A meal with a view

Friday - - Leisure -

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...

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