The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE -

Jin­drak’s cake-bak­ing ses­sion must be booked in ad­vance and is for groups of 10 peo­ple; it costs €19 ($28.10) a per­son. More: jin­­stube. Ho­tel am Dom­platz is a sleek box-like property next to the “new” (ac­tu­ally, 19th-cen­tury) cathe­dral and very much in keep­ing with Linz’s mod­ernist but un­der­stated style. The ho­tel’s as­so­ci­ated restau­rant is Paul’s, a smartly de­signed venue that spe­cialises in steak and has a daunt­ing list of Aus­trian beers. More: hote­lam­dom­ • aus­ an in­salu­bri­ous rep­u­ta­tion. The turn­around came late in the 20th cen­tury, with new reg­u­la­tions on air pol­lu­tion and a re­gen­er­a­tion pro­gram, hugely boosted by Linz be­com­ing a Euro­pean Cap­i­tal of Cul­ture in 2009. Now it of­fers a refreshing con­trast to its bet­ter-vis­ited neigh­bours; here you have moder­nity and tra­di­tion. Still, for those in pur­suit only of the lat­ter, there is a very easy day trip out of Aus­tria from Linz, into the Bo­hemian woods and to the stag­ger­ingly well-pre­served city of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Repub­lic’s big­gest draw af­ter Prague and much more eas­ily ap­proached from Linz than from the Czech cap­i­tal. If you have a day to spare and can hire a car, the trip (about 80 min­utes from Linz, with checks at the border) is worth it; you’ll find a breath­tak­ing baroque palace with its own moat and bears, painted houses and a maze of me­dieval al­ley­ways. You’ll also find a maze of tourists to pick your way around, bussed in from Prague by the hun­dred. Linz, it is fair to say, does not have this prob­lem.

I feel smug, rather than a tourist mug, as I walk un­trou­bled around Aus­tria’s third-largest city. The Alt­stadt, the old cen­tre, was largely un­touched by Al­lied bomb­ing, but was ig­nored for decades as Linz’s mid­dle class fled for the sub­urbs af­ter World War II. Now it has be­come a haven for wine bars, artists’ stu­dios and hip­ster cof­fee joints, and the 18th-cen­tury houses are grad­u­ally be­ing re­stored to their pas­tel-coloured best. From here it’s a pleas­ant walk up a wind­ing hill to what is left of the schloss (cas­tle), short on me­dieval tur­rets but boast­ing ex­cel­lent views from the Schloss­brasserie restau­rant.

So much for history. As for the 21st cen­tury, the city is proud of its Ars Elec­tron­ica, on the banks of the Danube, a world cen­tre for me­dia arts that hosts com­put­ers that can read your thoughts and 3D prin­ters that can pro­duce ev­ery­thing from ti­ta­nium teacups to plas­tic fab­ric.

There is also a sleek new opera house de­signed by the Bri­tish ar­chi­tect Terry Paw­son, where the ad­min­is­tra­tion prides it­self on a more rad­i­cal line-up than you’ll see in Salzburg or Vi­enna. So I sit through an ab­stract pro­duc­tion of Verdi’s La Travi­ata, in which the cast move as if they’re per­form­ing in Ja­panese kabuki and no one looks at each other.

You can also find more au­then­tic ev­i­dence of Linz’s mu­si­cal her­itage. Salzburg has the Mozart in­dus­try in its cho­co­latey pocket, and you are spoilt for choice in Vi­enna among mon­u­ments to Schu­bert, Beethoven or Jo­hann Strauss. Linz, how­ever, can boast a home-grown clas­si­cal mu­sic mas­ter, the com­poser An­ton Bruck­ner, cre­ator of some of the might­i­est sym­phonies in the canon. Bruck­ner is my pre­text for head­ing 20 min­utes out of town on my last morn­ing, to the monastery of St Flo­rian, home to Aus­tria’s old­est boys’ choir (yes, it beats Vi­enna), where Bruck­ner chose to be buried, ex­actly 36m un­derneath the or­gan where he learnt his trade.

The church alone — an explosion of golden cherubs and swirly mar­ble — is breath­tak­ing, but the real trea­sures of the monastery are its grand re­cep­tion rooms, a painted al­tar­piece by the Ger­man Re­nais­sance mas­ter Al­brecht Alt­dor­fer, and the gor­geous wood-pan­elled 18th-cen­tury li­brary, which can dis­play only 30,000 ex­am­ples of a 160,000-strong col­lec­tion. Nei­ther the wood­work nor the elab­o­rate fres­coes on the li­brary ceil­ing has needed restora­tion, some­thing the monks be­lieve is a divine mir­a­cle.

My mir­a­cle is that not only does my Linzer torte sur­vive the jour­ney home, but it’s ab­so­lutely de­li­cious.

Neil Fisher was a guest of the Aus­trian Tourist Of­fice.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.