|Vienna by Rosario Albar|
|The Kiss by Gustav Klimt|
Everything seems big in Vienna - its buildings, its wide boulevards, its palaces and its art collection. But it has a cozy feel that warms up to you soon after you arrive. Within the old city once surrounded by walls, are many testaments to the power this capital once held.
I strolled to church on a Sunday morning and attended mass at the Church of Maria am Gestade, a neo Gothic structure that stands above a flight of stairs on Heinrichgasse. The space is small and narrow, so much so that its nave does not run on a straight line from the altar. Nevertheless, this church is still one of the most beautiful and intimate places of worship in Vienna.
The size of the art collection at the Kunsthistoriches is formidable but rewarding. It appears that the Hapsburgs were serious art collectors. There are Mid-Eastern, Western and Decorative arts on display. (Sadly the Egyptian collection was closed the day I visited.) The Caravaggio collection is impressive. I've never seen so many in one room, not even in Italy. There is also a roomful of Velasquez paintings, just a few shy of the Prado collection in Madrid. Raphael's "Madonna del Belvedere" is arguably the star of the western art collection.
The Belvedere Palace now houses a modern art collection in the Upper Belvedere. During the week I was in Vienna, there was a special exhibition of Gustav Klimt's paintings of women. The once controversial Klimt is considered Vienna's best exponent of the Secession movement. In the room where the "The Kiss" painting was on display, there was such a crowd that it was diffucult to get close to the painting. But "The Kiss" is a large painting and must be viewed from a distance to receive its full impact. Then stand close to the painting to see the fine detail of gold and silver paints used by the artist. What I liked most about this painting is its flow - Klimt treats the subjects as one, just as a kiss can make two people one. For more on Klimt, visit the Secession building, the home of Klimt's "Ode to Beethoven's 9th Sympony" frieze. It is as impressive as the artist's powerful imagination.
At the Schonbrunn Palace, see how the family of Maria Teresa lived. She had sixteen children and they each were given an apartment at the palace. I particularly liked the formal gardens, so colorful even in late October.
I will never be hungry in Vienna. The Nordsee and Naschmarkt restaurants offer such a variety and are open for lunch and dinner. They have branches throughout the city and are quite popular. For good reason. The food is good and the prices are affordable.
I stayed at the Best Western Tigra, located just off the Graben, in the heart of the old city but miles away from all the noise and bustle. It is a four-star hotel with reasonable rates. For more information on the hotel, check out their website at www.bestwestern.com.
Excursions from Vienna
Budapest is a quick two and a half hour drive from Vienna. There are several companies that lead tours to Budapest from Vienna. Arrange this through your hotel concierge. Most one-day tours will visit places of interest on Buda then drive on to Pest on the other side of the Danube river. You will also have free time for lunch and shopping.
I highly recommend sitting for a light snack at Gerbaud's, a very elegant "old world" coffeehouse in the shopping district of the Inner City. The address is V. Vorosmaty ter 7. And then there's Ruzwarm in the Castle district. It is said that Empress Elizabeth of Austria used to have tea here whenever she visited Budapest. It is located at
I. Szentharomsag, a short distance from Mathias Church.
Salzburg seems to have it all - old world charm and scenic backdrop, making it one of the most romantic cities in Europe. Wondering through Mirabelle Gardens, you glimpse Hohensalzburg fortress in front of you. What could be more dramatic! There are several fine examples of Baroque churches here and the squares are great for cafe sitting. How about a visit to Mozart's geburthaus (birthplace)? Or if you're visiting in the summer, you can attend a Mozart concert at one of the festival houses or squares. You can also go on a guided tour of the memorable sites from the movie, Sound of Music. Salzburg is truly a "hand holding" city.