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Day Seven: Hofburg Palace


I spent most of my second day in Vienna at the Hofburg Palace complex, an area with several buildings including the winter palace of the Habsburg family. The Habsburg dynasty ruled the Austrian empire from 1273 to 1918 and each generation of the family changed and added to the Hofburg. The entrance is on a square called Michaelerplatz.
My first stop was Augustinerkirche, a 14th century church for the imperial court. Several members of the royal family were married there.
Next, I wanted to watch the horses of the Spanish Riding School rehearse, but they had the morning off since they were performing later in the day. The horses perform complicated routines to classical music. I was able to see inside the stables.
Also in the Hofburg is the Albertina, which is an art gallery that includes some of the staterooms of the palace. The steps up to the entrance of the building are painted like one of Monet’s water lily paintings.
Inside the art gallery are several paintings by Monet and Picasso. The palace staterooms are designed as they were in the 1800s.

My next stop was the Schatzkammer, which is the imperial treasury. This museum has a large collection of crown jewels and other royal items such as robes and scepters.
This crown was used in the 1600s:
And, this one was used in the 900s:
Next to the Schatzkammer is the Burgkapelle, which is the home of the Vienna Boys Choir.
After having a lunch of goulash at the Hofburg Café, I moved on to the Kaiserappartements, a museum which also shows several state and private rooms in the palace. These rooms are designed as they were in the time of Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Elizabeth in the 19th century.

The museum also includes a huge collection of imperial dinnerware. I’ve never seen so many plates, serving dishes and candelabras!
There are also a few rooms dedicated to Empress Elizabeth, better known to Austrians as Sissi. Sissi never really wanted to be empress and she was depressed for most of her life in the palace. She was tragically assassinated in 1898 and the country has been fascinated with her life and death ever since.

After I left, I walked around the area and saw the Neueburg, which is the most recent addition to the Hofburg, completed in 1913. It houses several museums. I was all museum-ed out by that point, so I didn’t go in.
That concluded my grand tour of the Hofburg. Just outside of the complex is the Burggarten, a park where I saw the famous statue of Mozart.
After that full day of walking, I took a seat on the tourist tram around the Ringstrasse and saw many other beautiful buildings while I rested my feet. The Ringstrasse is a street that circles the historical center of Vienna. The street replaced the city’s original medieval walls in 1857. Here are a few pictures I took during the tram ride.

Town Hall (with a circus going on):
A few other buildings:
I had a really good dinner of chicken schnitzel at a restaurant called Figlmϋller, which was near my hotel. There was a couple from Chicago at the table next to me, so we chatted a bit about our travels.

Posted by kehromada 17:14 Archived in Austria Tagged vienna Comments (0)

Day Eight: Schönbrunn Palace and Judenplatz


I spent the morning at Schönbrunn Palace, the summer palace of the Habsburgs, which is just outside of the city.
The palace is huge and gorgeous. You’ll have to imagine what the inside was like (sorry, no photography was allowed). It was kind of crowded and I had to avoid some big tour groups, but I really enjoyed my walk through.

I got a ticket for the Grand Tour, which includes all the rooms of the palace that are open to the public, plus the grounds. The palace grounds are gigantic and include a zoo and many gardens. I took a little tram ride around the grounds to get a look at everything. It was a beautiful day – perfect for spending a lot of time outside.
I asked a Japanese gentleman to take my picture from the back of the palace toward the gardens. After he did, the three ladies with him asked if they could have their picture taken with me, too. So, here I am with my new Japanese friends:
The Gloriette is a separate building in the middle of the gardens. It was built in 1775 and is a focal point in the garden. Inside is a café, where I stopped for lunch.
The Gloriette also has a viewing platform on the roof, so I went up and got some beautiful views of the gardens, the palace and the rest of the city.
After some more walking through the gardens, I took the metro back into town and visited a small 14th century church called Minoritenkirche. It is not on the tourist radar, which was a nice change of pace from the palace.
Inside is a mosaic copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.
Not too far from there is Judenplatz, a square in what used to be the heart of the Jewish ghetto from the 13th to the 15th centuries.
There is a Holocaust memorial in the square. It’s kind of hard to see in the pictures, but it is made to look like shelves of books. It’s meant to pay tribute to the tradition of learning in the community. Around the base, in several languages, is inscribed, “Commemoration of more than 65,000 Austrian Jews who were killed by the Nazis between 1938 and 1945.”
In 1995, archaeologists found the remains of a 13th century synagogue on this site and parts of it can be seen in the Museum Judenplatz.
In the evening, I saw a performance by the Vienna Mozart Orchestra. This small orchestra plays exclusively Mozart works – and they do it in period costumes! It’s definitely a draw for the tourists and it’s a little cheesy, but it was a lot of fun to see. The performance was in the Brahms Hall at the Musikverein, which was very pretty lit up at night.

Posted by kehromada 17:32 Archived in Austria Tagged vienna Comments (0)

Day Nine: St. Stephan’s Cathedral and Staatsoper


I started my last day in Vienna by having breakfast with an older couple I had met at my hotel. They had seen me at breakfast the day before and asked me if I was traveling alone. When I told them I was, they invited me to eat with them the next morning. The wife is German and the husband is American and they live in Seattle. They have traveled everywhere, so it was fun to listen to their stories.

After breakfast, I finally visited the site I had walked by every day – St. Stephan’s Cathedral. It was about a five minute walk from my hotel, so I had seen it from the outside several times, but this was the day to take a look inside. The church was originally built in the 12th century, but was heavily damaged throughout the years by fire and war. It is now fully restored and considered one of the greatest Gothic structures in Europe.
I took a guided tour of the catacombs, which was done in German and English, but pictures weren’t allowed. The catacombs contain the remains of 56 members of the Habsburg family.

A short metro ride from there is the Karlskirche, another large church in Vienna. Karlskirche has a very different look from St. Stephan’s. St. Stephan’s is very Gothic with towers and spires. Karlskirche, on the other hand, has a huge green dome and two Romanesque columns. When Vienna was battling the plague in 1713, Emperor Charles VI made a promise to God that he would build a church if the disease left the city. Karlskirche was Charles’ fulfillment of that promise.
The inside of the church is incredibly ornate.
The church is surrounded by a small park called Ressel Park, which has a reflecting pool.
A short walk from Karlskirche is the Staatsoper, the state opera house.
I had a lot of fun taking a behind-the-scenes tour. This is the lobby:
This is where the emperor used to take his intermission. Now it is rented out for big bucks.
This is an intermission room for the regular people. Around the room are the busts of several composers and paintings that depict scenes from their operas.
Here are some pictures of the performance hall:
And here is the backstage area:
I spent my last evening back in Stadtpark, where I had gone on my first day in Vienna. It is a very peaceful park in the middle of the city. I had dinner at a biergarten (beer garden) in the park and then walked around for a while.

Posted by kehromada 17:43 Archived in Austria Tagged vienna Comments (0)

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