Wien — Vienne — Vienna! (I/II)

Our long-awaited weekend in Vienna came at last; the first of what we hope to be many. November 1st, All Saints’ Day, is a national holiday in this catholic country, so all schools and businesses were closed.  We left early in the morning on the three-hour car trip and made one slight detour — to Melk.

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Stift Melk (Melk Abbey), 85 km west of Vienna, overlooks the Danube River and has been a spiritual and cultural center of Austria for more than 1,000 years, first as a castle for the Babenbergs (Austria’s first dynasty), then from 1089 as a Benedictine monastery.  It is widely considered Austria’s best example of Baroque architecture.  And the “Stiftsgymnasium”, founded in the 12th century, is the oldest existing school in the country.

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Once in the fairy tale city of Vienna itself, we started out at the Staatsoper (State Opera House), and from there made our way up Kärtnerstraße, one Vienna’s noblest shopping streets.  Along the way lies Hotel Sacher, known for its famous Original Sacher Torte, considered by many to be the world’s most renowned cake, and at the very least one of the most famous Viennese culinary specialties.  The cake consists of two layers of dense chocolate sponge with two thin layers of apricot jam in the middle, coated in a dark chocolate shell on the top and sides. It is traditionally served with unsweetened whipped cream and a glass of water (for an interesting history of the cake itself and the battle between Hotel Sacher and its biggest competior, Konditorei Demel, visit:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sachertorte).

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Staatsoper

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Someone was enjoying the Hotel Sacher.

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Some display windows along the Kärtnerstraße

We continued up Kärtner Straße to Stefansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral), the most important religious building in Austria’s capital, witness to many important events in the nation’s history.  With its multi-colored tile roof and massive south tower, it has become one of the city’s most recognizable symbols.  As it was All Saints’ Day, a service was in session with beautiful choral and instrumental music.

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From one beautiful church to the next, from High Gothic to High Baroque:  we next visited another of Vienna’s most recognizable and beautiful icons, the Karlskirche (St. Charles’ Church).  This was the last work of the eminent Baroque architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach who also designed Schloß Schönbrunn, the Hofburg Palace, National Library, and Spanish Riding School of the Lipizzaner Stallions, among many other works. It was here at the Karlskirche that we were to hear Mozart’s Requiem the following evening, but wanted the girls to also see the church by day.

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Without continuing to wax too wordy, the following sights completed our day of sight-seeing:

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The Musikverein where the New Year’s concerts are held

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The Johann Strauß II monument

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Parliament

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Burgtheater

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Rathaus (City Hall)

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Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum)

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One of Vienna’s oldest coffeehouses 

The following four photos are of the ‘Secession’ building in the ‘Jugendstil‘ style of Vienna. ‘Jugendstil‘ literally means ‘Youth Style’ and is the Art Nouveau movement of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries that was all about freedom of expression and was particularly valued in Vienna.

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