Thursday, May 13, 2010
On my trip, I only spent a day in Vienna, not counting Baden and going to and from the airport. I did some research in an archive; I didn't really find any new information, but it was laid out somewhat differently than what I was used to, and it certainly gave me better context than I'd had.
Then we decided we needed a pick me up, before we soldiered on to Shakespeare & Co., so we stopped at Cafe Hawelka. It is my favorite Viennese coffeehouse. I'm sure it's touristy (it's in all the guidebooks), but it doesn't feel touristy. It does not serve my favorite poppyseed cake (that would be Cafe Diglas), but it is centrally located, the coffee is fantastic, there's usually interesting conversation to be had with the staff- it's just very comfortable. There was usually Mr. or Mrs. Hawelka near the kitchen, keeping an eye on the dining room. Mrs. Hawelka died in 2005, but Mr. Hawelka (at 99 years old) looks exactly the same as he did when I first saw him 15 years ago. As I was paying the check, the waiter took my hand, bowed his head, and murmured, "Kuss die Hand," and I almost fainted. I thought "I kiss your hand" and the drill had fallen out of usage around 1920. I blurted out, "Servus," which I thought I was supposed to say. I will never forget that waiter.
As ever, Shakespeare & Co. did not disappoint. I found a first-time translation of a Stefan Zweig story, and a book about the man who wrote "Ali and Nino." My friend Daniela found a book on African gold weights (she actually has some, but couldn't find much information on them).
We walked through the Hofburg and out to the Margaretengurtel, until we reached the Imperial Furniture Museum (Hofmobiliendepot). It's what is left (and not currently being used) of the Habsburgs' furniture collection. They had so many palaces that it was standard practice to move the furniture from place to place, as the monarch traveled. Many chairs, beds, desks, chamberpots- and an inordinate number of spitoons. There are also beautiful period rooms. Where the Habsburgs known as big spitters? I'd been there before (my friend had not), but now the museum has grown to four floors. We barely made it though the whole thing, and we skipped the special Ikea exhibit. The other special exhibit was of the furniture from the Sissi movies (all of which I've seen in the past year). I hadn't realized that in all the Hofburg scenes in the movies, they used the real furniture. There is a link to the museum above.