forever, since lots of people wanted tickets for the Bruegel exhibition, but there were no time slots for that day, so people were booking tickets for other days, whilst the rest of us were standing out in the wind and rain.  We had no idea why the ticket line couldn't be inside, or at least be covered. Inside we were greeted with a huge staircase with giant marble statues.

The Kunst is apparently a very famous museum, on a similar level to the Louvre, Hermitage, etc.  We started in the Wes Anderson exhibition.  He and his partner were given essentially free reign to pick anything and everything from the Hofburg Collection, and arrange items in the way they wanted.  This was apparently a first.  We thought it was pretty well arranged.  Being Wes Anderson, there were a lot of odd and quirky things throughout, including one room that had a lot of metal items that were interconnected with seashells, which seems like it would be a difficult if not impossible task to put together.  Near that exhibit were some other old riches from the Hapsburgs (by the way, Hapsburgs and Hofburgs are the same, just different spellings).  We then moved on to Roman stuff and then Egyptian stuff.  Justin wondered whether it is actually bad that so much Egyptian stuff is spread around the globe, as there’s still a ton in Egypt itself, and it may cause people to go visit Egypt, in the same way that some people who visit zoos decide to actually go on African safaris.

It was around lunch time, and there were lots of people in line for the cafe in the museum.  Given how many great restaurants we’d already eaten at, and the fact there was a Christmas market with food stalls literally just off the front steps, it was odd so many people were waiting for this café.  We next checked out the big halls upstairs with all of the old paintings.  One that Justin had wanted to see was Caravaggio’s “David and Goliath” which is interesting since the head of Goliath is actually Caravaggio’s own face.  All told we were there a little under two hours, which might be blasphemy to art lovers, but was just about right for the two of us.  When we walked outside, we were happy to see it had stopped raining.  We walked around the Christmas Market and grabbed some food.  Justin accidentally dropped Crystal's langos, and was mortified.  Crystal said it was okay, but she’s a nice person.  Either that or she didn’t mind since she was full from the giant cookie we’d eaten and the punch we each had.

From there we walked just outside the ring over to the Belvedere Palace.  We had to reasons to visit there.  The first was to see Klimt’s “The Kiss” which is a famous painting that Crystal wanted to see.  The second was to see Upper Belvedere and the reflecting pool at dusk, which Justin wanted to see.  We passed by St Charles again (this was now the third day in a row), and up Argentinierstrasse.  It was more of an incline than we had remembered.  The hill was noticeable to us.  We turned left at St Elizabeth Church, and came through a side entrance right by Upper Belvedere and its Christmas Market.

We arrived just before 3, and sunset was at 4, so we had to be efficient with our time.  We saw signs for “The Kiss” indicating to go to get tickets at Lower Belvedere, so we were already being inefficient, as when we had walked over here we could’ve turned much earlier.  So we actually had to backtrack a bit, and could have saved walking uphill so much.  The ticket line at Lower Belvedere was pretty long.  But once we got a ticket, we realized Klimt was back at Upper Belvedere, so now we were backtracking again.  Back up top, it was a pretty long line to get into the exhibition area, but the line moved pretty quickly.  Once inside, we didn't care too much about the other stuff, as we’d been at the Kunst just an hour or two ago.  We did see one other famous painting, a famous one of Napoleon on a horse with it’s front feet in the air, by Jacques Louis David.

We exited a little before 4, and went straight to the back of reflecting pool.  We got some photos, then went to the Christmas Market for some snacks and hot drinks.  Justin went back to get some more twilight shots once the palace lights were more visible.  Before leaving the Belvedere complex we went to one more exhibition, one on Egon Schiele.  We knew nothing of him before Heidi raved about him a week or two before we left for our trip, but we’d seen stuff for him in Cesky Krumlov, Salzburg, and now here.  Apparently he’s kind of a big deal.  We’re not big art people, but we both found his style pleasing to the eye.  There was one piece of art in the exhibit that was very interesting – it was made our of reeds or something with a diameter a bit smaller than a chopstick, and straight on it looked like a photo, but as you went around to the sides it changed appearances until it because gibberish on the very sides.  The amount of thought that must’ve gone into that is incredible. 

By the Schiele exhibition there was some modern art exhibition that we didn’t get at all, with dark rooms, speaker set ups with chanting, and one room with naked models walking around covered in paint.  As we were headed out, Crystal said something to the effect of “I know this is a nice place with a ton of good art, but that room with the models looked like the walls were painted by third graders.”  We don’t think they’ll be putting that quote on the website.  From the Belvedere we walked back to the hotel to drop some stuff and check about dinner reservations.  The concierge told us he wasn’t able to get a table at Oswald & Kalb, but that they’d booked us at 3 Hacken Magazin at 8.  We told him we knew nothing of the restaurant, but that we’d check it out on the web before heading over, on the off chance it didn’t look appetizing. 

Besides doing that, we backed up the computer, emailed relatives, etc. for a bit, snacking on some of the Christmas cookies they'd provided us.  Crystal snuck in a short nap.  Whilst she was asleep, Justin went through all of the items we’d hoped to see/do in Vienna during our time here, and tried to prioritize what we would/could do tomorrow.  In doing this, he realized the State Hall at the National Library would in fact be open tomorrow, and that there were different parts of the Library.  The one we had seen yesterday was not the State Hall, and also explained why we were getting conflicting directions from Google and from the signs at the Hofburg Palace.  It turns out we’d actually walked past the entrance multiple times already over the past few days.  So that went to the top of the list, along with the Museum of Military History and the performance at the State Opera House.

The walk over to dinner was right near Santo Spirito, it might have even shared a back wall.  Along the way we walked past this Latin bar called Pisco, which looked interesting, so we kept it in mind for after dinner.  At the restaurant we saw a ton of local people and didn't hear much English.  Both of us got the Schnitzel.  The restaurant was very efficient, as they were flying through everything, but not in a way that we felt rushed.  We could’ve stayed a long time and they wouldn’t have had any issues, but they weren’t taking time just for the sake of extending things.  Since it was almost 9 we didn’t want to just extend things either. 

We went back to Pisco, and it was open and wasn't too busy.  After we sat down, lots more people started coming in, to the point it was standing room only.  Around 10, live music started, with singing, maracas, drums, and a cowbell.  There was also dancing, including some people who were very good.  Justin’s Spanish is much better than his German (which is to say he knows at least a little), so he felt more at home.  We determined it was a Peruvian Bar, and so got a pisco sour and a maracuya (passion fruit) sour for our first round.  Crystal continued with the sours, but Justin switched to rum since they had a good Diplomatico.  He actually drank them out of their last bottle, but at that point it was our last round anyway.  We walked back to hotel, marveling that two Americans spent Christmas at a Peruvian bar in Vienna, and that mixing of cultures is great.  We crashed around midnight.

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