Vienna now is one of my favorite cities. Yet I knew very little of it when I visited it for the first time. One of the reasons I wanted to go there was my fascination by the film trilogy about Elisabeth, Empress of Austria. I was wondering if it all was true and if there was a princess, so charming and beautiful, as she was represented by Romy Schneider in Sissi the Young Empress, Sissi – The Fateful Years of the Empress. It all turned out to be true and Vienna left an impression of being a charming city with imperial heritage and gorgeous style.
To say that I was impressed by Vienna’s architecture is to say nothing. Stephansdom, Schönbrunn, Hofburg – each of these places has its own atmosphere and style, they are all magnificent and not to miss during a tour through the city. One can go up the Dom and enjoy the view over Vienna – if you like walking up the stairs, that’s the right activity for you! Schönbrunn castle offers one the possibility to see how Austrian Royal family was living (it was one of the residences where Emperor Franz Josef and his wife Elisabeth (Sissi) were staying). In Hofburg one can find different exhibitions – from silver collection to Sissi’s museum, together with imperial apartments.
Vienna is full of museums and it is really difficult to pick the most important ones for visiting. As mentioned above, Schönbrunn and Hofburg have interesting collections. Museum of Art and History (Kunsthistorisches Museum) http://www.khm.at/ will impress you with paintings and statues, as well as with art of Renaissance and Baroque. Belvedere Museum presents works of art from medieval ages to contemporary times (highlight: Gustav Klimt’s famous works, such as “The Kiss”). More: http://www.belvedere.at/en
Wherever you go in Vienna, you will see many pictures and portraits of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria and Hungary. She remains a popular historical person and is famous not only for her beauty and gorgeous hair, but also for her tragic destiny. For those who prefer historical facts, I would recommend a book by Martin Schäfer (in German): Sissi. Glanz und Tragik einer Kaiserin. Eine Bildbiographie (Heyne, 2002). Unlike the movies mentioned above, this biography describes not only happiest moments in Empress’ life but also reveals the reasons of Elisabeth’s tragedy and gives the reader a closer look at her inner world. It’s not all gold that glitters…
You certainly know Wienerschnitzel which is served nearly everywhere in Europe. Other highlights are goulash and Tafelspitz – the first one comes originally from Hungary, the second is a typical piece of Vienna-cuisine: cooked beef, served with apple mousse, horse-radish cream (Meerrettich), boiled potatoes and carrots. Have you tried Kaiserschmarrn? Delightful – roasted pancake dough with sugar powder and vanilla sauce (and, possibly, plum jam on the side).
The Land of Coffee
Melange, Kapuziner, Eiskaffee, Nussbraun and many more – Vienna is a paradise for coffee-fans. There are a dozen varieties; only the best coffee beans are used for making this energetic drink. My favorite is Melange – a perfect mixture (50/50) of coffee and hot milk. The desserts in coffee houses are truly magical – the famous Apfelstrudel and Sachertorte (very very chocolate) will remain forever in your memory as a sweet reminder of Vienna. For Sachertorte try Café Sacher in *Hotel Sacher* (Philarmonikerstrasse 4, open from 8.00 am to midnight).
Ladies, this is for you – look for the street with the longest and beautiful name, Mariahilferstrasse J Situated not far from Westbahnhof, it is one of the busiest and best streets for shopping. Tipp # 2 – Donau shopping center (subway line U1, station “Kagran”). You will also find shops in city center, on your way to Stephansdom. If you like sweets, I’d recommend Mozartkugeln, chocolate balls with marzipan filling (the original ones are made by Confectionery Fürst and wrapped in silver-blue paper).
Culture, parks, museums, culinary delights, shopping – Vienna has something to offer for everybody. Best time to go there is, like for many European countries, summer or autumn – it is really cold in winter.
Pictures: Wikipedia, http://www.huber-andreas.at