For the first time in forever, we both woke up at the alarm (at 7:30 today).  Apparently partying at Pisco did the trick.  This was our last full day in Vienna, so we were doing some “clean up” to accomplish as much as possible before heading out.  We knew in the back of our minds that we could actually use a good portion of tomorrow (before getting on the train to Budapest, since we could take any train that day), or on Sunday (the day we came back from Budapest on the train, since our flight home was from Vienna on Monday morning).  But we had a lot of stuff we wanted to do in Budapest as well, and for all we knew we’d like Budapest even more than Vienna, so the plan was to just use today for everything.

The Museum of Military History opened at 9, whereas most everything else started at 10, we decided to start with that.  We walked up past the Belvedere, towards the train station.  It was a holiday (Boxing Day), and the only people out besides us were people walking their dogs.  The walk was a nice one, as it was sunny, but it was quite brisk.  On the walk we passed by an office for the European Patent Office, and Justin had a glimmer of a thought of taking a job with them so we could leave the US.  But just a glimmer.  When we arrived at the Military museum, it was in this giant building that looked like it could have been old military barracks.  [Turns out yes, it was.]  The museum had just opened, and there were only two other patrons there.  The museum is two levels, and we started on the second floor.  The audio guide was three digits, with the first digit being the room, so it was easy to tell if you were going in the correct order – we started at 100 as opposed to 200 or 300.

The museum’s audio tour, and the rooms, went in chronological order, which made it fairly easy to follow and contextualize.  The first room started in middle age times.  As with many of the other sites, the focus was mostly on the reigns of Maria Theresa and Franz Josef.  Going from room to room, there were large maps that showed – for the given time period – what the rough borders were of the European powers.  It was interesting to see how the borders changed over the times and gradually became more recognizable to us.  It was also interesting to see the evolution of not only the weaponry, but also the uniforms.  It seems crazy to us in hindsight, and might have been crazy at the time, but so many of the older uniforms were bright colors.  Before gunpowder, it may not have mattered, but after gunpowder, one would’ve had no camouflage whatsoever.

Things got really interesting when we got downstairs and went into the WWI wing of the museum.  One of the very first things we saw in there was the Franz Ferdinand Car – yes, the actual car he and his wife were shot in, the shots that started World War I.  You could easily make out the bullet holes, and when Justin pointed one of them out to Crystal, he inadvertently set off the motion detector.  [For the record, he didn’t actually touch the car, he just got closer than they apparently wanted.]  Nearby was the uniform that Franz Ferdinand (Franz Josef’s son and heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s throne) was wearing, and you could make out the bloodstains.  Seeing history like this, so close, was really an unexpected treat, even if the subject matter was macabre.

Unlike the beginning of WWII, which is fairly cut and dry, and determining who the “bad actor” was is nearly universally agreed upon, WWI is much more complicated.  Here is a very high-level, and very subject to debate, bullet pointed description:

So, long story short (or short story shorter) it’s not crystal clear who the bad actor here is, as everyone had somewhat justifiable reasons for their actions (particularly Austria, whose Emperor in waiting was assassinated).  Germany’s attack of a neutral country is arguably the clearest example of a “bad actor,” in all fairness, however.

Going through the WWI wing in the museum, it confirmed what we thought we knew from history class, which is that WWI was the worst.  The technology had advanced, but many of the tactics had not.  Moreover, most of the technology was better at "defense" than "offense," which meant millions of fatalities without much appreciable advance by any of the entities fighting in the war.  They had one of the weapons used in the war, this behemoth projectile launcher that – at the absolute fastest – could be assembled in 10 hours, but often took more than a day.  From the descriptions in the museum, it seemed as though that Germany and Austria were getting slowly squeezed by the two-front war, as the Ottoman Empire was (relatively) less effective than the other entities, with very lacking technology and tactics, and Italy had entered the war in 1915 against Austria and Germany (this is what we had seen reference to at the museum at the Salzburg Fortress). 

But then, in 1917, then Soviet revolution occurred in Russia, Lenin took over, Russia left the war, and Austria and Hungary started to gain traction again.  But when the US entered the war, that really turned the tide, and the war ended in 1918 with Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire giving in.  It was very odd to be in a museum seeing the formation of a country (Austria) through the lens of an entity that lost territory and influence.  Basically, the country of Austria is a shell of the size of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as after WWI it lost all of Yugoslavia, Hungary split off, Czechoslovakia split off, etc. 

The next wing of the museum was the WWII portion.  There was hardly anything about the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938.  After WWI, a good portion of Austria (particularly the German portion) wanted a combined Germany and Austria, but the various post-war treaties explicitly forbade this, as France and Britain wanted to disempower Germany.  After Hitler rose to power in Germany, the Nazis continually interfered in Austrian politics, through subversion and also through militaristic threats, attempting to get Austria to unify with Germany.  The Austrian government resisted at every turn, so the German troops marched into Austria in March 1938.  To everyone’s surprise, however, the reception was far more welcoming than hostile.  In fact, a week later 200,000 German Austrians welcomed Hitler into Vienna.  Hitler’s completion of the Anschluss (and the timid response from France and the UK) was one of the main items that emboldened the Nazis to take further aggressive steps in the following years.

We can definitely imagine why the museum wouldn’t want to mention that a non-trivial percentage of Austria more-or-less welcomed the Nazis, but the absence of much discussion was conspicuous.  The WWII wing had a lot of interesting items on display, including these small anti-tank guns and also the small motorbike-tank vehicle (with a front wheel that turns followed by chained wheels on both sides) that was in some scenes in the first Indiana Jones movie.  There were also some jeeps that had the flags of the US, UK, USSR and France so that when they started liberating Austria at the end of the war, people would know not to shoot at them.  Perhaps most interesting – and the only item written in English – was the paperwork laid down by the Allies effectively giving Austria the terms of its “release” from the war.  Austria could not be part of Germany, and could not have more than 30,000 troops in its Army.  Overall, it was a really fascinating museum, and well worth the (relatively) long walk outside of the Ringstrasse.

We walked back towards the ring from the museum.  We saw some signs for upcoming concerts and musicals – one was for a David Hasselhoff concert, another was for a Falco musical.  We checked to make sure it wasn’t the 1980s.  We had lunch at Salm Brau, another place recommended by Justin’s friend Steven.  It was right near Belvedere Palace, and is a beer hall.  The restaurant meanders all over the place, and we were in some tunnel underground.  We wondered if maybe the tunnel was for wine or beer back in the day.

On our walk back into the ring, we took a slightly wrong turn, and ended up a little northeast of where we wanted to be.  But because of this we were able to see a bit of the Danube, or actually one of the channels or canals off of the main river that comes into town.  In summer the banks of the canals are packed, today there was nobody.  Also because of our slight detour, we went past the Haus der Musik for about the 15th time (no exaggeration).  This was on our list of things to see, but it just never resonated with us enough to actually go in, and now it was becoming comical how every time we were going somewhere else, we passed by it again.

When we arrived at the State Hall of the National Library, we confirmed we had in fact walked past several times, on multiple days, and just never realized there was an entrance there.  It was right near the stables, and some of the hallways we’d walked in multiple days.  The ticket line was kind of long, but once we got inside we agreed it was worth the wait.  It was extremely ornate, including the ceiling, and there were tons and tons of old books, plus statues and other displays such as old globes.  Some of the old books looked similar in style to what we saw at the Strahov Monastery Library last week.  We could have stayed much longer, but we had plenty else to see today.

It was a short walk over to the Imperial Treasury, just around the corner.  The Treasury houses all of the cool stuff that isn’t in the palaces, mostly things that were worn or used in official capacities.  In our opinion, looking through this stuff was better than seeing the inside of the palaces.  It was incredible to be face to face with the stuff they actually wore, the crowns, the staffs, etc.  One particular item epitomized this – there was a painting of one of the Emperors, wearing an ornate robe and a gold crown, and when you turned around, the crown was right there, in a glass case.  A different crown, the Holy Roman Empire crown, was also on display, but it looked a little chintzy up close.  Then again, any of the gemstones on the crown probably cost more than anything we own.  There were some capes that were incredible, with roughly a 6 foot wingspan, in a semi-circle shape.  There were also staffs made from narwhal tusks, which made us wonder how they managed to get their hands on narwhal tusks.  There was also a glove that would’ve made Michael Jackson blush.

After exiting the Treasury, we checked the line for the Magic Flute, as it was just a block or two away, and we wanted to make sure we weren’t going to miss out.  There were about a half dozen people in line at 2:30 (the show was at 7).  We tried to go to a glass store called JL Lobmeyr, which had been closed the last two days, but it was closed again today as well.  We thought maybe we’d try for Sunday, if we came back into town early enough.  From there we walked a block or so over to the Imperial Crypt.  Compared to any other crypt, this one took the cake.  The Hapsburgs went all out on their coffins, with intricate sculptures, plentiful use of skeletons (kind of a “One-eyed Willie” vibe, including one skeleton wearing the Holy Roman Empire crown), but without coming off as cheesy.  Maria Theresa and her husband were buried together, and their coffin took up a whole room.  Franz Josef, who we heard repeatedly was “frugal” was in a simple marble sarcophagus.  Interestingly, Franz Ferdinand and his wife did not appear to be there – maybe their bodies never made it back from Serbia?  It was also interesting to see that the last of the Habsburgs died as recently as 2011.

We next checked out the “Monument against War and Fascism,” which was on our list, but we didn’t remember why.  It was nice enough, but didn't get its symbolism.  We were right next to the Albertina, but we didn’t have time plus at this point we were museumed out.  We’ll hit it up next time.  We were kitty-corner from the State Opera House, so we checked the line again.  It was up to about 40 people, so got in line at 3:30.  We were outside, but we were in a covered area, so it was a bit warmer.  We had read multiple places that the ticket office opened at 5:40, so we expected to be standing for some time.  There was a couple from the US in front of us, and we struck up a short conversation with us.  The woman went to use the bathroom or get something to eat or something, but whilst she was gone they let us inside.  Her significant other didn’t know what to do, so he went inside and called her to tell her what was going on.

Inside, we snaked through some lines like you’d see at a Disneyland ride or the airport security line.  After going through this we were the last two people into smaller room (near the ticket desk) before they closed the door.  The ticket desk still wasn’t open, but at least we were inside, and could take off our outer layer.  The guy in front of us decided to head back to his significant other.  The State Opera House has 567 standing room seats, 160 at 4 Euros and the rest at 3 Euros.  As we’d heard the day before, it is important to the government that everyone be able to attend, and that the less fortunate are not priced out of the arts.  We wanted the 4 Euro seats, which are stage level in the middle of the building.  We were confident we would be able to get our hands on these, as we were in the first 40-50 people.  It was nice that we could sit down on the floor to wait.

The two people in the very front (who were right near us since the line snaked back and forth in this room) knew the drill, as they had folding seats, snacks, books, etc.  About 10 people in front of us there were some Italian folks who'd gotten separated (like the couple who had been in front of us), and they wanted to bring the folks from back to the front - this was not happening, and they weren't happy.  The person second in line, who apparently came all the time, repeatedly told them they'd get in the 4 Euro section if that’s what they wanted, and to chill out (not in those exact words), but it didn't help.  We were astonished at their attitude.  They were going to be able to see a premier opera in a premier opera house for price of a cup of coffee; for this, there was one rule, and one rule only: don't leave the line.  But they did.  And now they were irked.  The second guy in line told them this (in nicer terms than we would have), but they didn't want to hear it.  It was uncomfortable to be around, but we couldn't go anywhere – we wouldn’t want to leave the line.

Right after 5:40 the ticket office opened.  We got our tickets (cash only, by the way), went inside, and lined up near entrance to the “Parterre” (the center stage level area), and proceeded to stand in line there for 10-15 minutes.  Once that door opened (right around 6), people quickly walked up and into the standing room area.  People rushed - politely - to their spots.  We took the closest to center spots on the top row of the section (about 10 rows back).  To our surprise (and horror) people kept coming and coming, got really crowded.  Someone squeezed to our left (even though we were standing right next to the center aisle), and in the single spot on our right, 4 people tried to squeeze in. 

The woman in charge of crowd control had awful job, but was doing it as best as possible.  Half the people were from China, and perhaps they are more used to tight spaces than most, but some people were not thrilled with how crowded it was.  The guy who was first in line got upset at not being able to move around once he had tied his scarf at his spot (this is how you “mark your territory” for a standing room only seat).  We wanted to grab a drink and look around, but we were terrified people would take our spot, even though we had marked our spot with scarves.  At the urging of the usher, Justin had to take our jackets to the coat check.  Thankfully he was able to get back to the same spot.  The usher obviously knew what was up, since it quickly got very hot with so many people cramped into tight quarters.  There were three Filipinos in front of us, so fortunately Crystal could see over them with no problems.

The show started at 7, and we could follow along with translation screens in front of where we were standing.  There was great music, great singing, but an odd story.  Candidly, it would have been better without the translation.  The people to our right were restless, and kept bumping into Justin.  A couple people actually sat down on floor.  Eventually the group of 4 to our right exited, shortly before intermission.  At intermission, since we were at the back of our section, we were the first ones to leave, and the first ones to arrive at the bar just around the corner, before the hordes showed up.  That also meant we were the first ones to get seated at some of the tables nearby.  It turned out we were actually able to get a second round before the second half started.  Back inside, about 1/3 of the people had left, including the people in front of us.  So now we had no one to our right and no one in front, so it was much more comfortable.  The one song we were aware of, “Queen of the Night,” came shortly after the re-start.  It was as good in person as we’d seen on YouTube.  By the end, about half of our section was gone; we stuck it out, and felt it was worthwhile to see the end after all of that, even if the story was really weird.

Since we’d been in line since 3:30, we never got dinner, so we wanted something quick.  We went to an  Australian Bar just a block or two away.  In both Salzburg and Vienna we kept seeing "No Kangaroos in Austria" all over place, but here there was an outdoor awning that had a Kangaroo.  It was a pub with lots of young people – we can practically guarantee no one else came here from the Opera House.  We went downstairs and chatted up the manager Chris, who was from Cape Town.  We talked about traveling around Europe, why he left Cape Town, and the Premiership.  Justin caught grief for his Arsenal scarf for the second time in less than a week.  We shared some fries and potato wedges, along with a couple rounds of drinks.  It was a short walk back to the hotel.  Once there we printed out our train tickets for tomorrow.  We still weren't sure exactly what time we'd be going, but tentatively decided to go with original time of 9:42.  After four days here, we’d seen everything that was on our "must do" list, and also saw/did everything that was on the next tier except for Figlmuller and Lobmeyr.  But there’s still plenty of new stuff for us to see and do when we return.

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