We caught the morning train from Budapest to Vienna and arrived in Vienna Centrale station and looked at the directions to the flat, of course we slightly mis-interpreted the communication from our host, thinking she was coming to the metro whilst she was waiting in front of the flat. We finally made it to the flat and was greeted, we still do not know her name, and she handed us the keys. This flat was in an excellent location, across the street from the Opera House, steps from the metro and down the street from St. Stephens Cathedral. We inquired about tickets to the opera and discovered we were several days to early, season started on May 29.
We got organized and then took a stroll down the street headed towards St. Stephens. We immediately noticed the shops, Channel, Prada, and all the expensive stores along the way with a few tourist shops, a far cry from Eastern Europe.
We reached St Stephens and it was beautiful, churches in Europe are very ornate. St Stephen’s Cathedral is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna and the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna. The cathedral was built in 1339-1365. The multi-colored tile roof of St. Stephens is striking. The roof was destroyed during WWII and was restored using steel instead of wood with the tiles.
After visiting the cathedral we strolled back to the flat. We decided to eat at a restaurant just below the flat, the food was good but we had forgotten the prices in “the west”. We had been use to a bottle of wine and dinner for under $30 in Eastern Europe, this bill was $100!
The next morning we headed down in the metro to Schönbrunnhad Castle. We only had a few hours before we needed to be back to pick up our luggage for our next train. We found there was a delay to enter the castle, so we didn’t purchase tickets. We just walked around the square of the castle and found our way into the gardens. The back gardens are lovely, they were breaking down from a concert so we did not have access to everything, but it was perfect. After strolling through the gardens we headed back to the flat and onto our next adventure to Chur Switzerland.
We left on the 3:30 train that would arrive in Sargens about 10:23 PM, then we caught the 10:32 to Chur for our trip through the alps in the morning. As we went along John spoke of times, while in Germany in the army, they traveled to some of the cities we passed. All of a sudden he said look to your left the Salzburg Castle should be there, holy cats he was right remembered after 50 years, guess this old guy still has some brain power left! and here it is!
There were many lovely sites along the way as we made our way to Chur. We arrived in Chur and since reception was closed when we arrived at the hotel in Chur the keys were left in an envelope, perfect instructions and we found our way in through the back of the building and to our room, falling asleep in seconds!
We woke up to a beautiful view from our hotel room in Chur Switzerland. An excellent breakfast was included with our room, then we took a taxi to the train station for the Bernina Express and the beautiful climb unto the highest train pass in the alps. We would make our way From the Swiss Alps down through the Italian Alps.
The Berninai railway is a single track 1000 mm (3 feet by 3 3/8 in) metro gauge railway that is part to the Rhaetian Railway. It runs several times a day. The cars have rounded glass windows so you can see the spectacular views of the alps. Reaching a height of 7,392 feet above sea level, it is the highest railway crossing in Europe It also ranks as the highest adhesion railway, with inclines of up to 7%, one of the steepest adhesion railways in the world.
As in so many of our travels like Alaska and other high altitude roadways, we are amazed at the hikers and bikers that manage to navigate the mountains. Here is a picture of one brave soul pushing his bike through the snow. He is actually on the bike/hiking path, only issue—he is probably two weeks early and that what he cannot see yet is a large snow drift ahead!! The pictures tell the story much better then we could write it.
We continued the drop from the pass down into Tirano, Italy. Arriving in this small recreational town, we found a local restaurant and enjoyed a calzone and bottle of local wine.
We caught a 3:08 PM train for Milan for a quick overnight stop to spend 15 minutes viewing the Last Supper by Leonardo DiCaprio, oops..we mean the real Leonardo da Vinci
We arrived about 6 pm in Milan. We got off the train and “Holy Daylights” a football game had ended or was about to begin and there were thousands of fans chanting and marching around with football jerseys and flags in and around the station and pouring out into the streets. Outside the station, the entire piazza was crowded with fans, eating at food booths and drinking lots of beer.
It took us a while to get our bearings because of the crowds. Our Airbnb was only about 500 yards from the train station. We located the flat and were greeted by one of the owners who passed the keys and we decided on an early dinner. We found a restaurant on Yelp that was close and was well reviewed. It turned out to be a great experience, a lovely shrimp appetizer, salad, and fresh local fish. Of course accompanied with lots of great local red wine! A nice start to Italy.
The Last Supper
The next morning we headed to the train station to find the metro to see the Last Supper. It took us a while but we finally found the metro line and headed out to Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie. When we arrived we obtained our tickets and waited for our scheduled tour. The tour takes place in the ancient Dominican monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. You are permitted 15 minutes to view the work of art with a guide telling the story behind the creation of the mural. It was fantastic, it was originally painted between 1494 and 1498.
The Last Supper is the result of a long study on the traditional iconography of this theme, begun by Leonardo in around 1490.
Unlike his previous paintings, in which the moment of identification of treacherous Judas was depicted, Leonardo chooses to represent the immediately preceding moment, that of the announcement: “…one of you will betray me”.
This upsetting revelation offers the cue to enable Leonardo to focus is attention on the passions that are unleashed in the group of apostles on hearing the announcement.
The expressions on their faces, their postures and the movement of their hands express those “moti dell’animo” (emotions) that were the most important and innovative fields of investigation in the Maestro’s work.
Then the clever use of perspective contributes to making spectators feel part of the scene, recreating a continuity between the real space of the refectory and the space of the painting.
Cenacolo Vinciano Project
We both had seen photographs of The Last Supper, but had no idea of the size. Not knowing it was painted as a fresco on a wall in the monastery, we were in awe of it’s survival, especially in World War II, when a bomb hit the wall behind it, not destroying the painting.
Restoration from the 1500’s forward consisted of repainting sections, it became dark and difficult to see some of the most interesting parts. The last restoration of the work was completed in 1999, after 20 years of hard work. During that restoration all the previous restoration work was removed allowing the very bright portions that had survived from the original paintwork to emerge. We were able to take pictures without flash.