Vienna Journals

December in Vienna and Bratislava

A December 2007 trip to Vienna by alan_nesbit

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Quote: It's cold in Vienna in December, very cold, but with art galleries to explore, grand buildings to visit, an evening at the opera, and hot punsch for sale in Christmas markets throughout the city, it's a good time to go.

Vienna

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If there is one word to describe Vienna’s Innere Stadt, it’s ‘grand’. This is a city whose buildings are designed to impress, to flaunt the power and pomp of empire. One family, the Hapsburgs, ruled that empire, the Austro-Hungarian, for over seven centuries until 1918 and it was their wealth that created much of the baroque architecture. Elegant facades line each street, sculptures of muscular men strain to hold up the mighty, serious buildings, and sleek German cars are parked in front of expensive shops. From the top of the south tower of Stephansdom, the cathedral, you can look in all directions onto the streets and rooftops below. Westwards is the Hofburg Palace, home to th...Read More
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We hadn’t meant to visit Karlskirche, but wandered past it as we were making our way towards the Schloss Belvedere. It was even an arbitrary decision to enter, paying a few euros each to do so, but once inside we knew it was well worth it. Whereas the interiors of most of the other public buildings and churches we visited in Vienna were far too ornate for my taste, Karlskirche avoided gaudiness, just about. The interior is currently being renovated and scaffolding has been erected that reaches into the central dome. A lift carries visitors up to a platform from where the remarkable frescos that cover the inside of the dome can be viewed at close quarters. A further set of stair...Read More

Day Trip to Bratislava

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We took a train to Bratislava, just over an hour from Vienna. The journey crosses the flat lands of eastern Austria, where ploughed fields stretch into the distance and piles of sugar beet wait to be collected and processed into sugar. In the freezing central European winter, a sprinkling of snow covered the fields, and a layer of ice covered any standing water. It’s clear that Bratislava was part of the same empire as Vienna, and also clear that its status was somewhere below that of Vienna. The central Old Town area shares some of the same architectural heritage, but is much smaller, less ostentatious, and has narrow streets on an irregular layout. S...Read More