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Vienna

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Vienna

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Vienna has never forgotten it was the capital of a large and influential empire. Its residents act as if it still were - the small doses of courtliness, the extremely polite forms of address long-forgotten in other German-speaking countries, the formal mode of dress. Vienna is a city both modern and extremely old-fashioned all at once. Like Munich, its residents are formal, but Viennese formality is an entirely different animal. Waiters address you with honorifics, a man who bumps into you on the street is half-likely to implore your pardon with a small bow, you are treated as if you were a long-lost prince or princess returning home. If you can handle this kind of luxurious treatment, Vienna is for you.

Favorite foods:

New wine from the Grinzing area of the Vienna suburbs, usually enjoyed at a Heurigen (wine bar licensed to sell the new vintage). Austria in general, but especially the area around Vienna, produces quite a large amount of wine each year. It’s not often exported, and white is more common than red. Grüner Veltliner is a common white wine served almost everywhere. Officially the new wine season begins 11 November, St Martin’s Day, but as early as September some partially-fermented new wine (called “Sturm,” which is cloudy because it has not been strained) is available around town in 2-liter green bottles (try the Naschmarkt – sometimes the vendors will have samples). Taverns can call themselves Heurigers whether the wine they serve is their own or not – for genuine in-house product, look for a Buschenschank. This is a particularly Viennese Heuriger which can only be open 300 days per year or until their supply of house-made wine runs out. If any of the year’s vintage lasts until next year, it officially becomes “Alte” (old) wine on the next St Martin’s Day. Wiener schnitzel, Sacher torte (multilayered chocolate cake with apricot jam), Frittatensuppe (a clear chicken or beef broth with chives and thin crepes shredded into “noodles”), various foods from the area once controlled by the Austrian Empire such as Hungarian goulash and palatscinta (crepes filled with fruit and covered with whipped cream).

Did you know?

The Viennese have a particular fascination with death, hence the popularity of the Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery) as a strolling location and of “Schrammelmusik,” highly sentimental music often performed in wine taverns with lyrics relating to death. Old-fashioned Sterbevereine (funeral insurance societies) provide members with the opportunity to save up for a huge sendoff over the course of their lives. This isn’t just to save their children the bother and expense – it’s considered absolutely essential to have a funeral filled with pomp and circumstance, with as many pallbearers and participants as a wedding would have elsewhere. Vienna even has a museum devoted to coffins and mortuary science (the Bestattungsmuseum)! The country’s odd obsession even gives it a higher suicide rate than comparably-sized countries, which is unusual given its widespread, intense Catholicism.

Places to see:

Augustinian Friars’ Church (Augustinerkirche) Josefsplatz 1. Facing the sculpture in the center of the square, the entrance is small and easy to miss – it’s on the left hand wall of the square.

Yet another example of the gruesome divide-and-conquer burial strategy of the Habsburg dynasty. It’s said that other dynasties waged countless wars to acquire new lands, but “you, happy Austria, marry.” Even in death the Habsburgs placated three different churches with the honor of caring for their remains. The best known, the Kapuzinergruft, contain their actual bodies. St Stephens holds their innards (intestines and other parts taken out during the preservation process). But the Augustinerkirche holds, in the Herzgruft (Heart Crypt), all the Habsburgs’ hearts. Tours of the Herzgruft are available Monday through Friday at 11 and 3:00. It was renovated 1996-99 and just reopened. The tradition began in 1627 with Emperor Ferdinand IV, who wanted to “lay his heart at the feet of the Mother of God.” Literally. His hearts, and those of his descendants, are preserved in silver jars which are carefully cared for by the Augustinian friars who run the church. When the renovation was underway it was found that the preservative in some of the caskets had evaporated over the years, leaving nothing but a dried-out, mummified heart.

Austrian National Library - Österreichische Nationalbibliothek Josefsplatz 1 01/53410-348 http://www.onb.ac.at

Card catalogs may be an anachronism in today’s digitized world, but the Austrian National Library had the first one in existence, invented by the Habsburg court librarian. Unlike the printed library catalogs of the past, bound into book form, the card catalog could be rapidly updated and the library kept up-to-date. This well-ordered reader’s paradise has a collection that outshines many museums, thanks to its long association with the Habsburg imperial family. It gained an impressive collection when Emperor Josef II dissolved all the empire’s monasteries – 300 manuscripts, 3000 printed books and 5000 diplomata. Today, the main collections consist of the Department of Broadsheets, Posters and Exlibris (including a giant collection of Austrian and international film posters), the Department of Manuscripts, Autographs and Closed Collections, the International Esperanto Museum and Department of Artificial Languages, the Department of Maps and Globe Museum, the Austrian Literary Archives, the Department of Papyri and Papyrus Museum, the Department of Incunabula, Old and Rare Books and the Austrian Folk Song Institute, among other sections and rotating exhibits. The library’s collection is approximately six million items strong and is the largest in Austria. It is a pioneer in digitalizing and placing its collection online. The oldest book in the collection is a fifteenth century Holy Gospels manuscript with scenes representing the four Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) containing the coats of arms of the House of Austria, Styria, Tirol and Carinthia, then ruled by Albrecht III, the book’s owner. Emperor Frederick III (1415-1493) made an effort to gather all the various Habsburg manuscript collections into one place.

After the 1848 revolutions, during which the library was placed immediately in the line of fire (some faithful librarians remained behind and managed to save the books as the imperial palace caught fire), Emperor Franz Josef I agreed to open the library to the public and even keep the library open into the evening hours. Ernst Ritter von Birk, head of the Court Library and one of the library’s saviors during the uprising, may have been forced to accept these liberal business hours to appease the Emperor, but he still had the right to restrict the public’s access to the holdings. Renamed the National Library in 1920 (much to the objection of some library committee members, who argued that an Austrian “nation,” as such, did not exist), the Library has since served the public in a much less strict fashion than in the good old days under von Birk.

Belvedere – Austrian Gallery

Military leader Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), known as one of the best military strategists of his time, commissioned this palace from architect Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt. It was meant to function as a summer residence, and was located outside the city walls. Art historians know the Belvedere as on of the finest Baroque structures in the world. Its two palace segments, the Upper and Lower Belvedere, later became the permanent home of the Austrian Gallery. The Oberes Belvedere (Upper) contains recent Austrian and international art from the past two centuries. Viennese art from the early twentieth century is well-represented in the permanent collection “Vienna around 1900 and the Art of the Classical Modern.” Gustav Klimt, master of a particularly Viennese form of Art Nouveau called Jugendstil, or sometimes Viennese Secession, has several world-renowned paintings in the Belvedere. Judith and The Kiss are his best-known. Covered in gilt, broken up into hundreds of small color panels (almost Impressionistic, in a way), the tall, thin figures in Klimt’s paintings are uniquely his own. Egon Schiele, another Viennese artist working at the same time as Klimt, would utilize such singularly thin and ultimately recognizable figures in his own work. The days of strict realism were over, and fantasy was afoot. Schiele is well-represented in the Belvedere as well.

Heurigen (fresh wine bars) in the suburbs

After a long day, the perfect place to relax among Viennese are the Heurigen in the suburbs. Somewhat akin to a beer garden, except with wine, these tiny treasures are the only places authorized to serve new wine. New wine is made from the first pressing of the grape, and can appear a little cloudy. Be careful! It’s stronger than you might think! This is why it’s served in very small glasses, .25 liters and up. Some Heurigen serve food, either elaborate Viennese specialties or very simple bread and cheese platters. No matter which one you choose, you’re guaranteed to enjoy yourself.

Hofburg Palace

This immense palace complex grew into a large, unwieldy series of buildings over the years, and was the imperial residence of the Habsburg emperors until 1918. What began as a medieval castle (whose chapel is the only original element of that building to survive) was expanded, redecorated and redone as the Habsburgs’ power increased correspondingly. The Palace Stables and Amalia’s Wing were added in the sixteenth century, the Imperial Chancery Wing, Court Library and Spanish Riding School in the eighteenth. In the last century St Michael’s Wing was tacked on, and then around 1900 the New Palace was completed. Such a conglomeration of buildings cannot help but have stylistic differences, but the exterior is of no concern.

The contents of each separate building contain so many treasures that the time spent moving from one to another is like opening box after box of fabulous jewels – it’s difficult to know when to stop, and tempting to rush through them all at once. The Imperial Palace itself now houses the offices of the Austrian President, a convention center, the home of the Vienna Boys’ Choir and infamous Lipizzaner stallions, and of course several museums which are open to the public.

Walking towards the Hofburg in spring, the allee is resplendent with pale purple lilacs which draw one’s eye towards the immense equestrian statues centered there. Exiting the D tram at the Burgring stop, with the Kunsthistorisches Museum and Maria Theresa statue to the left, enter Heldenplatz (Heroe’s Square) under the large white gate. Alternatively, go one stop further on the tram and get off at Parliament. The giant white Grecian style parliament building faces the Volksgarten, a pleasant park one can walk through that also leads to the palace.

  • Sidebar – Maria Theresa

Maria Theresa, mother of France’s unlucky Marie Antoinette, had a spectacular career as leader of the Austrian imperial dominions after a somewhat unlucky start. Her father, knowing other rulers would be unlikely to accept a female as supreme leader of the state, managed to have other sovereigns sign an agreement that they would not contest her right to rule. As could be expected from any group of power-hungry leaders, they went back on their word, and Maria Theresa was forced to fight for her inheritance. It’s a lucky thing she won. The empress and her son, Josef II, brought Enlightenment ideals to their lands, establishing universal primary education and a meritocracy unmatched by any other ruler’s government. She fought to modernize and improve the lives of her subjects, even though she ruled with a heavy hand.

  • Sidebar – Sissi

Empress Elisabeth, known as Sissi, was an outstanding romantic figure in an age filled with them. Her fame was based on personality rather than her position, and she was well-loved throughout the empire, but more so in Hungary than anywhere. Her husband Franz Joseph, much older than the young and headstrong empress, bored her. She frequently left Vienna in favor of her Hungarian estate, and took the trouble to learn Hungarian (an impressive feat in itself!). Her Hungarian subjects adored her. A life filled with adventure and travel (the Greek islands were another particularly favored location) ended tragically – stabbed by an anarchist, the Empress died. In Volksgarten Park, off the Ringstrasse, there is an Art Nouveau monument to Sissi.

Chapel of the Imperial Palace (Burgkapelle)

The original chapel of the Palace, built in Gothic style 1447-1449, was made over in Baroque style. On Sundays and Catholic holidays (of which the Austrians celebrate many), the Court Musicians perform here. This group is made up of members from the Vienna Boys’ Choir, as well as performers from the orchestra and choir of the Vienna State Opera.

The New Palace (Neue Burg)

The New Palace is the newest and largest section of the Imperial Palace. It contains the Ethnological Museum and three branches of the Museum of Fine Arts. The Ephesus Museum contains classical art from Asia Minor, the Collection of Historical Musical Instruments is self-explanatory, but the jewel of the New Palace is the Collection of Arms. This collection, second largest in the world, houses an immense and exhaustive representation of weaponry from past centuries.

Schatzkammer (Imperial Treasury)

Located in the Neue Burg, the Schatzkammer (also known as the Secular and Ecclesiastical Treasures) is the best part of the Hofburg, and an absolute must on any tour of Vienna. Second only to a tour of the Kunsthistorisches Museum itself, of which the Schatzkammer is officially a part, there are 20 rooms of priceless treasures that give a fairly accurate feel for Habsburg court life over the centuries.

Hotel Sacher

This hotel is best known as the place where Sachertorte (cake) was invented. The dry, slightly bitter chocolate cake with apricot jam between multiple thin layers is best consumed with a rich, milky cup of Viennese coffee – perhaps a Melange, the most popular variant. The elegant drawing room is a popular place to gather after a performance at the Opera, and the waiters treat each guest royally.

Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Pavilion

This city tram stop, designed by Otto Wagner, is located near the Secession Building and Naschmarkt. It is a good example of functional turn of the century architecture – ornate, yet useful. Wagner was one of the most influential architects in Vienna and his style was widely copied.

Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts)

Maria-Theresien-Platz (entrance), phone 525 24 0 Picture Gallery daily except Monday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Thu 10 a.m.- 9 p.m. U2: Babenbergerstrasse, U3: Volkstheater, tram D, J, 1, 2, bus 57A: Burgring

The mother of all Austrian museums. There is no other word to describe the Kunsthistorisches other than mindboggling. It’s at the very least a full day’s worth of sightseeing if you intend to go through it thoroughly and attempt ponder the importance of each “major” work. With such a whirlwind of masterworks, though, it’s possible for even the most dedicated art lover to experience extreme overkill. The better approach here is to break up sections of the museum and visit them over a series of days, or if that’s not an option, pick one section and concentrate on it alone. The Picture Gallery is a likely choice as a “best-of,” but the coin collection is also exhaustive in its scope. Something to keep in mind is that the Picture Gallery is kept open until 9:00 p.m. on Thursdays. Beginning with another section of the museum, it’s possible to have a light dinner in the café and then continue through the Picture Gallery until close.

KunstHausWien – Hundertwasser exhibition

Untere Weißgerberstrasse 13 Tel: 43-1-712 04 91 Fax: 43-1-712 04 91 40 Open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Every Monday the regular admission fee in all exhibitions is reduced 50% http://www.kunsthauswien.com/english/mainindex.htm

Even an avowed hater of modern art can appreciate the KunstHausWien, Hundertwasser’s (born Friedrich Stowasser in 1928) major contribution to the Viennese art world. In a time when artists often try to shock the public (think Damien Hurst’s sawed-in half cow “sculptures”) or merely impress other members of the rarified gallery subculture, Hundertwasser’s manifesto rings out as an utterly reasonable plea:

The architecture of KunstHausWien would be a bastion against the dictatorship of the straight line, the ruler and T-square, a bridgehead against the grid system and the chaos of the absurd. Starting with the façade of the building, adapted from its prior life as a furniture factory, there is a Gaudi-in-Barcelona feel to the place. Windows peek out like eyes from curvy, rounded plaster and colorful paint. It’s a Disneyland for grownups!

Naschmarkt flea market

Am Linken Weinzeile – U4 stop Kettenbrückengasse

Need used lederhosen? How about a doner kebab, or an Austrian war bond from the first World War? This is the place to go. The Naschmarkt is primarily a flea market, though some stalls sell new items such as handwoven wicker baskets or food (any of the Turkish stalls are wonderful!) Pick through the detritus of an imperial society - you never know what you’ll find hidden under that stack of terrible fuzzy sweaters. Couture gowns, Communist medals from all the former Eastern Bloc countries, tobacco pipes, broken pocketwatches: the Naschmarkt is worth at least a full afternoon of your time. Flea markets are the best possible blend of high and low culture, and a way to truly get to know a city. In the same way Americans go to real estate open houses to check out the interiors of their neighbors’ houses, you can sift through the past hundred years of peoples’ lives at the market. It’s like cleaning your grandmother’s attic! (if she happened to be a 65-year-old Viennese Frau). Walk all the way from the flea market end of the Naschmarkt (the flea market is only open Saturdays) through the food stall end to arrive at the Secession building, located on the left close to the Karlsplatz metro stop.

Opera House (Wiener Staatsoper) http://www.wiener-staatsoper.at

Probably the most-beloved symbol of Viennese arts, and one of the first buildings to be rebuilt in the postwar era, as a show of pride, the Opera has had a fascinating history. It was built 1861-1869 under the direction of architects were Eduard van der Nüll and August von Siccardsburg for then-emperor Franz Josef I. The first performance, 25 May 1869, was Austrian native Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni. Though now as well-loved as any member of the family, the architecture of the Opera was barely tolerated by the picky Viennese when it opened. Van der Nüll did not take these criticisms of his work lightly – he committed suicide. A few weeks later, von Siccardsburg died of a heart attack. Doubly cursed, the Opera building succumbed to bombs less than 100 years later, during WWII.

After ten years of Allied control after the end of the war, many cultural institutions reopened to celebrate the birth of the new Austrian state. This time the Opera opened with an adopted son of Vienna’s work: Beethoven’s Fidelio. The lush curtains, the elegance of even the nosebleed seats (so steeply pitched and close to the ceiling a nosebleed becomes a distinct possibility) contribute to the overall atmosphere of the Opera. Post-performance, have some torte at the nearby Sacher Hotel (see entry).

Paternoster elevator at the University of Vienna

If you happen to go to the university mensa (cafeteria) on the top floor, make a point to find this particular elevator! It’s almost as hair-raising as an amusement park ride, and a true rarity (most other paternoster elevators have long since been replaced). Paternoster (Latin for “Our Father,” or what’s likely to issue from passengers’ mouths) elevators consist of several elevator cars which have two open doors on each floor. The cars travel up on left side and down on the right. Even though it’s forbidden, the daring have been known to ride it up and over the top. There’s no buttons to push – just jump in and out at the appropriate floor.

Prater (Park) including the Giant Ferris Wheel

phone 729 54 30 U1, tram O, 5, 21: Praterstern, S1-S3, S7, S15: Wien Nord May – September: 9 a.m. – midnight

An English engineering firm (Walter Basset) built the Giant Ferris Wheel (Riesenrad) 1896-97. Others of the same era, built for world exhibitions and other parks in Chicago, London, Paris etc. have long since been torn down. The Riesenrad has become a well-known symbol of Vienna, featured in many movies (Before Sunrise, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s tacky teen Eurolove-drama, is the most recent) and picture postcards. It has 15 gondolas, some of which are incredibly ornate and large enough to host an extended family inside, offering a spectacular panorama of the city. The Prater Park began its life, as so many European parks did, as a carriage-riding area for the nobility. It is still a popular place to spend a weekend afternoon with the family.

Schloss Schönbrunn U4 stop Schönbrunn

The former summer palace of the Habsburg family, Schönbrunn is the ultimate palace experience in Vienna. Its gardens and zoo (the oldest in the world, built for Maria Theresa’s husband in 1752) alone are worth a lengthy visit, not to mention the palace, which has seen its fair share of excitement over the years, including a meeting between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khruschchev at the height of the Cold War. There are two possible tours available without a guide (though guides are available), one including 22 rooms and one including 40. The price of admission includes an audio guide.

Secession Building

Friedrichstraße 12 Tel. 587 53 07-0, Tu-Fr 10-18, Sat, Sun 10-16 U-Bahn U1, U2, U4 (Karlsplatz) http://buchverlag.dumont.de/dumont/reise/wien/wien0112.htm

Architect Josef Maria Olbrich built this Jugendstil (German-style Art Nouveau) building 1897-98 as a display space for artists working in the new Secession artistic movement. It is topped by a giant, frothy golden ball, lovingly called “Krausthappel” by the Viennese, but the building was definitely not loved when it first opened. Notice a reactionary Viennese pattern here? The Opera building too was hated at first, but at least it wasn’t called a “temple for bullfrogs” or “a bastard begot of temple and warehouse,” as the Secession building was.

The entryway features the motto of the Secessionist movement: Der Zeit ihre Kunst, der Kunst ihre Freiheit (To the time, its art, to the art, its freedom). Olbrich’s mentor Otto Wagner, and also Gustav Klimt, whose astounding Beethoven Frieze is partially preserved in the basement, inspired the building’s design. The ceremonial front entrance is separate from the functional glass and steel exhibit hall in back.

Spanish Riding School http://www.spanische-reitschule.com

First mentioned in a document dated 1572, the Spanish Riding School is the only equestrian institute in the world which follows a Renaissance model of classical schooling. Eleves, or students, begin their training immediately after completion of Austrian primary education (age 15 or 16), and are expected to be both sporty and clever. The school takes its name from a Spanish breed of horse first mentioned in Roman writings. In 1562 Emperor Maximilian II brought some of these Spanish horses to Austria to found a royal stud farm in Kladrub (Bohemia), housing them for a time in the “Stallburg” (oldest section of the Imperial Palace). The present school location was built in 1572. In 1580, Maximilian’s brother, Archduke Karl, founded the stud farm in Lipizza near Trieste (now Slovenia). Interest in elegant riding had been growing for about fifty years at that point. During Renaissance times, powerful gentlemen who had already conquered the worlds of finance and politics looked to the writings of antiquity for new learning and an educated lifestyle to which they could aspire. Horsemanship which followed the ancient models described by Socrates and others became the fashion. Xenophon (430 – 354 BC) wrote “Men who understand the art of horsemanship, in truth, look magnificent.”

Who wouldn’t want that? In the new Winter Riding School (built 1729-35), tournaments, masked balls and other entertainment was held, but this would soon draw to a close – the royal stud farms at Lipizza were threatened by Napoleon several times and twice the precious stud horses were evacuated to Hungary.

St Stephen's Cathedral

Stephansplatz, phone 515 52-3526 U1, U3: Stephansplatz High Mass: Sun and public holidays 10:15 a.m., in July and August 9:30 a.m. Guided tours of the Cathedral in English: Mon-Sat 3:45 p.m. Catacombs (only with guided tours): Mon-Sat 10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. - 16:30 p.m., Sun, public holidays 1:30 p.m. - 16:30 p.m. North Tower (great bell): Nov-March 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., April-June, Sept, Oct 9 a.m.-6 p.m., July and August 9 a.m. - 18:30 p.m. South Tower: daily 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Yet another patchwork of architectural styles, but predominantly Gothic, St Stephen’s begins its history in the twelfth century. None of that original construction remains – the oldest extant sections are the thirteenth century Giant Gate (Riesentor) and Towers of the Heathens (Heidentürme), both of which are Romanesque. The main two-aisled Gothic nave was established by Habsburg Duke Rudolf IV in 1359, and then quickly added onto. The 448-ft South Tower (Südturm), often known by its Viennese diminutive Steffl (also a nickname for the entire cathedral), was finished in 1433. This is where the Pummerin, a huge bell cast from melted-down Turkish cannons, hangs. Steffl’s intended twin, the North Tower (Nordturm) was never finished. Gothic architecture was out of fashion, and in 1511 building in that particular style ceased. Almost a century later, in 1579, a Renaissance spire was added to the Nordturm to make it look less like the builders had stormed off the job. Here’s a complete shock for the reader who has been faithfully reading through all the Central European sections of this book – during the eighteenth century the church décor was “Baroquified.” The main altar has a Baroque panel showing St Stephen, Christianity’s first martyr. The organized tour is worth it, since some of the finest works of art in the cathedral can only be seen with a guide, such as Emperor Frederick III’s red marble sepulchre (painstakingly carved 1467-1513 by Niclas Gerhaert van Leyden), the pulpit by Anton Pilgram (1514-1515, signed with a carved portrait of the artist) and the immense Gothic carved Altar of Wiener Neustadt. The aborted North Tower has an observation deck with an amazing view of downtown Vienna that makes those afraid of heights tremble just looking at the elevator. Nearby is the entrance to the catacombs, where legions of bishops and Habsburg pieces parts are buried (the intestines, specifically. The Kapuzinergruft across town contains other Habsburg bits in separate burial vaults, including Maria Theresa’s immense pewter sarcophagus).

Those expecting a fabulous display of stained glass will be disappointed here. The fanciest glass is situated behind the altar and at the very tops of the windows lining the naves. Nearly 45% of the Cathedral was destroyed in a disastrous fire 11-12 April 1945 during the final days of World War II. Fortunately several irreplaceable treasures such as the cathedral pulpit were walled in at the beginning of the war, so they survived. The glass, however, did not. St Stephen’s gets darker as one walks toward the altar, almost as if one were walking into a cave. But the details make the difference here, and new vistas are always appearing to the viewer as they move in, out and around the cathedral. It is so large it cannot be taken in entirely from any angle, and even numerically it is planned down to the smallest detail. Numbers which represent God, the Trinity, the “earthly number” four (since things on earth like the season, elements and directions of the compass come in fours) and other significant figures can be manipulated to determine the dimensions of the cathedral. For more details on how these numbers work out, see page 16 of the English-language Cathedral guide.

The Ring

The Ringstrasse, or Ring Street, circles the very heart of Vienna. Built on the location of the original city walls, its size is a good indication of how much the city has expanded since medieval times, but more importantly it is the most posh area of downtown. Elegant individuals stroll down the street (there really is no other way to move when walking along the Ring) and play the fashion-do/fashion don’t game under their breath before pausing at one of the innumerable cafes lining the way. A traditional Jause (morning coffee break, around 10:00 a.m.) and then back to the business at hand, seeing and being seen: Vienna’s favorite pastime.

Vienna Boy’s Choir – Wiener Sängerknaben

Like most good things in Vienna, the Choir was founded at the pleasure of the Habsburgs. 20 July 1498 Emperor Maximilian I decided to hire six singing boys, the first permanent boy’s choir attached to the court. He also made arrangements for their education – fringe benefits that are difficult to get from a modern employer, let alone a Renaissance one! The choir served the monarchy until its demise at the beginning of the first World War. The last Imperial Chaplain, Monsignor Josef Schnitt reestablished the Boy’s Choir as the “Vienna Boy’s Choir” in 1924 as a private institution. To earn money, the Choir began to perform outside the Imperial Chapel. Even though they are a not-for-profit organization, the rising costs of educating the choristers from a very young age as well as providing music and all the other variables required made establishing the Verein Wiener Sängerknaben necessary

Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery)

Simmeringer Hauptstrasse 234, phone 760 41 Graves of honor of Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Strauss, Schönberg and others. Nov-Feb 8 a.m.-5 p.m., March, April, Sept, Oct 7 a.m.-6 p.m., May-Aug 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tram 71, 72: Zentralfriedhof

Mozart, Beethoven and other luminaries of the musical world (Schubert, Brahms, Strauss) are buried, or at least memorialized here. No one actually knows where Mozart’s body ended up – he was such a spendthrift, and his wife no wizard of household finance, that he was buried in a mass pauper’s grave – but his memorial is located with the others. The cemetery has served as a giant park for weekend ramblings since its creation. There are immense monuments shaped like 10-ft-tall iron canopy beds (within eyeshot of the musicians’ memorial) and other unique shapes. Though it takes some time to get out to the Zentralfriedhof, it is worth the trip.