Sunday, October 16, 2011

Travelogue: Austrian charm

It was during the month of March in the year 2000 when I first set foot in Austria. It was part of our European itinerary. We took an overnight train from Venice to Vienna. In my excitement, I couldn't sleep and just laid in my bunker bed watching the night time scenery pass by. When the train reached the final stop in Vienna, I was greeted by the chillingly cold breeze. We dragged our heavy luggage all the way to the MRT (I forget what it is called) and alighted at the city hall station. Good thing my sister is quite adept in reading maps. After a few minutes walk, we reached our B&B type accommodation for our week stay in Austria.

For 3 whole days we explored Vienna on our own. Our hotel was walking distance from the Rathaus (City Hall).

We also toured the scenic route leading to the Burgtheater (National Theatre).
The Burgtheater has obtained a world-wide reputation for brilliant dramatic art and it holds a leading position in the dramatic arts of German-speaking Europe. Over the years, its theatrical company of more or less regular members has worked out a traditional style and speech characteristic of Burgtheater performances. The audience has always been involved in evaluating the talents of new members of the Burgtheater company. (Information is from the map of tourist sites to visit in Vienna)

We were also fortunate to ride the Prater, Vienna's most popular fun fair. Here one can enjoy a great view from the giant Ferris wheel which was featured in the classic film, "The Third Man". The Prater is situated near the centre and is ideal for walking, cycling, jogging or just lying on the grass after an exhausting sightseeing tour in the inner city.

We rode the MRT to visit the Gothic St Stephen' Cathedral. It is situated in the city centre, and for centuries it has been the heart of Vienna. It is one of the most famous Viennese sights and was built in 1147. The cathedral was dedicated to St. Stephen. But we weren't able to capture these sights on film since we foolishly forgot our camera in the hotel. It was beautiful too to see the Vienna Opera House sparkling with lights during the evenings.

One evening, we bought tickets to watch a quartet perform classical music in one of the halls in the Burgtheater. It was a small ensemble with a small audience, but the acoustic of the hall was perfect. It was an excellent way to appreciate Austria's rich cultural heritage.

It took us an entire day to explore the Schonbrunn Palace. The Palace with its surrounding buildings and the huge park is one of the most significant cultural monuments in Austria. It was generally used as the summer residence of the Habsburg rulers. Furthermore the entire complex was taken up in the UNESCO's world cultural heritage list.

We took a train to get to Salzburg, the 4th largest city in Austria. The place made famous by "The Sound of Music" movie. It is also the birthplace of 18th century composer Wolfgang Mozart. His modest residence is now a museum where they display most of his compositions.

Since we only had half a day to explore Salzburg, we headed directly to the Hellbrunn Palace, famous for its trick fountains.

We also visited the Hohensalzburg Castle ("High Salzburg Fortress"). It is one of Austrian's ancient castles and it is atop the Festungsberg mountain. It was erected at the behest of the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg. Today today with a length of 250 m (820 ft) and a width of 150 m (490 ft), it is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe.

Overall, our visit to Austria was short but quite charming. From the wonderful sights, the interesting local cuisine to the biting cold weather (even though it was already March) - it will forever remain etched in my memory as one of the best trips I've ever experienced in my lifetime.

No comments: