Had you asked us to describe what we expected of Vienna before we visited, we probably would have said: culture and elegance. Now that we have visited Vienna, we can authoritatively describe Vienna with the phrase culture and elegance. In other words, Vienna delivers.
We spent a week in Austria’s capital. It was Chuck’s first visit to Austria (he’s finally caught up with Lori in her list of countries), and Lori’s first visit to Vienna (she visited Innsbruck on a trip in High School). Wien, as Austrians call the city (pronounced “VEEN”), was the center—geographically and politically—of Europe for centuries under the Habsburgs. The result is a city full of palaces and lovely squares and ornate architecture and a spectacular cathedral and a smattering of beautiful churches, all delivered to you with a serenade of some of the best-known melodies of Mozart, Strauss, Beethoven, Brahms, and Mahler…and the list goes on.
The official, local and German, name of Austria is Österreich (OHSH-ter-rike), which means “eastern realm”. Austria is a fiercely independent country; they are quick to assert that they are not German. Where Germany is Lutheran, Austria is and always has been Roman Catholic, their emperors even claiming the last titles of “Holy Roman Emperor”. The Nazis “annexed” Austria early in World War II, and after the war Austria was used as a bargaining chip between NATO and the Soviets: it was allowed to be independent but prohibited to join either NATO or the Warsaw Pact. Even today Austria is not a member of NATO but is a strong proponent of the European Union.
The Belvedere Palace (also title picture for this blog)
The Hofburg Palace (The Schonbrunn Palace will be featured in our next blog)
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
St. Stephen’s Cathedral interior
Catholic Church of St Peter
Catholic Church of St. Peter’s dome
Russian Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas
Russian Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas, interior
Ceiling of the Vienna Operahouse’s grand foyer
Lori, ready for her debut opera performance
Viennese food is Germanic, like schnitzel. But with great coffee. But also playful, like these confections…
And as many souvenir t-shirts will remind you, there are no kangaroos in Austria.