Favourite Places, 3: Imperial Library, Hofburg Palace, Vienna, Austria

Did I already mention that I love libraries? I love books, yes, but I love libraries beyond books. Libraries are the epitome of order and neatness that resonates with the very core of my OCD in the same 🙂

The older, the better. In my readings about these libraries, I’ve learnt that monks are prolific hoarders, and observed that there are almost always fancy globes tucked in one corner.

The Austrian National Library in Hofburg Palace is the largest in Austria and is housed in a rather large complex that is meant, I think, to confuse pesky tourists seeking to lay their beady eyes on the gorgeous Imperial Library, origins circa Middle Ages.

Monks? Check. Globes? Check.

Seek and ye shall find literary rareness to behold in thy stately Bibliotheca!  Touch and ye shall meet certain doom. This sentiment still bears some truth from the Imperial times for commoners – just don’t let the guard catch you placing your nose too close to any artefact.

Post 90. Hofburg Library

Favourite Places, 1: Salzburg, Austria

The hills are alive with the sound of music…

I have watched that musical so many times over I can sing every song. So when we arrived in Salzburg, I just HAD to go on that tour that tortured my poor hubby with the CD on loop in the tour bus. Keke! It is strictly for fans only – and there were quite a few because I saw several mouths moving silently along with Julie Andrew’s singing.

Including mine, of course 🙂

Post 87. Salzburg

A peek at Hohensalzburg Fortress from pretty street Getreidegasse.

Salzburg, the Salt City

Many wonderful things have been said about Salzburg, and I shan’t repeat them except to say that what I’ve heard have been true thus far. Small population of 150,000.  Hometown of Mozart Wolfgang Amadeus and also Christian Doppler. City sights were one of a kind – the Hohensalzburg Fortress and the funicular ride up there was quite spectacular. The main street of Getriedgasse, and market squares in the old town were always colourful and lively, and had foodcarts with a great variety of sausages to choose from.

What I was also in Salzburg to do was to see all things related to The Sound of Music. It was my first musical and what kickstarted my fondness for them, and so there is some sentimental attachment to TSoM. The guide we had from Panorama Tours (Peter, and driver Andy) was hilarious. He kept us entertained with tales, myths & truths and somewhat cheesy jokes of TSoM through the journey, and played for us the soundtrack as well as a documentary-styled video. I was happily humming along to the music on the longer drives, and finding everything interesting cos I’m a fan. SJ was OMG-ing and groaning when he was not trying to nap it away. I was listening to the soundtrack over and over at home to prep myself up for the tour. Poor fella was subject to TSoM assault before we left for the trip and during the trip! Talk about brainwash. He was sufficiently familiar that he was yodelling, perhaps out of frustration, by the end of it.  See this for a summary of the tour we took: http://www.panoramatours.com/salzburg-The-Original-Sound-of-Music-Tour-EN.aspx

We did a tour with Panorama to the Bavarian Salt Mines too. This was super fun. We got dressed in miners’ clothing and had to enter the deeper levels by slide. We sat on a pair of wooden panels at about a 45 degree incline,  tilted our backs, lifted our arms and legs and went Wheeee!!! into the darkness below. You come to a stop automatically cos it flattens out at the end, but there’s no one to stop you from sliding off and landing on your butt if you work up enough momentum. Those wooden panels are a sorry excuse for a slide, but that’s what made it so much more fun since I had doubts about safety. Heh. It was interesting how they drilled for salty rocks and created huge, dense salt lakes (like mini versions of the Dead Sea) to extract salt.  Closer to the end, we crossed a quiet, mirror lake via boat within the cave – reminded me of a scene from the Phantom of the Opera! They leave you with a sample of the salt they produce too. Click this link for more: http://www.panoramatours.com/salzburg-Bavarian-Mountains-and-Salt-Mines-EN.aspx

On our way back, we passed the towns of Berchtesgaden, Mondsee and St Gilgen. St Gilgen in particular was absolutely picturesque with Wolfgang See framed against the Austrian Alps. The hills were definitely alive there.  🙂

[First published: 19 July 2011]

Vienna, Vienna, Austria

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.”

Imperial Vienna.

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]