A really nice shopkeeper from whom we bought our cuckoo clock in Munich said this about her visit to Vienna, “Munich is a King’s city. But, Vienna is an empire.”
Now I understand why it’d been given that moniker. It is more than royal, more than its grandiose collection of artifacts from past kings and queens, for it has retained a history that is imbued with a very rich culture and heritage that hums along to the rhythm of the city. Rustic yet modern, old yet progressive. And it has a lot of pride. Reminded me of Paris, but not as cosmopolitan. The city is flooded dizzy with historical buildings and statues; Everywhere you turn, there are gargoyles, columnar pillars, great big hinges on great big doors with elaborate door knockers from the Gothic to Baroque to Rococo period. It seemed that building architecture got more and more intricate until the architectural bubble finally burst and went back to basics with the Greek Revival. These periods were only what I could understand, and there are probably more styles that those I’ve named in that city.
Key Sights and Sounds
The old Austrian National Library (aka State Rooms) in the Hofburg Complex was magnificent. The entrance fee of Euros7.50 pp was well worth if you only took one picture of the ceiling frescos. I was transported back in time. Floor-to-ceiling rows of leather-bound books lie neatly in dark wood bookshelves, with ladders and little walkways and banisters to reach books in the “second” storey. The books all look like the Book of Spells in the TV series Charmed, less coloured drawings. A wonderfully opulent library to be in. 🙂
Schloss Schonbrunn was equally captivating, particularly the view of the Gloriette and the maze garden from the rear of the Schloss. I liked this much more than Windsor Castle, though I hear that Palais Versailles (last visit thwarted by rain and a broken down railway system) is tops. In any case, I enjoyed the visit immensely. This was also where SJ and I tried the Apfelstrudel and Sachertorte baked by the Royal Bakery *yums*; And where I discovered a loo that automatically turns the seat and wipes it down with water and a rag when you flush! Amazing. I just wasn’t sure the same rag used before me was used again to spread the love around. Good thing I hover!
We spent half a day at the outlets in Vienna – Designer Outlets, Parndorf. You can get there via a shuttle from the city, taken from the State Opera House for Euros8 return pp. You buy the tickets when you’re in Parndorf, and your tickets get checked on return. So technically-speaking, if you’ve someone to pick you up from Parndorf, you don’t have to pay! The trust system there is really something. Discount-wise, not so good when compared to what you can get in the United States. But an interesting experience nonetheless.
Food in Wien is not too expensive. I ate a fair bit of meat, sweets and caffeine – Schnitzel, Bratwurst, Apple Strudel and lots of coffeeeee. But small amounts regularly can accumulate! We stayed at Hotel Am Konzerthaus – comes highly recommended for its location (especially if travelling by train and hauling luggage), comfort, good value and L’Occitane toiletries.
[First published: 18 July 2011]