As a long-time Mozart fan who studied music at university, I’ve always wanted to visit Vienna and experience the city historically known as the European capital of music. Equipped with one friend, with the destination of another’s lovely, book-filled apartment, I set off for a long weekend in this beautiful city.
First off, if you’re used to London as I am, Vienna is so quiet. The only places I experienced that had the hustle and bustle of London were a couple of key tourist streets. But this made a nice change of pace and gave us the opportunity to admire the oft-beautiful architecture and feel extremely safe on the roads despite the novelty of the trams (which were way too exciting).
One busy landmark was Schönbrunn Palace, a spectacular imperial residence built in the 1740s-50s. You don’t even need to go inside if you don’t want to because the huge gardens and the magnificent view over the city from the Gloriette are well worth a trip themselves. And that’s before you even get to the fun mazes…
Then there’s the Stephansdom or St Stephen’s Cathedral which dominates a large portion of Vienna and has a brilliantly ornate patterned roof, although the inside is much of a muchness when compared to many other European cathedrals. The particularly interesting and unusual bit is the catacombs, where you can see the gruesome effects of an outbreak of the bubonic plague, with thousands of skeletons piled up- not one for the faint hearted.
Then there was the Wiener Prater incorporating the Wurstelprater which is the oldest amusement park in the world and, conveniently, features a lot of fairground rides that provide nostalgic fun for a lot less money than the English equivalents. And the Wiener Riesenrad, the historical wheel, provided more fabulous views from an unusual viewpoint.
Musical escapades included the Zentralfriedhof or Central Cemetery, where I was humbled to stand at the resting places of Beethoven, Strauss, Brahms, Schubert and Schönberg, as well as at a respectful memorial to Mozart. I also visited Mozarthaus, a three-floor museum of which one was the composer’s apartment between 1784 to 1787, during which time he wrote The Marriage of Figaro, which I found a bit bizarre to stand in. And, of course, I sang Strauss’ Blue Danube Waltz as we frantically avoided sailboats in our pedalo on the river.
Our evening adventures were just as great. We explored the city at night, highlights being the majestic Parliament and the quirky Museumquartier. Our third beautiful view over the city was from a small restaurant in the mountains by lots of vineyards, a truly awe-inspiring perspective.
We discovered a bookshop/cafe/bar/furniture shop called phil, where I had a delicious cheese toastie late in the evening and browsed the excellent little English language section amongst the many cosy shelves. It would certainly be a lovely place to meet friends or while away a few hours reading.
Finally, we went along to one night of the Music Film Festival in the grand setting outside City Hall where we were wowed by a 2CELLOS concert film. Vienna certainly seemed to have a great wealth of open air events and culture going on.
All in all, Vienna was a beautiful, almost tranquil city and I would love to go back and lap up more of its culture.