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Viennese Memories 2

This is the second of the series. The first part is here.

Schönbrunn Palace
Early on Friday morning, we headed off to the Sch̦nbrunn palace. We were planning to spend only a couple of hours there, but the palace was so impressive and the palace grounds so huge and beautiful, it was nearly 2pm by the time we left Sch̦nbrunn. The Sch̦nbrunn palace is one of the most elegant and impressive palaces I have come across in Europe Рit is a true symbol of the ancient glory of the Habsburg empire, which has included regions as far west as Spain and France and many of the east European regions. The palace traces its origins to the middle ages when it was owned by a monastery, after which it was acquired by the Habsburgs for use as their hunting grounds. The palace was destroyed during the Turkish invasion, but it was later restored and and an impressive imperial palace was added to the hunting grounds by the Habsburg empires.

A grand tour of the Palace allows you to visit about fifty rooms in the palace. It offers a rare glimpse into the life of the Habsburg rulers – the spartan and near workaholic life style of the emperor Franz Josef, the self-confident and rebellious life of one of Austria’s favourite queens – Sissi, the splendour of royal weddings which were often ties of peace rather than love and many more. After doing the rounds in the palace building, we strolled across the grounds and made our way up the hill behind it – the view up there is truly worth the climb. We also had lunch at the Gloriette cafe at the top of the hill – a reasonably priced cafe, considering the prime location.

From the Schönbrunn palace, we made our way to Prater gardens. Perhaps I had just heard too much about Prater and had too high expectations, but Prater didn’t really live upto my expectations. It is a huge amusement park, with lots and lots of different kinds of game rides. But then if you are beyond a certain age, most of them won”t interest you. And some of the ones that might have interested me just looked too old. They had a bungee jumping, but just one look at the equipment made me have serious doubts about whether I might be tempting fate by getting on top of that. It doesn’t help that one of the things they are very proud of about Prater’s giant wheel is that it is the only surviving giant wheel from its generation – the other giant wheels that were built in the same era and used in the amusement parks of London and Paris have long been replaced. While I like vintage when it comes to some things, amusement parks where I put my life on the line definitely ain’t one of them.

After Prater, we made our way to Kunsthauswien, which houses the works of the innovative artist and environmentalist, Hundertwasser. Even if you are not into modern art, you are sure to be bowled over by the amazing use of colors in his work. The building itself is an amazing piece of architecture and is a tribute to the artist who famously proclaimed that the straight line is Godless – whether you aesthetically agree with the design or not, it is definitely a not-to-be missed feature in any Vienna visit.

Hundertwasser Village
The upper two floors of the Kunsthauswien has moving exhibitions, and when we were there, it was featuring the work of Mathias Waske – I must say it is not really my genre of art, but Srijith seemed to take a real fancy to it. His work reflects a rare mix of irreverence, satire and truly wonderful talent – many of the modern art I have seen have great concepts, but the actual painting often makes me want to take up my own set of paints in the vain hopes of being an artist myself with a ‘If thats art,I can do it too’ attitude. But this guy not only has great ideas, but also represents them with amazing style. Back to Hundertwasser – there is a Hundertwasser village about 300m from the Kunsthauswien. You cant really go inside the houses, but its worth a walk just to see the buildings and to visit the shopping complex built in the same style.

Sacher Torte
From the Hundertwasser village, we made our way to Sacher Hotel, home to the famed Sachertorte, which has come to represent Viennese confectionery to the outside world. Considering the fame it has, it is not really all that overpriced – a Sachertorte stück will set you back by about 4 EUR. It is essentially a chocolate torte, with a couple of chocolate layers, served with cream – with the original recipe still a safely guarded secret. I can only guess it is the way of preparation, rather than the ingredients, that makes the real difference to the taste – smooth as silk and just a tad fluffy.

Posted in Travel on June 28, 2005

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