Halmstad September 6, 1964
Vien du stadt of miene traumer!
Vienna city of my dreams!
For many years, I have heard people talk about he wonderful cities of Europe, the art and beauty, and old culture af the ancient world, and although Sweden is old too - it is of much later origin then the lands around the Mediterranean, depending much on the climate, the long hard winters, but much has changed since the gulf stream has changed it course and made the climate of Sweden much better.
Well it seemed to me that I being so close to the continent of Europe that I should see a little of it and I chose Vienna as having the most attractions, not so frivolous as Paris and not so hypocritically religious as Rome with the big churches and all the madonnas, that they pray to.
So I made arrangements to take this trip together with a lady named Anna Johnson who also has been in Amerika many years, and is about the same age as I, but she has made many trips in and around Europe and is more used to traveling than I.
We went by train from Halmstad and boarded a plan at Bulltofta airport about ten o'clock the 21st of August and landed in Vienna about 1 o'clock, and there we were met by a Deutsch speaking Swedish young lady and took us to the hotell where we were going to stay during our stay. In the evening we got ready to go to Dinner in a building they call the Rathaus, something like a Courthouse and City Hall combined. Much people and good food and lively music and the wine was free and was good too, some drank enough to get very noisy and you could see that there was many nationalities, as there would be in a place like that. We stayed till about eleven and a few of use walked back to the hotell.
Next morning about 10 the bus brought us all for a sightseeing trip around the city and first we were to see the Schönbrunn Palace where the Kaiser Frans Joseph lived and reigned for over sixty years. He died 1916 and did not see the end of the first world war. Austria was a big country then, but as it always is when one stays in power too long, the country gets stagnant and the people gets discontented, the neighbors seeing this they barge in and take what they can get away with.
Hitler was one that found Austria an easy mark, others did the same, nevertheless, Vienna was terribly bombed during the last war. I think is was by the Russians, for we saw the many places where they had to rebuild and patch up. Even the roof of the St. Peters church had been patched and many other places.
There is one more beautiful church call Votiv church built of white sandstone. It was built by Frans Joseph the 1st in thankfulness for not being assassinated one time when a bullet was aimed at him. Inside was full of little alters and I saw some women go from one to the other to pray and light candles. Also the coffins of some of the royal families are in this church.
From there we went to the St. Stephan's church. There were much people, some took communion and in one part there was a priest giving sermon, a girl who was with us said he talked about how hard it was for the rich man to come into heaven. We did not stay though. From there we went to have dinner in a restaurant and then we went to the Strauss Park where we saw the memorial of Johan Strauss, and later that night we went back, by bus, all of us and heard Strauss music in the same hall where he used to stand and play, but I am getting ahead of my story talking about the churches. It was Friday night that we had dinner at the Rathaus, and Saturday morning a bus with the guide took us all on a sightseeing trip to see Vienna, and of course we had to see the Schönbrunn Castle first. It really is immense, said to contain 1400 rooms. We went through 40 of them. I had never dreamt that so much riches could be gathered under one roof - beautifully painted ceilings, ornaments in pure gold all over the walls, gold on the woodwork, on the furniture, inlaid floors in intricate patterns. Two rooms were in Chinese style, so beautiful that they can not be described, and a big room, the ballroom, with all the mirrors all around. One can picture the elegance of all the elite of the day, the dresses of women who could spend all money they had a heart to, and then, too, the waltzing that was new and largely composed by the Strauss family, both the senior and junior Strauss. But nothing lasts forever and tragedies followed the Kaiser family one after the other.
I asked someone standing nearby how the people could stand for all this luxury and waste (for they had to work for very little wages and I believe that they do so today, too) and he answered me that the people never knew what it was really like in the castle for they never had a chance to go in and see what was going on, and it seems to me that there must have been an immense rivalry amongst the royal families to build bigger castles and churches and cover the walls with gold and silver and jewels and, of course, the old belief that the rulers, kings and Kaisers inherited their thrones and were sent by God and could do no wrong, was a rule that was hard to break, but history shows that it could be done.
Austria today is a small country, and the pomp and old elegance will never come back again, but what remains of it they will revere and cherish. All the old castles and churches, museums and theaters and parks are their pride, but also something that is expensive to maintain, therefor the tourists are a welcome contribution and help and for the tourists a pleasure to take part of. You stand there in amazement and wonder, how could people have had the skill and patience to accomplish all this.
We went one day to the Castle Hofburg to see the Crown jewels and robes of the Kaiser family. The jewels were not all on display except the crown the last kaiser wore on his coronation and a few others but in a separate department was a religious display the like of which I have never dreamt existed, so much carved alabaster set with diamonds and precious stones, all of course, in glass cases, that you could not believe your eyes. Biblical figures like the Lord's Supper and churches with their intricate towers like the Votiv Kirche and figures from life, all hand carved in this material that never changes and nowadays is so scarce the value of it all, is impossible to even guess. And one can not help wonder how these wonderful artists were paid for their work, but my guess is that their wages were held low by those that in those days held the reins.
Next day we went to the National Museum of Art, an impressive building looking from the outside, but the entrance and all the inside, was magnificent, all marble in many colors and gold ornaments all over. Unwittingly, the words came to me, "I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls." And all this halls filled with paintings from Rembrandt, Raphael, Ruben and many others, old masterpieces from a bygone era.
From there we went shopping but as we walked along we kept saying we are not on the right street. We had been told that there were big stores but we did not see any anywhere. It seemed that we thought that a city like Vienna should have big stores like big cities in America, but it was not so, there were no big stores and the stores certainly are a barometer as to the riches of the people that inhabited that city.
And not to forget the last day, we went to see the International Garden Show that covered many acres. Most outstanding was a newly built tower, 260 meters high, restaurant in two stories, built near the top of the tower, and this restaurant so that it revolved and that way we could sit in one place and have a view of the whole city and surroundings and des skönen blauen Donau. We saw more than one river and inquired what river that was, and were answered that it was the "old Donau". It seemed that the city did not like where it has flowed, so they had built a canal and led the Donau where they liked it to be, but it was blue that day, even though the weather was very hot and there was a haze caused by the heat over the city. We ended that last day with dinner in an Hungarian restaurant where they served goulash and all the wine you could drink and listen to Zigenar or Gypsy music.
Oh, one day I had entirely forgotten was the day we went up in the hills. We started in the morning for Helden Plaza, the most beautiful square I have ever seen. There was a part adjoining (the square) with fountains and Statues of the men that have shaped the destinies of the country in the late wars,and then all these magnificent buildings in every direction - Opera museum, the Rathaus, or town hall in the background.
Well, we started our trip and were soon out of the city and where the the vinelands began for miles and miles there was only grapes strung up on poles and once in a while a cornfield with ripe corn and this was in the latter part of August, I assumed the climate was about the same as it was in Massachusetts. We stopped at an old inn to rest and nearby was a town named Rust. We continued up higher and higher, there was many hairpin curves and roundabout ways. Sometimes I was afraid to look down, but had a driver the was evidently used to the territory, when I watched him swing the buss around it looked like he almost enjoyed it, but perhaps it only looked that way. And after a while we had reached the top of the highest hill and there we stopped at an old fort, many hundreds of years old, walls over a meter thick with small lookout windows where they had a view on all sides. I suppose that i olden days they always had to watch for enemies coming on horseback and (being) attacked. How different it is today, when there only seems to be safety underground and inside mountains, but a few hundred years from now there probably are no mountains to hide in. It is frightening to read the papers today, when a certain man shouts and brags that he has the power to destroy the whole earth. Perhaps he is laughing up his sleeve, "what fools these mortals be!"
And when you have a chance to take a trip, it need not be more than one, and see a city like Vienna and see all that human hands can accomplish, and the world is so full of wonderful things, that a mind that can harbor the faintest thought of destroying it is not of sound mind and is a menace to mankind.
Well, that same day we stopped at an old inn and a typical Austrian dinner, some kind of gulasch made with veal and tomatoes and hot peppers, nothing but rye bread without butter to go with (it) except a salad of lettuce and olive oil as dressing and of course there was wine, a big glass and if I had taken two of them I would have been under the table, but as I took only one I managed to sit up straight.
And then there was the Pest pole. It was at least four stories high and carved with human beings clinging to it. It was to memorialize that disease took so many thousands of lives, so long ago.
And then there was the museum we went to. (It) was to my mind the most attractive of all. In the entrance was many columns in marble in so many beautiful colors imaginable, from nuances in blue and green, red, yellow and I who was painting pictures at home it was a revelation that marble could be so heavenly, and I was thinking to myself who created all this and as we went inside and looked at all the works of art, some very old, some of newer origin. What attracted my attention most was the picture of Magdalena, who was judged to be a sinner and some men there wanted to throw stones at her. Then Jesus arrived and reproached them, saying, "Let her be! Is there any of you who are without sin, cast the first stone," and the men walked shamefaced away...