Austria

DAY 111: WILLKOMMEN IN WIEN!


Wonderful Vienna…

We’re in Vienna! Capital of modern-day Austria and the last great imperial capital of Europe. We’ve both been really looking forward to our 4 day sojourn here in Vienna as this is a city rich in history and with enough museums, palaces and stately buildings to keep us busy for months if we wanted to extend our stay.

 

Willkommen in Wien 

 

We caught the train from Salzburg today and spent 4 hours watching the grand mountains of the Austrian Alps giving way to hills and, eventually, to flat fields. Vienna lies in the flat part of Austria – two thirds of the country is mountainous, with only a third of it being flat enough to sustain large farms, industry and a big city like Vienna. We arrived in Vienna around lunchtime, found our hotel, checked in and settled in for a heart meal of Wiener schnitzel (what else?!) and goulash (the Hungarian influence is quite strong here in terms of cuisine – a legacy from the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire no doubt).

 

Lunch in Vienna MUST include a Weiner Schnitzel – it’s the law (or at least it should be)!


 

After lunch we caught the metro into the centre of town and decided to fortify ourselves with some caffeine from an authentic Wiener kaffeehaus (translation = Viennese coffee house). The Wiener kaffeehaus is a typical institution of Vienna that played an important role in shaping Viennese culture; it was in these cafes that poets, writers, philosophers and men of influence met to discuss important things, and to ponder great thoughts. Unlike some other cafe traditions around the world, here in Vienna it is completely normal for a customer to linger alone for hours and study the omnipresent newspaper. The place we chose had the typical marble table tops, stuffed chairs, newspapers and waiters in bow ties that you would expect from a Wiener kaffeehaus. It was great! We spent so long in the coffee house that it didn’t leave us much time for sightseeing, so we decided to do a quick tour around the old town and just check out a couple of the major sights. We’ve got 3 more days to see the city, so no need to rush!

 

The Viennese coffee house has been described as “a place where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill”. We like that idea!


 

Located in the South-Eastern corner of Austria, at the very heart of Central Europe, Vienna is built along the banks of the mighty Danube. Due to its strategic position this has been an important trade city and a cultural crossroads for millennia. There has been a city here since about 500BC, with the Celts first settling in the area and then the Romans establishing a fortified frontier city called Vindobona in 15BC to guard the Roman Empire against Germanic tribes to the North. It remains today a melting pot, where Eastern Europe meets Western Europe and a third of the population claims Hungarian, Czech, Slovakian and/or Turkish heritage.

Modern-day Vienna has a population of about 3 million (around 38% of Austria’s total population of 8 million live in the greater Vienna metropolitan area), and often ranks in the Top 10 of the World’s Most Liveable Cities. Certainly from what we saw today this seems to be a wonderful city – clean, safe, easy to navigate, with lots wide boulevards, parks and beautiful historical buildings.

 

The wide boulevards and lovely buildings of modern Vienna.

 

The old town is full of little alleys and tiny retailers like this antique shop.

 

Just another one of Vienna’s beautiful old buildings.

 

The innere stadt (translation = inner city) of Vienna is the geographical and historical centre of the city; it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site – listed in 2001 to protect its unique cityscape. Home of the Hapsburg Dynasty* for 600 years, Vienna was the political centre of the Holy Roman Empire from the 15th to 18th century, as well as the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This incredible history has left the city with a rich architectural and cultural heritage that we are keen to sample – just like the the 5 million other tourists that visit Vienna every year! 

*The House of Hapsburg was one of the most important royal houses of Europe. The throne of the Holy Roman Empire was continuously occupied by the Hapsburgs between 1438 and 1740. The house also produced kings of Bohemia, England, Germany, Hungary, Croatia, Ireland, Portugal and Spain; as well as rulers of several Dutch and Italian regions. The House of Hapsburg became extinct in the 18th century, leaving behind a rich cultural, arts and music legacy.

 

The Kunsthistorisches Museum is Vienna’s premier historical art museum.

 

The National Library of Austria  was once the Royal Library of the Haspburgs. It contains collections of ancient and rare books, as well as a papyrus collection and aa set of maps and globes dating from the 14th century.


 

This grand statue of Austrian Empress Maria Theresa is in the centre of the square named in her honour. Maria Theresa was the only female ruler of the Haspburg Dynasty. She ruled for 40 years in the early 1700s.


 

 

Thanks to the Hapsburg’s passionate investment in the arts and music, Vienna played an essential role as a leading European music centre, from the great age of Viennese Classicism through to the early part of the 20th century. Music is one of Vienna’s legacies – the evidence is everywhere in the city. Musical prodigies including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schoenberg all came to this magnificent city to be inspired and ply their trade. To this day theatre, opera, classical music and fine arts are still highly prized here and there are classical music concertos, operas and ballets on virtually every night. They also have lots of balls here – that’s right: balls (think big poofy dresses, cummberbunds and bow ties, and lots of champagne). Apparently there are more than 200 balls held in Vienna every year! Unfortunately we didn’t bring our formal attire with us, otherwise we might have signed up for one of those…

 

The State Opera House, Vienna. Pretty grand.


 

The Austrian National Parliament building. Also pretty grand.

 

The Vienna Town Hall (Rathaus) was built in 1872 in a Gothic style.

 

 

As well as being a city of music, of art, and of balls, Vienna is also a city of Churches. The fact that the head of the Holy Roman Empire was a Hapsburg for 300 years obviously meant lots of churches had to be built here in their home town! We chose the 3 most epic churches to visit today (Karlskirche, Stephansdom and Votivkirsche), and left the palaces and museums for tomorrow and Saturday.

 

Karlskirche (translation = St Charles’s Church) is a Baroque church located on the south side of the innere stadt. It was built in 1713.


 

The Baroque interior of Karlskirche.


 

Votivkirche (translation = the Votive Church) is a Gothic church built in the 19th century. Following the attempted assassination of Emperor Franz Joseph in 1853, the Emperor’s brother Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian,commissioned the building of this church to thank God for saving the Emperor’s life.


 

Stephansdom (translation = St Stephen’s Cathedral) is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna. This Romanesque and Gothic cathedral was built in the 14th century atop an even older church from the 1100’s.

 

The interior of the Gothic/Romanesque Stephansdom.


 

You may have heard that Vienna has some of the best museums and art collections in Europe; well it turns out that Vienna’s Museumsquartier is the eighth largest cultural area in the world. So for our adventures tomorrow we are going to go exploring the museums of Vienna. Tune in tomorrow night for another update….

 

Tune in for more from Vienna tomorrow!

Categories: Austria

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1 reply »

  1. See you wearing your jumpers regularly now, obviously autumn is already there & making itself felt. Cannot believe you forgot to pack a ball gown & tails in your backpacks…. do you at least now how to waltz?

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