The great spire of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral points towards the mottled sky above us. Anička has just finished dragging me around all of the shops in Vienna. Now, it is time to see the sights. Anička knows the city much better than I do – it is as close to Brno as Prague is – and leads me south.
It is not that late but it is a mid-winters day. The sun is already beginning to set as we arrive in a small park. Along one edge is a butterfly house and on another is the Austrian National Library. The butterflies live in their palm house under a huge glass roof held up by green iron girders. It would have been a feat of engineering when it was built.
Framed by a golden sky, the library dwarfs the imperial butterflies. The baroque palace holds more than seven million items, as well as various museums. We spend more time wandering about the park than we should.
A brief walk down the road takes us to Maria-Theresien-Platz, named after the last of the Habsburgs and their only female ruler. Under the statue of Maria Theresa, her figure black against the grapy dusk as she holds out her hand in monarchal benevolence, a harpist plucks. More baroque palaces climb out of the edges of the perfectly landscaped square. This time they are museums.
By the time we arrive at the Rathaus the sun is gone. Vienna’s city hall is lit bright against the night sky. A small market selling artisanal goods sits in the square before it. Hipsters dance to Robyn at a silent disco. Badly, they sing at the top of their voices: “I’m in the corner watching you with her.”
We walk on. With a quick look at Votivkirche over the Sigmund Freud Park we turn back towards Stephansplatz, and the hunger pangs start. But Anička knows what she’s doing and takes us through Vienna’s streets straight towards a little noodle hut on Graben.
We sit on a bench, eat, and watch the tourists rush to their expensive restaurants. Our noodles are easily as good as anything they will be having.
After a quick turn around Stephansplatz to see the spotlit cathedral we begin an aimless wander. We think we spot smoke coming from a building. But it’s disappeared now. We take a closer look and suddenly we’re bathed in a yellow light, surrounded by the smoke. We have stumbled upon an installation by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson called Yellow Fog. The mist rises up from grates surrounding a fire brigade museum.
The night is cold and the backstreets are empty. Still, there are solo violinists here and there. We find a little square and take some time to listen to a string quartet. Too soon we must go home.