What more appropriate way to start a Sunday here than to go to Mass at the Palace, which happens to feature the Vienna Boys’ Choir? The Imperial Chapel is tiny, but seating is available in several balconies that afford a view either of the altar or the choir loft. The whole thing is being filmed, so that monitors and mirrors provide the missing links. It’s very intimate and a charming way to hear about 20 little boys and the same number of musicians perform the Schubert Mass #3 in B flat major, for those of you who know your Schubert.
We made it through the whole event. At one point, the boys were between parts, and it was cute to see them snicker and gape at the audience below, just like any other group of 10 to 14-year-olds, even though they do sing like angels.
Quite a pleasant start to the day.
We then did the next most appropriate Sunday thing and headed for the Albertina art museum, just down the street. It is really all still part of the palace complex, as the building was the home of royals including Maria Christina (Maria Theresa’s daughter and Marie Antoinette’s sister) and her husband, Duke Albert. Theirs was supposedly a great love match, hence the melded name of the current museum. (Guess they were the original Brangelina – though that reference is already obsolete. Sigh.) It houses one of the largest and most important print collections in the world, though it also has a large modern art collection. All the usual suspects and then some.
We admit to taking it easy today, as our travels caught up with us a bit. Our final stop of the day was to see the Royal Apartments in the Albertina. There is a nice overflow of art there too, including Durer’s famous hare. (Life-size replicas available in a rainbow of colors in the gift shop.) The rooms were quite damaged at the end of WWII, but have been beautifully restored, to let us see just how well it was possible to live in the 18th century. As if we didn’t already know…
Don’s Food Corner
Sunday is the day most restaurants are closed in Vienna. And the ones that are open — the good ones — are packed with long waiting lines. With limited choices and not being willing to retrace our steps to places we’ve already tried and liked, we threw ourselves into an unknown, but handy, alternative. We were pleasantly surprised, but not blown away.
I had a plate of sliced roast pork with fried dumplings and a very light sauerkraut, all doused in a broth-like sauce. Perfectly fine and hearty and just right for a cold winter day — although I think this is standard fare at all times of the year.
Jo continued her global taste-testing of wiener schnitzel. The verdict was not-as-great-as-previously-encountered-but-still-pretty-damned-good. In other words, if she had ever encountered such a version in a New York restaurant, we would be frequent patrons. In short, these Viennese sure know how to make wiener schnitzel and the differences from one place to another are so slight that only a connoisseur like Jo could possibly tell the difference.
That means, of course, that now she’s ruined for wiener schnitzel anywhere else. That seems to be happening in our travels after we encounter the very best of a regional dish. I can still remember having specialties like lyonnaise potatoes in Lyon, France or boeuf bourguignon in Dijon in the heart of Burgundy and on and on throughout Europe and throughout the distinctly regional cuisines of America. Fried catfish, for example, is not made better than in the South. They certainly can’t make North Carolina BBQ in Texas or Texas BBQ in North Carolina. And bagels outside of New York City? Forget it.
Our only sweet for the day was a yummy slice of apple strudel that we shared, along with some tea, after our time with the Boys’ Choir. Oh, and later, a stop by Demel’s for a big bar of their milk chocolate. Why are the buttons on the middle of my shirt popping?