A meal with a view
Emperor Maximilian I and the so-called Black men. Because I didn’t pay enough attention to history class at college, it was news to me that Maximilian I was also known as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Apparently on his death bed, he asked to be laid to rest in the St George’s chapel in Vienna, with 40 bronze larger-than-life statues standing guard around his sepulchre. Yes, he had a huge ego.
The first part of his wish was fulfilled and his successors began work on the statues he had requested. However, once the first batch of 28 statues was complete, they were found to be too heavy to be moved to Vienna. Perhaps a penny pincher, his grandson, Emperor Ferdinand I had an idea: why not have a cenotaph for the dead ruler in Austria and save the trouble of taking all this to Vienna? The result is the Court Church. The amazingly lifelike, intricately fashioned 28 statues, including those of his wives and aristocrats of other courts of Europe, now stand frozen forever around an empty grave.
The church is a marvellous example of European architecture. Inside is an ancient organ that dates back to the Renaissance period, on which concerts are still played to this day. Having had my fill of history, I was looking forward to the cable car ride to the popular restaurant on top of the Hafelekar mountain, later that evening.
A short drive from the hotel – which incidentally has played host to guests such as Queen Elizabeth II and the Rolling Stones – we arrived at the Hungerburg funicular cable car station, also designed by Zaha Hadid. In 20 minutes, the cable car transported me from the station in Innsbruck, which is 300m above sea level, to the restaurant, which stands 2,256m at the top of the Hafelekar mountain. If the views from the car as it swept up the mountain were just fabulous, the food at the Alpenlounge Seegrube & Hafelekar Restaurant was just as good.
Much later, as we were silently sliding down the mountain in the cable car, I cast one last look at the mountainside. We would be leaving for Dubai via Vienna the next morning.
“So, what was the best thing about your visit?’’ asked Matthias Classen, director of marketing at Grand Hotel Europa. “Oh there are just too many to list,’’ I said honestly. “But I’d rate a mountain biking trip, a visit to see Max and his men, and a trip up the Hafelekar mountainside as experiences that were just thrilling.”
And the next day, just as I thought the excitement had ended, I spotted standing on the tarmac at Vienna airport a spanking new Austrian airline aircraft that was to fly us back to Dubai.
“You are one of the first to experience the ultra-modern first class on this aircraft,’’ said smiling cabin crew welcoming me on board. Inside, the large seats were equipped with all kinds of geegaws and there was a chef serving signature dishes throughout the flight.
Not bad at all, I said to myself as I stretched out in the seat and fiddled with the controls to make myself more comfortable. Even James Bond would have loved it. ● Turn over for more on Austria and its capital’s night life...