Vienna

Vienna the Beautiful.
Wien is the Austrian name for Vienna, the capital of Austria. Ever since I briefly visited it a few years ago I wanted to come here with my one and only love, to stroll around its streets, to listen to the all-pervading music, and to have my eyeful of Beauty. And now my dream came true. We get out in the morning and walk leisurely at random, looking at the lovely buildings, taking pictures, stopping whenever our fancy dictates. The huge St. Stephen’s cathedral and Stephansplatz are a few steps away from our hotel, the main reason why I chose this place to stay. Literally a minute brings us to the confluence of Kaertner Strasse and Graben, both famous pedestrian streets with plenty of shops, cafés and souvenir stalls, not to mention numerous sausage vendors, flower markets and little ice cream cars. Every building, every house is a revelation. A thing of beauty is a joy forever. The Hofburg Palace is one of the great number of palaces which seem to constitute half of this wonderful city. It is huge, with lots of wings, courtyards, statues, ornaments. This is where the empress Elizabeth known as Sissi lived. Her portraits, with the famous luxuriant hair, are seen everywhere. Her tragic fate only adds to the myth.
In fact, Vienna is maybe the only European capital to boast so many decorations, gilded statues and murals, friezes and heaven knows what else everywhere. One can see the different epochs: the earlier houses are not so ornate as the later, mostly 19th century ones. The Viennese seemed to like the Greek style columns, those are seen around the Opera, the Parliament and many other structures. Here and there muscular marble titans hold balconies on their huge shoulders. Inside every church there are magnificent altars, frescoes and organs with lots of glittering covering. If you are so inclined you can of course diligently visit every castle, every museum and walk yourself to exhaustion trying to absorb all those millions of exhibits. Or you can stroll around and gradually acquire the general atmosphere, the ambience, the emotions. You can go to an official concert at any venue, or simply stop by at a church and listen to lovely organ music at set hours. In fact, it seems that there is music everywhere, it pervades the very air of this city where first Mozart, then Johann Strauss created magic.
Mozart’s face is to be seen all around the city. Many houses have memorial plaques. Literally next door to our hotel is the house where the composer stayed for a short period of time, and where his works are performed by a small group of musicians dressed up in the style of his era. The chamber sits less than 40 people, the performance is about an hour and a half. One can get a glass of Prosecco during intermission right there in the inner yard. If you wish to have a great musical experience you can splurge on a full-time concert at Kursalon in Stadtpark, the city Park through which the tiny Vienna River runs. One can book tickets for a concert including dinner; it is not cheap but it is certainly worth it, once. I have never heard such an amazing, skillful performance going straight to your heart and soul. The essence of Mozart and Strauss seemed to flow straight from the musical instruments. You can also walk around in e park, take pictures of many statues including the celebrated golden (gilded) one of Johann Strauss with his violin.
The numerous cafés, restaurants and of course conditorei are not cheap. If you are on a budget or don’t want to spend a lot of time sitting around, stop by at a Billa supermarket. All of them have very good freshly cooked foods counters, with hot and cold meats, poultry, salads, soups. Or you may prefer to buy some foods and have a good meal in your room in between walking tours. Every store also has a great selection of freshly baked breads and all the necessary foods. Nordsee chain sells what they call fish and chips. It’s really very well prepared succulent grilled salmon, lots of salads, and all kinds of potatoes, boiled, fried, hot and cold.
I have noticed some WC signs in passing while wandering around but didn’t pay much attention to them until I really needed one. Rather than trying to find something I stepped into a Pharmacy and discreetly asked a female clerk. She immediately pointed at the next-door large building. I dutifully went in, asked a busy-looking woman for help, and she simply took me to a very good clean facility inside.
Vienna is built in a very sensible understandable way, we hardly needed to consult a plan unless we wanted to find a specific place. We never once used any transport. The locals seem quite friendly. Almost everybody speaks at least some English.
The overall impression: pure magic.

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