Christmas Eve I still had a few things left that I wanted to do on my plate and only a few hours to do them.
First things first though. Let’s rewind. (As Zack Morris would say, “Time out.”)
The previous day I had gone to St. Marx and was trying to get to the Belvedere museum afterwards, but when I got there I just hurt all over (seriously can I get a good massage when I get back?) and didn’t think I would enjoy any art in that state. So I opted to go back to the apartment a little early and get ready because Thomas, also known as “Most Accommodating Host Ever,” knew I was desperately hoping to catch a live musical performance in Vienna and got us tickets to a Mozart and Strauss concert at Schoenbrunn palace. Umm… Speechless!
This palace is just like the rest of the architecture in Vienna: pristine, immaculate, elegant. There was also a Christmas market the same time so we had some Gluhwein before the concert. So far Gluhwein has seemed to be the common thread for all the cities I’ve been to on this trip. No complaints here.
The repertoire was a good mix of things from concertos and simple opera pieces made famous by “Die Zauberflote” (The Magic Flute.) I love this stuff and being able to go to an event like this just made me want to go to more of them in New York. Applause to Thomas for finding this concert, taking me, and not snoring during the event (like the guy seated next to us was.)
Okay, time in. Christmas Eve.
So I still wanted to go to the Belvedere because Anthony had suggested I check out Gustav Klimt. The museum closed at 1 so the plan was to do the exhibit at 9 and then take a train to Zentralfriedhof, or Central Cemetery (where Beethoven is buried) to go check out some more dead people. Of course I arrived at 9 and the museum opened at 10. Now, I’m an aficionado when it comes to waiting around and killing time, but it’s Christmas Eve. Shit ain’t open. Furthermore, when you’re just standing around, shit’s cold.
I figured I could just reverse my plans, do Zentralfriedhof in about two hours and have at least 2 hours in the museum. [spoiler alert: I was wrong]
I proudly boarded both of the correct trains and was off to Zentralfriedhof when a conductor began inspecting tickets. In the blink of an eye, the conductor checked my ticket, handed it back to me, I noticed the train doors were closing, and… that was my fucking stop. As we pulled away I kept praying the train would stop again soon (it didn’t) and I watched gravestones sail past the window in heaps and bounds. Fine, I’ll just change at the next station and go back, right? Well, the beauty of the Vienna public transit system is that their displays always tell you when the next train is arriving. The ugly part of this train line is one wasn’t coming for another 30 minutes. Stand here in the cold? No thanks, I’m sure I can walk. So I load a map on my phone (ugh, data roaming) and walk 30 minutes till I even reach an entrance gate. This cemetery is nothing like St. Marx.
Zentralfriedhof is massive in every sense of the word. It’s 590 acres and about 2/3 the size of Central Park. It’s a fact that there are more people buried here than currently living in Vienna. Knowing that so many big names call Zentralfriedhof their resting place, I was hopeful that similar to St. Marx there would be a sort of directory or map at the front gate to point me in the right direction of where I wanted to go. I wandered for probably an hour when I realized that with zero guidance, finding this grave is like finding a diamond in the rough. This rough was in fact so rough that it called for me to bite the bullet, incur more exorbitant charges, and look up the plot number on my phone. Balls.
$25 in mobile charges later (thanks Verizon for the text alert to make me feel even worse about it) I stood in a little courtyard, a “garden of the greats” if you will, the burial sites of so many famous composers. Beethoven, Strauss, Brahms, Schubert, the list goes on.
Zentralfriedhof is quite modern as people are still buried there today, but to see so many of the most famous composers buried here is a huge testament to the power Vienna held as the musical capital of the world in past centuries. This is the richness of history I love.
So I eventually found my way to the correct Zentralfriedhof train station which wasn’t that easy to do considering I previously exited at a different station on the other end of town. 25 minutes till the next train? Christ. Tick tock tick tock. I can hear the ticking of my time at the Belvedere slowly going down the drain.
I made it, but with only about 45 minutes to spare. I decided to go in anyway because I refuse admit defeat and because I keep my Monmouth student ID around for cheaper student entrance rates. No one needs to know that picture was taken 9 years ago. Don’t look at the date, please.
No photos allowed here (it was made a lot more clear than it was at the bleeping Mozart Geburtshaus in Salzburg) but a picture from the brochure probably looks the same once I run it through Instagram, and the view of the gardens from inside the building was pretty fabulous as well.
It wasn’t crowded so I could actually spend my short time here seeing the things I wanted to see. Museums often frustrate me when they’re popular. I don’t want to feel like I’m at a theme park. If you went to the Tim Burton exhibit at MoMA you know what I mean. A SNAFU of a day for sure but in the end it worked out.