Wednesday: Vienna

We had a quiet day in Vienna this Thanksgiving eve.

We wanted to go to a coffeehouse this morning, since Vienna practically invented them in the 1700s. People would sit around and drink coffee and read or write or talk to their friends.

The oldest Viennese coffeehouse is Cafe Fraunhuber, but we didn’t know that when we walked in. I was looking for a place to have breakfast and we wandered in there.

It was old, that’s for sure. It doesn’t look as though it has been updated much for decades. Back in the 1780s, Mozart and Beethoven would come into this coffee house to entertain the customers with their piano music – not both of them at the same time, of course. As I enjoyed a breakfast of scrambled eggs and some good Viennese coffee, it was interesting to imagine the two composers had spent time there.

We headed to the center of the city where there were many people put and about. We went into the gigantic St. Stephen’s Church and then headed to a couple of holiday markets which are fun to walk around. They all have different foods and interesting gifts for sale.


photos: hot chips on a stick at a holiday market; the coffeehouse we visited; a mulled wine mug. You can keep it or get a refill in it. Or both.

Friday, March 27: Barcelona

Today we took a tour of the Segrada Familia, which is a very well known and interesting place to see here in Barcelona. By taking a tour, we got a nice ride from a location near our hotel, met two nice women from Brooklyn, and were treated to details of this huge project that is taking almost literally forever to complete.

The Segrada Familia is the largest Roman Catholic church still under construction in the world, and began as just a neighborhood church in 1882. The first architect left the project after a year, and Antoni Gaudi stepped in with much, much more grand and complex plans than originally imagined. It is sort of astonishing to see, and the closer you are, the more you realize it is not just a masterpiece, it’s overwhelmingly impossible. The intricate stone work on the outside and the unbelievable detail on the inside can never be finished, at least not by 2021 (for the outside) and 20 or so years later for the inside. Gaudi died in 1921 and left his plans, which are being followed closely. The 2021 date for finishing the outside is to coincide with the 100th anniversary of his death.

With our tour group of maybe 20 people, we got some interesting details from our tour guide, our tickets handed to us, we were ushered in through a separate entrance, and were eventually led out. It was well worth our time. There were already thousands of tourists there today. When summer hits, I think it will be paralyzingly slow to get around.

After that we walked around for a while, did some shopping (I got some shoes) and tried to avoid pickpockets (who are all over the place and everyone everywhere warns about them. Still, there are people walking around with unzipped purses and backpacks. Easy prey.)

We went into the Gran Teatre del Liceu, the Barcelona opera house since we found ourselves walking right in front of it. We were able to have a quick tour. It opened in 1847 and is a very beautiful place. The two opera singers who died in the recent airplane crash had performed there just a few nights ago. That was very eerie in a way, and the young woman walking us around teared up talking about it.

We went back there this evening for a Beethoven orchestra concert. The music was terrific and it was a treat to be at the grand theater for a performance. Sitting next to us was a student of the pianist who was on stage for part of the concert, and he was a wealth of information about the orchestra company. So we lucked out having Edoardo and his friend Juan beside us. Juan is from Barcelona and I mentioned to him that the Segrada Familia would never be finished, and he insisted that it would be. Someday. He said he walks past it every day and sees progress.

We had a very late dinner and called it a day. By then I was having problems walking in my new shoes.

Adios,
-Susan

This building is in the shape of waves, and it's like that on the inside, too. A Japanese architect designed it.

This building is in the shape of waves, and it’s like that on the inside, too. A Japanese architect designed it.

Barcelona opera house

Barcelona opera house

There's a magic square on one part of the outside of the Sagrada Familia, where all the rows add up to 33.

There’s a magic square on one part of the outside of the Sagreda Familia, where all the rows add up to 33.

The inside of the church was massive and it sure looked finished to me. It's not though - the have at least 25 years of work left

The inside of the church was massive and it sure looked finished to me. It’s not though – they have at least 25 years of work left

The Sagrada Familia is a huge unfinished church in Barcelona. They're actively working to get the outside done by 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

The Sagrada Familia is a huge unfinished church in Barcelona. They’re actively working to get the outside done by 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.