After it was time to say goodbye to The Czech Republic and the amazing city of Prague, it was time to take on the 4 hour drive to Wein (Vienna), Austria. Now as most of you have heard, Vienna and the whole of Austria is supposed to be a beautiful place to see. When we arrived in the city, we had a good portion of the day left to get some sites in, but our first order of business was to drive around and look for a room!
Now needless to say, finding a room should be a very easy task, especially in a large city such as Vienna. This particular weekend though, Vienna was the host to some major gathering (If I remember correctly it had something to do with politics) so getting a room was quite the challenge. But… we ended up finding a place which will turn out to be our favorite hotel chain to stay at in Europe, IBIS Hotels! (Good quality and good prices!)
Here is the first view of the Danube River! (A must see, because after all it’s the Danube!)
And a few more of out first steps walking around downtown!
And as it turns out, all of those rumors about what a beautiful city this really was, were an understatement… This. Was. Spectacular. After each city block and around every corner, it just seemed to get even more stunning.
And then there was building that looked like this…
The city was pure class and it liked to show off.
The history of Vienna and Austria as a whole, is certainly at the top of things I find most fascinating. Apart from being regarded as the City of Music because of its musical legacy, Vienna is also said to be the City of Dreams because it is home to the worlds first psycho-analyst – Sigmund Freud. The city’s history lie in the early Celtic and Roman settlements that transformed into a Medieval and Baroque city.
As you can see below, smack dab in the middle of the city are ruins of these times and it’s really a sight to see!
We are heading for the Historic Centre of Vienna on foot, which if you can is the only way to see these magnificent places because you get to stop at anything along the way… such as these “horse stables” that were also right in the middle of the city. But when they look like this, there isn’t a more perfect place for them to be!
Once we arrive at the city center, we get to see this little place, better known as St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
It is rather difficult to get in a good picture of this place unless you can get high in the city, because it is right in the middle of everything. Along with its multi colored tile roof, this building has become one of the cities most recognizable symbols, and it’s east to see why. And if you prefer, instead of walking around downtown, you can also take this!
*Take note… The Cathedral is (or was) being cleaned due to smog and such but they cover it up with sheets of printed photos of the cathedral itself so you could still see the entire building, even though half of it was covered up! Genius!
They are lined up outside of the cathedral!
Unlike Prague, Paul did not make me wait to go into this site, and I’m glad he didn’t because while we were inside, a church service was taking place and the pipe organ was in play which sounded just heavenly! The sight on the inside was simply magical.
The lighting through the stained glass windows made the entire inside glow, and everything was almost dancing with movement with every color of the rainbow. Along with the music and the silence in between prayers, you felt as though you were in another world all together.
The current Romanesque and Gothic Cathedral was initiated by Duke Rudolf IV between 1339-1365 and stands on the ruins of two earlier churches consecrated in 1147. Standing at 446 ft tall, the cathedral’s massive south tower is the highest point of Vienna’s skyline. There are 23 bells in the towers with the largest being named for St. Mary and hangs in the north tower. Weighing in at 44,380 lbs, it is the largest in Austria and the second largest swinging bell in all of Europe.
*Composer Ludwig van Beethoven discovered the totality of his deafness here when he saw birds flying out of the bell tower as a result of the bells’ tolling but could not hear them.
And onward we went! But first, a few more of our walk in the centre.
And of course, more flower boutiques!
Now it is time to see where the Royals lived! But on our way we ran into these lovely sights!
And the sculptures in the park in front were no less spectacular…
And finally, we are here. The Hofburg Palace.
The Hofburg Palace is the former imperial palace in the centre of Vienna which was built-in the 13th century and continually expanded over the centuries. Once the seat of power of the Habsburg dynasty rulers, it is now the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria. This wasn’t however the primary residence of the royals, as it was only used in the winter. Schonbrunn Palace was used in the summer which we will see tomorrow morning before heading out!
The size of this place is daunting… The above pictures are only of the Neue Wing, but there are countless other wings as well, one being where the Austrian Crown Jewels are held. Since we had so much more to see before nighttime sets in, we just took in the views from outside before continuing our walk!
Next up is a great statue of one of the most important people in European history, Empress Maria Theresa. (You’ll really have to excuse these photos… I clearly lapsed in the camera department.)
So, Maria Theresa was the only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions and the last of the House of Habsburg. She was the official sovereign of.. (get a pencil and paper!) Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Transylvania, Mantua, Milan, Lodomeria and Galicia, the Austrian Netherlands and Parma. By marriage, she was also the Duchess of Larraine, Grand Duchess of Tuscany and Holy Roman Empress. How’s that for a resume!
Maria and her husband had eleven daughters and five sons. You’ve probably heard of her youngest daughter, non other than Marie Antoinette. Two of her sons also went on to become Holy Roman Emporers, Joseph II & Leopold II. She was also the absolute sovereign, ruling with only herself and a council of advisors. Maria Theresa reigned from October 1740 until her death in 1780.
If you ever get a few moments of spare time, I suggest reading a little more about her. She is a fascinating woman who did much for her people, and wrote many pages in the history books herself.
Onward we go…
These are the types of things you see while walking around Vienna… The architecture is simply astounding and it’s just as if you were strolling through the chapters of a fairy tale…
Another grand wonder, the City Hall.
Another unexpected gem we ran into, was the Votive Church.
You’ll have to excuse the sign, it was a rather odd place for an advertisement…
The Votive Church has a relatively short history with comparison to other building in the area. Following the attempted assassination attempt of Emperor Franz Joseph in 1853, the emperors brother inaugurated a campaign to create a church to thank God for saving the Emperors life.
Not to shabby if you ask me!
After a long day taking in the sights, it was time for us to head to bed. We had a wonderful meal at a local place close to our hotel. After filling up our bellies, it was time for sleep!
Continuing with our journey in Vienna the following day, no tour would be complete without seeing the Grand Palace! And by Grand Palace, we mean this…
Schonbrunn Palace is the former Imperial summer residence known to the royals as “The Hunting Lodge, as it was where they resided in the summer. The palace has 1,441 rooms and is one of the most important architectural, cultural and historical monuments in the country. When Maria Theresa married, it was given to her as a wedding gift. Again, not a bad deal!
Photos are strictly prohibited inside, so my photos are limited. One very interesting detail about this palace, other than this is where Marie Antoinette grew up, was that Mozart gave his very first recital here at the age of 9, to non other than the Empress Maria T. Being inside that room was thrilling!
The rose archway…
One of the gardens.
And with that, we are off! After spending the morning at this wonderful place, it was time to say goodbye to Vienna and head a little south-east to Budapest, Hungary.
There will always be a special place in my heart for this city. Every time we leave a city, I add one thing on my “to-do” list if we ever make it back. In Vienna, that would be come back to this place, the Vienna Opera House.
One more photo of a truly magical city…
Goodbye for now, and until next time!