Austria: A tourist mecca

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Friday, January 4, 2013


FROM Italy, Liza and German Ilagan, Rey B. and I travelled by train to Austria.

Glorious Alpine scenery, monumental Habsburg Empire architecture, and the world’s favorite musical “The Sound of Music,” are Austria's tourist industry. When in Europe, I visit friends in Vienna; a place that exudes romance, full of imperial nostalgia, opera houses and exquisite cakes. The city overwhelms me with its eclectic architectural styles, from High Baroque of the late 19th century, to the decorative Art Nouveau style of the early twentieth. Vienna became an important centre in the 10th century when aristocratic families flooded in to build palaces in a frenzy of construction that gave Vienna its Baroque character.

Our first stop was at the monumental imperial summer palace of Schonbrunn, modeled after the Versailles Palace in France. The splendid Schlospark (Palace Park) is dotted with attractions, including the Neptune Fountain at one end, and Gloriette – a hilltop colonnaded monument, now a café and terrace. From Schonbrunn we went to the Stadtpark where monuments of music composers like Johannes Strauss and Franz Schubert are located.

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The Belvedere Castle is one of Vienna's finest palace complexes. It has the best concentration of paintings by Gustav Klimt, the vanguard of modernist painting. From the Belvedere, we went to Hundertwasser Village, named after painter Hundertwasser. In this village, he creates architecture. According to him, the straight is alien to mankind. He only uses it where functionality demand; its closeness to nature and its colors are the principal elements of Hundertwasser Village; it is as unique as it is impressive - an invitation to think.

The next day, we purchased a day ticket of unlimited travel via bus, tram, or Metro, to move around Vienna. In spite of this ticket, we stop at the nearest station and depend on our good-old-legs to walk and carry us to sights not reached by any means of transportation. It was a long walk from Naturhistorichen Museum, to Rathausplatz, a square framed by monumental buildings: the Rathaus (City Hall), the Burgtheater, the Universitat, and Parlament (19th century), designed by architect Theophil Hansen whose architectural concept pays tribute to Ancient Greece as the “Cradle of Democracy.”

Stephansplatz has a pedestrianized central square dominated by the Gothic Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral) where alleyways surrounding the square preserve something of the medieval character of the city. We rode a Metro to the famous Donau (Danube River) and strolled around the park.

To cap our visit to Vienna, our hosts drove all the way to Sopron, a border town of Hungary, just to have dinner. We toasted to the good times we spent together.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on January 05, 2013.

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