01 February 2010

Wandering around the Innere Stadt

On Sunday the afternoon was spent in the city being a tourist. First were the catacombs of Stephansdom, which you have to pay to go into and you of course cannot just wander around but must be on a tour. It is quite short too. First you see the chapel and the newer part of the catacombs were the priests and cardinals are. Also the imperial family are in this part, which is what you see below (and of course you are not allowed to take photographs down there, out of respect for the dead and all that).

In the coffins are the more important members of the imperial family, but because there were so many of them the majority were embalmed in pieces and sort of spread about amongst cathedrals, like they do with the remains of saints. Lining the walls of the photo above were large copper vessels which apparently are filled with the innards of members of the royal family, preserved in some sort of alcohol.

There were a couple of rooms filled with old pieces of stonework from the church, that have had to be replaced over the years. They keep all the originals down here.

Below you can see down a grate into a pit filled with bones. You see Stephansdom is a real old cathedral and Stephensplatz, the square around the church, used to be a graveyard. Eventually one of the emperors insisted on closing all the graveyards in the city due to disease and of course the smell. So the moved a lot of it underground. If you were important you got a coffin, if not you were just put in one of the pits or rooms as you were. So only a very small part of the catacombs is open for the tour, but you see plenty of bones, just all piled on top of each other.

As the catacombs got full, they took the older bodies and bones and stacked them so as to provide more room. These rooms are called bone-rooms or orsaries (I can't remember the German word, it is close to orsary though, which is a latin word). The picture is very poor quality so you can't very well see that the bumpiness of the walls are the ends of all the bones sticking out.

The tour did not take long at all though, and next thing you know you are climbing up steps and through a big gate and you are back above ground in Stephansplatz.

After a coffee break to warm up because it is really cold here the next stop was the Hofburg, the imperial palace. For the time being I stuck to taking photos of the outside of it though. Inside there are musuems, eventually I will go in.

Next stop (across the road, everything in the inner city is very close together) was the Natural History museum, and I really must begin to find time to visit museums because before you know it my stay here will be over.

Then a walk to Karlsplatz, because usually when one is at Karlsplatz they are underground in the large U-bahn station. At it is actually much nicer above ground - it is a large square with a park (right now full of snow of course) and a very nice church, but you have to pay to get into this one so I will save that for another day.

To end the night was dinner at what is apparently the best schnitzel house in town. And it was very good. The schnitzel had been pounded so thin that it was bigger than a dinner plate.

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