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May 22 - 24:
Vienna, Part 1 (Guided tour)

Built as the seat of the Habsburg empire, Vienna is a grand capitol. The cultural offerings during our time there were extensive: the museums were the finest we've ever experienced, the architecture was marvelous, the opera was an artistic triumph, and the palaces were unparalleled.

 

Because we did so much in Vienna, we split our adventures across two pages. This page chronicles our time with the group, while the next page focuses on our free time.  

May 22 & 23: Imperial Vienna

The Hofburg

The Hofburg Palace was the primary winter residence of the former imperial family, the Habsburgs, for 600 years. The Hofburg itself is a complex of buildings that occupy multiple city blocks in Vienna's inner city. The buildings are meant to impress upon visitors the grandiosity of the imperial family, and indeed they do. 

Imperial Apartments

Sadly, photography was not permitted within the Imperial Apartments, so we cannot show you the exercise room of Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) nor the reception rooms of Emperor Franz Joseph, all done in a rococo style befitting a monarch. Franz Joseph's spartan rooms stood in contrast to Sisi's lavishly decorated, brightly colored rooms, but even Franz Joseph's utilitarian rooms were grand.


Sisi has become a near-mythical figure in Vienna, and the sheer amount of merchandise devoted to her was staggering. The gift shop was an explosion of Sisi merch. We understood that her life was poetically tragic, but all the Sisi devotion rather mystified us.

The Ringstrasse

The Ringstrasse, or Ring Road, encircles the inner city of Vienna, following the route of the old medieval city walls. Structures along this broad boulevard have served purposes both imperial (State Opera, Kunsthistorisches Museum, and Burgtheater) and democratic (City Hall, Parliament, and the University of Vienna). Following are a sample of the photos we took while walking along the Ringstrasse. 

May 23: Commerce and Christianity

May 24: Cultured Vienna

Vienna State Opera

Gerhard, our local guide, took us on a tour of the State Opera, done in a neo-Renaissance style. Pointing out two busts at the top of a staircase, he told us the sad fates of the two architects: one committed suicide due to the poor public reception the opera house received; the other died of tuberculosis shortly thereafter. Neither saw the building completed.

We were lucky to get a personalized tour of the interior. Up grand staircases, through lavish salons, into the theater itself, we experienced a whirlwind of opulence. 

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The Belvedere

Though the Belvedere looks like a royal residence, it actually belonged to Eugene of Savoy, the 17th and 18th Century military genius who saved the Habsburgs' holdings. As a patron of the arts and an extravagant host, Prince Eugene made the Belvedere for aesthetic indulgence. Among the richly appointed halls is a world-class art museum that includes Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss".

For the curious, the silver and orange object in the Belvedere's reflecting pool is a temporary mixed-media art installation by Polish artist Goshka Macuga. 

The panoramic photo that heads this page was taken from the rear balcony of the Belvedere. In the forefront of the photo are the palace gardens and Lower Belvedere, with Vienna spread out across the background.

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Farewell dinner

On our last night together, we all went out to dinner at the Heuriger Schübel-Auer, on the outskirts of Vienna. At this wine-garden restaurant, we sat outside among the trees and chatted about our tour. Surrounding by leafy shrubs, we ate traditional Viennese fare. The apple strudel was Lindsey's favorite. Jana gave a touching farewell speech and took this group photo to commemorate our time together.

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Follow our Vienna tour on the map!

 

Click on the square icon to load the map in a new window, or click on the square with an arrow in it to see the legend. 

Blue marker = Imperial tour

Red marker = Culture tour

Purple marker = Free time

Green marker = Food and lodging

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