As some readers may recall from an earlier post, this summer I was on a week’s holiday in Vienna. For those who do not know it, I can highly recommend the city. It is the capital of a a small and, in geopolitical terms, relatively insignificant country. But a century ago it was one of the great powers, ruling a good bit of central and Eastern Europe. The First World War brought all that to an end, but in Vienna its glamorous past can be seen everywhere, in the grandeur of the buildings and the visible traces of the once powerful Habsburgs.

Vienna is also a city of vibrant art and culture – and as far as I know is the only city with urban vineyards and wineries (Grinzing). I thoroughly recommend it.

The building above is the Hofburg, once the main palace of the emperors in the city centre. In 1938 Hitler addressed the people of Vienna from the balcony, having just annexed Austria.


The Habsburgs eventually spent much of their time in the Schönbrunn Palace, above. It is a grand complex of buildings, designed to rival Versailles. I was able to attend a concert in the Orangerie.

Of course, no serious-minded visitor to Vienna can spend a day or more there without visiting the Hotel Sacher.


This is the home of the famous Sacher Torte, a chocolate cake that everybody needs to try at least once.

Apart from Vienna, I also visited some rather beautiful nearby towns, including Baden bei Wien. In Baden, the town in which the last but one Habsburg Kaiser, Franz Josef, spent much of his time, there is a particularly striking war memorial, with the inscription ‘Vater, ich rufe Dich‘ (‘Father, I implore you’).


And I also crossed the border into Hungary, visiting another town favoured by the Habsburgs, Ödenburg (now called Sopron). It is also rather beautiful, but nevertheless still carries the signs of decades of neglect during communism.


Throughout my week there I felt a strong sense of history, as one cannot really help feeling in much of central Europe. It is an area well worth a visit.

Explore posts in the same categories: history, travel

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6 Comments on “Viennoiseries”

  1. Anna Notaro Says:

    With reference to the War Memorial, there is a rather poignant song by the same title.
    Needless to say, the particular black & white aesthetic chosen for the above photos reflects perfectly that sense of history. The Hofburg one in particular could have been taken in the 30s, in this sense it’s an excellent example of contemporary visual taste for the historical/retro/nostalgic…

  2. Vince Says:

    Vienna seems a place that’s all front, and while people are friendly enough there isn’t an organic feel from the city like there is from other places. In a way it reminds me of estate designed towns like Westport or to some extent Paris of the Boulevards, mostly Washington DC though.
    Don’t get me wrong, I do like the place but I do feel also you’d need to live there for years to get the true essence.
    You’d need a tilt-shift big time if you went in for townscapes.
    There’s a lively place on the Danube just before the border of Slovakia. It once belonged to Prince Eugene of Savoy. The Schloss Hof, it’s about a mile from the river.

    • That’s a very interesting reflection about Vienna.

      • Vince Says:

        I suppose we tend to forget it was one of the fortresses that blocked the invasion of the Turk. So even before the walls were removed the engineers would’ve designed routes crossing the heart. And I believe it was in the early reign of Franz Ferdinand they were removed. In a way I shouldn’t be surprised there’re echo’s of DC, Paris and Westport. They were all build by military engineers.
        You know that new Sony would really suit you and your style of Art.

      • Vince Says:

        Voila, behold, seo dith. from the Austrian State Archives, depicts Vienna (known as Wien, in German) between 1773-1781.

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