Imagine going into a room, being blindfolded, turning yourself around three times and then being beamed to another city at its very centre. With your eyes still blindfolded, you are trying to listen and understand exactly where you have “landed”.
So what you notice after a while is that almost every second language you hear from thousands of passers-by is Greek. Where does your mind go? Of course to the capital of Austria, located in the center of Continental Europe, Vienna.
I was there during the holidays, in a former Imperial City, with beautifully preserved buildings, very nicely decorated for Christmas, in a festive atmosphere! A city that although you have to walk many kilometers to see, it is flat, which makes it easy for the visitor to walk around. It consists of 23 districts. The first 9 districts comprise the historical city center (Innere Stadt) with St. Stephen’s Cathedral being the main attraction.
If you are looking for information on city attractions, you will find on the net more than you need. Therefore, here I will share my own experiences with you.
Walk to see the city! It is very visitor friendly, with nice sidewalks. the well-preserved buildings exude nobility are eye-catching and help you travel back in time. You can easily imagine the aristocracy of that time, driving around in their horse-drawn carriages, heading to the Café Sacher to enjoy the Sachertorte while having their coffee, watching excellent opera performances and dancing the waltz.
The legs get tired and take you to Stadtpark or the City Park, where you find dozens of benches to rest and fill your soul with pictures of green, flowers and even more beautiful buildings many from the Baroque era!
But are you hungry or do you want an authentic Viennese coffee?
You can eat (Austrian cuisine), at the Esterhazykeller (www.esterhazykeller.at), from 1683. It was named after the noble Esterhazy family. Don’t miss the apple strudel, plain or “choked” in vanilla sauce for dessert.
For coffee at CAFE KONDITOREI HEINER (www.heiner.co.at). Authentic Viennese atmosphere in a quieter downtown area. Six generations have been holding the Austrian confectionery tradition since 1840. the confectionery used to be also a supplier of the Austrian Imperial Court, as indicated by the K.U.K. initials! In general, if a company bears these initials, and not many do, you should know that in the past it supplied the Emperor with its products!
For freshly baked bread, not frozen baked, one option is the BAECKEREI OEFFERL bakery (www.oefferl.bio). They offer quality bread, relatively expensive though and a variety of dough products.
A fairly short distance by train, which in my opinion is well worth a visit, is the historic BADEN spa resort town (www.tourismus.baden.at). Very beautiful, wonderful buildings, including the home of Ludwig van Beethoven, who lived and composed his masterpieces there from the age of 21 until his death. The many Casinos, the city’s Theater, the thirteen hot springs, which have as their main ingredient lime, a Gothic-style Church and the old Town Hall, which has a rich archival material.
It is one of the most important tourist resorts of high society, and it is not a coincidence that many members of the imperial family maintained their summer residences here having built luxurious villas.
If you want to do some more walking or if you stay in Vienna for a longer period, east of the Danube Canal is Leopoldstadt. A short walk from the subway, you will find Prater Park. At the one end of this lush park there is an amusement park, while the other end is known for its chestnut trails, where locals go for a run.
It is advisable to buy public transport tickets from the automatic machines and if you stay in Vienna for more than three days, I think a weekly card is good value for money.
Here are the highlights of Vienna:
Schönbrunn Palace • Vienna State Opera House • Museum of Art History • Museum of Natural History • Austrian Parliament • St. Stephen’s Cathedral • Spanish Riding School • Prater Park • Marihiller-Strasse• Baden • Museumsquartier • Karlsplatz • Belvedere • Vienna Architectural Center.