I am embarking on a new endeavor! I’ve added a section to my blog devoted entirely to travel, specifically to individual cities. I plan to call this new feature “City Scene”. My goal is to highlight a different city each month. They will be in no particular order, but I’m starting with Vienna. It was the arrival city on my very first European tour, so it made quite an impression. Here is my summation of Vienna:
With great anticipation, my husband and I departed Kansas City on a Monday morning and arrived in Vienna, Austria the following morning their time. We were the last of our tour group to check-in and, darn the luck, had to accept the “Brahms Suite” at the Radisson Blu Palais since all the regular rooms had been assigned. Gorgeous rooms! Before we could get settled in, our tour guide lead most of the group on an unofficial pre-tour and left us behind, so we just ventured out by ourselves – a blessing in disguise really, as we felt a certain thrill in discovering the sights of the city on our own, a bit like Christopher Columbus except there were thousands of other explorers right there with us.
Across the street from the hotel was Stadtpark, the first public park in Vienna. Because Johann Strauss II gave his first concert there in 1868, a gilded bronze statue of him was erected, as well as numerous other monuments of composers who had entertained there. From the park we found our way to the center of the city where we were fascinated by the sheer number, size and architecture of the ancient buildings, sprinkled with colorful modern shops along the way. We snapped pictures endlessly even though we didn’t know exactly what we were seeing until the next day when our guide, Hannes, officially started the tour with a walk through downtown Vienna.
Most impressive on the tour was St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a massive Gothic structure in the heart of the city dating back to the year 1147. With its intricately tiled roof and tall south tower, the magnificent cathedral is one of the most important and beloved landmarks in all of Austria.
Equally imposing was the Hofburg complex which includes the Imperial Palace (home to the Habsburg Holy Roman Empire since the 13th century), the Imperial Chapel (home of the Vienna Boys’ Choir), the Spanish Riding School (with the famous Lipizzaner stallions), and the Imperial Treasury. Our first thought upon seeing both the cathedral and the Hofburg complex was how do we capture the size of these things in a photo?
That evening we had dinner at Heurige Mayer am Pfarrplatz, one-time home of Ludwig Van Beethoven where he began working on his Ninth Symphony in 1817. Beethoven moved 65 times in Vienna seeking privacy, and died in an apartment during a violent snowstorm that battered the city in 1827.
The next day in Vienna, our tour group crossed the Danube River to visit the former summer residence of the Habsburg imperial family: the Palace of Schonbrunn. After walking through the extensive gardens and fountains, we hoofed it up the hill to the Gloriette, which seemed to be an 18th century version of a gazebo, but elaborate, VERY elaborate! From the top of this hill was an extraordinary view of Vienna.
Back down the hill, we toured the inside of the Palace, a 1,441-room baroque style monstrosity built between 1696 and 1712 by Emperor Leopold I for his son, Joseph I. It was stunning and filled with Bohemian crystal chandeliers, porcelain tile fireplaces, lavish gold leaf ornamentation and hundreds of original oil paintings. We saw the Hall of Mirrors where in 1772, 6-year-old Mozart played the harpsichord for Empress Maria Theresa. It is said that after he played for her, he crawled onto her lap for a hug! We also saw the bedrooms of some of Maria Theresa’s 16 children, one of whom was Marie Antoinette, the future Queen of France who was beheaded by her own people during the French Revolution.
After a late lunch at Restaurant Ofenloch, we had a free evening. A group of us purchased tickets to a concert by the Vienna Symphony at the famous Vienna Concert Hall (Wien Konzerthaus). Beautiful!
We topped off the evening with friends and a little wine & cheese in our suite, where we discussed our favorite moments in this memorable “City Scene”!
(Note: all photos are by me or my husband)