Vienna, or “Wien” as the natives call it, is the perfect place give into your indulgences.
Foodies, music and history lovers or anyone looking for a good time will find nirvana in this city seemingly designed for hedonists.
Be sure to pack a pair of good walking shoes in your luggage (I recommend the Travelpro Hydrogen Lite 22″ Expandable Carry-on) as Vienna is best seen by foot.
Although the Hapsburgs no longer rule the extinct Austro-Hungarian Empire their existence is easy to see in government buildings and entertainment venues. Make it grandiose and then pile on the gilding seemed to be their central design theme.
Start your tour at the Hofburg Imperial Palace. Once the royals’ Winter Palace, it is hard to miss in the center of Vienna. But should you fail to find the huge fountains and statues of mounted military leaders marking the entrance, simply ask a passing Viennese for “Die Burg”. Although there are over 2,000 rooms in the imposing complex of many buildings, you can visit only a few.
However, do not despair as one of them includes the arena where the famed Lipizzaner Stallions train.
Every morning, except for Mondays and during the months of July and August, a ticket will allow you entrance into the stands of the Spanish Riding School. Sometimes the music of Chopin accompanies the horse’s high stepping maneuvers in classical dressage.
Vienna celebrates music. While Mozart, Brahms and Beethoven were among her celebrated residents it was the waltzes of the family Strauss that continue to give Vienna her youthful zest. Pay homage to the Johann Strauss II by heading over to Stadtpark. There ablaze under a coat of gold and with a violin tucked under his chin a statue of the “Blue Danube’s Waltz”’ composer appears ready to burst into joyful melodies sure to get everyone dancing.
Speaking of dancing, Vienna enjoys a winter season filled with hundreds of balls. Adorn your garment bag (see: Delsey Helium Pro H-Lite Rolling Garment Bag) with the proper attire of gowns and tuxedos. If you are more gangling than graceful on the dance floor sign up for lessons from a local master.
Many choose to enjoy the music by attending a concert with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at the Musikverein. If you cannot make it to their globally televised New Year’s Concert do treat yourself to a ticket to another event. Sitting in the “Großer Saal” (Large Hall) is a unique experience due to the opulence of the surroundings with massive crystal chandeliers and cherubs and lush paintings adorning walls and ceilings. Plushness is scant in the upper balconies where hard wooden stools provide individual seating.
Even without much furniture the grandeur of Schönbrunn Palace is unmistakable. A multitude of taped tours cover a series of the 1,400 rooms in the palace such as the stunning State Apartments. Marie Theresa, one of Europe’s most powerful monarchs, transformed the rather bleak surroundings into glowing examples of Rococo styled where bright colors dominate. She was also a master arranger of marriages. One of her daughters became the last queen of France – Marie Antoinette.
Her thoughts of “let them eat cake,” probably started young.
Like with music, Vienna’s fascination with elaborate pastries and coffee are deeply rooted in the past.
Café Demel, outside the Hofburg Palace, was Emperor Franz Joseph’s favorite supplier of Sacher Torte. Dense layers of chocolate cake are separated by a thin coating of apricot jam and then covered with a dark chocolate icing. Completing the decadent departure from a diet is a dollop of whipped cream. A cup of coffee, with or without whipped cream, is the crowning touch.
Vienna’s caffeine revolution began as a siege by Turkish troops ended. Their remaining sacks, of unknown beans, were thrown into fires. Luckily, the tantalizing aroma quickly halted the destruction.
Now coffeehouses abound in almost every neighborhood. It is perfectly acceptable to sit for hours, however with all Vienna has to offer you will not want to linger.
The adventures continue next week as we visit some of the most haunted places in America.