Monday, January 19, 2009


Matt and I just got back from our weekend trip to Vienna, Austria, which was incredible!  For one thing, it was just so nice to have a weekend alone together.  Also, in case you aren't aware, Vienna is amazing!  It's a really beautiful city, even though it is a lot bigger than I had anticipated.  It's also interesting to see a city where the main attractions are museums and buildings of the State instead of always churches and cathedrals.  Although they had a lot of those too.  I was not aware that Vienna was the seat of the Holy Roman Empire for a couple centuries.  I think.  Considering that my European history is even worse than my American history (which is really saying something) you probably should not take anything I post here as fact.  But I'm going to continue to spout information as I see fit.  
My favorite thing in Vienna (and probably my favorite place I've visited in Europe so far) was the Schatzkammer - the Imperial Treasury.  They house lots of royal um, memorabilia, for lack of a better word.  There are jewels and crowns and coronation robes from the Holy Roman Empire as well as those from the Austrian empire and other empires that they owned.  I'm pretty fuzzy on all the details.  The really cool stuff was mostly religious, or the things they believed to hold mystical powers, like the "unicorn horn" that was about 7 feet tall, and was actually discovered to be a narwhal horn, (which is really a tooth and not a horn.  See, I've got tons of this stuff).  This little beauty was assumed to be magical, and doctors would grind up these horns into a powder and then sell it, and it became the most sought after remedy for all kinds of illnesses.  I find this very entertaining.  There was also a sword there with a "unicorn" handle, and the case was also made out of unicorn.  
One of the best things there (and yes, it was very hard to narrow it down) was this huge agate bowl from the 4th century that was carved out of one piece of agate.  It is said to have mystical powers, and at one time it was thought to be the actual holy grail because apparently the name of Christ, "XRISTO", is spelled out.  It's not carved in, but it actually appears in the veins of the bowl.  But, apparently it is only visible in certain lighting... so of course we couldn't see it.  Still, it's gorgeous.  Also, there were at least a hundred religious reliquaries that the Catholics believe house pieces of bones, teeth and clothing (among many other things) from saints and even from Mary.  There were some that were said to hold thorns from Jesus' crown, as well.  I thought this was really cool after I saw the first one, but then there were at least 20 with thorns in them, so it looks like they just picked up the whole crown and boxed it.  One of the other amazing things (I know, I'm giving all the good stuff away) is the Veil of Veronica, which is a shroud that Veronica used to wipe the sweat off of Jesus' face on the way to Calvary  and his face was imprinted on the veil.  It's pretty unbelievable, but I took pictures, and if you look really close (and maybe squint a lot... and really really want to see it) you can sort of tell it's there.  The Catholic church has venerated all these items, but of course, there's no way to know for certain, and therein lies my only problem with the religious items in the treasury.  How will we know if we just got cheated out of 20 euros?  I guess we'll never find out.  In any case, all of this stuff was really, really old... older than old, so that automatically makes it interesting.  
The rest of the stuff we did in Vienna was kind of boring, compared to the treasury.  Just touring St. Stephen's Cathedral and Karlskirche.  The latter was pretty amazing because they're doing restoration, so they have all of this scaffolding set up everywhere, and a "panorama elevator" that they let visitor's take that goes all the way up to the frescoes on the domed ceiling so you can get an up-close look.  There is also scaffolding that goes all the way past the painted ceiling to the windows so you can look out at the city from the top... I was probably 200 feet up and 30 seconds away from the top, and I got nauseous and had to go back down.  Who knew I was afraid of heights? I didn't.  Anyway, the rest is all boring couple stuff like watching Flavor of Love 3 on MTV.  Super romantic.  Did I mention it was also our 4 year anniversary?  Flavor Flav really sets the mood.  Remember that the next time you need to impress someone.  Almost as good as the late night sex commercials they start showing here after 10 pm.  Almost.

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