Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wien: Waltz, Mozart, and Coffeehouses

Since moving across the pond, Keenan and I have been diligent about working through our list of European capital cities; so far we've visited Paris, Madrid, Rome, and Moscow, to name a few. To add to the list, last week we took two days off to visit the graceful Austrian capital of Vienna and Budapest, the cosmopolitan Hungarian capital. Two cities, some 3 hours away by train, have a shared history under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, yet a world apart (we’ll write more on that later). 

Vienna, also known as Wien, is one of Europe’s grandest capital cities and the former stomping ground of the Habsburg dynasty. Grandeur is what I would use to describe this beautiful, bright, and orderly city. There’s plenty to do in Vienna, especially for art and classical music lovers. Surely, the former Hofburg Palace, now home to the National Library and six other museusms, could keep you busy for days!

Braving the cold (and snow!), we bundled up to start exploring Innere Stadt, or 1st District, encompassed by the famous Ringstrasse built to replace the city wall erected during the 13th century. The city centre (1st District) is compact, so you can easily see the sights on foot, or take the tram No. 1 or No. 2, which takes you around Ringstrasse.

Here's a little architectural tour:

Starting from St. Stephen's Cathedral, its famous cathedral in the middle of town, we walked along the pedestrianized shopping street Karntnerstrasse to the Vienna State Opera House.

Around 2PM, we took refugee in this West Coast-style brew house, the 1516 Brewery, for pints and lunch of traditional Austrian food:

Back along Philihamonikerstr., we walked towards the Hofburg Palace, first stop the beautiful Albertina Museum, then through the Burggarten to the Burgkapelle, and Kaiserappartements. Wow, this palace is impressive!

I love this photo and the contrast of the red bug and the white snow:
Beautiful Vienna:

They say that Austiran have always been born with a coffee spoon in their mouth; drinking coffee is a central part of everyday Viennese culture. We spent the afternoon at Cafe Central, a Viennese institution where Herrs, Trotsky, Freud, and Beethoven used to write and compose music. Along with their coffee, the Vienesse are well-known for their pastries; we couldn't refuse the wonderfully yummy toffeetorte when it arrived to our table. Ummm...


Darkness was upon us when we made our way to see the Rathaus (City Hall) and Parliament:

We happened to visit Vienna during the Vienna Opera Ball, an annual Austrian society event, which takes place on the Thursday preceding Ash Wednesday. Keenan and I happened to walk by on our way to the Musikverein. We got a few glimpse of ladies in their floor length ballgowns and men in dapper suits -- regal and opulent, just like the city itself.

Our last stop before our evening concert was the St. Charles Church (Karlskirche in German), just across from Musikverein. The church itself is an example of outstanding baroque churches boasting a dome and elongated ellipsoid.


One of the highlights of our trip was attending a concert at Musikverein. We saw a string quartet playing highlights from Schumann, Hayden, and Beethoven, unfortunately, Mozart was on strike that night. The acoustic in this building is amazing! This is the only place where it is acceptable to close your eyes with your hands covering your face. Go ahead, it is a sign that you are thoroughly enjoying the music, just refrain from breathing loudly like the gentleman who was sitting next to me.


We spent the second day in Vienna walking around Fleichmarkt, Judenplatz, Pestaule (another church) to Kolhmarkt where I found a cute wine bar on Graben, but it would be wrong to have wine before noon.


Our time in Vienna was brief, but we enjoyed every moment of it, and looking forward to another trip to Vienna during the summer months. Later in the day, we board a fast train to Budapest where we spent the remainder of our weekend.


By the way, Happy Lunar New Year! Wishing you much prosperity and happiness for the Year of the Tiger.

1 comment:

  1. I love this blog. I must write that on every single post I put up on here! Your travels through Europe sound amazing. Good for you guys for treking these sites through the cold! -Mejgan