We bid beautiful Budapest farewell and our tour company, Viking, took us by bus the three hours to our final destination, the enchanting and elegant city of Vienna.
As we approached the city limits I was impressed by the pastel painted buildings along the narrow Danube channel where it meets the Vienne River. It reminded me of Amsterdam. But I was in for a treat to the eyes, ears and senses. It took my breath away as we entered the heart of the city where our Hilton hotel was centrally located on the “Ringstrasse,” a wide avenue which encircles the old city of Vienna. It is here where the vast majority of attractions can be found and the endless historic buildings all preserved as if I had stepped back in time 150 years.
Emperor Franz Josef had decided in 1857 to take down the city walls and create a new “modern” city. Here he planned every detail of the streets, boulevards, and buildings. They stand today glorious and gorgeous, a testament to his genius and foresight and examples of the entire architectural history of Europe.
We visited his palatial home, the Schoenbrunn Palace. Here we got to know the hard- working emperor who rose at 3 a.m. every day to begin his 16-hour work day. His young wife, Empress Elizabeth, was fondly called “Sissy” but didn’t share his work ethic. She had wanderlust and traveled constantly. Her tiny 18-inch waist made her recognizable wherever she went.
Although there are long lines to get in to see the palace, the wait is worthwhile. Just leave yourself at least a half day.
Great artists also made the city their home, from Mozart to Beethoven to Shubert to Klimt and Mahler and even Freud. Here music is big business and although the famed opera house was closed for the summer we did enjoy two Mozart concerts in historic buildings. One performance had all the orchestra members dressed in the clothes of Mozart’s time. It was truly fun to see and hear.
Klimt was having an exhibition in the Belvedere Palace and the grounds of both the palace and the exhibit were impressive. Of course seeing Klimt’s “The Kiss” made my day. They sell it reproduced on everything you can think of. The silk pillow with the gold-threaded picture is now sitting on my chair in the den – a daily reminder of my time in Vienna.
Of course Vienna renowned for its food, this meant sampling Schnitzel and desserts. The city’s reputation of creating the most tasty and beautiful pastries still stands. I sampled many!
The best place for the widest variety in an old-world setting is the Cafe Central. Coffee shops here are high art. You are never hurried and encouraged to linger. The best thing is to walk the winding cobblestone streets and then stop for a coffee. The hot chocolate topped with whipped cream was spectacular. I didn’t care that it was 90 degrees outside!
We had hoped to have dinner at the elegant, old-world, charming Hotel Sacher dining room but it was under renovation. Instead we ate outside at the Cafe Landtmann. It had had a $500,000 renovation. Its famous diners have included Sigmund Freud, Hillary Clinton and Sir Paul McCartney.
Vienna is an easy city to love. It calls to me to return and next visit I want to see Prague, another city beautifully restored.