Had an appointment to see some bankers on the Ringstrasse in Vienna. The bank put us up in a 17th century building that had originally been someone’s palace. Boy, we could get used to living like that!
One afternoon, when some plans fell through because we were physically unable to get into another tourist site, we decided to just stroll around Vienna. We passed this memorial to Johannes Strauss, the Waltz King, composer of the Blue Danube Waltz. I remarked to Nancy I had never seen such a statue. Usually they are copper, weathered to a soft green patina, and covered with pigeon droppings. This one was pristine, with a large planter of fresh flowers in front of it.
A local person overheard our conversation, and came over to tell us the story of how that statue had been rescued by a wealthy Japanese businessman, a lover of Strauss’ music, who forked over a few hundred thousand dollars to restore it- on the condition it was gilded. Ever the thrifty Europeans, the city fathers accepted his check- and gilded the statue as required. It is a joke to everyone who lives there, and Strauss would probably be embarrassed if he were to see it now, because it is so over-the-top to the usual memorials.
This same local person told us that just a few blocks further on there was a park at which free concerts were presented on a regular basis throughout the summer months. And he told us there was one such concert scheduled for that very afternoon. Following his directions, we went, and as we neared the entrance, we could hear the strains of a Strauss waltz. Continuing on, we entered the amphitheater where the Vienna Orchestra was presenting an entire afternoon of Strauss’ music. Free! It was delightful.
Where we were staying was virtually the center of the city. We did a "walking tour" that brought us to the 12th century Saint Stephen's Cathedral, with its soaring tower, one of the highest in Europe. What really caught Nancy's eye, however, was a nearby shop that sold exquisite wooden figures, made by Anri Woodcarvers in Italy.
We started collecting these art works and wherever we went after Austria, we would look for shops that carried them. In fact, sometime later, on a trip to Switzerland, we hired a car and drove to the Anri workshops across the Alps in Italy. They conducted a special tour for us, one Nancy will never forget.
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