After the end of a long semester and a never ending masters’ thesis, My Central European Capital Hopping Tour was next up. Capital Hopping – Vienna, Bratislava, Prague and Budapest before heading back home!
Vienna was the capital of the mighty Hapsburg Empire which ruled Europe for approx 600 years since the 14th century. During these six centuries, people from the various corners of the empire traveled to the capital and settled here. The original Viennese are known to be a unique Hapsburg cocktail – mix of Hungarians, Slovaks, Italians, Poles, Jews and Serbians. These people brought to Vienna their food, clothing, culture and traditions making Vienna a melting-pot capital, giving birth to the rich Viennese culture! To think about it, no other place has anything named after a city. We have the French cuisine or the Spanish culture or the Dutch traditions. But here, in this elegant capital of Austria, I was treated to some of the best Viennese stuff!
In this post, I will explore a majestic Gothic cathedral, visit the Habsburgs in their palaces, marvel at their crowns and jewels, ride on the grand circular Ringstrasse and then return after sundown to click a few slow shutter shots! Lets go folks, it time to hang with the Habsburgs
St. Stephen Cathedral: A massive cathedral where you would need a wide angle lens. This is the most famous landmark in the city. The elegant designs in the interiors will surprise you. The roof and towers are supported by tall columns minutely carved till the top. One of the first renaissance period structures where the creator Anton Pilgrim was allowed to shine with a self portrait on one of the columns. First instances of humanism in architectural history.
Imperial Complex: The Habsburgs had 2 luxurious palaces. The main palace was called Hofburg palace is the epic-centre of the old city. The Palace was last used by the royal family in 1918. Today it houses the offices of the Austrian President and a hundred government workers. But you can still visit the Boy’s Choir, Spanish Riding School and Royal Treasury. The Boy’s choir and Spanish riding school have scheduled performances – please plan well and pre-book.
But i did visit the Royal Treasury which has 20 rooms filled with gold and rare jewels. Gold on vases, flowers, sticks and clothes. It has it all. The highlight is the 10th century crown of the Holy Roman Emperor which gave the divine monarch the grace of God. The crown’s eight sides represent the celestial city of Jerusalem’s eight gates. The precious stones on the front panel symbolize the 12 apostles. There was also the Imperial Cross which preceded the monarch wherever he walked, the ‘holy’ nail of the original cross, and the 500 year old unicorn horn. I always thought unicorns were a Harry Potter thing!
Then the crown. The best in the world!
You can also visit the graves of the Habsburgs nearby. People say the graves are huge with a lot of sculptures depicting stories. But i don’t do graves!
The other one – Schönbrunn palace is a couple of metro stops away. It is the summer palace and stands at the edge of the town. I did the grand tour – a guided tour through 40 of the best rooms in the Palace giving you just a hint of the lavishness enjoyed by these monarchs. Photography banned inside. So if history and royal living does not interest you but parks do, just walk inside and turn right. You do not need a ticket to see the beautiful gardens and well maintained lawns.
The Belvedere: The Belvedere has a special place in the heart of art lovers. Not just art maybe, the museum is also an architectural masterpiece. It is often said, when you are here in Vienna – Dont miss the Kiss. Ofcourse, Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece – the Kiss is the prime attraction at Belvedere. But I think I preferred ‘the Embrace’ by Egon Schiele. You can actually feel that raw emotions in the subject in this one. Here are the two photos I downloaded from their website. Photography isn’t allowed inside. (L-R The kiss, The Embracse)
If you aren’t a great fan of art, you wont miss the Kiss in Vienna – a city for the romantics!
The Ringstrasse: The Old city centre lies around this grand circular road. The medieval protective wall was torn down as Vienna started expanding and this beautiful was commissioned. This arcs 3 miles and is lined with Vienna’s best buildings. Hope on Tram#1 and Tram#2 to complete this loop from the State Opera stop. The road is lined with ‘neo’ buildings – Austrian Parliament, the palace the town hall, court theatre, state opera, etc.
Come back later with a tripod: This is a new addition to my solo trips. During the day, I identify vantage points for some slow shutter speed shots. Backlit medieval architecture and moving people make up for a good twilight frame. My new favorite!
For now, Tschüss, Tschüssi! Bye- Bye! We will meet Vienna again as we embark on the quest to find the best when it comes to food and entertainment!