Saturday, December 26, 2009

An October day in Vienna

Today Hermann took me around downtown Vienna, just as he promised. He gets up much later than I do, so I've started watching television very quietly until he wakes up. I don't understand most of it, of course, but it does help me learn German. I particularly like the commercial breaks. This one made me snort milk out my nose, this one made me want to dance around his living room, and this recruiting commercial made me want to learn how to do all those gymnastics!

I tried to do them in the living room, but I accidentally somersaulted onto the sofa and woke Hermann up. He said not to worry, that he'd been meaning to get up anyway, and could I please crawl under the sofa to see if I'd kicked his glasses underneath? Then he made breakfast: bread and butter with honey and cheese, along with some bacon and onions. He calls it his bachelor's special.

First we took the tram again, with its funny bell that sounds like an old alarm clock. Then Hermann said we were going to ride the U-Bahn (Underground) the rest of the way downtown. It's a train that can't make up its mind whether it wants to stay above ground or underground, so it does both. I wish it just stayed above ground. Underneath Vienna, the train gives a long, hideous scream as it accelerates into the tunnels. The first time I heard it, on our way downstairs to the train platform, I thought aliens were attacking Vienna.

It was such a relief to get away from the U-Bahn and walk. Some of the streets were blocked off for a music festival, and we stopped for a few minutes to listen to this duo playing accordion and trombone. I tried to get Hermann to dance, but he said that actually he isn't very keen on this sort of music. Besides, he wanted to show me St. Stephen's Cathedral, which he says every visitor should see.

I thought that this tall building behind the crane was the cathedral, but Hermann said it was just a skyscraper. We passed a building with a little dome on the top that I was sure was the cathedral, but no, that was the Urania theatre.

Before the cathedral came in sight, we found the Vienna River. It isn't a bit like the Danube with its marshes and wooded banks; this poor river is imprisoned on its way through the city. Otherwise it would cause too much flooding in the spring. If you want to get near to the river, you have to descend these rather slippery stone steps. I had a short swim at the bottom, but the water was so cold that didn't stay in for long. Anyway, it was more fun to check out the graffiti. I wonder why Humpty Dumpty is sitting in his underpants shooting out Euros? Hermann said that he didn't have a clue either.

We passed this church with the green dome on its tower as we walked through the Greek quarter. I thought that this must be St. Stephen's cathedral, but it's just a regular church.
Hermann stopped across from a tall brick building with a hexagonal tower on the top. I asked if this was St. Stephen's cathedral, but he said that it was a restaurant and we were having lunch here. I thought he meant the steakhouse, but he took me across the street and we had a traditional Viennese lunch, starting with frittatensuppe, then Wiener Schnitzel, and Mohr im Hemd for dessert. Hermann couldn't finish his dessert, so I helped him out. He said that he had no idea that a third grader could eat so much!

After lunch we met a pair of beautiful grey horses hitched to a carriage. Luckily, Hermann had warned me that we might meet horses, so I'd taken some carrots out of the crisper. I broke off pieces, so that the carrots wouldn't get stuck on the bits, and held them out on the flat of my palm. The horses took the carrots very gently, their whiskers tickly on my palm, and nuzzled my ears and pockets just case I had some more. Their noses were velvety-soft, and their breath sweet and carroty. I did NOT want to say goodbye to them, but part of being a good guest is not making a fuss. I scratched their necks one last time and hugged them goodbye, and then we set off again.
We found this huge black church that looks almost like a Lego structure, except that Lego uses colours. I asked Hermann if black was an evil colour, but he said no, and went gave me this long grown-up explanation about colour. Anyway, this church isn't St. Stephen's Cathedral either.

We found the United Nations headquarters, although I liked the playground better. Then, at last, just when I'd thought Hermann was playing a joke on me, we turned a corner and saw this extraordinary roof. Finally - St. Stephen's Cathedral! Just look at the roof - it must have taken forever to decorate it. It was hard to see, because it had scaffolding all around it. Hermann says that it's continually being repaired. I guess it's so old that it's like my granny, who's on her second artifical hip. St. Stephen is the patron saint of Vienna, so on St. Stephen's Day (December 26th, which we call Boxing Day in Mallorytown) there are all sorts of special events.

After strolling around St. Stephen's, Hermann took me to the Prater amusement park. For some reason, he doesn't like to ride on ferris wheels and roller coasters; he says it makes his tummies feel wobbly. I asked him how many tummies he had, because I could only see one. Hermann replied that roller coaster rides make his tummy multiply into several tummies, and that each one of them gets sick. Ewwww.
I went on the ferris wheel once, and then spent the rest of my euros on the Boomerang roller coaster. Wheeee! It was already after my bedtime when we boarded the U-Bahn again. I was so tired that I fell asleep on Hermann's lap before the train even pulled out of the station. It may have still been shrieking and screaming, but I never heard a thing. I was dreaming about riding the Boomerang.

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