Prague – Day 9

Another gorgeous day in Prague!

We have one more full day in Prague before packing it in and heading back to H-Town. Without a doubt, we are winding down. We’ve got nothing pressing us for time so we’re just taking in this magnificent city for the last few days at as leisurely a pace as we can.

Cynthia wanted to get the post cards in the mail. They will certainly arrive in the US after we do, but no matter.

As we were looking for the post office we chanced down a street and found the Kafka monument

It was something we wanted to see, but had not put much effort into finding. A happy happenstance.

After we couldn’t find the post office we stepped into a tourist information center and asked. A helpful young man set us on the correct path and we were off again. This time we stumbled upon something we definitely wanted to see, knew was here, but had no idea where it could be. We saw it on the cab ride in to town and it was on our minds.

One symbolic element of the demonstrations of the Velvet Revolution was the jingling of keys, to symbolize the unlocking of doors. When 300,000 protesters flooded Wenceslas Square, noisily jangling their keys in a symbolic call to throw off communism it must have been something to see (and hear).

To commemorate this event on the 20th anniversary, people from all over the Czech Republic brought 85,741 keys to the local Vofaphon shops. These keys were then made into a sculpture by artist Jili David that resides in Franz Kafka Square.

The sculpture spells the word “Revoluce!” which is Czech for “Revolution!”

The sculpture is amazing and thought provoking.

After admiring the monument we found the post office and Cynthia sent them on their way.

From there we headed back to the park at the top of the hill where the giant metronome is. This is the park we visited yesterday. I wanted to see if I could get some shots from up there using my panorama equipment. We spend about an hour up there before heading back down.

While we were there we noticed there were a lot of policemen around and many people carrying balloons and wearing hats that had something written on them. Since we didn’t read Czech, we had no idea what they said and we couldn’t figure out what was going on. We made our way back to our breakfast place and got some food. After that we headed back out just to stroll around. We had decided to go to the river and explore the north and the east.

As we got to the Manesuv bridge we noticed the police had the street blocked off and that there was something going on at the Galerie Rudolfinum. There were hundreds of people and a public address system. There were news crews and a helicopters flying overhead. Something big was happening.

As we got closer to the bridge and were about tot turn right we noticed hundreds more people marching down the bridge with signs blowing whistles and vuvuzelas.

Then we saw that is was not hundreds of people. It was THOUSANDS of people.

And thousands more were pouring down from the hill top where the giant metronome is.

More and more streaming down from the hill top

The crowds were filling both bridges we could see and all converging on Galerie Rudolfinum. Cynthia and I were not going anywhere until this was over.

Apparently the civil service workers (police, firemen, etc.) we’re protesting proposed budget cuts that would reduce their salaries by 10%. Here’s an article I found online about the protests.

Thousands of people protest in Prague against budget cuts

It did eventually die down and we were able to move on and enjoy our walk.

Tomorrow is our last day. The weather forecast says more good weather. We’ll probably take it easy and get things packed up for our departure on Thursday. I am anxious for home. I love to travel, but I miss my own bed for sleeping.

Prague – Day 8

Today was another casual day. Cynthia wanted to visit the Old New Synagogue in The Jewish Quarter to see if we could catch a glimpse of the Golem that is said to be still hiding amongst the rafters. Fortunately, no run ins with this legendary animated anthropomorphic being. No photos allowed in the synagogue.

From there we walked around the area and we came to the Cechuv bridge. And there, towering over the city was a giant, functioning metronome looming over the city.

From what I understand, that is where the giant Stalin monument once stood.

We decided we would like to check it out, but decided it might be a bit hard to reach on foot and kind of blew it off. That is when I noticed the steps leading up to Prague Caslte in the distance. We had come down those steps when returned from our visit to the castle complex a few days earlier, but wanted to just go have a look at them and then the surrounding area.

Before we knew it we had climbed the steps and were in the castle compound. It was a rather arduous climb, but we didn’t wear ourselves out too bad. Once we were up there we decided to see if we could find our way to the giant metronome. A little research and we figured out it was in Letna Park. Problem was that we couldn’t immediately figure out how to get to Letna Park from our current location.

I knew we didn’t want to go down again and that it must be up where we were in terms of elevation. The maps were pretty useless, but I had the general direction in my head and we set off to find it.

We ended up in this park that ran along the old mote of the castle complex. It was very scenic and there were not very may people there. We came upon the castle vineyard and there was a nice view of the castle from there

We walked quite a bit trying to get a fix on the metronome which was fine. The weather was absolutely perfect and we were in no rush.

We explored the area and eventually came out to a main street that I recognized from the map and from there is was pretty easy to find our way to Letna Park, and presumably the the giant metronome. Which we did.

All in all we walked for a good 5 hours with frequent stops to take in the view and shoot some pictures.

As we were headed back to the apartment to recombobulate and maybe get some food we saw a bunch of swans in the river near the tour boat launches. Cynthia wanted to feed the swans which we did after regrouping.

I can really feel myself winding down. We’ve got two more full days and I am starting to think about home more and more as departure time draws near.

Tonight we go to see The Tiger Lillies perform at the Archa Theater. Should be very strange.

Prague – Day 7 – Day Trip To Kutna Hora

In planning the trip to Prague there was one place I just HAD to visit and that was Kutna Hora. Now Kutna Hora is famous for a lot of things. It’s home to St. Barbara Church and The Cathedral of Our Lady. It is a quaint little Czech town full of history and it played a very important role in Bohemia due to the now long depleted silver mines that were found around the 10th century. Anyway, you can read all about that in the linked Wikipedia article. I wanted to go there to see the Sedlec Ossuary.

In researching it looked a little tough to sort out the train ride so we opted for a guided tour. This was reasonably priced and seemed it would take the headache out of getting there and back as well as trying to find our way around. The tour was advertised to last about 5 hours, two of which would be the ride there and the ride back.

We got to the tour guide stand early and were on our way at 9:30 am. The first stop, Sedlec Ossuary. Yay, we thought. Then we were reminded why we don’t travel with tour groups. The total amount of time allocated for the Ossuary was 20 minutes. The was way too rushed for me to really relax and take the photos I wanted to take.

You see, the Sedlec Ossuary is a very unique thing, not only in The Czech Republic, but I would bet you would be hard pressed to find anything like it in the entire world. The ossuary is a small Roman Catholic chapel, located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints in Sedlec which is a suburb of Kutná Hora. And it is tastefully decorated….with the skeletal remains of an estimated 40,000 to 70,000 people.

The abbot of the Cistercian monastery in Sedlec, was sent to the Palestine Holy Land in 1278. When he returned, he brought with him a small amount of earth he had removed from Golgotha, the biblical location of the crucification of Jesus Christ. He took this and sprinkled it over the cemetery to consecrate the ground. This caused the property values of this small plot of land to go through the spiritual roof! Everybody wanted to be buried there so they flocked to Sedlec to die. Add to that the victims of The Black Death in the 14th century and those who were killed during the Hussite Wars in the early 15th century, you had many thousands of new residents is a rather small cemetery.

The graves had to be dug up and the remains removed to accommodate new arrivals. The ossuary itself dates back to 1511 and it was the task of a half blind monk to gather up the bones of the former residents and stash them in the crypt.

So what do you do with a crypt containing the skeletal remains of 40,000 to 70,000 people? Well, if you’re Duke Shwartzemberg in 1870 you find yourself a wood carving artistic type like Frantisek Rindt and you tell him to go nuts!

When viewing from baldheretic.com you can click any of the images to see a larger version. For some of these, this is a must.

Here is the entrance to the ossuary

Descend the stairs and enter the ossuary.

The room is dominated by a skeletal chandelier

Here you see the signature of the artist, spelled out and dated using bones

And here is the Shwartzemberg coat of arms done in, you guessed it! Bones!

Bones are piled in 4 corners of the ossuary in a pyramid shape with ventilation holes going through the center

You can get up real close and personal, just don’t touch!

Bones decorate everything. Strings of skulls adorn the walls like those ornamental chains made of popcorn you used to decorate your Christmas tree with.

All in all, I’m very happy I had the chance to see this. I wish I would have had more time and it wasn’t so crowded. I could have done better. But I pulled this off in 15 minutes, 1 lens change and no flash or tripod.

Prague – Day 6

Man, the weather again today was fantastic! We didn’t really have anything specific on the agenda today. Cynthia calls it a “free day” where we just walk around and shoot pictures of whatever we want. With the sun being out I decided to try and capture some detail on the astronomical clock. I setup the tripod and captured these images:

I’ve got some more and some plans for processing to make them more “interesting” but I’ll need some time. I’m just wanting to find a different way to capture and present this magnificent clock.

We walked around the old town square shooting a few things and marveled at the clear blue sky.

We decided to cross Karlov Most (The Charles Bridge) back over to the far bank of the river. The crowds were already building up. There’s a fantastic jazz band that plays on the bridge every day and the music really sets the scene. Their name, cleverly enough, is The Bridge Band.

We strolled casually down the bridge, stopping frequently to snap pictures of the various statues that line Karlov Most

There’s this one statue on the bridge of St John Nepomuk

It is said that touching the plague beneath this statue brings good fortune and that you can make a wish. But you can only make one wish in your lifetime. Cynthia has made hers and I am mulling mine over currently.

We wandered and wandered quite a bit. I was shooting a lot with my Zeiss 70-300 which is unusual for me as I am primarily a wide angle kind of guy. But it was nice to capture some detail.

As we wandered down the river we came across a sculpture garden that was in the courtyard of the Kampa Museum of Contemporary Art. There were many interesting pieces, but this one stood out for me

It is what it looks like, a crochet car. It was created by a Jitka Havlí?ková in 2001 and is called Viktor – pomnik automobilu which roughly translates to Victor (or maybe Victoria) – Memorial Car.

We also took the opportunity to fulfill our travel tradition of dropping a Mr. Zippers feather at our travel destination. Mr. Zippers was Cynthia’s beloved Quaker parrot and w take a feather and drop it on every trip.

We dropped it in the river in sight of the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle.

From the river we turned into the city again and walked all the way to Wencislas Square. On the way I spotted this odd mirrored building that was reflecting the more traditional building directly across the street. I don’t know why this sort of thing fascinates me, but it does. Just like Haus Haus in Vienna did on that leg of our trip.

I don’t know what Nova Scena is, but that ball in the middle of the sign is made of yarn.

We walked and walked and walked. As Cynthia has been fond of saying: I’ve walked so much my dog are woofin’

We headed back to the apartment where I actually laid down and took a two hour nap. After which I got up and Cynthia and I walked down to Slovansky ostrov to go to, of all things, The Prague Wine Festival.

Cynthia and I do enjoy wine. Unfortunately we’re pretty vino ignorant. Still, we tried some Czech wines and enjoyed them. And we got to listen to some traditional Czech music. But before long the long day took it’s toll and we declared an early evening and headed back home. It was a lovely stroll back to the apartment after a very nice and relaxing day.

Prague – Day 5 – Part 2

After leaving the Lennon Wall we passed by the water wheel. From up on the bridge we noticed people stopping at the wheel and lingering. We thought they were just looking at the wheel and getting in the way of our shots. Turns out they were marveling at the wall of padlocks.

More precisely, “love padlocks

We’d seen something like this before in Florence Italy. Apparently lovers profess their undying love and the bond they share by locking a padlock to this gate and then throwing the key into the canal. Awww, how romantic! Engraved, painted and adorned with ribbons, they are really quite interesting to see. I found myself shooting quite a few pictures before we moved on.

Our next destination was Petrín, a hill in the center of Prague above the left bank of the Vltava River. Mostly just parks, but there is 1/5 scale replica of the Eiffel Tower up there that is supposed to offer some of the best views of the city.

On the way to there we came across the Victims of Communism Memorial

It shows seven bronze figures descending a flight of stairs. The statues appear more “decayed” the further away they are from you – losing limbs and their bodies breaking open. It is supposed to symbolize how political prisoners were affected by Communism.

From there we made our way to the fenucular that would take us to the top of Petrín Hill. Once to the top we went to the minature Eiffel Tower and bough tickets. At the top the view was nothing short of spectacular!

After going to the top of the miniature Eiffel Tower we went to the basement to see the museum dedicated to Jára Cimrman. This was absolutely HILLARIOUS! Jára Cimrman is a fictional character created in the 60’s and he is presented as one of the greatest Czech playwrights, poets, composers, teachers, travellers, philosophers, inventors, detectives, mathematicians, politicians, lovers and sportsmen of the 19th and early 20th century. Playing the game on his real existence is part of his characterization. My favorite Cimrman quote “I am such a complete atheist that I am afraid God will punish me.” Check out the link above to learn more.

That was pretty much a full day. We had dinner last night at Boatel Matylda, a VERY nice Italian restaurant on the top deck of a floating boat hotel. Then we went to the Dancing House to get a night photo of the building. You’ll see that later. Now is time to sleep for another day awaits us tomorrow.

Prague – Day 5 – Part 1

Another sunny and wonderful day! We woke up early and had breakfast, after which we headed off to the Charles Bridge to cross over to Malá Strana or “little quarter” area of Prague. Crossing the bridge we found the last surviving water wheel that was once one of many that lined this canal next to Kampa Island. It is said that each canal had its own protective water spirit (vodnik). Now that that there’s only the one canal, there’s only one water spirit left…Mr. Kabourek.

The first site we wanted to get to was the John Lennon Wall. John Lennon’s music of peace and freedom was an inspiration to the oppressed peoples of the communist regime. When John was murdered a young artists came to this wall and painted a picture of John on it. The authorities painted over it. The artist returned the next day and painted it again. Eventually the owners of the wall, the Embassy of Malta, stepped in and declared that the wall was sovereign territory and the the local authorities had no right to touch it. Over time many came to paint on the wall their own messages of peace and freedom and to this day the wall grows and changes as visitors come to see this symbol of freedom and expression and add their own messages to the wall.

Exploring the wall I kept finding more and more details.

Cynthia spent the better part of an hour just photographing various small and large detail shots and we both agreed that the wall was quite fascinating and the story behind it very profound. We eventually did add our marks to the wall.

Nothing lofty or pretentious. Just our names. Just something to say we were there

We really enjoyed this space. If you’re ever in Prague, go find it. At first it just seems like a wall full of graffiti. But as you contemplate it and read the messages it unfolds with greater meaning and beauty.

Prague – Day 4

Hallelujah! It is not raining! The temps have dropped but there’s sunlight streaming down from the heavens through some rather picturesque clouds. With joy in our hearts and a spring in our step we were out of the apartment by 7:45 and over the Bohemia Bagel for some breakfast. I will say this, the portions with just about any meal we’ve had in Prague have been hearty. I had trouble finishing my breakfast and Cynthia had to abandon part of hers. But we were happy to have the abundant calories because today was the day we made our way to Prague Castle. That’s it you see to the left of Charles Bridge in the above photo. More accurately, that’s the St. Vitus Cathedral and that’s what we really wanted to see. That, and the changing of the guard ceremony.

The castle complex is way up the hill so walking was out of the question. This meant we had to find the #22 tram and a place to buy tickets.

Google Maps provided the location of the tram stops and a small shop next to the rail line provided the tickets we needed.

We rode the #22 tram up the hill and got off at Strahov Monastery. In an ideal world we would have gotten off at the monastery to visit the famous library, but we knew from our research that it was under renovation. The reason we got off at the monastery was to have a quick look around and then take the pleasant and mostly downhill stroll to the castle complex.

The weather was just perfect. The sun kept coming out and there was no sign of rain at all.

The Prague Castle is probably the most visited tourist spot in all of Bohemia. Bus after bus after bus of tour groups pile into the complex and the crowds can be quite intense.

We wanted to see the changing of the guard, but didn’t know how they did it here so we didn’t end up in a good viewing spot. Cynthia got up on one wall and was able to watch some of it. I, on the other hand, decided to plunge into the crowd with the fisheye lens.

After the changing of the guard things settled down quite a bit We got our tickets and went in to St. Vitus Cathedral.

This is one impressive cathedral. And this cathedral held something very interesting to me

The stained glass window was designed by the world famous Czech Art Nouveau master, Alphonse Mucha.

This has got to be the single, most ipressive piece of stained glass I have ever seen in my life. And, unlike the Mucha museum, photography IS allowed. I shot quite a few pics of this glorious piece and may go back and shoot some more. Here are a few detail shots.

From here were moved on to explore some other parts of the complex but not wholeheartedly. We soon moved on and took the scenic walk down to the river where we had a late lunch and a nice Pilsner beer. After thar it was off to the laundromat to pick up my laundry. Aftet depositing the laundry at the apartment we wend for a walk so I could shoot some extended exposures using my tripod. I’ll have those ready to show later, but for now it is off to bed.

Tomorrow, more adventures and more photography!

Prague – Day 3

Ugh! More rain this morning. It’s bad enough when the light is poor due to cloud cover. Photos are dull and lifeless. But rain! ARRRRGH! Photographing in the rain is not my thing. Protecting the camera gear is priority numero uno. So with the wet weather the camera has not come out as much as it normailly would.

But rain or no rain, we’re in Prague and well darn it, we’ve got to make the best of it. Who knows when or if we’ll be back? Poor Cynthia, she’s more disheartened than I am PLUS she has been working a nice big blister on her toe. Bless her heart, she’s a trooper.

We bought our second umbrella and decided to walk out to Wenceslas Square, the site of the 1989 “Velvet Revolution” that saw the overthrow of the authoritarian government.

It is simply amazing to walk such historical grounds, even if it is raining. We walked up to the top of the square where you could look down the length of it. Just trying to imagine that square filled with over 200,000 peaceful protesters gave us both pause.

Cynthia noticed a building to the left of where we were standing and said “Oh! I know what that is!”

That communist era old building was once the home of Radio Free Europe. It served as their headquarters from 1995-2009. Radio Free Europe played a significant role in the Velvet Revolution and the Czech Republic, out of gratitude, rented them the building for one CZK (Czech Crown) a year. Radio Free Europe had to move to a more secure location after recieving credible threats from Al Quada.

We moved on from Wenceslas Square to find the Dancing House.

By the time we found it the rain had almost completely stopped. It was still threatening and there were some drops to be felt but I figured I would break out the monopod and get some photos of this magnificent structure. With any luck I’ll take a mulligan when the sun comes out, but for now I’ve seen it and photographed it.

Moving on we made our way down the Vltava river back to the Charles Bridge. All the way we were lamenting the weather but making the best of it.

Right after I shot the above photo, an amazing thing happened. For just a few minutes the sun came out. It was only for a short while, but a break in the clouds and golden sunlight shone down on us. Glory be! Then it was gone. Drats!

We walked back to the old town square to make our way back to the apartment and as we entered the square the sun came out again! And this time it stayed out! We shot some pics and rejoiced and then went back to the apartment to recombobulate and decided to go out again and watch the sun go down over Pet?ín Hill from the bank of the Vltava river. I took my tripod and shot some hopefully excellent shots of Prague Caslte and the Charles Bridge. I need to go through them and process a little before I present them here.

The forecast for tomorrow calls for sunshine. If that holds true we’re off to Prague Castle first thing in the morning. We’ve walked our poor dogs to the bone, but some sunshine will breathe new life into both of us!

Vienna – Day 4 – Danube River Art Show

We decided to walk down the Danube River on our last day. We’d noticed some interesting art work slash graffiti and thought it might be worth checking to see if there was more. Turns out, there was. There were murals and sculptures up and down this one portion of the river and some if it was VERY interesting. It was like an outdoor gallery of street art. What follows are some of the more interesting pieces.

Vienna – Day 3 – Part 1

Today we just wanted to take advantage of the sunshine and walk around some of the big sites. We had breakfast at Cafe Mozart and then made our way toward the The Vienna Secession.

Also known as the Union of Austrian Artists, it was formed in 1897 by a group of Austrian artists who had resigned from the Association of Austrian Artists, housed in the Vienna Künstlerhaus. This movement included painters, sculptors, and architects. The first president of the Secession was Gustav Klimt, and Rudolf von Alt was made honorary president. We didn’t go inside as we were mostly content to have a day of walking and we had plans to see the larger Klimpt collection housed at the Belvedere.

As we were waling down the street I noticed a sculpture and remarked to Cynthia “Hey look, a statue of The Mona Lisa. As we got closer I noticed the statue had a beard and mustache.

Still looked like the Mona Lisa but obviously it wasn’t. Then we found the plaque describing the piece. Turns out this was a sculpture by Subodh Gupta who is known as the “idol thief.” This piece was called “Et Tu, Duchamp?” and was, indeed, The Mona Lisa with a beard. Apparently the reference is to Marcel Duchamp’s “L.H.O.O.Q.” piece from 1919 in which Duchamp took a postcard featuring the Mona Lisa and drew a beard and mustache onto it.

Moving on we came across this magnificent building

We just loved the giant owl and all the smaller owls along the roof top. As we were marveling and shoting pictures I noticed a sign that indicated that this was The Main Library of the Vienna University of Technology. Coolest library EVER!

From there we found our way to the baroque St. Charles Church.

In 1713, the Black Plague swept Vienna, and Emperor Charles VI made a vow: if the plague left the city, he would build a church dedicated to his namesake, St. Charles Borromeo. St. Charles was a 16th-century Italian bishop famous for ministering to Milanese plague victims. The emperor’s prayer was answered, and construction on the church began in 1715. The Baroque master Johann Bernard Fischer von Erlach did the original work from 1716 to 1722. After his death in 1723, his son took over and saw the project through to completion in 1737.

After St. Charles we walked over to The Belvedere Palace. Another fantastic example of baroque architecture, it is a very large complex with a beautiful garden and a wonderful fountain in the middle.

After we strolled through the garden we took a break at the cafe for some lunch and then went to see the Klimpt collection in the Upper Belvedere. Sadly, no photography allowed. Got to see The Kiss and Judith in person which was pretty impressive.

After that we hiked back to the hotel, stopping (again) at Cafe Mozart for coffee and desert.

Vienna – Day 2 – Part 2

After our wonderful day at the Schönbrunn Palace we were feeling pretty good and just a little tired. We made our way back to the hotel to take a load off and consider our options and it wasn’t long before we were back out pounding the streets toward our next destination. We made our way over to the Haus Haus, a very cool and very modern building plunked down in the middle of town amongst building with a much older pedigree. In fact, Haus Haus is directly across the plaza from St. Stephen’s Cathedral and this juxtaposition alone makes the building somewhat controversial amongst the Viennese.

Here, as you can see, Haus Haus has all the earmarks of your modern buildings. Mirrored windows, curvy surfaces and all that.

Haus Haus

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Haus Haus

It really does seem out of place.

But something really cool happens when you walk past it. The surrounding building are reflected and distorted in the mirrored surfaces of Haus Haus causing the building to seem to morph and change. The further along you walk, the more it undulates and changes.

Haus Haus

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Haus Haus

Haus Haus

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Haus Haus

Haus Haus

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Haus Haus

This was a fun building to photograph. Move a little to the left or to the right and the scene changed quite a bit. The above detail shots are my favorite and I used the 3 shot HDR treatment to pull out the detail and for dramatic effect.

After this we walked around outside the cathedral and then to the Danube River which, for the record, is not even remotely blue. We didn’t stay there long but I was struck by some of the graffiti which was quite elaborate. Especially this one where the monsters seem to be menacing the couple in the lounge chairs.

Grafiti

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Graffiti

We’d been walking most of the day and we were wiped out. We went back to the hotel again to take a load off before going out to grab some dinner. We had decided to go back to the same Italian restaurant we had eaten at the night before. BIG MISTAKE! The place was crowded but the waiter remembered us. This seemed a good thing and he said he would have a table for us in about 5 minutes. 10 minutes later we had a table. Then we sat. And sat. About 20 minutes later he brought us some menus. 20-30 minutes later he took our order and we didn’t end up with our food in front us for quite some time. All in all we were there two hours before we ate. The food was good, but that was just ridiculous.

To make matters worse I got a phone call from the company that cleans our pool. They said the maintenance guy could not get the pump to turn on. The pump was actually repaired before we left so I was hoping it was just a malfunction. But I was worried there was some other problem like a power outage or something worse. Fortunately I was able to reach our friend who is watching over the place while we’re out and he verified everything was ok.

So, to sum up. Great day except for the poor service at the restaurant for dinner and the stress waiting to hear our house was ok.

Two more days in Vienna. I’m voting they be more like the morning than the evening. Fingers crossed!

Vienna – Day 2 – Part 1

Today was all about going to see Schönbrunn Palace. That and sleeping in too late. Apparently we’re more tired and jet lagged than we thought. We got up around 10:30 and got dressed and got a bite to eat and then headed to the metro to catch the subway train to the palace. All in all, pretty simple.

Schönbrunn Palace

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Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace is a former imperial summer residence and now belongs to the public. Most of the site can be accessed for free but if you want to go inside the actual palace that will cost you. We paid for the access but decided to skip the actual palace tour as they would not allow photography or carry a backpack. I was fine with no pictures but my backpack has all my camera gear and I’m not leaving it with the coat check girl. Not going to happen. Nope. But the tickets got us access to the Gloriette and some other sections so it was a good deal.

Schönbrunn Palace

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Schönbrunn Palace

I was glad for my wide angle lenses, but in truth there is so much wide open space that you could easily get far enough back to get everything in the frame. We walked into the first garden which is located off to the side of the palace and there’s a panorama terrace. This was shot with the Sony 24-70mm lens and i got just about the whole thing in a single frame.

Schönbrunn Palace

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Schönbrunn Palace

Back to the main palace grounds with your back to the palace and looking across The Great Parterre you can see the Neptune Fountain and beyond that, The Gloriette.

Schönbrunn Palace

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Schönbrunn Palace

The Neptune Fountain is simply magnificent. And GIANT. The pool below the fountain is a great tourist barrier and allows for some great photos.

Schönbrunn Palace

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Schönbrunn Palace

What’s even cooler is that you can climb up into the back of the fountain and look through the cascading water back to the palace.

Schönbrunn Palace

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Schönbrunn Palace

It’s really wet back there and when a breeze kicks up it send water everywhere. I braved the wet to get this shot and it was worth it.

From there it is uphill via winding paths to reach The Gloriette which is built on a man made hill that is some 60 meters high.

We climbed up to The Gloriette and availed ourselves of the cafe that is there and had something to drink and to eat. After that we used our ticket to gain admission to the panorama view from the top of The Gloriette.

Schönbrunn Palace

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Schönbrunn Palace

A spectacular view

Schönbrunn Palace

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Schönbrunn Palace

I did take this opportunity to break out the Nodal Ninja and shoot some panorama frames. I will be stitching them together later to see if I had any success.

Vienna – Day 2 – Part 2

We took the subway out to Wien Meidling railway station to go ahead and purchase our train tickets to Prague for Monday. The subway is clean and fairly easy to navigate so we didn’t have any trouble except that somehow we managed to get off one stop too soon coming back and had to hoof it a bit further than we would have liked.

Having the train ticket secured we were able to confirm our driver in Prague who will pick us up at the train station and drive us to our apartment. Apparently, taking a cab from the train station in Prague is a dicey proposition and should be avoided. Having a driver pick us up takes a load off our mind.

After taking in the crown jewels and the crypt we had planned to go to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, but the sun had come out and it was so beautiful outside we opted to skip it and go for a walk instead to get some outside photos.

We were walking down the street when I saw this

The Third Man

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The Third Man

Movie buffs may recognize this as the front of Harry Lime’s apartment from the film “The Third Man” featuring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli and Orson Wells. I recognized it immediately, despite the scaffolding.

We walked over to the The Vienna City Hall, only to find that they were in the process of setting up for the Vienna Film Festival. This included putting a giant movie screen smack dab in the middle of the city hall building.

Vienna Film Fest

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Vienna Film Festival

From there we walked across the street to the Burgtheater

Burgtheater

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Burgtheater

And then across the street for a much needed sitdown and snack break at the legendary Cafe Landtmann, the preferred coffee house of Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, Peter Altenberg, Felix Salten and Emmerich Kálmán,

Cafe Landtmann

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Cafe Landtmann

From there we walked back along the Ringstrasse back to the hotel to recombobulate.

Vienna – Day 2 – Part 1

We woke up a little late, around 9:30. I guess we needed the sleep. After we showered and got dressed we found our way to Cafe Mozart for some breakfast. I love these cafes! The waiter all dress in coat and tie and everything just seems a little “upscale” but casual at the same time.

We had what the menu called the “Large Viennese Breakfast” which was coffee, a soft-boiled egg, some rolls, a glass of OJ and some deli sliced ham and cheese. It was pretty good.

Our plan for this morning was to visit the Imperial Crypt, located below Capuchin Church which, since Since 1633, has been the principal place of entombment for members of the Habsburg dynasty.

It is a VERY creepy place. Dimly lit and full of dead nobility.

The Crypt

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The Crypt

The Crypt

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The Crypt

The Crypt

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The Crypt

It was a very interesting trip through time.

From there we headed over to the Imperial Treasury to see the crown jewels and other artifacts of the Habsburg Dynasty.

Crown Jewels

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Crown Jewels

There are some fantastic treasures in this space. Photography was a challenge here as well as in the crypt due to dim lighting.

Crown Jewels

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Crown Jewels

I won’t bore you with too many details. Just a few photos of some VERY noteworthy artifacts. These, to me, were three of the most impressive items on display.

Crown Jewels

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Crown Jewels

In this one case we have the Imperial Cross (center) that housed a piece of the true cross (on the right) and on the left the The Holy Lance which is the head of the spear that pierced the side of Jesus as he hung from the cross.

Crown Jewels

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Crown Jewels

And this was no ordinary, every day, run of the mill piece of the true cross. Oh no…
This one had one of the nail holes in it making it TRULY unique and probably extra holy.

Crown Jewels

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Crown Jewels

After leaving the Imperial Treasury we had planned on going to one of the art museums, but we came out and the sun was shining and it was so beautiful that we altered our plans and took a walk. Details on that in the next update.

Photographic Fun In Vienna

Vienna is a VERY photogenic city. We were walking around rather casually by the Vienna Opera House and I spotted these two fountains. I shot these using the HDR technique of capturing three different exposures and then tonemapping them into one image using Photomatix. To have this work really well you should use a tripod, but I was not carrying mine at the time so I had to shoot the three images handheld. Thanks to the shake reduction technology of the Sony and the quickness of the Minolta 35/2 lens I was able to pull this off with more than satisfactory results.

Vienna Opera House

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Vienna Opera House

Fountain

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Fountain

I will be going out with the tripod this evening to see what I can get. There’s a lot to shoot here and I’ve already got some more great stuff in the pipeline.