14 Juni 2023

Last week Julie and I were on Holiday. We took off Saturday afternoon heading to Vienna. We stopped for the evening in a small German town called Siegsdorf. The only thing notable about this town is that I want to go back and go fishing. We were crossing over a bridge and we saw an incredible number of trout in the river!

The next morning we got up and continued on toward Vienna.

There were two small things about Vienna we really liked. The first were the giant sausages in a bun. Wow, they were good. I tried explaining to Julie what I thought of as Vienna Sausages, but that just kind of grossed her out! The second thing was the big plaza thanking the Russians for freeing Vienna to end WW II. The monument was impressive, but what really got our attention was the Ukraine Flag painted on the wall behind the statue.

Vienna, Austria’s largest city and capital, is known for its rich history culture and architecture.

The area that is now Vienna has been inhabited since the Paleolithic era, but it was the Romans who established the first significant settlement, Vindobona, in the 1st century AD. It served as a frontier town to protect the Roman Empire against Germanic tribes.

In the 12th century, Vienna became the residence of the Babenberg Dynasty, a noble lineage that ruled the Duchy of Austria. Under their reign, Vienna ballooned into a medieval trading center. In 1278, the Habsburg Dynasty took power, heralding six centuries of influence that would shape Vienna’s future.

During the 15th and 16th centuries, Vienna’s importance as a center of the Holy Roman Empire increased significantly. However, the city faced constant threat from the Ottoman Empire.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, under the rule of Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II, Vienna transformed into a city of grandeur. This era saw the construction of many of Vienna’s most iconic buildings, such as the Schönbrunn Palace and the State Opera House, embodying the ornate style of Baroque and neo-classical architecture.

The late 19th and early 20th century marked Vienna’s “Ringstrasse Era”, characterized by monumental buildings lining the grand boulevard Ringstrasse. During this time, the city became a cultural and intellectual hub, home to personalities like Freud, Mahler, Klimt, and Wittgenstein. Simultaneously, Vienna faced social and political challenges, culminating in the end of the Habsburg monarchy in 1918, following World War I.

Klimt’s most famous painting The Kiss

Vienna experienced turbulent times in the first half of the 20th century. The interwar years were marked by economic hardship and political instability, leading to the rise of austrofascism and the eventual Anschluss with Nazi Germany in 1938. The Holocaust drastically reduced Vienna’s thriving Jewish community, a wound that still echoes in the city’s history.

Post-World War II, Vienna was divided into four Allied zones until 1955, when the Austrian State Treaty reestablished Austria as a sovereign state. Since then, Vienna has regained its status as an international city, hosting organizations like OPEC and various United Nations agencies.

Today, Vienna is revered for its rich history and preserved architecture, ranging from Roman ruins to contemporary designs. It is a city where tradition and innovation coexist, continually shaping Vienna’s unique character. Despite the shadows of its past, Vienna has emerged as a city of music, culture, and intellectual thought.

10 Minute Carriage Ride Around Vienna

Unfortunately, I had to show my ignorance during our stay. Of course I knew about the famous Lipizzaner Stallions. I knew they came from Austria and they are white, but that was all I knew. When we were looking for things to do, I kept coming across the Spanish Riding School, but I really do not like horses so why in the world would I want to go to visit a riding School. Well it turned out this was the home of the Lipizzaner Stallions. Because I was stupid we were unable to get a ticket to one of the shows, but I did get suckered to pay a bunch of money to watch a “training” session. I figured that would be pretty good, I mean they have to train them sometime, right? Yeah, no… I paid money to watch 6 or 8 horses walk and trot around the stadium. I also learned you can’t just look at ratings when you are looking at attractions, you really should read the reviews! Anyway, we did learn one piece of interesting trivia: All of the Lipizzaner Stallions are white. However, they start off very dark, and their color changes until about age 8 when they are all white. The good part about that, is that it takes about 7 years of training for the horse be in one of the shows; so just about the time they are fully trained the coat has changed to white! Unfortunately, they did not allow pictures; so I cannot show you the horses, you will just have to take my word.

One of our favorite activities was touring Schönbrunn Palace.

Schönbrunn Palace, or Schloss Schönbrunn, is a central part of Vienna’s rich cultural history. Recognized as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, its origins date back to the 14th century when it was merely a mansion in a then-rural area. Over the centuries, it evolved into a splendid summer palace, embodying the power and sophistication of the Habsburg monarchy.

The Schönbrunn estate came under the Habsburg ownership in 1569, when Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II purchased the land. The name “Schönbrunn,” which means “beautiful spring,” is thought to come from the emperor’s discovery of an artesian well on the property.

However, it was not until the reign of Emperor Leopold I in the late 17th century that the mansion began its transformation into a palace. After it suffered severe damage during the Second Siege of Vienna in 1683, the emperor commissioned architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach to build a grand hunting lodge on the site. The project was halted due to financial constraints and only completed under Charles VI, Leopold’s successor, in the 1730s.

Maria Theresa, Charles VI’s daughter and the only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions, took a particular interest in Schönbrunn. Under her rule in the mid-18th century, the palace was redesigned and expanded into an opulent summer residence, surpassing even Versailles in its grandeur. Her devotion to Schönbrunn brought the palace into the center of Habsburg court life and political affairs.

During the 19th century, Schönbrunn witnessed key historical events. It was where a young Mozart performed in the Hall of Mirrors, where Napoleon held Vienna in 1805 and 1809, and where the six-year-old future Emperor Franz Joseph was born in 1830. Franz Joseph, the longest-reigning emperor of Austria, held his office at Schönbrunn and even died there in 1916.

The fall of the Habsburg Monarchy at the end of World War I marked the end of Schönbrunn as an imperial residence. It was confiscated by the newly founded Austrian Republic and later transformed into a museum, which opened to the public in 1920.

Today, the 1,441-room palace, with its vast gardens, the Gloriette, a zoo, and even a palm house, stands as a testament to Austria’s imperial history. It attracts millions of visitors annually, who marvel at the palace’s Baroque architecture and lush landscapes, all epitomizing the grandeur of the Habsburg era.

Unfortunately, the Palace did not allow photography on the tour; so I do not have any pictures from the inside to share; so instead I am giving you a link to Getty Images; so you can get an idea of how beautiful the place is.

We only had a few days to spend in Vienna, but it was lovely. The second half of our holiday was spent in another one of our bucket list cities. Budapest. I will have more to say about that in a few days.

Enjoy the pictures.

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