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    Day 16

    September 17  Saturday 


    Our first adventure this morning was to figure how to get to the historic area.  Our apartment is a little further from the center of town than the other apartments we have rented.  We walked several block to a bus stop and took a tram to the Hofburg (the Imperial Palace).  When we got off the bus we went in the opposite direction for a few blocks.  We turned around and saw the Palace in front of us. 


    Until 1918 the Hofburg was the home of the Habsburgs, rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Hofburg area has been the documented seat of government since 1279 for various empires and republics. The Hofburg has been expanded over the centuries to include: various residences, the chapel, museums, the Imperial Library, the treasury, the national theatre, the riding school, the horse stables, and the Hofburg Congress Center. Numerous architects have worked at the Hofburg as it expanded.  From 1438 to 1583 and from 1612 to 1806, it was the seat of the kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, thereafter the seat of the Emperor of Austria until 1918. Today it is the official seat of the Austrian Federal President.

    A large part of the Palace is open to visitors including the Imperial Apartments, two imperial treasuries, six museums, the National Library, and the famous Winter Riding School.

    We had to walk all the way around the palace to get to the Spanish Riding School which was first on our list of “must sees” today. We wanted to see the famous practice of the Lipizzaner horses at the Spanish Riding School which is located in the Palace.  We had to purchase tickets to see the practice. It was a beautiful building with chandeliers, built in 1735.  They paraded the horses around accompanied by Strauss waltzes.  They have been performing this riding demonstration for over 300 years.  We didn’t have time to see the actual performance the next day.  I am sure you have seen the magnificent horses on TV.

    We briefly visited other buildings in the palace complex, including the AUGUSTINIAN CHURCH which was rather Baroque.  The church was built in the 14th century but the interior is late 18th century.   It has vertical piers, ribbed vaulted ceiling and hanging chandeliers.

     Inside is a huge tomb that looks like a pyramid which is the Tomb of the Archduchess Maria-Christina.  We tried to get into the Imperial Chapel but it was locked.  It would take the whole day to visit all the open areas of the palace.

     In one of the courtyards, there was an “old soldiers” ­re-enactors  brass band which was playing and marching.  We followed them into the Michaelerplatz. We ate lunch at a beautiful café facing one of the fronts of the Palace, called Cafe Griensteidl. We both had omelets - one with ham and the other  with cheese and shared them.

    Across the street was St. Michael Church.



    St. Michael's (German: Michaelerkirche) is one of oldest churches in Vienna. It is dedicated to the Archangel Michael. A statue of St. Michael slaying Lucifer is over the front door. This church, close to the Michaeler wing of the Hofburg, formerly was the parish church of the Imperial Court.

    Over its long history, spanning more than eight centuries, this church has incorporated many architectural styles.  The church is late Romanesque, early Gothic and dates back to 1220-1240. Over time, there have been many alterations, resulting in its present day look, unchanged since 1792.

    The interior of the church consists of a nave and two aisles. The side chapels were added later. The vaulted ceiling is not very high. The high altar was designed in 1782 by Jean-Baptiste d’ Avrange.  It is decorated with a huge alabaster Rococo sculpture “Fall of the Angels” (1782) by the Italian sculptor Lorenzo Mattielli. It represents a cloudburst of angels and cherubs, falling from the ceiling towards the high altar. This was the last major Baroque work completed in Vienna.

    The gilded pipe organ (1714) is the largest Baroque organ in Vienna. It was once played by the 17-year old Joseph Haydn in 1749. Mozart’s Requiem was performed for the first time in this church at a memorial service for the composer on 10 December 1791.

    One of the present day attractions of this church is the crypt.  American soldiers made an amazing discovery in 1945 when they forced open the crypt doors, which had been sealed for 150 years.  Found lying undisturbed for centuries, the mummified remains of former wealthy parishioners of the church.  Even the clothes that they were wearing had been preserved by the perfect temperature in the crypt.  Tours are offered daily, but we declined.

    We walked down the street behind St. Michael’s and came on a wide street known is the Graben. Its shape is due to the Romans, who dug the city’s southwestern moat here. (Graben means moat or ditch).   The centerpiece of this street is the very Baroque Plague Column (Pestaule).  It was erected by Emperor Leopold I between 1687 and 1693 as thanks to God for delivering the city from a deadly plague.  There are a large number of cherubs attached to various parts of the column. 

    As we neared the column, we saw set back about a half a block, St. Peter’s Church.


    St. Peter’s church is considered the best example of Baroque Architecture in Vienna.  It was constructed between 1702 and 1708 by Lucas von Hildebrandt.  Legend has it that the original church on this site was founded in 792 by Charlemagne.  The façade has angled towers, graceful turrets which were inspired by the tents of the Turks.  Inside is high Baroque. There is pink marble around the base of the columns and cornices,   a “multitude” of angels of various sizes everywhere you look, and an ample amount of gold and silver on the pulpit, altar and around the walls. There had been a restoration from 1998 to 2002.  Everything looked bright and beautiful. There was wonderful organ music playing so we stayed a while.

    We walked back out to the Graben past the Plague Column and entered Stephenplatz near Stephendom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral).  We tried to go in but something was happening inside and not everyone was allowed in. They had four tough looking guards keeping people out, but every once in a while someone walked right in.

     We had planned to attend the 10:00 Sunday service tomorrow, but it is supposed to rain hard on Monday when we planned on going to Melk Abbey.  We had changed our plans and will take the train Melk Abby early in the morning and come back to the Stephendom on Monday.  I invite you to read Day 18 for a description of this cathedral and our tour of the inside.

    We wandered around some of the side streets. I visited a wonderful three story bookstore looking for models but didn’t find any.  We next went in a beautiful pastry shop -L Heiner on Wollzeile Street, several block from the Stephendom. Everything looked so delicious that we had to indulge on several goodies. After our treat, we wander around and visited several more churches - each one more baroque than the other.  First was the Jesuit church at the university (Universitatskirche) .


    The church is located off Backerstrasse on the Dr.Ignaz-Seipel-Platz which was named for the theology professor who was chancellor of Austria during the 1920s.  The church is adjacent to the old University of Vienna buildings. The church was built around 1630. The exterior is a two-floor, double-tower church which was influenced by the early Baroque style but remodeled by Andrea Pozzo in 1703-1705. He added twin towers and reworked the facade in an early Baroque style with narrow horizontal and vertical sections. The design of the windows, narrow niches (with statues) and the small central part of the façade deviate from the Baroque style of the towers.

    A baptism had just taken place and those attending stood outside on the front steps.   We waited until we were certain that everyone had left the church before going inside.

    Despite its relatively austere exterior, the interior is extremely Baroque with ersatz marble pillars, gilding and a number of allegorical ceiling frescoes. The interior had a pink glow as many of the columns are marbled pink.  There are several different style columns, from fluted Corinthian to twisted columns. The columns were of different colors – grey, pink and green.   The semicircular vault ceiling was divided in four bays with paintings using illusionary 3 D technique.  

    The most amazing thing about this church is the “dome”. Executed by Andrea Pozzo in 1703, the remarkable trompe l’oeil dome, painted on a flat part of the ceiling, is a real masterpiece.  I had to look at the dome from several angle to realize that it was not a real dome that I was looking up into.  Trompe-l'œil is an art technique involving extremely realistic imagery in order to create the  optical illusion that the depicted object is three dimensions. We have seen this several places. One I remember was the ceiling in the hall of the Vatican Museum in Rome.


    We walked a little further and came to the Dominican Church which was build in 1630.  Its

    façade is modeled after Roman churches of the 16th century.  

    Fodor’s Guide describes the interior as an “illustration of why the Baroque style came to be considered the height of bad taste during the 19th century and still has many detractors today.  “Sculpt ‘til you drop” seems to have been the motto here, and the viewer’s eye is given no respite.”  Every surface of the church had decorations and sculpted designs.

    On our way back to the Stephenplaz, we passed the GREEK ORTHODOX Church on Fleischmarkt. The church is Baroque and was built in 1861 by the Vienna Greek Community. The doors were locked but we have read that its “interior is a glittering blaze of Byzantine design that has left no wall space untouched.”  We wish we could have seen inside.

    We made found our way back to the Stephendom and still couldn’t get in.  We discovered where the metro was and took what we thought was the way home, even changing to another line.  When we got off where we thought our apartment was, nothing looked familiar.  We weren’t sure what to do.  This is the first time on any of our travels that we really felt lost. We asked several people but we couldn’t understand each other. We finally figured out when we saw the “D” tram which  we had taken on our way in pass by that we should take it when it passed again. So the next tram that went by we took and ended up where we had gotten on in the morning.  Our metro map showed all of the underground trains and not the trams above ground.

    We found a bar across the street from where we got off and had a couple of well deserved drinks.  We walked back to our apartment, and I went in search of sweets for breakfast.  The desk clerk said that the grocery where we shopped yesterday was closed and he sent me back down to where we got on and off the tram.  The was a nice grocery but there were four checkout lines…one express, and I have never seen such long lines.  There must have 60 people in each line, but surprisingly it moved fast.

    We had dinner reservations in a beautiful café near the Volksopera where we went last night - Café Weimar.  It is where the crowds from the Volksopera go after the performance.  Tonight there were only 4 other people there.  I had a creamed slice chicken breast on rice.  It was good.  My wife had cold slice chicken breast on a curried salad. 

    Vienna is a little different from the other places that we have been in that it seems more spread out.  There were thousands of people everywhere we went today, of course it was Saturday.

    Next Day

    Day 1 - Berlin

    Day 2 - Berlin

    Day 3 - Berlin

    Day 4 - Berlin

    Day 5 - Berlin - Potsdam

    Day 6 - Dresden

    Day 7 - Dresden

    Day 8 - Prague

    Day 9 - Prague - Kutna Hora

    Day 10 - Prague

    Day 11 - Brno

    Day 12 - Budapest

    Day 13 - Budapest

    Day 14 - Budapest

    Day 15 - Vienna

    Day 16 - Vienna

    Day 17 - Vienna - Melk Abbey

    Day 18 - Vienna

    Day 19 - Salzburg

    Day 20 - Salzburg

    Day 21 - Salzburg