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WALTZ IN TO VIENNA

Memories of "The Third Man" film - The Riesenrad - the Big Wheel - in the Prater park.For a citybreak any time of the year, choose the bright lights of Vienna. The Austrian capital is set to music, ranging from the grandest of opera through ballet and musical comedy to the violins and zithers of a night out amid the wine-taverns of the Vienna Woods.  

While most of the world's cities have been overwhelmed by the motor car, Vienna offers a sensible public transport system, with most of the inner city pedestrianised.

During the l9th century, medieval walls surrounding the inner city were torn down. In a huge rebuilding operation, the Ring was laid out - a circle of tree-lined boulevards around the old city, with delightful parks, squares and very substantial public buildings every few hundred yards. Stately hotels were built, museums and the Parliament. 

Travel Facts

 

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Austrian prices are somewhat higher than in Britain, especially if you go window-gazing in the central district. The craftware is worth admiring: glass, handpainted porcelain, decorative ceramics, wrought iron, bronze, pewter, silver and petit point.

More down-to-earth shopping is available along Mariahilferstrasse, where prices are closer to what the average Viennese can afford.

 For colourful food displays of fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese and pastries go to Naschmarkt which also features many varied and low-cost eating places. A large Flea Market operates there on Saturdays from dawn till mid-afternoon.

A 72-hour ticket for unlimited travel on Vienna's trams, buses, underground and central-zone city trains costs 13.60 Euros, or 24 hours for 5.70 Euros. Check prices here

The Vienna Card costing 18.50 Euros includes the 72-hour transport deal and discounts to museums and theatres. 

More information: Austrian National Tourist Office,   Tel: 0845 101 18 18, Email: Holiday@austria.info

 

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Since then, little has changed. Vienna hasn't ripped down the old and rebuilt with skyscrapers. A citizen of the 18th or 19th centuries would not be lost in central Vienna today. 

Within the Vienna 1st district - the original centre, surrounded by the Ring - the walker is king, replacing the traffic that formerly choked the streets. Dozens of horse-carriages await visitors beside St Stephen's Cathedral, just like in Mozart's day when he lived just around the corner, busy writing 'The Marriage of Figaro'.

Cycle paths eat into roadsides that formerly were car territory. Visitors can easily rent bikes for sightseeing.
The baroque-style Charles Borromeo Church, built 1737
Much of central Vienna looks like a collection of historic stage sets, well-kept and newly painted. The Vienna of the Habsburg Empire still dominates the architectural scene. 

Music buffs can make a complete pilgrimage, visiting several dozen sites linked with Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert and Strauss. Numerous apartments are preserved as small museums. Mozart lived in eight different flats during his ten years in Vienna.

Beethoven changed address twice every year. In spring he moved to suburbs on the edge of the Vienna Woods; in autumn he returned to the centre.

Johann Strauss lived for several years in a first-floor flat at Praterstrasse 54, where he composed dozens of waltzes including 'The Blue Danube'. Downstairs is now a McDonald's, where they compose hamburgers.

  For traditional Viennese amusement, go further along Praterstrasse to the Prater Park, where the Big Wheel - which starred in the movie, "The Third Man" - offers a wide view over Vienna and to the River Danube.

Another popular outing is to the village suburbs that fringe the Vienna Woods. In the wine taverns - called Heuriger - revellers drink new wine and sing their heads off. The taverns are marked by a pine-tree branch on a pole outside the door. That is the "Sign of the Bush", a symbol since Roman days of a wine-tavern.

Believe-it-or-not, a waste incinerator and smokestack is one of Vienna's prime tourist sights.

Built in 1971 as a district heating plant, it annually burns 250,000 tons of rubbish, to heat 40,000 homes. Its state-of-the-art flue gas scrubbing system ensures the lowest emission levels worldwide.

But the plant and its 430-ft chimney stand out as a Viennese landmark through the design and decoration of the facade, the work of the green-activist artist and architect named Hundertwasser. His blue-enamelled chimney is crowned with a huge golden sphere and two golden rings, while the main building is pure fantasy.

Elsewhere in town, a former factory building has been transformed by the artist's magic into a modern art centre called the KunstHaus Wien. Close by is the Hundertwasser House - a council housing project which has become a popular stop on city sightseeing tours.

Entrance to Karlsplatz subway station, designed by Otto Wagner A century ago, the architectural scene-setter was Otto Wagner, who was chief designer of subway stations. He introduced decorative ideas into every detail of construction, so that several restored stations have become part of the tourist circuit.

There is still elegance and charm in the Viennese way of life. Down Vienna's most fashionable streets - Kohlmarkt, Graben and Kärntner-Strasse - shops can rival the most expensive streets of Paris, Rome or London. 

In famous pastry-shops and coffeehouses, customers enjoy the greatest luxury of all: a leisured indifference to the passing of time. 

The Viennese pride themselves on their mastery of the art of living. They enjoy a highly civilised tradition. 

The Habsburg palaces are a reminder of when Austria was a great power. Schönbrunn Palace, summer residence of the Emperors, was one of Europe's finest royal homes, with 1441 rooms and 139 kitchens. All around is the beautiful Schönbrunn Park, with formal gardens and fountains.

Vienna is packed with such monuments. But the art-lover has an even better time. Over the centuries, the Habsburg monarchs bought up masterpieces from everyStudents sell tickets to costumed performances of Baroque music school of painting. When the Austro-Hungarian  empire collapsed in 1918, the collection became State property. Vienna's Art History Museum ranks among Europe's top three. 

Meanwhile, Vienna still keeps its reputation as a world capital of classical and light music. A performance at the State Opera House is among the great musical memories of a lifetime. If you're aiming for the musical highlights, the winter season is best, with theatre and concert performances almost every night - some presented with musicians in period costume. 

CHECK OUT THESE OTHER AUSTRIAN SUBJECTS

SALZBURG - Celebrating Mozart's birthday every January.

SALZKAMMERGUT - Sounds of Music with plenty of salt

 


"Books to read - click on cover pictures" or click on the links below

Vienna (Lonely Planet City Guides) - A comprehensive guide to one of Europe's most famous cities, noted for its history and culture. 

"The Third Man" - The classic Orson Welles thriller, capturing the atmosphere of Vienna in the early postwar years. Published with another Graham Greene story - The Fallen Idol -  in contrasting mood. 

"The Third Man" - Or why not buy the DVD of the classic 1949 film?

"Time Out" Guide to Vienna - Written by people who live and work in the city, ensuring up-to-date recommendations on the current social, cafe and restaurant life.


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