Feb 03

Mauthausen (Austria)

The memory of WWI and II is kept alive throughout the globe, whether we are talking about monuments erected in celebration of the fallen heroes or whether we put forth the exhibits presented in various museums from all over the European continent. But probably the places which best depict the gruesome reality of the world conflagrations are the former concentration camps which even today bring chills to visitors.

http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/gallery.php?ModuleId=10005196&MediaType=PH

http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/gallery.php?ModuleId=10005196&MediaType=PH

One such camp is situated in Austria, at a 20-kilometer distance from the city of Linz, in the small town Mauthausen. The camp came into being on the 8th of August 1938 and it was mainly established in order to provide the stone quarry which existed in the neighborhood with the necessary laborers. Initially, all the prisoners were forced to build the camp which would serve as their confinement quarters, only afterwards to be delivered as slaves to the stone quarry. The building of the camp was concluded in 1939 and it expanded greatly in the year to come, inasmuch as in summer of 1940 it had turned into one of the biggest labor camps which existed in Europe.

What some of you might be oblivious to is the fact the concentration camps were developed in accordance to their purpose. While many of these complexes were built to house prisoners of all types, Mauthausen was actually created for specific purpose: to annihilate the people of the superior social classes. In other words, the concentration camp aimed to exterminate through labor – which meant that the educated individuals from countries which were subdued by Nazi Germany were subjected to infernal toils that ultimately crushed their bodies.

https://ssl.panoramio.com/user/3849664/tags/Concentration%20Camp

https://ssl.panoramio.com/user/3849664/tags/Concentration%20Camp

Mauthausen housed many prisoners but their number increased considerably almost overnight, to the extent that the administration had to enlarge the establishment in order to ‘accommodate’ everyone. This meant surrounding the fields to the north and west with barbed wire and keeping the newcomers, which were mainly Jews brought in from Hungary and Russian soldiers captured in battle, in the open almost all year long.

This was a ‘category III’ concentration camp which was basically one of the most severe kinds there were. Those brought in were never supposed to leave the premises and their demise was inflicted by labor.

But there were exceptions to the rule, as it so often happens. The terrible and sometimes useless works they had to perform were beyond imagination. Because the guards were given exact orders concerning the extermination of the inmates, they started to be creative. One historical account talks about how a stone which weighted almost 45 kilograms was laid on a prisoner’s back and how he was afterwards ordered to run around with the heavy burden. The outcome is no surprise: the prisoner fell to his death due to exhaustion. Another method of annihilation was to take a group of inmates to a garage, command them to remove their clothes and spray water over them. Taking into account that in the wintertime the temperature went below minus ten degrees Celsius, the result of the practice was evidently hypothermia.

Gas Chamber-http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Mauthausen/Tour/PhotoTour03.html

Gas Chamber-http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Mauthausen/Tour/PhotoTour03.html

These historical facts conjure up terrible images of what humans are capable of doing towards other humans. A trip in this land where so many atrocities have occurred will definitely not be what you might have imagined. The road there takes you through a pastoral setting which inspires only peace and tranquility. But once you reach your destination, reality strikes you.

The barracks might no longer look as grim and terrifying as they did in their ‘peak,’ but walking around the location you will get to see the chambers of death: the crematory as well as the rooms in which the inmates were brought in order to find their death by heavy beating.

Visitors can also see the ‘stairway of death’- the infamous cliff from where the prisoners were pushed over the edge to find their death into the granite quarry which spread below them.

http://adlyoungleadershipmissiontoaustria.wordpress.com/

http://adlyoungleadershipmissiontoaustria.wordpress.com/

The camp is filled with an abundant number of commemorative items, such as monuments, statues and tiles with various inscriptions. To put it simple, the area has been transformed into a sort of memorial which keeps the sufferings of the prisoners alive and brings homage to them.

The complex is situated at a relatively small distance from Vienna. Tourists can reach Mauthausen in almost an hour and a half and even if for some the location might be out of their course, it should be pinpointed that this camp is one of high historical value and the discoveries you will run across will be change you forever.

Aug 01

Exploring Austria

Austria has numerous attractions and some of them can be further explored in the previous articles published on this website. For this specific article however I will focus my attention on the Austrian highlands.

Whenever I get to thinking about the Austrian Alps, the first thing that springs to my mind is an all white landscape. It is of common knowledge that in the last couple of years Austria has become one of the designated holiday destinations, especially in the winter time due to the opportunity it offers to tourists in terms of winter sports.

http://www.infotravelaustria.com

The resorts sprinkled throughout the Austrian Alps are quite different in the sense that they are developed for specific target ‘audiences.’ Whether you are interested in testing yourself on the ski tracks or whether you are simply interested in escaping in a fairytale-like setting, surrounded by mountainous peaks that pierce the thick layer of snow, and allow yourself to witness the grandeur of nature, Austria offers you everything you seek.

http://www.ski-austria.com/

There are regions where you are guaranteed to be embraced by snow due to the specific climate and others where you will encounter everything you need in order to transform your holiday into an unforgettable one – which basically means that you can push yourself to the limit on the track either by skiing or snowboarding and you can spend your nights in clubs partying until sunrise.  The important thing is to establish beforehand what it is that you want to get out of your vacation and thus choose accordingly the resort. Even if your skiing skills fall in the beginner, intermediate or advance category, there are resorts especially created for you.

http://www.austria.info/ro

But moving away from the wintertime, we should also acknowledge the beauty of the green meadows and uplands when summer awakens the vegetation that fell asleep under the snow during the cold season. Tourists can explore the Austrian natural environment by embarking on a trip on foot through its numerous mountainous trails. There are organized excursions you can opt for and which will take you one step closer to nature. You will be taken aback by the impressive landscapes, some of which have preserve their naturalness to the fullest. Striding on the natural paths is definitely a way to get in touch with our inner self, to meditate and to contemplate life.

Nov 07

Prater Amusement Park (Parcul de distractii Prater)

One of the main attractions in Austria is located in Vienna and goes by the name of ‘Prater Amusement Park’. Such parks are usually associated with having a good time and as long as these specially arranged areas offer people quality entertainment, nothing else really matters. But the amusement park under discussion in this article has quite a history and while this might not be particularly of interest to its visitors, it is definitely worth finding out how the region has come to have such a famous park.

http://www.topsightseeing.com

The first documented source which puts an emphasis on this specific area dates from the 12th century, when the surface designated for the present park was woodland. This region would later on be transformed into the hunting grounds for the imperial family. However, the area was soon available to the general public and starting in mid-18th century, several fairs had set ground in the region. Amusement businesses, which included merry-go-rounds and all sorts of enjoyable activities, flourished in the period, their purpose being that of entairtaining the community.

http://www.planetware.com

But Prater Amusment Park did not solely encompass what one might consider trivial activities designated for the amusement of the visitor. On the contrary, the park also organized educative events. In accordance to the general trends of the time, the park included in its ‘repertoire’ various facilities in which the accent fell on cultural development. These were museums, theaters and galleries, each created with the purpose of emphasizing the importance of art, history and culture in one’s life.

The older version of the Prater amusement park managed to incorporate these two aspects of life, or more accurately the two types of leisure activities one can get engaged in. Many were intrigued by the so-called ‘freak shows’ in which they got the chance to see up close individuals with distinctive characteristics, such as midgets, hairy people and Siamese twins.  But while at the beginning the fascination with the ‘other’ was what brought people in large number to Prater, this changed in time as the industrial revolution brought about the advancement in engineering and the result was the development of roller coasters and giant ferris wheels.

http://upload.wikimedia.org

Prater changed in accordance with the technological and cultural evolution of the city. Each of the innovative machines that appeared where instantly brought to Prater. Thus the amusement park was home to the grotto railway which was electrically operated, the first ghost train (in 1933), and the “mini railway,” which was a miniatural version of the steam train, etc. The beauty of this park is that it never remained the same, having constantly changed its appearance in conformity with the general demand and with the natural evolution brought about in various fields with the passage of time.

But it is important to underline that Prater has still preserved much of its original structure due to the fact that visitors are still fond of the ‘old rides.’ Even if these are nothing compared to the twisting and twirling roller coasters, in terms of the adrenaline rush they offer, the machines are still popular with many of the tourists that come to Prater, which can mean only one thing: these specific rides will never be excluded from the Prater Amusement Park.

http://www.hotelcapri.at

But the park should not be envisaged as an amalgam of carousels, trains and ferris wheels, where people come in crowds, thus giving one the sensation of not being able to breathe, of being caught in the crowd. The adjacent area to the park resembles an oasis. Those who want to escape into nature are given this opportunity as the Praterau is charactrized by woodland which include medows and lakes.

The amusement park was badly damaged during World War II, but it was not left to chance. Prater was resurrected to become a defining feature of Vienna’s culture.

http://farm8.staticflickr.com

The park can be visited from the middle of March until the end of October, in the interval 10:00 – 13:00. However, a segment of the amusement park is opened throughout the year, but this is mainly characterized by restaurants or food stands. Visitors can enter Prater without having to pay an entrance fee, but in order to enjoy the multitide of rides available one has to cover a certain tax.

Oct 02

Hellbrunn Castle (Castelul Hellbrunn)

The Hellbrunn Castle is actually a villa of colossal dimensions which had been erected in the first decades of the 17th century (1613-1619) by the order of Markus Sittikus von Hohenems, the one who held the position of Prince-Archbishop in Salzburg at that time. The construction was not created with the purpose of accommodating the Archbishop, and for that reason, there are no bedrooms in the castle.

http://www.hotelamadeus.at

The Archbishop was a man with a fondness for comedy and for that reason it had come with an innovative idea to create several mechanisms through which to amuse himself and his fellow guests. The castle is renowned for its water-games. There are several machines which sprinkle water when activated and the target of their ‘attack’ was usually one of the guests of the Archbishop. But even today, these water systems are functional and tourists can get to experience on themselves how the water games work. In mid-18th century, other inventive ideas were put into practice.

For instance, a mechanical, water-operated and music-playing theater was established, as well as an apparatus through which the imminent shift in power is emphasized. This consists of a crown which is situated under a water sprinkle and which moves up and down according to the movement of the water. This is a clear illustration of the rise and fall of those who rule over specific regions.

There is something worth noting and that is that the Archbishop was never subject to a practical joke because the place designated to him was not part of the water-games web so he never got wet, unlike the rest of the guests. At present, the place that was once occupied by the Prince is attributed to the tour guide.

The surrounding area of the Hellbrunn is actually an immense park which is adjacent to a zoo, a theater built out of stone and a small edifice which goes by the name of ‘little month palace.’ The name conveyed to the building is tightly connected to the history of its construction. Apparently one of the Archbishop’s guests had suggested that the view one sees out the windows of the castle would greatly improve if the landscape offered to the viewer consisted of a building on a hill. Markus Sittikus had taken this piece of advice seriously and had given order for a small building to be erected on the neighboring hill. One month later, when the same person came for another visit at the Hellbrunn Castle, the Archbishop presented him with the improved view from the window.

http://www.austria.info

The construction had survived throughout time and at present is a part of the Carolina Augusteum Museum of Salzburg. The items on display are representative for the cultural past of Salzburg, thus the ‘small building on a hill’ is the subdivision of the museum dedicated to ethnography.

The main building of the castle is rectangular in shape and comprises two pavilions in the front part. The edifice is made out of three storeys which are delineated at the exterior by means of specific decorative works. The first floor of the edifice comprised the rooms of the archbishop and the entire section bears the mark of the Italian painter Arsenio Mascagni. He had adorned the walls of the chambers at the beginning of the 17th century (1615), when he had painted both the walls and the ceiling with various scenes, some depicted from the famous series of autobiographies entitled the ‘Twelve Caesars’.

http://www.visualphotos.com

Hellbrunn is situated outside Salzburg, but the two points are connected by means of a long alley. Upon arriving at the palace, tourists will first enter in the ‘courtyard of honor’, the Ehrenhof, a courtyard that broadens as one gets closer and closer to the castle. Behind the Hellbrunn Palace lies a 17th century garden which comprises beautiful flower arrangements and a pond that reigns in the center of the garden and in which a small quadrilateral isle is located.

http://www.phone-travel.com

The initial design was conveyed according to the Baroque style, but this was later changed in accordance to the trends that were in fashion in particular timeframes. There are only two markers of the original plan (from 1730) and these are the two obelisks that are located in the western part of the gardens.
Due to the gardens and the mechanisms which are incorporated within the setting, especially the water games, the Hellbrunn Castle can be regarded as some sort of Disneyland, whose sole purpose was to entertain the Archbishop and his guests.

Sep 17

Aqua Terra Zoo (Casa Oceanelor)

Aqua Terra Zoo, which is located in Vienna, has more than 3500 aquatic species, all contained within more than 6000 square meters. The edifice which houses the exhibition of live animals is actually a WWII bunker designed as a protective measure against air attacks.

The reason for which this type of construction is still standing is that its demolition would have cost an impressive amount of money. These bunkers have been especially created so as to resist direct shelling so using explosives, as it is usually done when demolishing a building, would not have worked, especially not without causing damages to the surrounding edifices.

http://www.travelwriter.at

The exhibition is opened for visitation on a daily basis and tourists have to opportunity to gaze on an extensive variety of animals.

Among the species encountered at the reservation, people can admire crocodiles, poisonous snakes and boa constrictors. In the exhibition dedicated to the tropical seawater segment, one will find sharks, sea turtles, piranhas, as well as various types of fishes which impress the viewer through their wonderful coloration.

But the Aqua Terra Zoo is divided into several sections, each designated to specific types of animal or bird species. The newest addition to the zoo, which has contributed extensively to the wave of tourists that have crossed the threshold of the Haus des Meeres, is a tropical house where birds and monkeys are left to explore the immese surface at will.

http://www.panoramio.com

The exhibitions within the zoo are organized based on the region from where the animals are brought. For instance, there is a section dedicated to the species encountered in the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, visitors will find everything from sea anemona to crabs, from starfish and shells to various types of fishes.

The Aqua Terra Zoo came into being in the second half of the 20th century. In 1957, the Society for Marine Biology was formed with the purpose of creating a House of the Sea. This institution was meant to shelter various life-forms which usually dwell in salt waters, but also to function as a research center where everything connected to the marine life was under exploration.

http://www.tvl.ro

This was the first step to be taken for the development of an elaborate aquarium. In 1965, the first level of the edifice had already been accordingly arranged so as to house the first species brought at this reservation. Initially, 40 aquariums were brought in, but these increased in number as the zoo began to expand.

The institution was not a success from the beginning in the sense that the administration made considerable efforts in order to ensure the survival of the organization. This however changed under director Erich Brenner who had undertaken a massive project, that of expanding and modernizing the reservation.

http://members.virtualtourist.com

The section containing the tropical marine fauna is a focal point of the institution, bringing in tourists by the hundreds. The reason for which this specific segment is so appreciated is that it comprises an explosion of colors and shapes, not to mention the peculiar swimming methods used by different types of fish. These elements are all meant to diferentiate between the life forms encountered in this section of the reservation. So, if the dissimilarity is so striking, what is it that brings all of them “under the same roof”? The answer is obvious: their habitat – the coral reefs.

The Aqua Terra Zoo is one of the favourite places of destination for tourists as it combines the educational with the recreational. Not to mention that it provides insight into the wonders of the sea world.

 

Tickets:

Adults: 13.50 euros;

Children aged 3 to 5: 4.20 euros;

Children aged 6 to 15: 6.20 euros;

The elderly, students and the disabled: 10.40 euros.   

Sep 06

Melk Abbey (Abatia Melk)

A country can pride itself with impressive tourist attractions, even if tourism in that specific place is not explored to the fullest. Unfortunately, many of the wonders of the world are hidden to us due to the fact that the officials do not promote such great places so as to entice people to travel miles and miles in order to admire them first-handedly.

But there are instances when words are not necessary when needing to describe certain locations around the globe. Thus is the case with Melk Abbey, the Austrian Benedictine abbey, because this specific convent is already known throughout the world as being one of the most important monastic sites.

http://bill-manycities.blogspot.ro

The foundation of the abbey is attributed to Leopold II of Austria who had donated one of his multiple castles to the Benedictine monks. The location of this tourist attraction is the town Melk, or more precisely the rocky region surrounding this specific town. It was in the 12th century that the base for this abbey was set as a monastic school was formed. The library of the school grew in size and in value with the passage of time in as much as it became renowned for the manuscript collection it preserved in its archives.  Besides the fact that it contained an important collection of manuscripts, some of them even written there, the abbey also carried a historical significance, having been the epicenter of the reform movement which occurred in Melk, a reform which led to strengthening the Austrian monastic life.

The abbey which presents itself at present to the beholder has been erected in the 18th century, between 1702 and 1736. The architectural style conveyed by Jakob Prandtauer, the architect to design the abbey, was representative for the Baroque art. Tourists will definitely be enticed by the grandiose edifice that stands erect before them, but the fresco works performed by Johann Michael Rottmayr are bound to impress even the less impressionable.

http://www.pbase.com

The noteworthy architectural style together with the immense collection of medieval manuscripts contributed to the fame of the abbey and this precise aspect was what kept the monastic site alive. There was a period when the majority of the abbeys spread throughout the Austrian territory were closed (by the order of Emperor Joseph II). The fate of the convent was also under threat in the 20th century, during the time when Austria was annexed to Germany. During this timeframe, the school, together with a considerable part of the abbey was impounded by the state.

The school became once more the property of the abbey after the Second World Conflagration and has continued to function ever since, at present providing educational grounds for hundreds of students.

http://www.fotopedia.com

The abbey’s name is so resonant, that it had managed to insert itself into the literary work of renowned authors. For instance, Umberto Eco was so impressed by this place that it incorporated it into his famous novel “The Name of the Rose,” by naming one of the characters “Adson von Melk.”

Under these circumstances it is no wonder that the abbey has become a cultural center of the country, but even more so, it has become a European cultural attraction. There are numerous visitors that pass the threshold of the convent and while the majority recognizes the value it carries, it is also important to acknowledge what the monastery is trying to pinpoint: that throughout its existence, the monastery has tried to portray the importance of God in our lives. The masterfully painted scenes which adorn the walls of the abbey depict God in different hypostases so as to enforce the fact that spirituality is relevant in our life.

http://mamuco.com

In the later part of the 20th century, the restoration work on the abbey began and has continued up to the present moment, the scope being that of refurbishing the entire monastic ensemble, together with its school and museum.

The imperial rooms of the former castle have been transformed so as to fit the needs of a museum. The exhibitions presented within the museum are designed so as to track the evolution of the abbey throughout time: from its beginning, when it took form, up until the present day.

Melk Abbey has many things to offer. Except the museum, tourists will be drawn to the impressive library which contains the valuable written accounts from medieval times, but also to the Marble Hall, both of these rooms being masterfully designed in the Baroque style. The chambers are adorned by means of wonderfully created frescoes by the artist Paul Troger. Another focal point of attraction is the balcony which offers a beautiful imagery that comprises the Danube River on the one hand and the church of the abbey, on the other. It is quite the view as you are to perceive the church within the naturalness of the surrounding area.

Aug 21

Schonbrunn Palace (Palatul Schonbrunn)

Vienna definitely has a lot to offer to the wandering tourist, interested in exploring the world, or at least a small segment of it, and in enticing the eye with wonderful monuments and the mind with the impressive historical facts, stories or legends that revolve around the respective touristic attraction.

One of the places which are worth visiting in Vienna is Schonbrunn Pallace, a beautiful edifice, emblem of the Rococo architectural style. Since the second half of the 20th century, from the 1960s onward, the construction has been recognized as the important cultural monument it is and the one of the main tourist attractions in the Austrian capital city.

http://www.turisteuropa.ro

 

Not only is the palace an impressive construction which clearly emphasizes the tasteful sense for architecture and style shared by the successive monarchs from the Habsburg dynasty that owned the palace, but there are also the surrounding gardens which should be mentioned. These exude taste and richness, also alluding to the ambitions of their owners through the specific arrangement followed in their creation.

The domain was initially used as a hunting ground for the court and the Roman Emperor in power, Maximilian II, also ordered that a mansion be constructed on the premises. The present name attached to the palace was originally used to describe the artisanal well which supplied the court with the necessary water. Schonbrunn is actually translated as “beautiful spring.”

http://www.peisaje.ro

It was under Eleonora Gonzaga, the wife of Ferdinand II, that the palace was erected. She had decided to retreat to this place after the demise of her husband and had given order for the imperial building to be erected – this occurred between 1638 and 1643.

The gardens are definitely worth your attention. Why? Because they consist of beautiful Greek and Roman sculptures, fountains, a botanical garden, a French garden and an English garden. Probably the most enticing aspect of the park is the maze.

http://www.outdoorphotography.ro

 

There is a feeling almost indescribable about this specific labyrinth as it allows visitors to venture within the green network of alleys and solve its mystery. The maze has been arranged especially for the purpose of entertaining the tourists and offering them a one-of-a-kind experience. There are numerous games available within the hedges, addressed both to adults and children, which put the mind to work in the attempt to solve riddles.

http://lazfamilytravel.blogspot.ro

The labyrinth extends over a surface of 2.700 square meters. Some are drawn to the different types of activities it offers such as the “pole climbing” game in which an individual climbs up a pole and rings a bell upon reaching the top, or the kaleidoscope which allows people to view themselves in different shapes and colors – due to the reflection conveyed by the multiple mirrors which form the kaleidoscope. But probably the majority is interested mostly in discovering the “secret of the labyrinth” and in traversing the maze, reaching their destination – on a specially arranged platform from whence the entire maze can be looked upon.

But the estate includes much more than just the palace and the gardens. There is an Orangerie, which was constructed back in 1755, and a palm house which are bound to capture your eye.

http://theredlist.fr

 

The immense beauty of the Schonbrunn Palace brought about its recognition as a monument which is worth inscribing on UNESCO’s World Heritage List – something which occurred in 1996.

With so many things to offer it is no wonder that the palace is visited by millions of tourists. In 2010, 2.5 million visitors came to the Schonbrunn complex. People can buy tickets in advance if they access the official website of the palace. This will give you the certainty that they will be able to take a tour of the ensemble in a specific day and at a given time. Besides visiting the already mentioned attractions, one can also indulge himself/herself with a concert of classical music where the partitions of Mozart as well of other classics can be heard.

Aug 01

The Mariazell Basilica (Bazilica Fecioarei Maria)

The Mariazell Basilica, which translates as the Basilica of the Virgin Mary, is located in Mariazell, Austria. The Marian basilica is one of the most is one of the most important temples located in Europe and this is easily determined due to the impressive number of tourists that come from all over the world to visit the Basilica. More so, there are pilgrimages organized, mainly because it is considered that a specific icon located inside the basilica is miraculous.

The initial church which stood on the site where the basilica is situated at present was erected in the 14th century in the Gothic architectural style. However, the edifice was badly damaged by fire in the 15th century and when the renovation work began, the architect in charge of the project, Domenico Sciassia, had a different vision for the construction.

http://www.steiermark.com

 

The basilica was expended and Baroque details were inscribed on the edifice. The modifications which were conducted on the edifice consisted of erecting two baroque towers on each side of the gothic pinnacle located on the church. Another adjustment was conducted to the nave which was enlarged, both lengthwise and widthwise.

http://images.mitrasites.com

 

The interior is of immense beauty, consisting of 12 lateral chapels, each comprising a Baroque altar. At the entrance, one can notice two full-sized statuettes made out of lead. These were masterfully created in 1757 by the hands of Balthasar Ferdinand Moll, one of the most famous sculptors in Vienna, during the Baroque age.  The statues represent King Ludwig I of Hungary (the left one) and Heinrich, Margrave of Moravia, a noblemen from the medieval times, on the right.

One of the main attractions in the basilica is a statuette made of brasswood which depicts the Virgin Mary. This wooden icon is said to be miraculous in as much that tourists from different parts of the globe, as well as religious and/or spiritual individuals make their way towards Austria and to the Marian basilica.

http://www.steiermark.com

 

Pilgrims used to come to the basilica as early as the 12th century, but the tradition ceased in the 18th century, more accurately in 1783, when Emperor Joseph II of Austria dissolved the monastery. By 1787, he had completely forbidden pilgrims from setting foot in the basilica.

But when this limitation was lifted, pilgrims returned to this sanctuary. At present, it is estimated that close to 1 million pilgrims come to the Marian basilica on an annual basis.

http://idlespeculations-terryprest.blogspot.ro

 

The basilica is opened for visitation, but there is a timeframe in which access inside the house of worship is granted:

1st of November – 30th of April: 07:30 – 19:15;

1st of May – 31st of October: 06:00 – 20:00.

These hourly intervals are only meant as a guideline, as there is the possibility for some modifications to be made to the schedule at one moment or another. However, the good part is that the Mariazell Basilica is opened throughout the year and that access within is granted daily.

Jul 26

St. Charles’ Church (Biserica Sf. Karl)

St Charles’ Church, also known as Karlskirche, is one of the most beautiful and most interesting buildings found in Austria. The building was constructed by the order to the Emperor of Austria and followed the Baroque architectural style.

According to history, Emperor Karl the VI made a vow to erect a church if Vienna were to rid itself of the plague. In 1715 it seems that everyone’s prayers had been answered as the festering disease had left the city. Thus the construction work for the church was initiated. The building process took 22 years to be completed, but when it was finally inaugurated, in 1737, the church appeared as an architectural jewel before everyone.

http://www.flickr.com

 

The elements which have been incorporated in the design are reminiscent of Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and the Baroque style. The structure consists of two arches, located on each part of the church, two columns, a dome and several towers.

It is definitely curious the way in which the architects decided to integrate these details together. No one had ever ventured on this path, so the church is unique in its stylistic design. The view is almost mesmerizing, especially at night, when the building is lit.

http://www.hdrshooter.net

 

St. Charles’ Church is located in the southern part of Karlplatz, in Vienna, and has become renowned precisely because of the plan it follows: the impressive dome being flanked by two columns. When the Roman Emperor announced his plan to build a church, several famous architects competed in order to undertake the project. From the three architects, Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt, Ferdinando Galli-Bibiena and Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, which engaged in the competition, the latter won.

http://www.letsgo-europe.com

 

The façade consists of two columns, specific for the architectural designed used in Ancient Rome, which are adjacent to two pavilions designed in the contemporary Austrian Baroque. While the exterior is remarkable in its entirety, the interior does not stand out as much.

The interior decoration is in fact artistically performed, in the Baroque style, but there is a contrasting differentiation between the exterior and the interior of the edifice. It is as if once gazing at the building, you would expect to find something equally outstanding, in terms of architectural innovation, when entering the church. Be that as it may, St. Charles’ Church should definitely occupy a primarily position on your list of must-see places in Vienna.

Jul 12

Hohensalzburg Castle (Castelul Hohensalzburg)

The Hohensalzburg Castle is located in Salzburg, Austria. Constructed on the Festungsberg Mountain in the 12 century by the order of the archbishops of Salzburg, the castle is known at present as the most important landmark of the Austrian city.

The archbishops have seen to the permanent preservation and improvement of the edifice as the centuries went by and because of this, we have today the possibility to gaze on one of the most imposing castle in all of Central Europe.

The castle measures 250 m in length and 120 m in height, being one of the largest medieval castles on the European continent.

http://listsoplenty.com

 

Construction

The construction work began in 1077 and it was designed solely for defensive purposes. This was obvious from the original plan which consisted solely of an outer wall made out of wood. At the time of the Roman Empire, the archbishops began to expand the castle, having in mind the protection of their riches.

Political interests played an important role in the development of the castle, as the archbishops in power had to take into consideration that their enemies might strike them when they least expected. So an accurately constructed fortification was the key in these matters.

http://www.flickr.com

 

The situation in which the Hohensalzburg Castle was sieged was singular in all of its history. This occurred in 1525, during the Peasants’ War, when workmen (miners, farmers) as well as other townsmen wanted to overturn the power of Prince/Archbishop Matthaus Lang. But they failed in their attemp as the castle could not be taken.

During the Thirty Years’ War, the castle underwent considerable modifications as it was further strenghtened so as to better serve its defense purpose.

Beginning from the late 19th century, Hohensalzburg was subjected to several restoration works and step by step transformed into an important tourist attraction.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the castle was used as a jail in which prisoners of WWI (mostly Italians) and Nazi activists were kept locked.

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Structure

The castle is equipped with a courtyard and is consists of multiple wings. It is impossible to accurately describe the various rooms in just a few words as the description would not do them justice. But this article will give insight into some of the chambers located in Hohensalzburg Castle.

In the latter years of the 15th century, the third floor of the Castle was constructed and it consisted of beautiful apartments rooms which were meant for celebrations and official events. The archbishops found accomodation at the first floor, so by no means were they to dwell at the third floor.

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Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach wanted to enlarge the construction even more so he had 4 colossal columns added on the right sight of the castle and used them in the construction of a veranda.  The majority of the rooms had the ceiling in the shape of a sunken panel, divided into squares. In the middle of each of the squares, the architects added gilded buttons, which were meant recall of the sky dotted with shining stars.

The Golden Hall, as this room is named, has a long beam sustaining the ceiling. The reason for which this precise detail is mentioned is that the beam traverses the entire length of the ceiling, measuring 17 m, but more importantly it has several coats of arms painted on it. The escutcheons belong to the Holy Roman Empire, to the Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach, as well as to the most dominant German cities and dioceses that were in one way or another linked to Salzburg.

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Golden Chamber

There is one room which stands out from all the others: the Golden Chamber – and this is due to the splendid furnishes that are found here. On both sides of the room, near the walls, one can find benches artistically adorned with elements pertaining to the natural world, more precisely to the plant and animal life. Thus we can find grapes, shrubbery, vines, as well as details from the fauna.

Initially, the benches were sheltered either by leather or by different types of fabrics, but these coverings have not lived to see our time.  The walls also used to be decorated with leather drapery, but the interesting part was that the leather was covered in gold. However, this as well, did not manage to survive the passage of time.

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Bedchamber

The bedchamber is the most intimate room of a dwelling; this is an accurate statement regardless of the century in which it is uttered. So the bedchamber in the Hohensalzburg Castle is the most intimate room of the fortress.

Unfortunately, the original elements which constituted this room were subsituted in time by more contemporary ones. But there is a reminder of the glorious past: the plastering on the wall which is richly adorned, thus emphasizing the status of the person dwelling in that particular room. The superior part still bears the original elements of decoration: golden buttons and emblems, but the inferior part is unembellished. It is improbably that this was left as such, so the only valid explanation is that this particular segment had velvet, leather or some sort of textile emboidery on it that did not survived to our days.

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So the answer to the question: ‘Why is this a must-see tourist attraction?’ is obvious. The Castle reigns over the city from its high position on the Festungsberg Mountain, offering a breathtaking view of Salzburg.

The castle bear historical and cultural significance, giving tourists the opportunity to retrieve to a certain extent the past. More so, there is a museum located within the castle which is opened for visitations all year long. This is equipped with audio guides in the most widely used languages so you will have to problem comprehending that which is explained to you.