|Obligatory travel book and beer shot! And yes, R wears his ring on the wrong finger|
From my history classes in school, I knew the country was once the center of power of the vast Austria-Hungary Empire, the pivotal role it played in the First World War and of its participation in the Second. I was also well aware of the country's invaluable contribution to music and art.
However, nothing in my history lessons would prepare me for the majesty of Vienna's palaces, the eccentricities of Sissi and the Habsburg family, the beauty of Melk Abbey and the pure joy of listening to a Viennese Opera or seeing Klimt's The Kiss in person.
We were in Vienna for only about three days in all. We had initially intended to visit Salzburg for a day but after our first evening in Vienna we realized that 3 days would barely do the city justice.
Our itinerary -
Day 1 (Travel Day): Evening Walking Tour
Day 2: Belvedere Castle, Staat Opera, Viennese Orchestra
Day 3: Hofburg Palace, Melk Abbey
Day 4 (Travel Day): Schonbrunn, St Stephen’s Cathedral
We arrived jet lagged and travel weary but very eager to be in Vienna; so soon after lunch we walked around the neighborhood just to orient ourselves. I loved the feel of the city - the people were very friendly, the weather was beautiful and it was so vibrant, particularly the museum quarter which transformed itself at night into a hip open air hangout.
|The Hofburg Palace gardens at night|
|The Belvedere, Vienna|
The famous Vienna Opera Ball is held at the opera house and our guide explained how the entire auditorium is transformed into an enormous ballroom virtually overnight. The effort it takes is extraordinary!
|The Staatsoper Balcony|
|I have no words (Inside the Opera House)|
The next morning, we decided to tour the Hofburg Palace. The Palace was the primary imperial residence and until 1918, the seat of the Emperor of Austria; today it is the official seat of the Austrian federal President. It is situated in the center of the city so we had walked by it more than a couple of times and I was looking forward to the tour.
We visited the Silver Collection, the Imperial apartments and the Sissi Museum.
The silver collection is ridic impressive - sort of the most impressive crockery cabinet you'd ever see! The piece de resistance is the gilded centerpiece pictured below. It was 10 m long and awe inspiring. I can't even begin to fathom the work that might have gone into making this.
|Opulence, thy name is Hofburg Palace Table Centerpiece (For a size reference, please see R and me reflected in the mirror)|
We weren't allowed to take photographs within Sissi's museum (also within the palace) but it was a fascinating journey through the life of an enigmatic queen.
|Panorama of the town of Melk|
Speaking of which, I present to you the beautiful Melk Abbey.
|The view from the town|
Founded in the 11th century the building was rebuilt in the 18th century. The monastic community at Melk is over 900 years old and still to this day there are Benedictine monks that live here. The abbey is also home to a prestigious monastery school with 700 students.
One of the highlights of the Abbey is the magnificent Library. Its two stories tall and houses nearly 80,000 volumes of what can only be described as priceless pieces of work.
|The Marble Hall|
|A corridor in the Abbey|
While the interiors were beautiful, having already been to the Hofburg palace, I felt a lot of the anecdotes about the family (while still interesting) were stories we had already heard. What really blew me away about this palace were the gardens, we must have wandered around for over an hour and I think we could have easily stayed a few hours longer if we didn't have a flight to catch.
The lawns and sculptures transported you to another time but what I found amusing was that I'd be walking around trying to imagine what I would be doing if I were an 18th century royal (what? doesn't everyone do that?) when I'd suddenly be jolted back to the 21st century by a jogger rounding the corner listening to his/her ipod! This is simply because the gardens are free to the public (which I think is wonderful) and a lot of people come here for their daily walks/runs. How cool is that?!
Below are some pictures of the palace and its gardens.
|View of the Palace and the Great Parterre through the Sun Fountain|
|The Gloriette with the Sun Fountain in the foreground|
|Through one of the rooms in the palace|
I can cross a third of #43 off my list!