Vienna : Vienese Whirl.
Vienna Travel Blog› entry 18 of 268 › view all entries
Itâs been said before and itâll be said again. Often itâs when you stop looking at the map that you finally get to where you wanted to be going. And so it is that I sit here at the Leopold Hewelka CafĂ© on DorotheergaĂe, a venue and street that have evaded all my hardest map-gazing efforts until I gave up some hours ago and just turned a corner into it now. So I sit here with an apparently very fine example of a true Viennese coffee and a portion of the traditional âhouseâ cake to relax and digest another fabulous day on the continent...hmm? "What did I get up to today?"
Anyway, on with the day and yeah, yeah I KNOW youâre bored of hearing it but the weather yet again was faultless today setting the perfect blue backdrop to the beautiful buildings, churches and palaces of Vienna city centre.
If you go here on a fine day, get your ticket right away but skip right on through the main palace building to begin with in favour of the gardens which to my eye are really the star of the show here, magnificent though the building and some of its interiors are. Straight out the âbackdoorâ the viewer is presented with a loooong sandy-gravelled walkway lined with a large flower-bed arrangement on either side, this path leading the eyes and the feet up towards a grandiose water feature and then the zig-zag pathway hillock that is topped by the Gloriette building. The view back down to where you have just come from, back towards the SchĂ¶nbrunn from the very top of the Glorietta is beautiful and a real moment of wonder on a day like today.
A stroll around the further gardens (of which there are many, and a zoo, a maze, a labyrinth and many other points of interest within the groundsâŠsome for an additional fee should you be inclined) and then I do the âImperial Tourâ with a free audio guide around a good 26 rooms or so of the SchĂ¶nbrunn itself taking in the history of the powerful Hapsburg matriarch Marie Theresa and her various progeny (the beautiful but latterly beheaded Marie Antoinette being one of them). For a little more cash I think the full 40+ rooms can be accessed.
Next up, a few of the many impressive churches and cathedrals that punctuate the city skyline. First up the cupola-domed KarlsKirche built in 1713 specifically in response to the devastating effect of the second great plague to strike down Viennaâs population. Itâs creation, in effect, a statement of hope and glory to the various patron saints (including one of plagues apparently?!) to look forward to a better future. The church has an arresting faĂ§ade indeed, but DO step inside this one at the moment because it is undergoing a long ongoing restoration program to its various structures and large amounts of impressive fresco paintings that adorn the entire interior of the walls and main cupola-dome. To effect this work a large, semi-permanent âpanorama viewing liftâ has been erected within the church and one is able to ascend to the heady heights of 35 metres + right into the cupola itself until you are eyeball to eyeball with these magnificent frescos.
Again there is soooooooo much to see in this city that in effect much of it I can only give a cursory glance this time round. And in a way there is SO much large, immaculate, incredible white stone and marble architecture in Vienna that (for me today anyway) it is almost TOO much. I find myself later on today just wandering in a complete daze from one sight of magnificence to another but not really registering what they are, their names or histories at all. Vienna, compared to say Prague where I have just come from seems a little 'snooty' almost. It's above you. Too grand for little ol' me and in a way it feels that it's heart does not beat for you, a little cold. yOU Felt you loved Prague and Prague loved you back with it's warmer tone of wonders. (Patricia, I kinda dig your own feelings on this one).
However the imposing, yet brightly-roofed Stephensdom cathedral sat at the cityâs heart is wonderful, the Spanish Riding School, the mind-bogglingly large National Library of Austria, and various other huge, palatial constructs that come together to compose the Hofburg (I think thatâs the correct title?) in the city centre all cannot fail to catch the eye.
Another wing of this series of mega-culture, mega-size buildings is the Albertina art gallery. Having overloaded on so many buildings of baroque, Romanesque, Grecian and flip-knows-what-else style magnificence today I decide to pay my 9,50 Euros to peruse the halls of the Albertina and slow things down for a few hours.
The reminder of this brings a tear or two to my tired yet awe-struck eyes. Whilst a tenuous link indeed I realise that through the prism of some hard personal experiences, stood before a Van Gogh exhibition for the first time in many years, this tragic final act of his life and my responses to his works have greater meaning now.
Later on in the day I realise that I am yet to set eyes upon the Danube, so with the sun bowing out on the far side of the city, I hop on the U-Bahn one last time and stroll across the first bridge I come across to watch the silhouetted city with the orange glow of sunset glowering softly behind the city-buildings first and then further away the hill-ranges that I will be heading for tomorrow, my ticket to Innsbruck via Salzberg all ready to go, in my pocket.
* âA Fine Balanceâ - Rohinton Mistry