Holiday in Austria!
Our visit to Vienna coincided with the largest Austrian National Holiday. Commemorating the country’s regaining their independent nation status and permanently declaring their neutrality is celebrated annually on October 26. Festivals abound, and most businesses are closed, there is a military ceremony, and open houses at The Austrian National Parliament; the State House of the Austrian National Library; and at the Federal Chancellery of the Republic of Austria. Many museums offer free or reduced entry as well. An incredibly busy downtown; expect it to be busier as most Austrians are given the day off as well.
Like so many other fortified towns, a wall once surrounded Vienna. Today the wall is gone and a ring road circles historic Vienna. During the 1600’s and 1700’s the government sold off parcels of land to fund construction. Many of the buildings are still in use today.
Due to the larger size of Vienna, our tour began with a bus overview of the area, followed by a walking tour of the downtown.
Famous for the Giant Ferris Wheel, constructed in 1897, the world’s tallest as recently as 1985. Once there were 30 gondolas, damaged during World War II now only 15 remain. At 212’ tall you can view the whole city from this sky-high perch, or rent a gondola for a private occasion.
Only kings once used the Hapsburgs’ many palaces and gardens. Today they have become public parks and museums.
The bus passes centuries of architecture.
The baroque Church of St Charles is from 1715. Flanked by columns that appear as if they came straight from Egypt, entry is only 4,50 euro.
Nearby, two prefabricated Art Nouveau buildings, by Otto Wagner from 1900, are constructed of metal frames and solid marble slid in to each section, one a train station the other a café
Another, the Secession Building, is topped with an open weave golden ball that resembles flowers, built as an exhibition space for artists in 1897 it was not popular at the time but is an extraordinary stop today.
The Rathaus, or city hall, was located outside the original city walls. On October 26, live music fills the air, children squeal in delight as rides spin and people nosh on fair food.
The Opera a famous cultural landmark, is beautiful by day, and the scene of endless entertainment by night.
Our circle complete, we tour through the historic core.
In the center of town, a UNESCO world heritage site, Gothic St Stephens Church steeples tower 450’ originally used as watchtowers to check for fires in the city. The church sports four gothic towers. As styles changed, the last incomplete tower was toped in the later style renaissance fashion. During World War II the church was not bombed, but a fire next door caused the church roof to burn. The conflagration resulted in all the majolica tiles cascading to the floor. The interior was saved because it was already bricked up to prevent damage. The new metal roof is covered with majolica tile, still displaying the original coats of arms. Modern day pollution leaves soot stains on the church, requiring a year round cleaning operation. In the historic core only one modern structure creates discord. Built before the entire downtown was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the mirrored structure reflects back the surrounding buildings.
Windows so delicious you want to lick the glass front the famous Demel Chocolate Confectionary & Bakery. In a city famous for chocolate and tortes, there are many competing shops, all awaiting you to sample their delicacies.
The Hofberg palace and Spanish Riding Stables famous for the internationally known Lipizzaner stallions is packed with spectators on this particular day, as speeches are given and awards presented.
Located close to the metro station, it is a quick trip downtown to continue exploring once the river cruise tour is complete. With an abundance of history, music, and chocolate, it would be easy to spend days here exploring all that Vienna has to offer.