Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The second babble: The Elegance That Is Vienna-Part 1


In this Babble I will do my best to describe the wonderful city of Vienna. It is impossible for me to accurately paint a picture of this city in only one blog. Apparently it is also not possible to do so with 500 photographs... This being said, there will be quite a few more blogs popping up in my attempt to capture Vienna.

*Achtung! There will be quite a large number of photos in what I consider already lengthy blog posts. Please take the time to look through them as they help me to describe the ambiance of Vienna. If you click on the photos they will open as a larger image! (Some in better quality than others...)

If you arrive in Austria by way of the airport, then scoot your rental SMART car (good luck tying the luggage to the roof) along the Autobahn towards Vienna (Wien, auf Deutsch), you will inevitably be confused and disappointed for the majority of your journey. You will leave the tiny Vienna "Flughafen" (which happens to be one of my favorite airports, second only to Munich); and pass by fields, oil refineries, factories, dilapidated warehouses, eye-watering industrial smells...However, as you enter into Vienna city limits (your entry will take you through the 3rd District) you will notice a dramatic difference. The first hint of Vienna will be in the form of a canal, which will pop up on your left side. This is one of the many precautions in place to keep the city safe from the infamous Danube floods... Vienna has hundreds of years of dramatic flooding history as the city is located right along side the river...take a look in any of the old basements for the evidence.

As you follow this curious little canal around all of its it curves and wiggles, you will suddenly find yourself dwarfed by grand, old buildings to you right; and the larger portion of the Danube Canal to your left. Vienna is arranged in a circular form...all districts reaching away from the center (the center of Vienna is labeled the 1st District, otherwise known as the Innere Stadt) like the rays from the sun. To continue from our route along the canal, on to the center of the city you will take one of the grand bridges to your left, and cross over the Danube Canal.

We typically choose to park in a small area along the boarder
of the
1st and 3rd districts, and walk across the Old Canal into the city center. This allows us the pleasure of taking in all the sites of this intriguing area. It is always amazing to see the modern and the ancient not only standing side-by-side, but actually intertwined with one another. This presents itself in many forms: Partially renovated buildings containing mesmerizing store displays at ground level, and magnificent Viennese-chic apartments above. Ancient and narrow streets, originally designed to carry horse and carriage; then later adapted to accommodate the ever so popular BMW's, Mercedes, and Audi. Historic gardens, kept anew and fresh by many talented landscape artists. Intricate rot-iron fences and gates, painted a shiny new black. A grand, old Viennese chandelier hanging in an old Palais, now turned into a posh night club.

Another place to find a pleasant mixture of the young and old is in the famous Cafes of Vienna. A Cafe in Vienna is typically an old-world, quaint establishment...tucked into small corners of old (and architecturally magnificent) buildings. In here you will find strong coffee (an influence from the old Ottoman Empire, which was dangerously close to including Vienna in its borders) and espresso served with lumps of sugar to the side, cream, and quite often...a Mozart Chocolate (Oesterreich Mozartkugal Victor Schmidt). Often these Cafés are crowded with young couples laughing, wealthier couples proudly wearing their couture ensembles, older couples debating politics...but always they are full of thick smoke as many here enjoy cigarettes with their coffee and cake... I'm not one for smoking, but to each their own.

Three of the most famous cafes of Vienna would have to be the Café Landtmann, Café Central, and Sacher Café inside the Hotel Sacher Wien (there are also the Sacher Cafés of Salzburg, Graz, and Innsbruck). Located directly on the beautiful Ringstrasse (ring road around Vienna's Innere Stadt) the Café Landtmann has the best location out of the three, and is always packed with tourists and celebrities... Café Landtmann is surrounded by the Rathaus (stunning city hall building, picture to come in a later blog), Volksopera (one of the opera houses of Vienna), beautiful churches, and Palais (In Vienna these are typically small palaces, or GRAND town homes once lived in by relatives of royalty or someone of great importance and wealth. Most of these are preserved as museums; some have become elegant cafés such as the Café Central, and some have become exclusive hot spots).  The Café Central is my favorite of the three, and is also a historic Palais.

(Photos found below:
Café Central- found on, Café Landtmann-picture by Günter Hofstädter, and Café Sacher Wien- found on

I will stop here for now.
More on the Elegance of Vienna to come!