Sphinx sculpture in the Belvedere gardens

A European Odyssey (Part II) : Vienna (Days 1 & 2)

…contd from Part I

The cab dropped me at the Geneva airport on completion of simulator training at Albertville. The Austrian Air flight to Vienna was to depart at 5.35 pm & land at the destination by 7.15 pm. This was the only sector where I was reaching a totally new city & country late in the evening but I wasn’t unduly worried because of two reasons. One, Vienna has been recurrently voted as one of the ‘Most Liveable Cities in the World’ which goes to speak a lot about it’s people, the society, infrastructure, safety & security. And of course I had also done my homework diligently in planning my commute from the airport to the city centre in advance on http://rome2rio.com. Second, because of being closer to the northern latitudes the sun was setting late & there would still be plenty of daylight at that hour.

The flight took off & landed ahead of schedule at Vienna. Baggage collection & check-out were a breeze & within no time I was at the train station which was co-located at the airport. While in India I had already purchased a Vienna City Card online which gave me unlimited access to the city’s transport system consisting of trains, buses & trams for 24 hours starting this evening.

Train at Vienna airport
My commute to the station closest to my hostel

My stay at Vienna was the Wombat’s City Hostel at Naschmarkt which I booked through https://www.wombats-hostels.com/. Wombats hostels is another chain of well-located & friendly hostels serving mainly Europe. There are two Wombats hostels in Vienna & I chose the one at Naschmarkt because of its proximity to my interests there.

Within 30 mins or so I alighted at the Naschmarkt train station, walked down to the hostel which was just a few hundred metres away & checked into my dorm.

Dormitory at a hostel
My 4-bed dorm at the hostel

Post freshening up I stepped out to survey the dinner options & ended the day with a glass of red wine & seafood at Naschmarkt which was conveniently just across the road from the hostel.

Naschmarkt

After breakfast in the vibrant & lively common hostel cafe the next morning I set out to explore the city & began my tour from Naschmarkt. Quoting from Wikipedia,

“The Naschmarkt is Vienna‘s most popular market. Located at the Wienzeile over the Wien River, it is about 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) long.

The Naschmarkt around 1900

The Naschmarkt has existed since the 16th century when mainly milk bottles were sold (as milk bottles were made out of ash (wood from an ash tree), “Asch” (German for “ash”) led to the name “Aschenmarkt”). From 1793 onwards, all fruits and vegetables brought to Vienna with carts had to be sold there, while goods arriving on the Danube were sold elsewhere. Nowadays, one can buy fresh fruit and vegetables from around the world, exotic herbscheese, baked goods such as breadkaiser rolls, and tortemeats, and seafood. There are also many small restaurants which offer e.g. sushikebab, seafood, traditional Viennese food such as Kaiserschmarrn or Palatschinken (rolled up crepes) and stalls which offer clothes and accessories. Since 1977, the market extends further along the Wienzeile to an adjacent area every Saturday, when a flea market takes place there.

The atmosphere of the Naschmarkt is famous far beyond the borders of Vienna, and large numbers of tourists visit the market every year.”

Here are some images of the goodies on offer there.

A fruit shop at Nascmarkt, Vienna

 

A wine shop at Naschmarkt, Vienna

 

Huge strawberries for sale at Naschmarkt, Vienna

From Booking.com I had also earlier purchased a 2-days Premium ticket for the Bigbus Hop On Hop Off (HOHO) bus tour. I now walked to the nearest designated bus stop to catch the Blue Route to Schonbrunn Palace.

Hop On Hop Off bus tour
On the upper deck of the Hop On Hop Off bus

Schonbrunn Palace

Passing along the various historical landmarks of the city I alighted at the Schonbrunn Palace. Again quoting from Wikipedia,

Schönbrunn Palace (GermanSchloss Schönbrunn [ʃøːnˈbʁʊn]Central BavarianSchloss Scheenbrunn) was the main summer residence of the Habsburg rulers, located in HietzingVienna. The 1,441-room Rococo palace is one of the most important architectural, cultural, and historic monuments in the country. Since the mid-1950s it has been a major tourist attraction. The history of the palace and its vast gardens spans over 300 years, reflecting the changing tastes, interests, and aspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs.

The Schönbrunn Palace in its present form was built and remodelled during the 1740–50s during the reign of empress Maria Theresa. Franz Joseph, the longest-reigning emperor of Austria, was born at Schönbrunn and spent a great deal of his life there. He died there, at the age of 86, on 21 November 1916. Following the downfall of the Habsburg monarchy in November 1918, the palace became the property of the newly founded Austrian Republic and was preserved as a museum. 

Since 1992 the palace and gardens have been owned and administered by the Schloss Schönbrunn Kultur-und Betriebsges.m.b.H., a limited-liability company wholly owned by the Republic of Austria. The company conducts preservation and restoration of all palace properties without state subsidies. UNESCO catalogued Schönbrunn Palace on the World Heritage List in 1996, together with its gardens, as a remarkable Baroque ensemble and example of synthesis of the arts.”

The whole place wore a carnival look & was abuzz with locals & tourists out enjoying the April sun and the little nip in the air.

Fest at the Schonbrunn Palace
Fest at the Schonbrunn Palace grounds

I spent a few minutes exploring the scene & then found my way to the ticket counter to purchase my entry to the gardens which lay behind the palace.

The frontage of the Schonbrunn Palace
Schonbrunn Palace

A whole new world now opened up in front of my eyes & I was confronted with manicured lawns & flowers as far as I could see.

I saw real tulips probably for the first time in my life

 

A landscaped tulip garden on the palace grounds

 

One of the many fountain sculptures

 

Roman Ruins
Roman Ruins at the Schonbrunn

 

Long wooded pathways branched out on both sides from the Neptune fountain

Carving my way around the gardens, sculpures & the wooded pathways I reached the Neptune Fountain.

Neptune Fountain
Neptune Fountain

Beyond the fountain lay the Gloriette.

“The garden axis points towards a 60-metre-high (200 ft) hill, which since 1775 has been crowned by the Gloriette structure. Maria Theresa decided the Gloriette should be designed to glorify Habsburg power. The Gloriette was destroyed in the Second World War, but had already been restored by 1947, and was restored again in 1995. The Gloriette today houses a café and an observation deck which provides panoramic views of the city.”

The Gloriette
The Gloriette

I climbed on top & took in the view of the palace, the gardens & the city.

View from the top of Gloriette
View from the top of Gloriette

Descending the hill I now started walking back towards the palace. “The sculpted garden space between the palace and the Neptune Fountain is called the Great Parterre. It is lined with 32 sculptures, which represent deities and virtues.”

The Great Parterre
The Great Parterre

Reaching the palace again I climbed up the stairs at the rear to take in the reciprocal view. Here’s a short video that I shot from my vantage point which shows the GReat Parterre, Neptune Fountain & the Gloriette.

Lunch would be at one of the food kiosks on the palace grounds. My next stop was the Belvedere Palace.

Belvedere

“The Belvedere is a historic building complex in ViennaAustria, consisting of two Baroque palaces (the Upper and Lower Belvedere), the Orangery, and the Palace Stables. The buildings are set in a Baroque park landscape in the third district of the city, on the south-eastern edge of its centre. It houses the Belvedere museum. The grounds are set on a gentle gradient and include decorative tiered fountains and cascades, Baroque sculptures, and majestic wrought iron gates. The Baroque palace complex was built as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy.”

Upper Belvedere
Upper Belvedere

What interested me here was that the Belvedere owned the biggest & most important collection of Gustav Klimt paintings in the world & to be in the presence of such masterpieces was certainly going to be a treat for the senses!

With a bated breath I climbed up the ornate staircase leading to the art gallery.

Staircase inside Upper Belvedere
Staircase leading to the art gallery

I was not to be disappointed! Right at the entrance was the artist’s 180 cm X 180 cm masterwork ‘The Kiss’!

'The Kiss' by Gustav Klimt
‘The Kiss’ by Gustav Klimt

I could have stood there much longer just staring at the painting but there were more treasures to be uncovered. A few more steps brought me to the Marble Hall & its famous ceiling fresco done by Carlo Carlone in the period 1721-23.

The Marble Hall, Upper Belvedere
Ceiling fresco in the Marble Hall

Besides Klimt, the palace also boasted a modest but priceless collection of other art works from names such as Edvard Munch.

'Men On The Seashore' by Edvard Munch
‘Men On The Seashore’ by Edvard Munch

Continuing, I went on to admire some more paintings & sculpures by other famous artists.

'The Ship Of Fools' by Oscar Laske
‘The Ship Of Fools’ by Oscar Laske

 

'Rinaldo and Armida' by Alfred Wickenburg
‘Rinaldo and Armida’ by Alfred Wickenburg

 

'Market In Cairo' by Leopold Carl Muller
‘Market In Cairo’ by Leopold Carl Muller

 

'Study for a Monument to Victor Hugo' by Auguste Rodin
‘Study for a Monument to Victor Hugo’ by Auguste Rodin

Hours passed by & I finally exited to take in the magnificent view of the Belvedere Gardens.

Belvedere Gardens
Belvedere Gardens

With this I capped my Day 2 in the city & returned to the hostel. Dinner was again at the Naschmarkt.

 

…to be contd

 

 

 

 

 

 

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