My Holiday in Vienna, Austria
My Reason to Visit Vienna
Austria was always a country I wanted to visit. When I was at cafes or on the train, waiters or passengers usually ask my country of origin. When I told them I am from Singapore, they were quite surprised why someone would travel so far to visit Austria. I told them that Falco brought me to Austria. I vividly remember the song "Vienna Calling" after all these years. Falco was a popular Austrian pop singer who sadly passed away in a car accident. In my mind, I linked Vienna with art, museums, and music and I was not wrong. It is a city meant for people who want to enjoy the finer things in life.
My First Impression of Vienna
My first observation about Vienna is that it does not have many people. The Vienna airport itself is small. Personally, I found it appealing because I dislike crowds. But I also wondered how the city sustains itself with fewer people. This goes against the grain of packing more people into a city, a concept adopted by many global cities, which leads to overcrowding. So it is not a surprise why Vienna has been voted consistently among the top cities for high quality of life. I was talking to a Viennese lady about this and she predicted that I will come to Vienna to work and live at some point.
Art Hotel in Vienna
Since I am an art loving person, I stayed at a boutique hotel owned by an art collector. The hotel was a Patrician house converted into a hotel by the owner. I really enjoyed staying in this place because it had a homely feel to it. The rooms were large and well decorated with art and the hotel staff was friendly and helpful. I would encourage anyone coming to Vienna to stay at the smaller boutique hotels. The location is also great and it just takes 5-10 minutes to get to the central Heldenplatz area. Since it was my first visit to Vienna, I got the hotel to arrange a chauffeur to pick me up from the airport.
Churches To Visit in Vienna
The significant influence of Catholicism on Vienna can be felt in its many churches. The Gothic styled Votivkirche sits quietly near the Sigmund-Freud Park. What's impressive about this church is its tall spires. It reminded me of my time at Cambridge University. When you look closely, you will find a headless statue, which I suspect was damaged during World War II.
Another impressive church is the St Peter's Catholic Church (Peterskirche). I found this place peaceful and found myself repeatedly going in to have a seat and contemplate about life. It was also the first time i came across clothed skeletons in glass coffins. I wondered who they were and found out that they were martyrs from the Roman catacombs.
I also took a coach tour to the Melk Abbey, an impressive cathedral perched on a hill. Melk itself is a little, picturesque town ideal for those who want to lead a quiet life.
I also discovered Karlskirche by exploring Vienna on foot. The vibe around the Karlsplatz was quite different from the Heldenplatz in that it had younger people. Maybe there was a college nearby. The church was built in a baroque style with decorated towers.
Culinary Delights in Vienna
One of the biggest joys of traveling is exploring places with little or no plan. Walking through Vienna's little roads brought me to some excellent shops and cafes. One example is a little chocolate shop near the Peterskirche which had a bewildering array of assorted chocolates, some infused with flower petals. Vienna's shopping district has many cafes that are ideal for people watching. I enjoyed a cup of Viennese coffee and a chocolate torte (cake) sitting at one of the cafes. I also discovered an Italian shop which was well stocked up with Italian wine and salami. The schnitzel is one of the signature dishes in Austria and I really enjoyed tucking into a plate of schnitzel after my long walks in the city.
Art and Architecture
Visiting the Papyrus Museum was one of the highlights of my visit to Vienna. Even though the papyrus exhibits occupy a small hall, the minute, intricate and precise symbols written on the papyrus made me wonder if these writings were done by humans. Could it be written by aliens?
There are many museums in Vienna and it is a question of whether one has the stamina to explore and admire them. The Albertina Museum is a great place to appreciate art because it houses one of the largest collections of drawings in the world. I was, in particular, impressed by the Impressionist and modern era paintings.
Vienna has impressive architecture. A building that caught my eye was the Austrian Parliament Building which has Greek gods adorning the facade. The Pallas Athena fountain and Corinthian columns give an imposing presence to central Vienna's urban landscape.
One can't travel through Vienna without listening to the music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I booked tickets for the quartet performance at the Mozarthaus and found myself rocking my head back and forth to Mozart's music pieces played on strings. As the name suggests, Mozarthaus was the house where Mozart lived when he was in Vienna. The Bosendorfer Hall, where the quartet performed, had amazing acoustics which made the quartet sound larger than life. I also went to Schonbrunn Palace to attend an orchestral concert. While the performance was good, it was more commercial and touristy compared to the more intimate quartet performance at Mozarthaus.
The Hofburg Palace is the central masterpiece of Vienna. It was where the rulers of the Habsburg dynasty lived and is still used to this day by the President of Austria. One can find a variety of architectural styles ranging from Gothic to Renaissance here. The Spanish Riding School, Princess Sisi Museum, the Silver collection, and Imperial Apartments are worth the visit but I think the main attraction is the sprawling green space in front of the palace where on a nice day, people relax. I can still remember walking across the palace grounds during a wet, wintry night. The lights from the Rathaus building and the Hofburg Palace gave a romantic vibe to the place.
The Viennese People
The Viennese are a bit reserved but always eager to help and willing to chat. I remembered getting lost on a dark wintry night and asked an elderly lady for directions to Mozarthaus. Even though she could not speak English, she took the trouble to help me. On my train trip to Salzburg, I found myself chatting with a beautiful Viennese lady in the train cabin. Many were impressed with the fact I am from Singapore and I always felt welcome at restaurants and cafes. It is highly likely that I will come back to Austria and spend more time in the other parts of the country.
© 2019 Sivakumar Sathiamoorthy