Monday, November 18, 2019

VIENNA, AUSTRIA: Art, Food and Music

Vienna, Austria. Saint Stephen's Cathedral
Why go to Vienna? The answer is easy--the food, the music, the art and architecture. Vienna, center of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, is still one of Europe’s great capital cities. The glory of its powerful past is reflected in the magnificence of its churches, public buildings, and surrounding parks and plazas. Large and impressive, they form the heart of the city center. Most are constructed of white stone and they tower over plazas and courtyards. In typical Baroque fashion, every ledge, parapet and rooftop is decorated with some sort of statuary.
Ceiling in the foyer of the Vienna Opera House
In early October we spent two days in Vienna with our friends from Berlin, who had been there before and showed us around. (This was our first time in Vienna.) We enjoyed great music ( La Boheme at the sumptuous Vienna opera house, the Haydn Quartet playing in the Brahms Hall at the Vienna Musikverein, and a concert of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at St. Stephen’s Cathedral.)
Vienna is famous for its pastries, most notably Sachertorte, a chocolate cake originally made at the Sacher Hotel
In between, we toured the historic sights of this beautiful city and feasted on schnitzel and other Viennese delights. At our last supper together on Saturday night, I ordered marmeladepalatschinken--a very close relative of the egg pancakes made by Art's grandmother, and just as delicious.
One of the many buildings of the Hofburg Palace complex
Our first day was bright and sunny (although crisp!)--perfect for a walking tour of the city. We joined a small group with an English speaking guide at the Vienna tourist center, and she led us through the labyrinth of streets of the inner city, filling us in on the historic significance of the buildings.
The Baroque Karlskirche (Church of St. Charles)
We woke up to rain on our second day in Vienna, but since our main activity was planned for inside--a trip to see the Red Vienna exhibit--the rain didn’t matter, except that, instead of walking, we took a trolley around the “ring” to the museum. The Ringstrasse is a circular grand boulevard that serves as a ring road around the historic inner district of Vienna. The road is located on sites where medieval city fortifications once stood, including high walls and the broad open field ramparts, criss-crossed by paths that lay before them.
For our visit to Vienna we stayed in the Beethoven Hotel, conveniently located just outside the center of the city. (Vienna's musical history was evident everywhere--we ate breakfast at the Mozart Cafe (coffee, fresh rolls, hard boiled egg), saw statues of Wagner and other composers at the opera house, and visited the church where Haydn performed.) Our stay in Vienna was short but full and we saw a lot. Here are pictures of a few of the many highlights:
Augustinerkirche. In 1634, the Augustinerkirche became the parish church of the imperial church. Many Habsburg weddings took place there. The hearts of 54 members of the royal family are held in special urns in the Herzgruft, or “Heart Room,” in St. George’s Chapel of the Augustinerkirche
One of the Lipizzaner horses going to morning exercise and training for performances in the Winter Riding School at Hofburg Palace.
Royal crown on display at the Emperor's Treasures Museum, a collection of the Habsburg family jewels and other treasures. My favorite treasure was a giant narwhal tusk, once believed to be a unicorn's horn.
The Virgilkapelle, dating back to 1220-1230, was discovered when digging for a new subway in 1973. It has been preserved and has a small museum.
A sampling of delicacies at Meinls Gourmet Nacht, a delicatessen. Upstairs is a restaurant where we had a delicious lunch overlooking the center promenade of Vienna's commercial area.
Inside Saint Stephen's Cathedral at night.
Das Rote Wien (Red Vienna) documents the period of time of social reform in housing, education, health and community life, beginning with the first free elections in 1919. The Social Democratic Labor Party emerged with an absolute majority, creating the possibility to implement many of their ideas from before the First World War, helping to improve the living conditions of the working class.
One of the exhibits at the Vienna Museum. For more about the exhibit click HERE. The photographs, models, books and other objects in the exhibit are all well labelled in both German and English.