Ro­man­tic Vi­enna

It is said that the streets of Vi­enna are not paved in stone but with his­tory. In­deed, a great part of the city’s charm lies in the way it trans­forms his­tory into the “good old im­pe­rial days”. This is why this young and dy­namic me­trop­o­lis in the heart of

Maxx-M - - FRONT PAGE - Text by Andy Sachs | Pho­tos cour­tesy of Wien Touris­mus

Afa­mous Vi­en­nese song be­gins: “Im Prater blühn wieder die Bäume”, which means trees at the Prater are in blossom again. Res­onat­ing the world over, it ex­presses a uniquely Vi­en­nese joie de vivre. When white and pink blos­soms of the chest­nut trees start reach­ing sky­ward, the city be­gins to change. Spring has ar­rived, the most ro­man­tic time in Vi­enna. The twit­ter­ing of the black­birds in the Volks­garten, Stadt­park and Rathaus­park un­furls an in­ex­pli­ca­ble yearn­ing in the hearts of passers-by. The fra­grances of jas­mine and li­lac go to your head just like a glass of cham­pagne.

A ‘Fi­aker’ Ride Past Old Im­pe­rial Grandeur

In the spring, coach­men crack their whips in an even live­lier man­ner than usual. This is the best time of year to take a ride in a fi­aker or tra­di­tional horse­drawn car­riage. Af­ter be­ing greeted with words of olde-world charm, it is off to ad­mire the mag­nif­i­cent ar­chi­tec­ture of the im­pe­rial era. From the Al­bertina to the Vi­enna State Opera, you then con­tinue be­neath the del­i­cate green leaf canopy of the trees lin­ing the Ring Boule­vard. You will pass by the Burggarten (Im­pe­rial Gar­den) with its splen­didly re­stored palm house, and two mas­sive cupola-crowned build­ings – the Mu­se­ums of Fine Arts and Nat­u­ral His­tory. Might­ily en­throned be­tween them is the ab­so­lutist fore­mother of Baroque, Em­press Maria There­sia – a mon­u­ment fac­ing over to the Hof­burg (Im­pe­rial Palace) and Helden­platz square. Asthe horses’ hooves clat­ter, a gen­tle May breeze touches your cheek. Thoughts wan­der in three-quar­ter time, turn­ing back the wheel of time and trans­port­ing you back to an­other cen­tury. In your mind’s eye, you see a group of stu­dents in heated de­bate in front of the Par­lia­ment build­ing; young lieu­tenants in splen­did uni­forms high atop their horses riding to­wards City Hall; and at the Burgth­e­ater a coach turns into a small side street. In it, you dis­cern a beau­ti­ful veiled lady – maybe en route to a se­cret ren­dezvous? The fi­aker passes the Abbey of the Scots and Freyung, and then con­tin­ues via Am Hof to­wards St. Stephen’s Cathe­dral. Ev­ery stone is im­bued with his­tory. With a lit­tle imag­i­na­tion, you can see for­mer rulers pulling po­lit­i­cal strings be­hind the walls of city man­sions Har­rach, Schön­born-Batthyány, Daun-Kin­sky and Fer­s­tel, or coaches con­vey­ing gen­try hail­ing from all over the globe. And in the evenings, you can al­most hear the rustling of ladies’ gowns at soirées and balls.

In­ti­mate Ball Whis­pers

Ball events have a long tra­di­tion in Vi­enna and are cel­e­brated in the city like nowhere else on earth. No other place com­bines long-es­tab­lished cer­e­mony with joie de vivre in quite the same way. But danc­ing is not re­stricted to the car­ni­val sea­son – balls are hosted in the cap­i­tal all year round and there are count­less other op­por­tu­ni­ties for a ro­man­tic evening on the dance floor. In sum­mer, the Volks­garten café is a fa­vorite spot to tango, cha-cha-cha, boo­gie and waltz un­der the stars with great views of the il­lu­mi­nated dome of the Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum in the back­ground. Al­ter­na­tively, en­joy an evening of dance dur­ing a cruise along the Danube. Lots of Vi­en­nese dance schools open their doors to non-mem­bers on cer­tain evenings.

Wind­ing Streets, Ar­caded Court­yards

The mag­nif­i­cent fa­cade of St. Stephen’s Cathe­dral is mir­rored in the win­dow pan­els of Hans Hollein’s Haas-Haus that houses a fash­ion store and the Do & Code­sign ho­tel. Past and pre­sent of­ten go hand in hand in Vi­enna, a fact demon­strated by a stroll through the old city. A nice cup of tea at Haas & Haas at Stephansplatz 4 is like a jour­ney down the ages—you sit in a Bie­der­meier-style court­yard gar­den, sur­rounded by the mas­sive old walls of the Haus des Deutschen Or­dens (House of the Teu­tonic Or­der), and then you get pre­sented with a dig­i­tally printed bill. When you find your­self in the small streets of Singer­strasse, Blut­gasse and Dom­gasse, you are in the heart of the ro­man­tic city. Nar­row and dark, they are cov­ered with cob­ble­stones just as they were cen­turies ago. Some­how you would not be sur­prised to see Mozart turn­ing a corner on his way home to the Mozarthaus which con­tains the only orig­i­nal Mozart apart­ment pre­served in Vi­enna, whistling a tune from his Mar­riage of Fi­garo, which he com­posed there. There is no dan­ger of get­ting lost in these wind­ing streets. You al­ways seem to find your way back to Stephansplatz, only to con­tinue in an­other di­rec­tion, for in­stance through the al­ley­way of the archiepis­co­pal palace to Wol­lzeile, and then through an­other one at Figlmüller (the inn with the largest Vi­enna schnitzels) to Bäck­er­strasse. Do not miss the ar­caded court­yard of the Sch­wa­nen­feld build­ing at Bäck­er­strasse No.7 or the small in­ner court­yard at No. 12 known as Wo die Kuh am Brett spielt (where the cow plays check­ers) with its name­sake wall fresco. Con­tin­u­ing past the Acad­emy of Sciences and the aus­tere but beau­ti­ful Je­suit Church, you ar­rive at Son­nen­fels­gasse with the Old Univer­sity and Schön­later­n­gasse. Time seems to have stood still in all these streets – and, in­deed, you are fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of no­table per­son­al­i­ties such as Haydn, Beethoven, and Clara and Robert Schu­mann.

De­light­ful Mar­kets & Bie­der­meier Dis­tricts

They may also have en­joyed the seren­ity and peace at Heili­genkreuz Court, which can be reached from Schön­later­n­gasse. This 17th-cen­tury build­ing com­plex, built around a spa­cious in­ner court­yard is of time­less beauty.The great Aus­trian satirist Hel­mut Qualtinger used to live here. It is only a stone’s throw from Heili­genkreuz Court to Fleis­chmarkt. Like many oth­ers in the his­toric city cen­tre, this street took its name from the wares sold here in the Mid­dle Ages. Turk­ish mer­chants in rich cos­tume sold silk from the ori­ent, spices, to­bacco and cof­fee. Later came the Greeks, who had left their home­land af­ter the Turk­ish oc­cu­pa­tion, and also traded their wares. They left a num­ber of me­men­tos in Vi­enna: the Griechen­beisl inn, the richly-gilded Greek Church, and the charm­ing Griechen­gasse with its fly­ing but­tresses and me­dieval fa­cades. If you still have not had enough of nar­row streets, an­cient walls and the aura of cen­turies past, then cross the Ring boule­vard and visit the Spit­tel­berg quar­ter. This area used to lie out­side the city walls, and was any­thing but elegant. Streets were lined with dis­rep­utable dives, wine flowed like wa­ter, man­ners were rough and many of the ladies weren’t ladies at all, but were paid money for their ser­vices. This part of town was re­vi­tal­ized in an ex­em­plary fash­ion dur­ing the late 1970s. And now that its morals have been re

stored, you can safely stroll among the Bie­der­meier build­ings and visit one of the many restau­rants and bars. In the weeks lead­ing up to Christ­mas, fine aro­mas of punch and gin­ger­bread waft through Spit­tel­berg. This is when the pop­u­lar Christ­mas Mar­ket takes place. Although smaller than the one in front of City Hall, it of­fers a wide se­lec­tion of de­light­ful hand­i­crafts.

The City’s Green Out­doors

It is true that Vi­enna is at its most beau­ti­ful in the spring – but only if you gaze away from sum­mer, au­tumn and win­ter. One thing is for sure: Vi­enna is a city for all sea­sons. This has some­thing to do with the fact that na­ture reaches deep into many parts of the city. Take the Prater, for in­stance. Around the turn of the last cen­tury, at the time of Freud, a ride to the Prater was very much a so­cial oc­ca­sion. On Sun­days, car­riages drove out from the in­ner city along Prater­strasse, the for­mer Jägerzeile, into the green Prater. These days, in the morn­ings, the Prater is a jog­ger territory. Later in the day, it is horse­back rid­ers you will see, fol­lowed by walk­ers, day-trip­pers and the Vi­en­nese with their pic­nic bas­kets. And then there are whose who want to en­joy the con­stantly chang­ing faces of the Prater through­out the year: the morn­ing mist and the en­chant­ing green of the month of May, dense fo­liage and heavy thun­der­storm drops dur­ing the sum­mer, the blaze of colour dur­ing fall and fi­nally, in the win­ter, the white frost and bare trees pic­turesquely zigzag­ging into the air.

Ro­mance on the Wa­ter

A boat trip is a won­der­ful con­clu­sion to a fas­ci­nat­ing day’s sight­see­ing or the ideal rem­edy af­ter a busy day of meet­ings. The Old Danube is par­tic­u­larly invit­ing. There is a marked con­trast be­tween the river­bank at­mos­phere sur­rounded by ver­dant green­ery and the ur­ban sky­line. A se­ries of moon­light and pic­nic ex­cur­sions are of­fered on se­lected dates in the sum­mer, or sim­ply en­joy spare ribs and other bar­be­cue treats from one of the bars lin­ing the wa­ter­side. A trip aboard a plea­sure cruiser along the Danube Canal or a sec­tion of the Danube proper re­veals the city from a new per­spec­tive that is best en­joyed with a leisurely cup of cof­fee or glass of wine. Na­ture lovers can take a boat trip into the un­spoiled wilder­ness of the DonauAuen Na­tional Park, while sports lovers can cool off aboard the Bade­schiff and en­joy the old and new fa­cades that make up the cityscape in the cen­ter of Vi­enna. Mean­while, Strand­bar Her­rmann pro­vides the per­fect place to chill and flirt over a snack and a cock­tail.

Wine Tav­erns: Nos­tal­gia and Easy Charm

The clas­sic and tra­di­tional way to con­clude an ex­cur­sion to the Vi­enna Woods is to visit a Heuriger.The word “heuriger” refers to both the wine of the last har­vest and the tav­erns where it is served. Whether in Grinz­ing, Neustift, Nuss­dorf or Sal­manns­dorf, a charm­ing time is guar­an­teed with spe­cial wine tav­ern mu­sic con­tribut­ing to the ro­man­tic mood. And as the small hours beckon, it is com­mon for peo­ple at the tav­ern to join in the singing of an old Vi­en­nese song or two, such as “Es wird a Wein sein, und mir wern nim­mer sein ... ” (There’ll al­ways be wine, but we won’t be here to en­joy it) – a lit­tle wist­ful melan­choly that be­fits an emo­tional city like Vi­enna. And if it isn’t melan­choly, it is nos­tal­gia like at Salettl, a small café in the 19th district. A sun lounge, un­pre­ten­tious ta­bles and chairs, and the flair of the turn of the last cen­tury – all this is much ap­pre­ci­ated by the young Vi­en­nese in par­tic­u­lar. Villa Aurora, near Wil­helmi­nen­berg Palace in the 16th district, also ex­udes fin-de-siè­cle flair by can­dle­light. Who knows, you could or­der a Vi­enna schnitzel and salad, only to be served the dessert from the next ta­ble. So you ex­change dishes, get to talk­ing, sit closer, look into each other’s eyes and maybe fall in love. This can eas­ily hap­pen in Vi­enna.

Wed­ding of Your Dreams

in Vi­enna

The city also takes care of the con­se­quences of fall­ing in love. It is pos­si­ble to get mar­ried at some of the most de­light­ful lo­ca­tions in Vi­enna, for in­stance Schön­brunn Palace, the gi­ant Fer­ris wheel, a vin­tage tramway or the But­ter­fly House. A knot tied in such ro­man­tic sur­round­ings is des­tined to last. Af­ter all, the lovers on Aus­trian painter Gus­tav Klimt’s fa­mous paint­ing “The Kiss” have been em­brac­ing each other in un­chang­ing pas­sion for over 100 years.

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