Saturday, September 17, 2016


Sisi Museum
I flew to Vienna from Prague and spent 2 days incognito enjoying the city and walking myself stupid trying to fit too much in. I don't know how people do these continental tours in 35 days with a day in each place - madness. It's bad enough I seldom know what day of the week it is.

I visited Schonbrunn Palace and Sisi Museum on the first day. Schonbrunn, a former Imperial country residence, was one of the most glorious palaces of the Habsburgs. It was developed by Prince Eugene of Savoy and became the largest country palace estate under the reign of the Empress Maria Theresia. It was occupied by Franz Josef and, intermittently between jaunts, his wife Elizabeth aka Sisi. Gorgeous interiors, magnificent artwork and interesting displays. The key to visiting a city is mastering the underground as quickly as possible I feel. It opens up so many more opportunities for getting about.

I spent the afternoon at the Sisi Museum - which was great - but the astounding thing was the silver collection. OMG - such an array of crockery and silver and cutlery and glassware and table centrepieces - it went on and on and on. Well worth  the visit.

In the evening I had a quick drink with Marton Vilanyi host in Vienna. I think he might have worried that he was neglecting his host duties but he certainly made up for it later! Marton escorted me through the subway to the Bristol Hotel for a fab dinner before I headed off to a Mozart performance - in costume - in the most stupendously golden opera hall I have seen before - books included!

The next day was the Upper Belevedere art collection. What can I say - it was the best collection with all my favourite artists but also ones I'd never heard of. The medieval collection was incredible - so vibrant and well cared for and displayed beautifully. Stunning building too - but the art ..........

As I was walking the collection I was chatting on facebook to my sister in NZ who had visited a year previously. There was something surreal when she asked had I seen Napoleon and his horse yet, just I had sat myself down to gaze at this wonderful painting which I had studied at University in 1981. It was so instant and immediate and we were discussing a piece of art from opposite sides of the world. Technology aye; I might be travelling alone but absolutely not alone or lonely.

I lost my Uber virginity in Vienna. I had been too scared in NZ to try it but when Marton had suggested I catch a gazillion trains and buses to get IST, my response was 'blow this'. My bag weighs a ton which may or not have something to do with the litre of duty free Jameson I am struggling to drink on my own, I don't know the way and while it turned out to be easy on hindsight I just wasn't keen. A nice man in a Mercedes got me there in less than a hour for a very reasonable price.

The library team from IST: L-R: Marton, me,
Patrick, Rodrigo and Barbara.
The world is a very small place. Here I am in the middle of rural Vienna and I come face to face with someone I knew. "Have we met" I asked, "I don't think so - my name is Patrick". "Danowski" We had met before, when we were both presenters at the Bridging Worlds Conference in Singapore in 2008.

I stayed at the guest quarters on campus - very much like a hotel room except everything was ultra modern and I couldn't turn lights on, get the TV going or dispense soap. It was very comfortable but I did feel a bit like I was in a star trek movie.

Don't be misled by the lack of glasses on the table.
The next day, after a campus tour and a chat with the library staff of 5, we all left for Vienna where I presented at the Vienna Users Group meeting. What a great group of lovely people. It really was so friendly and great questions and discussions followed.

And they are not quite as sweet and harmless as they look
We repaired to a wine bar where we drank 'new wine' which is very seasonal - like half way between juice and wine - and then more wine and then more wine and then some schnapps. I wandered off home in a taxi at 10am but I hear some stayed on until 2am ... lord knows how. The only exciting moment was waking up in the middle of a forested countryside in very steep hilly country and knowing with every fibre of my being, having travelled the route twice, that things were not right. "Are we lost" I asked accusingly?  vague head nods then hand gestures then "sorry". "Best we turn on the GPS then lad" was all I could offer before snoring off again. Anyway with profuse apologies he eventually delivered me safely back to IST and I collapsed into bed absolutely done in by the Vienna hospitality.

A very gentle start to the next day, a quiet uber to the airport and an early night to start my Berlin visit.

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