After a good night’s sleep we were up early the next morning for a day of exploring Vienna. Our original plan was to use the Hop On Hop Off Bus. But our friendly, helpful hotel concierge convinced us we didn’t need to pay for the expensive tickets and instead we could take the subway located close to the hotel into the city center. Our subway tickets also gave us access to the city’s tram and bus service. I must say that Vienna has excellent public transportation. Taking the concierge’s advice saved us money ($95 for us on Hop On Bus vs $16 for us for 24 hour public transportation).
Austria, with 8.5 million citizens, shares boundaries with eight European countries: Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Most Austrians speak German (the second largest German speaking city after Berlin) and are mainly Catholic.
Vienna, the capital and largest city, has a population of just under 2 million. It lies in the eastern part of Austria on the Danube River.
Its past residents have included Mozart, Beethoven (giving it the nickname “City of Music”) and Sigmund Freud (also giving it the nickname “City of Dreams”).
We walked the couple blocks to the closest subway station, bought our 24 hour tickets, and were quickly on our way. The public transportation, whether subway, tram or bus, is very punctual.
We hopped off at city center and immediately our visual senses were overwhelmed with the architectural beauty that surrounded us. In every direction we saw majestic buildings. Bill and I had been here in 2016 on a group tour and we agreed it was more beautiful than we remembered. Group tours are nice but I think when you are on your own you have more time to stop and take in your surroundings. Sometimes on tours you have to worry about keeping up with a guide or being rushed from one place to another.
The first masterpiece we saw was the Romanesque and Gothic architecture of St Stephen’s Cathedral, the most important religious building in Vienna. The groundbreaking of this Catholic church was in 1137 with completion in 1578. Made of limestone, it stands at 448 feet with 2 main spires and 22 bells.
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 largest bell weighs 44,380 pounds and is the largest in Austria and the second largest swinging bell in Europe. The roof of the church is covered by 230,000 glazed tiles. The roof is so steep that it is sufficiently cleaned by rain and seldom covered with snow.
Over the centuries, soot and air pollution accumulated on the church and gave it a black appearance, but recent restoration projects have returned some parts of the church back to the original white.
We were able to go inside and oh my, there are no words to describe the beauty. The main part of the church has eighteen altars and several formal chapels.
In the basement of the church are tombs, catacombs and crypts containing emperors, military leaders, Bishops, Cardinals and 72 members of the Habsburg dynasty.
From there we wandered along the streets soaking it all in.
The Greek Revival style Parliament building foundation was laid in 1874 and completed in 1883. It contains over 100 rooms and is where the president of Austria is sworn in.
The Vienna Plague Column, also known as the Trinity Column, was erected after the Great Plague Epidemic in 1679. It is one of the best known and prominent sculptural artworks in Vienna. Some consider it one of the most ambitious and innovative sculptures anywhere in Europe of that time period.
The Hofburg is the former imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty. It was built in the 13th century and served as the winter residence.
Since 1946 it is the official residence and workplace of the president of Austria.
Part of the palace is now the Sisi Museum which gives an authentic look at the life of the Empress Elizabeth, known as “Sisi”, the famous Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary. She was assassinated in Geneva in 1898.
Theseus Temple was built in 1829 as a replica of the ancient Greek temple of Hephaestus in Athens.
Iron Square is rather unique. It is the midsection of a tree trunk from the Middle Ages into which hundreds of nails have been pounded for good luck over the centuries.
When we were here in 2016 we had lunch at a little Chinese restaurant on a side street near St Stephen’s Church. Bill remembered how good it was and wanted to go back. Bill remembered exactly where it was so we had Chinese food for lunch once again in Vienna! The restaurant has a new owner but was still good.
Guess where we ended the day. Yes, at the Vienna Hard Rock Cafe for another shirt to add to Bill’s collection.
It was an easy subway ride home and walk back to the hotel. After a nice dinner we had another seven miles logged for the day. A really wonderful day in Vienna!
Next up: A train ride and visiting Graz, Austria