Vienna, Austria – Rocks, Sloths, and Cosmic Jazz

With the forecast calling for 96F, we decided to stay inside on Wednesday…except not in our typical fashion which usually includes sleeping late and watching television on the iPad. We actually ventured out and visited the Naturhistorisches Museum. Okay, we did sleep in a bit.

The Natural History Museum is located in an area call Museumsquartier, which contains many other high quality museums in a compact area in central Vienna. The NHM sits on Maria Theresien Platza, opposite the Art museum. In the middle of the square towers a huge bronze statue,19m tall and weighing ~44 tons. This is a tribute to Empress Theresa, who, among many other things, reformed the Austrian school system and abolished tuition costs. These reforms are still in effect (look it up, America!) 20140613-110029.jpgThe NMH started collecting artifacts about 250 years ago and now has over 30 million objects.

If you have ever experienced intense joy from sitting down and meticulously organizing something, this is the place for you. If you have ever spent hours separating buttons into classification of color, size and function…this is the place for you. If you have ever gleefully cataloged your entire magazine / record collection, or color-coordinated your bookshelves…this is the place for you. Incidentally, I have done all of the above, yet my bedroom looks like a bomb has hit it. The mineral galleries at NMH sent me in to paroxysms of delight.

20140613-111919.jpgRoom after room of identical cabinets, filled with mineral and rock samples, each neatly labeled with it’s name, weight and where it was found. The insect collection was almost too much…can you imagine the patience and skill to catalogue these guys?

20140613-112415.jpgThere was also a gallery dedicated to meteorites; I managed to find one from Tennessee!

20140613-112616.jpgWe spent about 3 hours wandering around this beautiful building, which, in itself, is a delight to experience.



20140613-113002.jpgAfter another failed attempt at finding new shoes, we headed home for the day. Our evening was spent relaxing with our awesome hosts, throwing the ball back and forth to the dogs. Lui, the Jack Russell, was a little shy at first, but we’ve made a breakthrough and now he won’t leave my side. He’s currently curled up with his head on my leg as I write this blog. Aren’t dogs just awesome?

The next day it was slightly cooler, with a good breeze going…a perfect day for the world’s oldest zoo! Tiergarten Schönbrunn is a zoo located on the grounds of the famous Schönbrunn Palace, the grounds of which we would enjoy walking through after our visit. Founded as an imperial menagerie in 1752, it is the oldest zoo in the world. It was the prettiest, cleanest, zoo I have ever visited. Every staff member we encountered was smiling and friendly, and most importantly, the animals looked happy and well cared for. Modern habitats have been incorporated into the Baroque grounds in a very pleasing way, it was like no other zoo I’ve been to.

20140613-114535.jpgThis guy was in panda heaven…that would be like Lincoln buried under a pile of pizzas. There were two baby lemurs that took turns launching themselves at each other and knocking the other off the climbing rope. We probably watched them tumble around for 10 minutes.20140613-114811.jpgWe watched the seal feeding for a while, which was more of a seal show. The trainer would get the big bull up on the rocks and then throw his fish into the water. This 4000kg mammoth would kersploosh into the pool, soaking the squealing kids in the front row. It was great fun.20140613-115135.jpgHere are some more favorites, including the very rare Levy Turtle.



20140613-115405.jpgLast, but definitely not least, we wandered into the bird house. In between two aviaries was a room strung with ropes and burlap sacks…could it be? IT IS!!! SLOTH TIME!!!!!


20140613-115816.jpgYOU GUYS! If I lived in Vienna, I’d buy an annual pass and come see these fellas everyday.

We stayed up until closing time and was finally ushered out into the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace.

20140613-120219.jpgThe former imperial 1,441-room Rococo summer residence of the Austrian royalty is massive and yellow. The grounds, which are free, are exquisite and we spent about 45 minutes wandering through rose gardens, past greenhouses, under tree tunnels and over broad gravel paths.20140613-121058.jpg





Our entertainment for the evening was a 100th anniversary performance of the Sun Ra Arkestra at Porgy and Bess, a jazz club in central Vienna. Sun Ra, was an interesting gent…I’ll let you read about him and his Arkestra at your leisure. While Sun Ra himself has passed, his long time collaborator, Marshall Allen, leads the group at 90 years young. It was a cosmic-jazzy good-time for all!!


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