TUESDAY, 27th June
ST. STEPHEN’S CATHEDRAL (More commonly known by its German title: Stephansdom) is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna. It has borne witness to many important events in Habsburg and Austrian history and has, with its multi-coloured roof (111 metres long), become one of the city’s most recognisable symbols. 230,000 glazed tiles cover the roof which is so steep that it is sufficiently cleaned by the rain alone and is seldom covered by snow. Standing at 136 metres tall and affectionately referred to by the city’s inhabitants as “Steffl”, St. Stephen’s Cathedral’s massive south tower is its highest point and a dominant feature of the Vienna skyline. The Cathedral has 23 bells in total. Composer Ludwig van Beethoven discovered the totality of his deafness when he saw birds flying out of the bell tower as a result of the bells’ tolling but could not hear the bells.
THE PESTSÄULE (Plague Column or Trinity Column) is located on the Graben, a street in the inner city of Vienna. It was erected in 1679 by Leopold l following the Great Plague epidemic.
PETERSKIRCHE is the second oldest church in Vienna and the city’s finest example of Baroque church architecture.
HOFBURG PALACE – The Hofburg is the former imperial palace in the centre of Vienna. Built in the 13th century and expanded in the centuries since, the Palace has been the seat of power of the Habsburg dynasty rulers and today the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria. It was the principal imperial winter residence, as Schonbrunn Palace was the summer residence. The name translates as “Royal Castle” which denotes its origins when it was initially constructed during the Medieval age. The Spanish Riding School of Vienna is a traditional riding school for Lipizzan horses which perform in the Winter Riding School in the HOFBURG. They are intelligent and lively horses and are Europe’s oldest horse breed.
VOLKSGARTEN (English: People’s Garden) is a rose scented public garden in the Inner Stadt, first district of Vienna. The park was built over the city fortifications destroyed by Napoleon in 1809. The VOLKSGARTEN was opened to the public in 1823. At the centre of the park stands the neoclassical Theseus Temple. The park is famous for its beautiful rose garden with over 3,000 rose bushes of more than 200 different cultivars. This is a peaceful cocoon in the midst of a busy city.
AUSTRIAN NATIONAL LIBRARY is the largest library in Austria with 7.4 million items in its various collections. The State Hall of the Library is located in the Hofburg Palace. Founded by the Habsburg, the library was originally called the Hof-Bibliothek (“Imperial Library”); the change to the current name occurred in 1920. The Library complex includes four Museums as well as multiple special collections and archives. The State Hall is home to around 200,000 books from 1501 to 1850. At the time of our visit there was a special exhibition – 300 Years of Freemasonry. Tradition has it that the “United Grand Lodge of England” was founded in 1717, beginning the history of modern freemasonry, which was to become an integral element of European intellectual and cultural history. In the exhibition the Austrian National Library presented a backstage view of this both famous and mysterious brotherhood. We were there to enjoy the Library, not the exhibition and I admit that in many ways it spoiled the experience for me. The Library is absolutely beautiful.
CULINARY DELIGHT – K.u.K. Hoflieferanten Gerstner & Schlumberger in the first district of Vienna near the State Opera. The beautifully decorated location combines a Schlumberger sparkling Bar, a delicious pastry shop and a great variety of fancy gourmet food in an elegant interior which was for us a peaceful afternoon retreat – does coffee with a lemon curd pastry tempt?
VIENNA STATE OPERA is today considered one of the most important opera houses in the world; in particular it is the house with the largest repertoire. Opera means something to everyone in Vienna – an admission ticket is not needed to experience a great evening full of music and song. Oper live am Platz is held in April/May/June where The Vienna State Opera broadcasts more than 80 performances live on a 50 m2 LED Video wall each season. We came upon this quite unexpectedly at sunset after a very full sightseeing day so only stopped briefly to enjoy a snippet of the performance.