Yesterday was a big day of sightseeing. I actually didn’t realize how much we had accomplished yesterday until I sat down last night to go through all the pictures I had taken throughout the day. We saw and did a lot — we hit all of the major 1st district spots in one day, with two kids it tow. Impressive.
But it meant that today we were all worn out. We had designs on taking the Strassenbahn out to Schonbrunn to see the Easter market and the palace, but there was no way that was happening. We *could* have done it, but we lacked the motivation. So, instead, we went to the park. We took the boys to the Rathauspark playground and let them swing, slide and play in the sand. They got a chance to run around and stretch their legs and just do kid stuff, without taking too much out of the grown ups, which was perfect.
This evening, though, we were feeling up for a little more adventure and took my neighbor up on her offer of a walking tour of the oldest parts of Vienna. She grew up here, attended school here, and is raising a family here, so she has a lot of information and a neat perspective on the city. We didn’t start our tour until after dinner, and we weren’t planning on taking the boys (Dan was going to stay home and put them to bed while Mina and I went on the tour) but after our late and enthusiastic trip to the park, their naps were late and long. Since they had only woken up a little while before dinner, we opted to take them with us instead.
We saw (and learned) a lot of stuff. We visited the Freyung, Am Hof, Judenplatz, Hoher Markt and St. Rupert’s Church (the oldest in Vienna).
We learned about the rerouting of the Danube — how the engineering that changed the main arm of the Danube into the Danube Canal and moved the major part of the river a bit eastward created a lot of newly habitable and useful space in Vienna (some of which is now the Prater). The New Donau is actually quite new (less than 10 years) and was created, by accident, during one particularly bad year of flooding, but is now a permanent fixture of Vienna.
We learned that in the days of Vienna being a walled city (prior to about 1860) there was an unused portion of land, about 500 meters wide, outside the wall, so that it was possible to see any approaching enemies. When the wall was torn down, the Ringstrasse was built in that space instead, and a slew of showpiece buildings (the university, the art and natural history museums, the Rathaus, Parliament) were built in the previously unoccupied space, and now make up a significant (and beautiful) portion of Vienna’s major landmarks.
We learned that the streets in Vienna called “Bastei” (“bastions” — one of which runs alongside our building) were the staircases used to climb to the top of the old city wall. Many of these Bastei still exist and still climb up to high points within the city.
We learned that there are at least two rivers that currently run under the city. In certain neighborhoods of the city, homes are designed such that the cellars are submerged during times of high water.
We also heard the legend of the Basilisk, saw the best place in Vienna to get ice cream (one we haven’t tried yet) and found out that Vienna does, indeed, have weather radar (it just isn’t available to the public).
It was a busy night. We all returned home happy but exhausted. What we expected to be an hour long tour turned in to an evening out of almost 3 hours. The boys did great. Liam fell asleep. Benjamin stayed awake and alternately rode in the stroller or walked, holding hands. We all learned a lot and saw parts of the city that were new to us. It was a great night, but it is time for bed, and it remains to be seen whether we’ll be up for more adventure, or more recuperation, tomorrow.