When in Vienna, prepare yourself for huge daily doses of Beauty. Every building seems to have columns, ornaments, statues and various decorations. There are innumerable Titans and Caryatides (who were like female Titans) holding up the balconies and entrances. The female faces, in spite of the constant heavy lifting, are lovely. Walk inside any church, look at the dome, to Oculus, the murals and paintings, the winding staircases and stained glass windows, the organ and the altar. In the city park, Stadtpark, one can see the charming Kursalon building which houses a great concert hall and a very good restaurant. In front of it is a flowerbed clock. Behind the famous Karlskirche with its distinctive two tall columns on the sides, the French embassy is housed in an imposing large building. Many other embassies and businesses can be found in the area, each of them boasting a lovely location. Raise your eyes, and you will notice some statues soaring in front of a building, or a busy chimneysweep ready to step ahead onto his new task. Many historical places have plaques and signs which tell a tourist what it is they see and give a brief history of the area or a concrete house. There is clearly a method to this madness, one does not get lost or overwhelmed. Wherever you look, you see that inimitable phenomenon: a thing of Beauty is a joy forever.

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Easter is coming soon, on April 16. Long before that, every shop window, every pharmacy, every supermarket are decorated with rabbits, multi-colored eggs, chickens, and of course flowers. Eggs are scattered around, and rabbits peak from among men’s shirts and women’s clothes, children’s toys and shoes, medicines and cosmetics. There are also all the traditional angels and decorations which create a festive atmosphere a few weeks ahead of the holiday.

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Hotel Royal, Vienna

Hotel Royal, Vienna.
Vienna, Austrian name Wien, is a lovely city with lots of beautiful buildings, churches and monuments, shopping streets and restaurants, and of course hotels. Finding a place to stay may be difficult only if everything is fully booked, and if you have a certain set of requirements in mind. For our week’s stay, I was looking for a place which would have AC, safety deposit box, free wi-fi and breakfast included. Preferably we wanted a place which was close to the main attractions. Vienna is the city which immediately brings to mind Mozart, one can hear his music and see his face everywhere. As if one celebrated musician were not enough for one town, Vienna is also renowned for the immortal music of Johann Strauss. No, even those two great musicians, the ever young extremely prolific genius and the King of Waltz, are not enough. Empress Elizabeth, affectionately called Sisi, her virtual cult of beauty, her amazing floor-length hair and her tragic death are also part of the eternal legends interwoven into the city history.
Hotel Royal is literally a few steps away from Stephasdom, St. Stephen’s cathedral. If you turn left, not right when you exit, you will see one of the city’s Mozart houses! The very place where concerts are regularly held. Hotel Royal is one of the four Kremslehner family run hotels in Vienna. It has all the modern conveniences and facilities in addition to the original decor; once I saw those mirrors I was sold. Breakfast is very substantial, there is something for all tastes. They make very good coffee on request too. The staff are friendly and they speak English. The rooms are spacious and clean. Billa supermarket is right across the street, it has a wide selection of foods and a great freshly made hot meals counter. If you wish a larger choice, turn right as you exit the hotel. Then left to Kaertner Strasse, one of the main shopping streets. A few steps away you will see the big sign PAUL above the street. No, it is not the well- known international bakery but a Menswear store. You don’t need it anyway, just turn right before it and you find another Billa store. That one is huge, with a glass lift inside. They have a really large hot foods counter, plus salads, soups and an enormous selection of foods. We were a bit tired when we first arrived and did not feel like looking for a restaurant, so we bought half a hot grilled chicken for €2.50, some fresh salad and breads and had an enjoyable meal in our room. Every hotel room has a minibar which simply means that there is a fridge, so storing a pack of cheese and ham overnight is not a problem. You may get a city map at reception, choose the places of interest you wish to see, check the distance and have a nice daily walk. Stadtpark, city park is five minutes walk away along Singerstrasse, just turn left when you go out and follow the road. Marriott hotel is right across the road from the park, it is an attractive modern building. The imposing palace behind it is actually a residence hotel. That’s the thing about Vienna, there are so many palaces and residences, one has trouble distinguishing between historical buildings, museums, embassies and houses.
Hotel Royal has a large sign over its entrance which is easily seen from any direction.

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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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Schwaig Bei Munich.
Schwaig Bei Munich now is practically a home away from home. We fly from somewhere and go straight to this tiny place after a long tiring journey. It’s nice and quiet, with practically nothing but a few hotels, some houses scattered along the highway, and the airplanes whooshing by every minute during the day. Yet there is a very nice church, a school, a kindergarten, a post office and some restaurants, which clearly indicate the existence of civilization. Even walking along the road we meet a few pedestrians, some young parents with strollers; there is some construction going on in places, and some work done in the surrounding fields. Schwaig is actually a district or a division of Oberding, the municipality where Munich Airport is situated. Last time I just walked by myself along the road, looking at the pretty houses along the way and snapping a few pictures. This time we walked with my husband. He somehow always knows where we are and how to get back. Blessed or cursed with a bad case of topographic idiocy, I can only backtrack. So we walked leisurely turning this way and that (which I never do when out by myself), and we soon came to a lovely little river  or stream. It was busily running along at a really fast pace. The high banks are now covered with clumps and whole patches of multi-colored crocuses, or maybe e correct name is croci as per the Latin plural nouns rule. Well, cactus (singular) – cacti (plural) sounds Ok but croci probably doesn’t. Floating on the water were lots of very large ducks busily dipping their beaks into the water and obviously grabbing something edible. We stopped on a tiny bridge and watched the unfolding tragicomedy. The biggest brightly colored male duck loudly shooed away the smaller ones and then sort of strutted around, if one can strut in the water, preening and quacking to impress the females. Meanwhile all the other ducks would stealthily creep back. I guess it’s spring, the courtship season. Isn’t it amazing that in Nature, only the males are usually brightly colored, and they do all the work to win the modestly plumaged grey female, while humans do it so differently? Men may look like nothing on earth and yet consider themselves God’s gift to women, and women spend a lot of time and effort on make-up, clothes and accessories to attract men. Actually I think most men wouldn’t recognize an accessory if it hit them in the face. Like in an old joke: Wife, to husband: Honey, I need so much money for make-up, manicure, dresses and shoes, all to look beautiful for you!
Husband: Aren’t I lucky, I was born handsome, so I don’t need all that stuff!

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Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany, which means that every time you come to visit you are sure to find something new. There are lovely residential areas with the houses built in that typically northern style, with plenty of white stone buildings and lots of ornaments. There is a lot of  carefully-tended greenery. If you walk through any park, you will see lots of plants, birds, ducks and sea-gulls or maybe they are river gulls. Many buildings have quite original statues placed on their fronts. There are also lots of long stretches of covered walkways which reminded us of Italy, and in fact of many other areas where it rains often. Naturally if you like architecture you should see the City Hall, Rathaus, and visit its beautiful inner yard with the fountains and statues. The tall tower of Alte Post, the Old Post-Office, can be seen from far away, as well as the new TV tower which dominates the skyline. It is clear that the people who built this magnificent city wanted to live in a beautiful place created by their own hands.

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Hamburg is one of my favorite cities in the world. It is large and beautiful, and each time we visit it there is always something new. We have been to the celebrated Port in summer once, and now we decided to see it in winter. Though it was a bit chilly, lots of people walked around enjoying the sights, snapping pictures, buying souvenirs and eating snacks. It is possible to step down to the water’s edge and see the many ships and yachts, or just stand on the top promenade and have a panoramic view. As chance would have it, I read about Hamburg Harbor City on one of the flights in an onboard Lufthansa magazine, so I was quite curious to see the new buildings. The area is really impressive. All the land transportation is nearby, with the short bridge which leads to the S-Bahn and U-Bahn station. As in many other places, we saw a zillion little locks decorating the railings. I have no idea where and how the tradition originated, but they seem to be ubiquitous today. The incessant babble and shrill cries of the sea-gulls swooping around, searching greedily for any food scraps, completes this seaside picture.

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