At home with the Habsburgs…

Ostentatious, glamorous, extravagant  pompous, flamboyant, grandiose, theatrical, and spectacular. These are just some of the appropriate adjectives that are available to describe Vienna and its architecture. (Note to reporters and sports journalists, see above, these are adjectives, you have not “run out of superlatives”)

I suppose this is what happens when a single family rules the roost for something like 642 years. The power goes to their head. The Habsburgs have been a powerhouse in central European affairs, in various guises, for around 900 years, and have had Vienna (or Wien) as their base for the vast majority of this time.

My knowledge on the whole subject is minute (mainly acquired from the back of tourist maps, and plaques on the sides of buildings and statues) but it’s incredibly interesting, and you can really get the feel of this place being a magnificent playground for the super wealthy and powerful.

All the main sights (palaces, museums, galleries, boulevards, and extravagant buildings) are concentrated over quite a small area, so you can see a lot just gently pootleing around semi-blinded by the obscene, highfaluting vanity, of one of Europe’s least understated dynasties.

One of the nicest things about wandering around Vienna is that all the glitz and glamour is punctuated by lovely parks and green spaces. It’s mega parky. Differing sources advise that Vienna is somewhere between 50-70% green space, pretty amazing for a major capital of Europe.

It’s not all just a touristy toy town for people to poke around the grand legacy of the now defunct Habsburgs. If you want to escape the overwhelming swankyness, its just a few minutes walk to the Danube canal – where the mood is altogether different. Excellent graffiti covers the concrete walls on both sides with the odd little shack of a cafe or bar here and there. Loads of dog walkers and people chilling out with a pack of beers. In around an hour long walk we saw people bouldering, uni-cyclists, jugglers and graffiti artists. It was a cool place to be.

We only spent 2 nights in Vienna (as it’s pretty expensive), so I’m sure there is a lot more to it than these incoherent ramblings suggest – but this is the impression we got in our short stay here. We actually stayed in a 3 star hotel on the edge of town as there was a special 50% off deal online, and it worked out cheaper than a hostel. It cost us about £80 for 2 nights, hostels were about £120, which is really expensive for hostel accommodation  Of course it would of been cheaper in dorms – but as a couple we are generally trying to stay in private rooms where we can.

We only had a short stay here (and it was expensive), so we don’t have tales of misadventure to report – we just enjoyed our brief access to comfy beds, a good shower, and fresh white towels. – All in keeping with Vienna I suppose.

Other things we learned about Vienna:

– Ridiculously complicated public transport map. First place we have come across where we couldn’t work things out for ourselves of the public transport map. Too much info crammed onto it just makes it incomprehensible.

– Rags and Riches. Despite the rich appearance of Vienna – It certainly isn’t exempt from holes in its social safety net. Round the edges of town we came across a fair amount of beggars – a notable amount of Roma appearance. It’s sad, and certainly brings you back to reality. Would be interesting to know more about the reasons.

– Call the police. On the first night we committed a bank robbery. Not really, but we found that in Vienna, if you need a cash machine at night, you just walk up to the closed bank, stick your card into the door… And voila, the door opens and you can walk inside the bank to use the indoor cash machines. This is the first time we encountered this, but we’ve since seen it elsewhere in Europe. Not massively interesting – was just bizarre at the time.

Been a bit lax with the posts lately so need to catch up. We have been to Bratislava and Budapest since, and I’m writing this in Krakow. There will be a Bratislava update soonish…

We hope all is well with everyone, keep in touch.

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2 thoughts on “At home with the Habsburgs…

  1. Ash says:

    I’ve always had a bit of a downer on Austria although I don’t think I have ever been there. Partly to do with their reluctance to own to a Nazi past and subsequent enthusiasm for right wing politics and partly the association of Vienna with with posh chocolate and Mozart – all a bit over sugary. So it was nice to see that there is other stuff – the graffiti looks really good. It was good to see the Hapsburg stuff too – v. impressive although as you say, way over the top. All the best. Love Ash

    • dahl24 says:

      Yeah I didn’t have much knowledge about the place other than being aware of a dubious Nazi past, Mozart and Arnold Schwarzenegger… They lay it on thick with the Mozart stuff – tourist tours and concerts and the like. But strangely enough they don’t go about the Nazis much (or Arnie). Apparently it always tops the list of best cities to live (for quality of life etc) but I’m not sure I’d fancy being based there. Interesting place to visit for the history though. And pretty beautiful in places. (Apparently in 2012 it came second to Melbourne in the top quality of life city list thing).

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