My Favorite Destinations…Vienna

by Diana Hechler

Donner Fountain(August 8, 2003) Vienna: City of Mozart…Strauss waltzes…Lippizzaner horses…The Nail-Studded Stump…The what? More about the Nail-Studded Stump later…

Vienna was a city of empire, the capital of the Hapsburg dynasty, and it shows in the magnificent state buildings, ornate bridges and statues, and richly ornamented churches. Yes, when you’re amassing the riches of an empire, you can make your home city look really good.

Buy yourself a good walking tour book, because this is a great city for wandering around and discovering…a church in which Beethoven played, a house where Mozart performed…a special pastry shop, etc. In your travels, keep an eye out for the lovely fountains designed by Georg Raphael Donner. Refreshment for the eyes, especially on hot summer days.

At noontime, make your way over to the Hoher Market to see the Anker Clock in motion. This timepiece features 12 lifesize figures central to Vienna’s history who parade across their platform every day at noon. You’ll recognize Joseph Haydn, even if the other figures are more obscure. Later in the day, stop by the State Park (Stadt Park) for tea and Strauss waltzes every afternoon in the summer. Sometimes the locals will dance, just for fun.

Two of the local star attractions take some planning if you want to see them in action. The Vienna Boys Choir sings at the Hofburg Chapel mass every Sunday morning from September to June. Tickets are free, but you do need to get one in advance. No more than 4 tickets to one person.

The white Lipizzaner Stallions of the Spanish Riding School perform throughout the year except during July and August when they go on vacation to the countryside. It’s not hard to get tickets, with a little advance notice. Most shows are on Saturday and Sunday mornings or Friday nights. You can also attend rehearsals if the show schedule doesn’t match your plans. However, the rehearsals tend to focus on basic maneuvers, omitting the leaps and drama of the actual performances.

Changing gears, if you’ve never seen the Orson Welles classic, The Third Man, now’s the time to do so. The portrait of post-war Vienna, divided into British and Russian sectors, is unforgettable. I know of a local historian who conducts The Third Man tours every Friday afternoon for aficionados of the film. For the truly obsessed, you can also take a tour of the Vienna sewers where Harry Lime finally met his fate.

One of my favorite restaurants lies opposite beautiful St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Take a rather dingy elevator up to a charming spot for a bird’s eye view of the cathedral while you dine on Asian-Viennese fusion cuisine. Having a hard time imagining how to fuse Asian and Viennese cuisine? Well, suspend your doubts and go. It’s delicious!

Now, about that Nail-studded Stump? If you see it in the guidebook, let it go. Let it go!


Diana M. Hechler, D. Tours Travel

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