Vienna, Austria

Map of Austria
Map courtesy of

July 19th-21st, 2003

Vienna View

Saturday morning we caught the train from Budapest to Vienna. It's a fairly short ride (3 to 4 hours) so we would get there in time for lunch. First thing we went directly to the tourist office in the train station for help in finding a room. I had been studying the map and tourist book on the train so that I knew the general area of attractions and base prices of hotels. While at the help desk, I was disappointed to hear that the Lipizzaner horses were out of town! The Lipizzaners are the descendents of the six great sires from an old Spanish strain famous at the time of Caesar. Repeatedly the breed has been relocated and devastated by war, but recovered over time. During training sessions you can go to the Spanish riding school (Spanische Hofreitschule) to watch the display of haute ecole dressage (movements and displays stemming from Renaissance military exercises).

Anyway, after we dropped the bags in our room we set off for lunch and then Stephansdom (cathedral). I wanted to make sure we got to the Cathedral on Saturday since hours are limited on Sunday.

A church of some sort has been on this site since 1137. Refurbishment in the Gothic style took place in 1359 and baroque style in 1647. Construction of the north tower never was completely finished due to interruptions in 1511. After we looked around the inside, we took the stairs to the top for a view of the city and bell tower.
Stephansdom outside

Stephansdom inside Stephansdom inside Stephansdom inside Stephansdom bell tower

After the Cathedral, we were pretty free to wander around the city for the afternoon. Since we still had two days for sightseeing, we figured this would be a good introduction to the layout of the city. Vienna was sort of like Rome in the fact that there are architectural buildings and statues on every street corner. There were also numerous churches with the most richly decorated interiors I've seen on my travels...

St. Peter's church (Peterskirche) built 1702-1733
St Peters St Peters St Peters
St. Michael's church (Michaelerkirche) dates from 1220 with many alterations
St Michaels St Michaels
Jesuitenkirche dates from around 1627
Jesuitenkirche Jesuitenkirche

Well, enough about churches, let me show you some other things in the city...

Houston has the cow statues and Berlin the bear statues, but Vienna had the horses!
horse with frog astronomy horse

The neatest set of buildings are in the area known as Hofburg. This is basically the palace buildings which cover about 24,000 sq.meters! A castle was built here first by the King of Bohemia in 1275. However, this castle was greatly enlarged by Ferdinand I, who moved the central administration of the States of Prague to Vienna in 1533. The expanse of the buildings and grounds was hard to put in perspective on camera!

This was the front entrance.... as you walked in the gate you could see up the inside of the dome.
Hofburg dome

This is the entrance to the Kaiserappartements (imperial apartments)
entrance to palace apartments

More palace buildings...
Hofburg Hofburg

This was the History Museum (Kunst-historisches museum)

After all the walking we decided to stop for a rest next to the museum!
resting in Vienna

I knew that Vienna was known for it's music and operas, so it was really neat to see all the old theaters and music halls. As we walked, we were following this spire in the distance to see what it belonged to. When we got there, we found out that there was a concert in the park type thing going on that night! They had tons of little food booths with everything imaginable...Chinese, Jamaican, Indian, Italian, and local cuisine. The concert was not live, but instead a huge screen with speakers everywhere. Like all free events you always have the people who show up but aren't interested in paying attention. They stand there and talk, laugh, drink, chase kids around, smoke, and generally annoy those who wish to listen to the music. It was still a great time and a good show anyway! During parts of the show they even lit up the spires of the building in different colors.
following the spire food booths

Sunday morning we decided to take the underground train to Schloss Schoenbrunn (Palace). The grounds at Scholss Schoenebrunn were traditionally used as hunting grounds by royalty. However, during the Habsburg Dynasty it also became residence for various royalty. It was really interesting to learn something of the history of the Habsburg dynasty. If you want to read up on the history, here's a website,
Another interesting thing to note is that Mozart used to play for the queen at the palace.
We toured the palace apartments, gardens, and carriage museum. Of course, we weren't allowed to take pictures inside the palace.
Schoenbrunn Palace

The carriage museum was really neat! There were even more carriages displayed than the Queen's Mews in London. The little carriages of the princes/princess were cute. One of the captions told how the little princes and princess would take turns being the driver, Queen, and King while playing in the grounds.
Funeral carriage hunting carriages for snow
various estate carriages Imperial carriage
child's carriage

The gardens were absolutely beautiful...
garden grounds statue garden grounds garden grounds bird house

...but we had the most fun in the mazes!

maze 1 maze 1, hmmm

maze 2 with games maze 2 with games

Sunday morning we headed off for a tour of the Vienna State Opera House (Staatsoper). The opera house opened in May 1869 with Wolfgang Amadeum Mozart's Don Giovanni. Fire gutted the building in March 1945 during an air raid, but reopened in 1955 after extensive reconstruction. We took a tour of the building and the backstage was absolutely amazing! There are actually three sections of the backstage. The opera singers usually stay in the front section, the middle section is used more for scenery, and the backstage has a lift which moves the props down to the street level. The opera house actually features a different show each night, so loading trucks come to the opera house each day to bring the props from storage and set them up on the stage. The other interesting thing about the stage is that each section is on hydraulics so that it can be raised or lowered as necessary. Here's a couple of pictures inside...
opera house seats opera house waiting room

The next couple of hours were spent inadvertantly wandering around the "amusement park" area of Vienna looking for a restaurant. When we were in the train station a couple days before, we started chatting with a couple who told us about a restaurant. They said it was easy to find and told us the area. Well, it wasn't that easy to find! We walked around in circles for at least a good hour. Then we asked for directions and walked for another 15-30 minutes. Stopped again for directions before finally arriving at the place another 15 minutes later! We were soooooo tired I think we would have eaten dirt and enjoyed it! Anyway, the restaurant wasn't all that special, but it was good to sit down and relax with a beer!

After lunch we headed to the Schatzkammer in the Hofburg area. This building contained relics and jewels which belonged to the royal house. This was one of the best displays I've seen of royal objects. There were royal garments, jewels, babies baptismal outfits and cradles, religous artifacts, and royal crowns. They gave out handsets to listen to the history and descriptions which were extremely informative. We wandered around in there for hours!

The Goodbye notes End

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