BigWeather's Blog

July 6, 2016

Cats Among the Ruins

Filed under: Travel — Tags: — BigWeather @ 11:59 pm

I awoke at 6a but was not feeling well.  Took some more Pepto hoping that’d do the trick.  We checked out at 7:45a, withdrew some money, and headed to the Cafe Englander.  While Genetta had her normal breakfast I had just water, not wishing to tempt fate.

We walked to Wien Mitte station, a short walk from the cafe.  We caught the CAT (City Airport Train) at 9:06a for 12 euros each.  The ride was fairly quick and uneventful and getting through the airport to our gate was super fast as we had checked in prior to getting on the CAT, leaving us with only the security check.

We hung out in the airport for a while, drinking some bottled water and eating three croissants stuffed with chocolate.  Quite yummy!  We took off about 12:45p and had an uneventful flight.  Snack-wise it was just the hazelnut wafer cookies and Coke but it hit the spot.  We flew over the Adriatic then over the small lakes in the middle of Italy before landing about 2p at FCO.  As we had no luggage we breezed through the airport to the Leonardo Express, the train serving Roma Termini from the airport.

Our Austrian Airlines flight back to Rome

Our Austrian Airlines flight back to Rome

Making the approach to Rome's FCO airport

Making the approach to Rome’s FCO airport

The Leonardo Express, running between FCO and Roma Termini

The Leonardo Express, running between FCO and Roma Termini

As we were unencumbered by luggage we walked to the Hotel Bolivar despite the heat (an unwelcome change from Vienna to be sure).  Checked in to room 102 and relaxed a bit before hitting a few sights.  Of course we couldn’t do that on an empty stomach so we got some gelato; Genetta had tiramisu in a cone while I had coffee in a cup.

In short order we were at Largo di Torre Argentina, a cluster of Roman ruins including four Republican temples and Pompey’s Theater.  It was in the Curia of that theater that Julius Caesar was assassinated.  Also situated at one end was a tower, Torre Argentina, built in 1503.  What made this place very special, however, was that a colony of feral cats had long sought refuge here!

Adorable kitties lounge on steps in Largo di Torre Argentina

Adorable kitties lounge on steps in Largo di Torre Argentina

A kitty seeks shelter from the blistering afternoon sun

A kitty seeks shelter from the blistering afternoon sun

Remains of a circular Republic temple built in 101BC

Remains of a circular Republic temple built in 101BC

Pretty plants at Largo di Torre Argentina

Pretty plants at Largo di Torre Argentina

A cat resting at the base of a tree, enjoying its shade

A cat resting at the base of a tree, enjoying its shade

Temple of Juturna from the 3rd century BC, later rebuilt into a church

Temple of Juturna from the 3rd century BC, later rebuilt into a church

Genetta and I enjoyed wandering the outside of the ruins (as it was normally closed to the public) looking at cats enjoying the shade.  We also went down a small staircase and into a small room where people take care of the cats.  They had a small gift shop where we bought a hand towel, a magnet, and a few other things as well as made a donation.  We also got to pet several of the kitties.  They were absolutely adorable!

Apse of the church built from the Temple of Juturna

Apse of the church built from the Temple of Juturna

Fresco of the church's apse

Fresco of the church’s apse

Another view of the church

Another view of the church

Torre Argentina seen from across the square

Torre Argentina seen from across the square

Standing near the tower, looking back at the temples, including the nearest from the 4th century BC

Standing near the tower, looking back at the temples, including the nearest from the 4th century BC

A closer look at Torre Argentina

A closer look at Torre Argentina

Leaving the cat sanctuary we walked through a charming square with a fountain and on to see a few sights that Genetta had not seen on her earlier visit to Rome with her student friends.  We went by the Marcello Theater and the charming three-column Temple to Apollo Sosiano then looked at some rapids of the Tiber from Pons Fabricius, a Roman Republic bridge from 62BC still standing in its original form.  Amazing!

Fontana delle Tartarughe, Fountain of the Turtles, dating from the Renaissance

Fontana delle Tartarughe, Fountain of the Turtles, dating from the Renaissance

San Nicola in Carcere, built on top of, and within, Roman ruins

San Nicola in Carcere, built on top of, and within, Roman ruins

Temple of Apollo Sosiano near the Theater of Marcellus

Temple of Apollo Sosiano near the Theater of Marcellus

Temple of Apollo Sosiano and some columns

Temple of Apollo Sosiano and some columns

Theater of Marcellus

Theater of Marcellus

Pretty church dome in Rome

Pretty church dome in Rome

Tiber river and Isola Tiberina beyond

Tiber river and Isola Tiberina beyond

Buildings on Isola Tiberina

Buildings on Isola Tiberina

Pons Fabricius, built in 62BC and relatively unchanged since

Pons Fabricius, built in 62BC and relatively unchanged since

Bell tower of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, site of the Mouth of Truth

Bell tower of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, site of the Mouth of Truth

We then headed toward the Forum and through Michelangelo’s plaza, the Campidoglio.  Though flanked by the Capitoline museums (which I did not visit on this trip to Rome — next time!) I found the experience a bit underwhelming, preferring the Roman ruins to Renaissance architecture.  Genetta and I took time to relax and took a ton of photos.  We enjoyed the cool evening air immensely and it was with reluctance that we headed back to the hotel around 7:30p.

View of the Roman Forum looking toward the Colosseum

View of the Roman Forum looking toward the Colosseum

Columns at the Forum

Columns at the Forum

Cool church incorporating ancient Roman columns

Cool church incorporating ancient Roman columns

I couldn't resist this picture of a bird perched on a Saint

I couldn’t resist this picture of a bird perched on a Saint

Looking towards the Colosseum, Antoninus and Faustina Temple on the left

Looking towards the Colosseum, Antoninus and Faustina Temple on the left

Closeup of the Colosseum

Closeup of the Colosseum

Antoninus and Faustina Temple

Antoninus and Faustina Temple

Church in the Roman Forum

Church in the Roman Forum

Replica of a statue of Marcus Aurelius in the Campidoglio, original is in the adjacent museum

Replica of a statue of Marcus Aurelius in the Campidoglio, original is in the adjacent museum

Elevated walkway in the Campidoglio

Elevated walkway in the Campidoglio

Torre delle Milizie looming over the Trajan Market

Torre delle Milizie looming over the Trajan Market

Torre delle Milizie

Torre delle Milizie

I loved the evening sun on the church

I loved the evening sun on the church

A sign advertising an Alphonse Mucha exhibition

A sign advertising an Alphonse Mucha exhibition

View down the road at the Colosseum, note the scaffolding on the right propping up some ruins

View down the road at the Colosseum, note the scaffolding on the right propping up some ruins

Colonna Traiana, Trajan's Column

Colonna Traiana, Trajan’s Column

Detail of soldiers from Trajan's Column

Detail of soldiers from Trajan’s Column

After freshening up we headed to Ristorante Petrucci.  We had the garlic bread for an appetizer.  Genetta had a mushroom and sausage pizza while I had spaghetti all bolognesse.  We shared a still water while Genetta partook in the house white wine (for the last time before heading back to the United States) and finished the meal with tiramisu.

Headed back to the hotel about 9p, packed, and watched Portugal beat Wales 2-0 in Euro 2016.  After Genetta headed to bed I worked on photos a bit before heading out at 11:30p to get a final gelato (cofee and mint chocolate chip — it was wonderful) and ate it while gazing at one of my favorite Roman sights, Torre dell Milizie.  Among all the glorious Roman and Renaissance sights I really fell for that damaged (in a 1348 quake), leaning, missing the top two floors mess of a ruin.  And, yes, I’ll end this blog (well, nearly the end) with yet another picture or two of that.  Headed back to the room around 12a to summarize the day for future blogging and turned in.

...because of course I'd end with the Torre delle Milizie!

…because of course I’d end with the Torre delle Milizie!

July 5, 2016

…to the Grave

Filed under: Travel — Tags: — BigWeather @ 11:59 pm

We woke up about 8a and had breakfast at the Cafe Englander at about 9a.  Not only because it is good but also was included in the cost of the apartment.  Finished up and headed back to the room briefly, leaving just past 10a with our first stop the Mozarthaus.

Mozarthaus was where Mozart lived from 1784 to 1787 and is the only surviving residence of his from his time in Vienna.  They had many neat artifacts and there was lots to see in the museum.  It was interesting to see a small but opulently painted bedroom that had been decorated fifty years earlier to serve as a model for the entire apartment block.  The painter was adept at painting the plaster to look like marble.  The study was also a highlight, just imagining him in there at all hours producing an astounding six pages of music a day!

Stairs in Mozarthaus, where Mozart lived from 1784 to 1787

Stairs in Mozarthaus, where Mozart lived from 1784 to 1787

They had a map of Vienna from the late 1700s that was interesting as it was much smaller and surrounded by a wall and moat.  Genetta and I always seemed to be around a small group of other tourists with a lady my age that seemed to be in heaven just being there.  One downside was, like the Mozarthauses (Mozarthausen?) in Salzburg, photography was not allowed.  Boo!

We walked a short distance to the site of the house where Mozart died on December 5, 1791, Mozart-Sterbehaus.  Though no longer standing there was a nice plaque marking the spot.  On the way to our next destination we passed Donnerbrunnen, a Baroque fountain and looked at some stone walls from Vienna’s original Roman settlement in Michaelerplatz, a plaza located in front of Hofburg Palace.

Plaque marking where Mozart-Sterbehaus once stood, the place where he died in 1791

Plaque marking where Mozart-Sterbehaus once stood, the place where he died in 1791

Vienna street

Vienna street

Donnerbrunnen Baroque fountain

Donnerbrunnen Baroque fountain

Another shot of Donnerbrunnen

Another shot of Donnerbrunnen

Another random street scene

Another random street scene

A jumble of houses in Vienna, Austria

A jumble of houses in Vienna, Austria

Then entrance to Hofburg Palace, Vienna

Then entrance to Hofburg Palace, Vienna

Closeup of the dome atop the entrance to Hofburg

Closeup of the dome atop the entrance to Hofburg

Remains of Roman walls in Michaelerplatz

Remains of Roman walls in Michaelerplatz

Next we wandered over to the Beethoven museum but it was almost 1p and they were to close for lunch at 1p for an hour.  We decided we didn’t want to rush through it so went to Starbucks and got coffee frappuccinos then, after a brief stop at an adjacent tea store, headed to the Freud museum.  We passed the striking Votivkirche, a church built in 1879, along the way.

Intricate tiled roof of the University of Vienna

Intricate tiled roof of the University of Vienna

My war on stick people continues...

My war on stick people continues…

Liebenberg Denkmal, a war memorial

Liebenberg Denkmal, a war memorial

Sign for the tea shop, or Teehaus

Sign for the tea shop, or Teehaus

The striking Votivkirche, built in 1879

The striking Votivkirche, built in 1879

The Sigmund Freud Museum was really well done.  It was in the location of his office from the late 1800s until 1938 when he paid the Nazis the equivalent of 200,000 euros to leave with his stuff.  His trunk was on display there with attached slips of paper detailing his travel during his emigration.  He headed to London where he died the following year.  After he left Jews used the space as they were no longer allowed renting privileges by their Nazi oppressors.  Tragically most would be murdered in concentration camps before the war’s end.

Sign in front of the Freud museum

Sign in front of the Freud museum

Placard marking the office entrance

Placard marking the office entrance

His office was stuffed with antiquities from many ancient cultures.  That was a side of him I had never known about.  He started as a hypnotist but realized later that something better was needed so developed the technique of psychoanalysis.  The office was the location for Wednesday night meetings among a small group of prominent psychologists.  His daughter Anna became a famous child psychologist and worked with children while also caring for her dad during his long battle with cancer.  A fantastic exhibit on early female psychologists, including Anna Freud, was in an adjacent space.

Some of the antiquities Freud had in his apartment

Some of the antiquities Freud had in his apartment

The Freud museum in Vienna

The Freud museum in Vienna

This chair makes me feel very uncomfortable!

This chair makes me feel very uncomfortable!

Look at the back garden through frosted decorated glass

Look at the back garden through frosted decorated glass

We ate at the nearby Freud Cafe, which was absolutely plastered with various paintings of Freud.  I had a Coke and ham and cheese sandwich, keeping it fairly light as my stomach was upset.  Genetta had Coke and a ham and cheese crepe (called a pancake in Austria, what?!).

Vienna subway signpost

Vienna subway signpost

View of a main street in Vienna with hills beyond

View of a main street in Vienna with hills beyond

The next stop on our whirlwind tour of Vienna was the Beethoven museum, Wien Museum Beethoven Pasqualatihaus, on the fourth floor of an apartment building in what may have been (they aren’t sure) his apartment.  It is here that he wrote his famous Fifth Symphony and Fur Elise.  This was easily the weakest of the museums in Vienna, it turns out we could’ve seen it before their closing time for lunch earlier.  Most all of the displays were only in German and they had few artifacts.  It was neat, however, to see the environment (possibly!) where he cranked out his masterpieces.

Beethoven museum in Vienna

Beethoven museum in Vienna

Square in front of the University of Vienna as seen from the Beethoven museum

Square in front of the University of Vienna as seen from the Beethoven museum

Wien Museum Beethoven Pasqualatihaus, the apartment block where Beethoven lived in the early 1800s

Wien Museum Beethoven Pasqualatihaus, the apartment block where Beethoven lived in the early 1800s

Cool looking church in Vienna

Cool looking church in Vienna

A nearly all-glass walkway over the street. Nope, nope, nope

A nearly all-glass walkway over the street. Nope, nope, nope

A short distance away was a museum packed with globes.  It housed the second biggest collection of globes in the world (the first being in Greenwich, England).  Greenwich’s collection is private, however, unlike Vienna’s.  There were all sorts of neat globes — early ones with California properly not an island then ones during a one hundred year period where it was believed to be an island due to a false report of a sea passage, a chalkboard globe, globes of celestial bodies (Venus, Mars, and the Moon), etc.  The Moon ones through the 1950s were neat in that they were only half represented as the far side of the moon had never been observed.  Globe manufacturers used the space to list what was on the Earth-facing side of the Moon.

A small part of the museum's collection of globes

A small part of the museum’s collection of globes

In this globe's reality California has already split from the rest of the U.S.

In this globe’s reality California has already split from the rest of the U.S.

Planetary globes

Planetary globes

A lunar globe from before we got a look at the dark side

A lunar globe from before we got a look at the dark side

There were exhibits describing the different projections used in making the flat pages that are wrapped around the sphere of the globe and how globes are made in general.  There was an interesting exhibit that compared a virtual mercator globe to real geography.  The museum also had a lunarium (with candle for the Sun), planetariums, etc.  Downstairs they had a small museum about Esperanto, the language crafted to be used throughout the world.  They had an anti-fascist poster in the language and it was surprisingly possible to discern its meaning since I had a knowledge of several languages.  On the way out of the building I purchased a book about the globe museum.

A sheet with all of the slices that are pasted on to a sphere to make a globe

A sheet with all of the slices that are pasted on to a sphere to make a globe

Instrument showing the planets and their moons

Instrument showing the planets and their moons

Even more globes -- I was in heaven!

Even more globes — I was in heaven!

A pocket globe and guidebook to various cultures

A pocket globe and guidebook to various cultures

An Esperanto poster speaking out against Fascism in the 30s

An Esperanto poster speaking out against Fascism in the 30s

The final museum that our ticket provided access to was a papyrus museum located in another building.  As it was getting close to closing time we cast about frantically looking for it, finally finding it in the Hofburg Wien, the presidential palace of Austria, in a library.  True to its name, it was packed with papyrus.  Not just ancient Egyptian papyrus dating back to 1500BC but also Arab papyrus from the 800s AD and even clothing made of papyrus.

Hofburg Palace, Vienna

Hofburg Palace, Vienna

Papyrus exhibit in the National Library in Hofburg Palace

Papyrus exhibit in the National Library in Hofburg Palace

Statue in Heldenplatz, Hofburg Palace, Vienna

Statue in Heldenplatz, Hofburg Palace, Vienna

Gate in Hofburg Palace

Gate in Hofburg Palace

Statue of Kaiser Franz I in Hofburg Palace

Statue of Kaiser Franz I in Hofburg Palace

Interior of the dome in Hofburg Palace -- the netting is to keep the birds away

Interior of the dome in Hofburg Palace — the netting is to keep the birds away

Statue in Josefsplatz just outside Hofburg Palace

Statue in Josefsplatz just outside Hofburg Palace

Amazing sculpture all over Hofburg Palace

Amazing sculpture all over Hofburg Palace

Finally on to the last museum of the day, the Haus der Musik.  On the way we at some donuts at a nearby shop — Genetta had chocolate with vanilla cream and myself a strawberry-filled donut.  Both were very yummy.  We did a little bit of shopping nearby, picking up some music-themed items.  It took a while for me to warm up to the museum itself as it seemed pretty gimmicky.  Things like standing in a giant chamber and listening to heartbeats and other sounds, a room with “perfect surround sound”, etc.  However, we both got in the groove when we came upon the exhibits dedicated to Vienna’s famous musicians.  They had amazing hologram busts of each and at the entrance to the room dedicated to each one their signature was displayed in neon.  They had many items from each and a bit dedicated to the grand balls that they played at, with super fancy invitations to each one.

Hologram at Haus der Musik, Vienna

Hologram at Haus der Musik, Vienna

Set designs for operas at Haus der Musik

Set designs for operas at Haus der Musik

Fancy invitations to Viennese balls in the late 1800s

Fancy invitations to Viennese balls in the late 1800s

Mozart's signature in glowing light at Haus der Musik

Mozart’s signature in glowing light at Haus der Musik

We wrapped up the museum just past 8p and walked back to the apartment by 8:30p.  Freshened up a bit and headed out at 9p for the cathedral.  It was very dark and the organ was playing, reverberating about the high stone arches of the space.  It was like something out of Phantom of the Opera!

Underground parking entrance near St. Stephen's Cathedral

Underground parking entrance near St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Neat looking statue at St. Stephen's Cathedral

Neat looking statue at St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Sunset in Vienna

Sunset in Vienna

The cathedral's amazing tile roof

The cathedral’s amazing tile roof

A striking silhouette in the window of the cathedral

A striking silhouette in the window of the cathedral

St. Stephen's Cathedral's spire lit at night

St. Stephen’s Cathedral’s spire lit at night

Went back to the same restaurant we ate at the night before as it was so good.  Had fantastic bread with spread for an appetizer.  Genetta had a beer (pilsner), breaded veal, and “hash browns”.  I repeated my meal from the prior night (how adventurous!) — steak with fried onions, reddish sauce, and roasted potatoes.  As with the prior night it was very tasty! Headed back to the room about 10p and offloaded photos and talked with Michelle on FaceTime before turning in for bed just after 1a.

 

July 4, 2016

From the Cradle…

Filed under: Travel — Tags: — BigWeather @ 11:59 pm

Genetta and I woke up just after 6a.  After our showers and we headed to breakfast around 8a at the Cafe Englander just down the street from the apartment.  We had the English breakfast — two fried eggs, “bacon” (really ham), two sausages, baked beans, bread, coffee and tea.  It was quite a decent start to the day.

Got some money from the teller machine and took subway U3 from Stubentor station to Wien Westbahnhof station.  In the station I used the bathroom where there was quite the interesting sign.  There was also a statue of a fancy-looking woman, one of the early leaders of Austria.  We hopped on the 9:40a Westbahn train to Salzburg.  Westbahn being a private company alternative to the state-run OBB and far cheaper — the desk lady at the apartment highly recommended it.

Statue in Wein Westbahnhof

Statue in Wein Westbahnhof

Uhhh that got strange quickly!

Uhhh that got strange quickly!

Our Westbahn train, the Wiesel (haha)

Our Westbahn train, the Wiesel (haha)

The two-hour and change train ride was uneventful and offered amazing views of the beautiful countryside.  It started out flat and mostly farmland and transitioned by the time we got to Salzburg to hills and mountains and forest.

Austrian countryside

Austrian countryside

Another view of the countryside

Another view of the countryside

We arrived in Salzburg just after noon.  We walked around looking for lunch for a bit but had no luck finding a restaurant.  We opted to have pastries instead — Genetta had a sweet bread with some kind of filling that her fencing coach had made before and I had a cherry pastry with white icing, both were grand.

Salzburg train station

Salzburg train station

The "Sound of Music" is a big deal in Salzburg

The “Sound of Music” is a big deal in Salzburg

Salzburg street scene

Salzburg street scene

Old-timey looking font

Old-timey looking font

Some of the shop signs were quite intricate

Some of the shop signs were quite intricate

A bakery in Salzburg

A bakery in Salzburg

We headed to Mozart-Wohnhaus, a house where Mozart’s family moved while he was a young man.  It was quite large but sadly we couldn’t take pictures.  Did get an audio guide with combined ticket for 17 euros.  In addition to a number of mementos, letters, etc. they also had one of his violins.

Terrace behind Mozart-Wohnhaus

Terrace behind Mozart-Wohnhaus

Front of Mozart-Wohnhaus, where Mozart spent some of his youth

Front of Mozart-Wohnhaus, where Mozart spent some of his youth

Cool building in Salzburg, Austria

Cool building in Salzburg, Austria

Leaving Mozart-Wohnhaus we crossed the river Salzach via Makartsteg pedestrian bridge.  The bridge was covered with locks with lovers’ names on them.  Beyond the river was the old center of Salzburg with Festung (fortress) Hohensalzburg looking on a mountainside beyond.  A small stream gushed water into the river from the mountains around town.

Makartsteg pedestrian bridge over the Salzach river in Salzburg

Makartsteg pedestrian bridge over the Salzach river in Salzburg

Lovers' locks on Makartsteg pedestrian bridge

Lovers’ locks on Makartsteg pedestrian bridge

Festung Hohensalzburg looming over old town Salzburg

Festung Hohensalzburg looming over old town Salzburg

A cool tower in Salzburg, Austria

A cool tower in Salzburg, Austria

Another cool tower with neat flags

Another cool tower with neat flags

We headed to a biergarten and had a really tasty lunch.  Genetta had sausage, sauerkraut, and roasted potatoes.  I had roast beef with reddish gravy with onions, green beans with ham and some vinegar, and a sort of pasta.  Both were wonderful.  The waitresses and waiters wore traditional Austrian dress.

Biergarten waitress in traditional dress

Biergarten waitress in traditional dress

Genetta's lunch at the biergarten

Genetta’s lunch at the biergarten

My lunch at the biergarten

My lunch at the biergarten

A visual cacophony of shop signs in Salzburg

A visual cacophony of shop signs in Salzburg

I don't know what this says but it looks cool!

I don’t know what this says but it looks cool!

They should rename Salzburg to Signsburg -- amazing!

They should rename Salzburg to Signsburg — amazing!

Our next stop was the house where Mozart was born.  It was fascinating!  They had many artifacts including a lock of hair, a cane he owned with a sphinx on it, and mock ups of many of the sets for the operas he composed.  Opera was his primary medium and though he was only thirty-five when he died he had produced six HUNDRED works, his first when he was about five years old.  His wife, Constanz, was not his first choice as wife — that was her sister — but he loved her dearly.  The notes from him to her during his travels were very romantic and touching.  On his death she worked tireless to ensure his legacy.  We saw his childhood violin and the room in which he was born.

View from the balcony of Mozarts Geburtshaus where Mozart was born

View from the balcony of Mozarts Geburtshaus where Mozart was born

After leaving we passed some traditional clothing shops (very pricey!) and walked past Mozartplatz with its Mozart statue then on to Residenzplatz.  That plaza had a nice fountain and was adjacent to Dom zu Salzburg, Salzburg’s main church.  Many horse-drawn carriages sat nearby to ferry tourists about the central part of town.  We headed back to the north side of the river via a bridge built with slave labor from 1941 to 1945.  At Schloss Mirabell we saw a band performing for a group of spectators among formal gardens and neat fountains.

Rack of traditional dresses

Rack of traditional dresses

Statue of Mozart in Mozartplatz in Salzburg

Statue of Mozart in Mozartplatz in Salzburg

Festung Hohensalzburg in Salzburg, Austria

Festung Hohensalzburg in Salzburg, Austria

Building off of Residenzplatz

Building off of Residenzplatz

Another building off of Residenzplatz along with it's fountain

Another building off of Residenzplatz along with it’s fountain

Salzburg street

Salzburg street

Band performing at Schloss Mirabell in Salzburg

Band performing at Schloss Mirabell in Salzburg

Pretty park with flowers in Salzburg

Pretty park with flowers in Salzburg

A fountain at Schloss Mirabell

A fountain at Schloss Mirabell

Back at the station we took the 5:52p train back to Vienna, arriving just past 8p.  We dropped by the apartment and freshened up before checking with the front desk about dinner.  They recommended a restaurant just down the street for authentic Austrian food called Magazin 3 Hacken.  It was fabulous.  Genetta had breaded chicken and potato salad.  I had grilled steak and fried onions.  We shared roasted potatoes and pickles.  For dessert we had coffee and chocolate mousse.

Lake on the route from Salzburg to Vienna

Lake on the route from Salzburg to Vienna

A farmer tending the fields in central Austria

A farmer tending the fields in central Austria

Tremendous meal at Magazin 3 Hacken in Vienna

Tremendous meal at Magazin 3 Hacken in Vienna

Left dinner about 10p and walked back through the center of town.  Passed a closed Starbucks and ended up back at the room just before 11p.  Took some time to charge phone and camera batteries, offload pictures, and went to bed about 1a or so.

Vienna street at night

Vienna street at night

July 3, 2016

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

Filed under: Travel — Tags: — BigWeather @ 11:59 pm

We woke up at 8a and grabbed breakfast at the hotel.  Left the hotel at about 10:15a for a quick walkabout.  As we had only until 11a before we had to be back at the hotel we walked to the nearby Piazza del Quirinale, home to a fountain from 1818 and an obelisk moved from the Campus Martius.  We continued on past Trevi Fountain to the Column of Marcus Aurelius, a 97 foot tall column erected by 193AD celebrating victory in the Danubian wars.  The carvings were amazing and showed a variety of things from soldiers to civilians to boats on the Danube.  There were small slits in the stone all the way up — the column itself contained a spiral staircase.

Obelisk in the Piazza del Quirinale

Obelisk in the Piazza del Quirinale

Column of Marcus Aurelius from the 2nd century AD depicting victory in the Danubian wars

Column of Marcus Aurelius from the 2nd century AD depicting victory in the Danubian wars

Detail of the column, note the slits giving light and air to the stairs within

Detail of the column, note the slits giving light and air to the stairs within

Closeup of the column showing soldiers

Closeup of the column showing soldiers

Another closeup, this time of boats

Another closeup, this time of boats

Once back at the hotel we checked out, leaving our luggage with the hotel and taking only a backpack with us to Vienna.  We waited in the lobby / bar area of the hotel until noon when the car to FCO airport picked us up.  The driver was great and spoke excellent English as he had lived on Long Island for a couple of years.  This allowed us to carry on an extensive conversation about topics like Rome traffic versus that of other cities and also guns in America versus other countries.  Along the route we passed the Circus Maximus (with stage still set up for David Gilmour including protective screening so people couldn’t get a free concert) and the absolutely massive Baths of Caracalla which were built from 212 to 217AD and covered 1.1 million square feet.  Impressive!

Door to the bathroom which was surprisingly large inside -- the Turdis

Door to the bathroom which was surprisingly large inside — the Turdis

Lobby / bar area of the Hotel Bolivar, Rome

Lobby / bar area of the Hotel Bolivar, Rome

On arrival at FCO we checked in at Austrian Airlines (after some initial confusion on where to go) quickly.  Security was also a breeze and we headed for the gates.  We got a quick lunch, myself eating cheese pizza and Gentta a cheese and ham pizza (tuscana).  Chased it down with some coffee gelato while Genetta had some chips and water.  The restroom had toilets with seats that sprung up automatically so it was impossible to do #1 with the seat down — brilliant!

Tail fins of the Alitalia fleet

Tail fins of the Alitalia fleet

On boarding the plane for our 3:05p flight we noted that classical music was playing, similar to the flight on the Indian plane in January which played sitar music.  It was pleasant and the flight went very smoothly.  We got some decent views of the Italian countryside but due to where we were sitting didn’t get a good look at Rome or Ostia.  Sadly clouds socked in most of the trip over the Alps, clearing only as we got nearer Vienna and broke through the cloud deck.  The plane’s magazine did have a… somewhat suggestive… photograph in it that made me giggle.  Clearly the Austrians are a little less uptight about some topics than America is!  I also had a hazelnut wafer cookie on the flight that was actually very tasty.

Hilly Italian countryside

Hilly Italian countryside

Marshland near a large lake in Italy

Marshland near a large lake in Italy

A small Austrian village near Vienna

A small Austrian village near Vienna

We landed about 4:30p and a car was there to pick us up.  Didn’t have to go through customs or anything and as we had no bags to pickup we sailed through the airport.  The short fifteen minute drive to Vienna was pleasant though the driver did not speak much English so conversation was limited.  Did see a billboard with “Achtung!” on it, immediately made me think of the old C64 game “Castle Wolfenstein”.  The weather was much, much cooler than Rome — in the high 60s to 70F versus Rome’s mid-90s and the clouds began to break up a little which was great.

We got to the Appartement-Hotel an der Riemergasse right at 5p and checked in.  It was a very efficient process and the lady at the desk helped us get tickets for the Mozart string quartet at the Mozarthaus for that evening.  I hadn’t reserved ahead of time as I was worried that any delays getting to Vienna would have us miss the concert, and couldn’t do the other two nights we were in Vienna as those were days off for the quartet.  Was so happy things seemed to be working out!

Went up the cool old-timey elevator with iron caging to our apartment.  We were very pleased with the apartment, multiple bathrooms, a living room, kitchen, large bedroom, etc.  Even a chocolate with Mozart’s likeness and some water (sparkling and still).  We immediately set out for an ATM and then ate at McDonalds as we were very pressed for time.  We both had large fries and a small Coke while Genetta had a McChicken and I had a Big Mac.  Wasn’t happy to pay a half-euro to use the restroom, but at least they were clean.  In fact, we were struck by how clean — and empty-feeling — Vienna was.  The people seemed to keep to themselves much more than in Rome, like they were in their own world.  I’m still not sure which I prefer.

Our apartment's bedroom

Our apartment’s bedroom

Our apartment's living room

Our apartment’s living room

Even the graffiti in Vienna is musical

Even the graffiti in Vienna is musical

The street scene near our Apartment -- very clean and empty!

The street scene near our Apartment — very clean and empty!

Another street in Vienna

Another street in Vienna

Elaborate tile roof of the Domkirche St. Stephan, St. Stephen's Cathedral

Elaborate tile roof of the Domkirche St. Stephan, St. Stephen’s Cathedral

The Mozarthaus was a very tiny room belonging to a small Teutonic church.  It was where Mozart first played when he arrived in Vienna in 1781.  The room was opulently decorated.  A small stage with four chairs, music stands, and a lamp were in the front of the room.  Six rows of about ten or twelve chairs each faced the stage, backed by two large windows that let in the evening light.  A gorgeous chandelier hung above.  It was a very intimate space.

Entrance to the Mozarthaus

Entrance to the Mozarthaus

The stage at the Mozarthaus

The stage at the Mozarthaus

Chandelier and painted ceiling at the Mozarthaus

Chandelier and painted ceiling at the Mozarthaus

One last look at the stage at the Mozarthaus

One last look at the stage at the Mozarthaus

The quartet came in and took their places.  The first violin was a white man with a ponytail.  He did most of the talking, first in German then in English, rocking back and forth as he spoke.  The 2nd violin was an Asian woman, the viola a white woman, and the cello a white man with glasses and hair in his eyes.  They were all dressed in Mozart era (late 1700s) dress, all sporting long coats and frilly neckerchiefs.  They played Mozart and Haydn.  They were amazing!  In fact, I didn’t nod off even once during the hour — that’s quite the feat for me, especially given how exhausted I was!

Leaving the Mozarthaus we wandered to Domkirche St. Stephan, St. Stephen’s Cathedral.  It was magnificent with an amazing tiled roof and intricate stone work around windows and a clock.  The square the cathedral was centered in, Stephansplatz, had a mix of office buildings and stores, including a large gift shop with a dizzying array of postcards and magnets.  We dutifully bought some of each.

Stephansplatz, Vienna, Austria

Stephansplatz, Vienna, Austria

Stained glass window of St. Stephen's Cathedral

Stained glass window of St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Interesting clock at St. Stephen's Cathedral

Interesting clock at St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Amazing stone filigree adorned the cathedral's windows

Amazing stone filigree adorned the cathedral’s windows

Statue on the exterior of St. Stephen's Cathedral

Statue on the exterior of St. Stephen’s Cathedral

We ducked into the cathedral for a few minutes.  Tons of votive candles flickered in the near darkness while a service was being delivered in German.  It was very… haunting?

Closeup of the cathedral's amazing tiled roof

Closeup of the cathedral’s amazing tiled roof

Front of St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna

Front of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna

Horses taking a break form hauling tourists around

Horses taking a break form hauling tourists around

St. Stephen's Cathedral at dusk

St. Stephen’s Cathedral at dusk

Next we got some gelato at Zanoni and Zanoni.  It was OK.  Genetta got some apfelstrudel which she enjoyed.  I had a few juvenile teehee moments at seeing words with the phrase “fahrt” in them — einfahrt, ausfahrt, gut fahrt!  Genetta asked me to grow up, haha.

Huge Appelstrudel!

Huge Apfelstrudel!

Mouth watering, it was all I could do to resist

Mouth watering, it was all I could do to resist

Well, the Austrians have it right -- jogging hurts!

Well, the Austrians have it right — jogging hurts!

Mozart's likeness is everywhere in Vienna

Mozart’s likeness is everywhere in Vienna

Headed north towards the river (a small offshoot of the Danube) and got some noodles from a place called Happy Noodles.  Genetta had chicken and I had red curry chicken — perhaps not the brightest move on my part.  Tasty though!  Headed back to the room to upload pictures and blog.  The apartment had an amazing Internet connection, far better than the Hotel Bolivar’s.  Yay!

July 2, 2016

Video games and books

Filed under: Travel — Tags: — BigWeather @ 11:59 pm

Awoke about 8a and went upstairs for breakfast — eggs, hot dog sausages, lemon cake, and coffee.  Quite good.  Left the room about 10:00a and headed up Via Nazionale towards Roma Termini.  As Genetta wasn’t to arrive until 11:40a I took the opportunity to take some pictures of the church at the end of Via Nazionale that incorporated parts of the absolutely massive Baths of Diocletian (which could accommodate up to three thousand people at once) into its structure.  Not only that, a couple of adjacent structures were directly derived from the ancient marvel.

Basilica built within and from the ruins of the Baths of Diocletian

Basilica built within and from the ruins of the Baths of Diocletian

Turning right towards Termini there was a row of semi-permanent corrugated metal stands selling books, albums, and the like.  One of the stands had historical comics (in Italian, of course).  One called Alix set during the Roman Empire caught my eye.  I had to wait for what seemed like ever for the seller to finish talking with another guy but eventually got my chance to engage him in conversation.

Stalls near Roma Termini station

Stalls near Roma Termini station

While his English was a little rough it was a dang sight better than my Italian and we managed to have a conversation.  We talked about historical comics (including a WWII pulp one that he favors) for a bit and when asked he’d never heard of Vasco, a French comic set in Middle Ages Italy that I’d like to find more copies of.  I decided to buy all three Alix for 20 euros — not sure if it is a great deal but it’s far less than the MSRP and I was happy.  One is about Spartacus, another about ancient Roman Egypt, and the last about barbarians and the Roman Empire.

Piazza della Repubblica, a major plaza near Termini and the Baths of Diocletian

Piazza della Repubblica, a major plaza near Termini and the Baths of Diocletian

Books in hand, I headed to Termini, getting there about 11:20a.  Parts of the terminal were under construction so I couldn’t stand right at her arrival platform.  Luckily, however, we were able to find each other after a small delay.  We took a taxi back to the room at the Hotel Bolivar and got her luggage squared away then headed to Le Lanterne, a restaurant not far from the room.  Genetta had spaghetti al cabonara and strawberries with whipped cream while I had the linguine al funghi porcini.  Mine wasn’t great — the mushrooms were a little slimy and the noodles kinda hard.  Oh well, can’t win them all.  Besides, nothing a little gelato couldn’t fix!  Genetta had dark chocolate and oreo while I went with my favorite coffee.

Oh, look! Mandatory Torre delle Milizie shot!

Oh, look! Mandatory Torre delle Milizie shot!

Headed back to the room and took a taxi across the Tiber to the suburbs just northwest of Rome to visit VIGAMUS, a video game museum.  I was kind of ruined and sculptured out at this point and so was Genetta — we figured we’d relax and go to the video game museum, a bookstore specializing in role-playing games, and a comic book / book store, all in the same area.

Entrance to Rome's VIGAMUS, a video game museum

Entrance to Rome’s VIGAMUS, a video game museum

A note to anyone going to VIGAMUS — it is hard to spot.  It is in the basement of a building and one needs to look out for the banner above.  After descending a flight of stairs we came upon a very small room with a counter and a few things for sale (sadly no magnets and the books were only in Italian).  Beyond that were three or four rooms with displays containing various computers and consoles as well as games.  There was also a special exhibition room and a larger room for people to give lectures and presentations.  Finally, there were a few rooms with consoles, computers, and arcade games set up for play.

So many wonderful Infocom games depicted here!

So many wonderful Infocom games depicted here!

Brutal Legend, on of my favorite games, in Italian

Brutal Legend, on of my favorite games, in Italian

Display of Infocom treasures

Display of Infocom treasures

The walls were decorated in theme, lots of video game art and characters.  While small it left a good impression on me.  There was a broad selection of computers and consoles on display and it covered many of gaming’s earliest games — Infocom and other text adventures, Atari and Intellivision cartridges, a selection of PC games, etc.  There was also concept art from “Alice Madness Returns” and “Lollipop Chainsaw” and a few other games.  Large statues of Lara Croft, a character from Dark Souls (I think), and others were about.  There was some space dedicated to the video game crash of ’83 as well as the New Mexico landfill where many Atari 2600 cartridges (most famously E.T.) were buried.

Asteroids cartridge for the Atari 2600, one of my favorite pieces of video game art

Asteroids cartridge for the Atari 2600, one of my favorite pieces of video game art

E.T. Atari 2600 cartridge recovered from the New Mexico desert

E.T. Atari 2600 cartridge recovered from the New Mexico desert

Concept art from "Alice Madness Returns", one of Genetta's favorite games

Concept art from “Alice Madness Returns”, one of Genetta’s favorite games

The exhibition was Assassin’s Creed.  There were playable stations of all of the entries set up, surrounded by various collector’s editions stuff as well as a couple of large statues and some concept art.  Genetta and I had a blast playing through some of Assassin’s Creed II in their version of Florence, having just spent a lot of time there.  While it certainly captured the feel of Florence it most definitely didn’t feel very accurate.

Assassin's Creed on exhibition

Assassin’s Creed on exhibition

Assassin's Creed concept art

Assassin’s Creed concept art

One of the rooms of VIGAMUS

One of the rooms of VIGAMUS

There was little on display about the Odyssey2, sadly, and I thought that their treatment of the RPG genre was very light.  There was a single glass case with some Witcher series items in it but almost nothing else RPG-wise — no Wizardry, no Bard’s Tale, no Ultima (very surprising as Italy is known to be a hotbed of Ultima fandom), no Baldur’s Gate, etc.  Very surprising.

An example of the informational wall text, this about Pitfall!

An example of the informational wall text, this about Pitfall!

Space Invaders, an oldie but a goodie

Space Invaders, an oldie but a goodie

Another look at one of the rooms in VIGAMUS

Another look at one of the rooms in VIGAMUS

I was tempted by one of the books in the bookstore but as it was Italian I decided to pass.  I kind of regret that now, it was pretty neat.  Oh well.

Leaving VIGAMUS we walked the short distance to Avalon Roma, a bookstore selling role-playing games.  They had quite a bit of Savage Worlds stuff as well as The One Ring (which makes sense as the primary game design is by an Italian).  They also had a version of Dungeon World with nifty tabs that would make it a lot easier to flip through.  They also had Paizo adventure paths as single hardback books for 60 euros, a substantial savings over buying the six softcover books individually.  There was also a crazy-looking RPG based on modern horror in an alternate history that had among other source books one about the American South.  Their treatment of taboo subjects here in the US like the Klan was shocking.  Not that it was favorable to them or anything, just that it was in a RPG source book at all was eye-opening.

The proprietor, Vittorio (I think that is how it is spelled), was extremely nice and we talked at length about Italian RPGs like Kata Kumbus and this other one that was a grim dark treatment of Renaissance Europe with the walking dead.  Sadly as I don’t read Italian — and was accompanied by Genetta who wasn’t shy about reminding me about that fact — I had to pass on buying any books.  I did, however, buy a cloth map for Kata Kumbus that was basically Italy rearranged, even down to the place names.  A nifty souvenir!

Walked a little farther to Pocket 2000, a bookstore with comics, toys, etc.  It was stuffed wall to wall, to the point that it felt like a maze.  They had a good selection of stuff and plenty of historic comics including more Alix.  Once again Genetta reminded me that I don’t read Italian so we left without buying anything.

Pocket 2000, a book store with comics, toys, and the like

Pocket 2000, a book store with comics, toys, and the like

Headed south towards Vatican City where Genetta convinced me to get us a taxi.  Despite it being a Saturday there was crazy traffic and (because it was a Saturday) many pedestrians milling about.  We also saw a Lamborghini, though I suppose they aren’t crazy rare in their homeland!  We also saw a column erected by Marcus Aurelius before 193AD that I hoped to go back and see.

Back at the hotel we rested a bit then headed out to Ristorante Petrucci for dinner.  We had the garlic bread as an appetizer.  Genetta had veal with fries while I had spaghetti with bacon and tomato sauce that was quite decent.  Once back at the room around 8p we packed and I worked on the blog.  We then Facetimed with Michelle and wished Darby a good trip to London.  Finally I watched Italy and Germany play in Euro 2016 (1 to 1, Germany won on penalty kicks) while Genetta slept.  I finally turned in about midnight.

Hotel Bolivar sign at dusk

Hotel Bolivar sign at dusk

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