IN­SIDE INFO

Friday - - Leisure - Emi­rates flies to Vi­enna from Dh2,365 re­turn Econ­omy and Busi­ness from Dh11,165 re­turn

It’s not easy be­ing green – ex­cept if you’re in Vi­enna, where it’s hard not to be. I’d heard a lot about the qual­ity of life in Aus­tria’s cap­i­tal, with Vi­enna peren­ni­ally top­ping Mercer’s Qual­ity of Liv­ing Sur­vey due to its low crime rate, ex­cel­lent pub­lic trans­port and, of course, great swathes of green space. And, af­ter a rel­a­tively short (at just un­der six hours) but ex­tremely pleas­ant flight from Dubai on Emi­rates Busi­ness Class, I was feel­ing fresh and ready to dis­cover why Vi­enna is so highly thought of.

The old city cen­tre was ev­ery­thing I had ex­pected from one of Europe’s im­pe­rial stal­warts. As I me­an­dered through – my head tilted back and mouth slightly open in won­der as I mar­velled at grand build­ings that have stood for cen­turies – I care­lessly wan­dered out into what I soon found out was one of Vi­enna’s many cy­cle paths. “Watch out for bikes!” yelled my guide, Diane, as a rider who was clearly in a hurry flew past, leav­ing only a gust of wind and an al­most in­audi­ble ring on his frankly in­ad­e­quate warn­ing bell.

That was a close one. Just as close, in fact, as im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards when I stepped back­wards away from the cy­cle path and was al­most flat­tened by a horse and car­riage! From that mo­ment on, “Watch out” be­came some­thing of a catch­phrase for the trip, gen­er­ally shouted by Diane as each mem­ber of my party walked out in front of Vi­enna’s var­i­ous modes of trans­port.

And there were cer­tainly plenty of ways to get around. There was bi­cy­cle hire for a bar­gain one euro (about Dh5) per hour, and my Vi­enna Card en­ti­tled me to three days of free travel on any bus, tram or un­der­ground in the city – and loads of dis­counts on en­try to mu­se­ums, shops and cafés – for about Dh100, so it was easy to see why there were hardly any cars on the road. In my whole time in Aus­tria’s cap­i­tal, I didn’t see a sin­gle traf­fic jam.

Once I’d got the hang of the cy­cle paths and re­alised that I was safer stand­ing in the road than any­where near them, I be­gan to re­ally en­joy look­ing around the city. Grand ed­i­fices dom­i­nated the sur­pris­ingly low sky­line, each with its own in­tri­cate de­tail­ing – a carv­ing over the door or a statue on the roof – that told a story of its past.

As dusk fell over Vi­enna, I was stunned by the beauty of the Im­pe­rial Palace, which was lit up against the in­creas­ingly gloomy sky. And I’m not the only one who was im­pressed by the palace. Along with St Stephen’s Cathe­dral, which is also in the city cen­tre, the Im­pe­rial Palace has been recog­nised in Unesco’sWorld Cul­tural Her­itage List of out­stand­ing mon­u­ments of mankind along­side won­ders in­clud­ing the Taj Ma­hal and the GreatWall of China.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing I was up bright and early and, de­spite there be­ing more than 100 mu­se­ums in Vi­enna, I found my­self drawn back to the mag­nif­i­cent Im­pe­rial Palace, to see if the in­side was as spec­tac­u­lar as the out­side.

Within the Palace is the Sisi Mu­seum, a celebration of the beau­ti­ful and hugely pop­u­lar Em­press Elis­a­beth (or Sisi, as she was af­fec­tion­ately nick­named), who was mar­ried to Em­peror Franz Joseph and, much to the coun­try’s horror, as­sas­si­nated in 1898. I was trans­ported back in time as I pe­rused the var­i­ous items of Sisi’s be­long­ings, which were ar­ranged in the same grand, cen­turies-old rooms where she lived. Many peo­ple have drawn par­al­lels be­tween Princess Diana and Sisi and, af­ter learn­ing more about her in­cred­i­ble life, I could see why.

Af­ter a quick break for a typ­i­cal Vi­en­nese meal of wiener schnitzel (thin, breaded veal) fol­lowed by

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