May 18

Stephansdom – St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Catedrala Sf. Stefan)

St. Stephen’s Cathedral, or Stephansdom, has survived many wars and has become the symbol of freedom for the Viennese people. The edifice constructed in the Gothic style has been built in 1147, but the tile roof, shaped as a diamond, has been added much later, in 1952.

The cathedral’s uniqueness is conveyed by the multitude of architectural elements comprised within the edifice: the arches, the alters, the painting, as well as the towers were all designated with a specific purpose in mind and they have a story to tell the beholder.

http://www.stephanskirche.at

 

The bell of the cathedral is one of the largest ones in the world and it has been forged out of the iron of a cannon which had been taken from the Turks in 1683. The bell tolls each year on New Year’s Eve, announcing the townsmen of the beginning of a new year.

The cathedral had been destroyed several times by fire but it had been reconstructed each time. The Second World Conflagration left its imprint on the cathedral, but even so, the edifice managed to evade a terrible fate, that of being completely destroyed by the German troupes who passed by it on their way back to Germany. The commandment stationed in town gave the order to the captain of the German soldiers to open fire on the cathedral and destroy it to the ground. But Captain Gerhard Klinkicht did not obey this order.

http://www.turisteuropa.ro

 

But while the edifice managed to remain untouched for the time being, it was however severely damaged in 1945 when fire was opened in the vicinity of the cathedral as the Russian army invaded the town. The result was that the fires, which were unintentionally directed towards the cathedral, caused the roof to fall to the ground.

There were no real damages caused to the interior in as much that the majority of the artwork present within the cathedral managed to remain intact. The restoration work began almost immediately, but while the cathedral was partially open for visitation in 1948, it was finally restored in its entirety in 1952.

http://www.chocolate-fish.net

 

St. Stephen’s Cathedral measures 107 m in length, 40 m in width and 136 m in height. In time, the coloration of the edifice was ruined due to pollution, transforming the white edifice into a grim looking construction. But the restoration work conducted most recently gave the cathedral its original color.

One of the most important elements of the cathedral is the multi-colored roof because it is extensively, but tastefully decorated. The surface of the roof measures 111 m and it is covered with an impressive number of glazed tiles. On the southern part, the tiles are arranged in such a way that they constitute a mosaic representation of the emblem of the Habsburg Empire (the double-headed eagle).

http://www.danielmitsui.com

 

The roof is so abruptly constructed that it is not necessary for it to undergo a periodic cleaning process made by men. The rain does this job perfectly. More so, in the cold season, there are rare deposits of snow on the roof.

The main section of the cathedral alone consists of 18 altars, with others being located in different parts of the edifice. Probably the most famous ones are the High Altar and the Wiener Neustadt Altar. The first one was constructed over a period of seven years (1641-1647) during the first restoration work conducted in which the cathedral was given a Baroque look.

http://www.flickriver.com

 

The altar, the work of art of Tobias Pock, was built solely out of marble. On each side of the altar, there are the representations of the following saints: St. Leopold, St. Florian, St. Sebastian and St. Rochus. But the monumental sculpture of the Virgin Mary, which is found above the altar, overcomes the other statues.  The second altar, the Wiener Neustadt Altar, was constructed in 1447 by the orders of Emperor Frederick III. This is found in the northern nave, just opposite the crypt in which its founder, Frederick III, was laid to spend its eternal sleep.

One of the most representative icons in the cathedral is the one representing the Virgin Mary with Jesus Christ (the Maria Potsch Icon). This is an icon realized in the Byzantine style and it depict the Mother of Christ pointing towards her child – a gesture that signifies that Jesus represents the path we ought to take in life (to follow him), while Jesus carries a rose with three flowers – a representation of the Holy Trinity.

http://www.traditional-apartments-vienna.at

 

The story of how the icon got to St. Stephen’s Cathedral revolves around the a miracle which supposedly had occurred in 1696 – the Virgin Mary in the icon having shed real tears. Upon these incidents, the Austrian Emperor at that time, Leopold I, decided to transfer the icon from Hungary to the cathedral in discussion so as to protect it from the Muslims who had invaded the country.

The cathedral has several chapels, each with a well designated purpose. St Katherine’s Chapel is located right beneath the southern tower and it is used for the baptizing ritual.  Meditations and prayers are held in St Barbara’s Chapel (to the north), whereas the St. Eligius Chapel is used solely for prayer. All the vestiges of the cathedral are deposited in St. Valentine’s Chapel, among which a fragment of the tablecloth which was used at the Last Supper can be found.

http://en.wikipedia.org

 

But besides the impressive altars, icons and treasures, St. Stephen’s Cathedral also hold numerous catacombs, tombs and crypts, all preserving the earthly remains of various saints and important official figures, such as the Emperor Frederick III or Prince Eugene of Savoy.

The grandeur of the edifice is really going to impress you, not to mention that you will be taken aback by the numerous works of art which adorn the cathedral.

May 09

Durnstein Castle (Castelul Durnstein)

All those interested in gaining more knowledge about the world history will be pleased to learn that in the heart of Austria lies one such marker of historical times. So if you are in this country do not hesitate to visit the Wachau region where the ruins of the Durnstein Castle are found.

While not much is left of the castle, except a desolate image of a once glorious edifice, the location bears touristic importance due to the historical weight it carries. It is said that the King of England, Richard the Lionheart was captured in 1193 by the Duke of Austria Leopold V and held prisoner in this castle, until he was rescued by his faithful minstrel Blondel de Nesle.

http://journals.worldnomads.com

 

Upon reaching the castle, you will first get to see the picturesque town of Durnstein which is surrounded by hills, thus entering into a tranquil setting where all the worries seem to be left behind. While the entire region has a lot to offer, it is the solitary castle which mesmerizes the tourists. It seems to spring from the rocks and reign over the valley. It is impossible to describe the image you are given the privilege of admiring once you ascend to the ruins. A feeling of liberation seems to take hold of your being.

 

History and Legend

Richard Lionheart did not manage to come out successful in the Crusade and he was on his way back to England when Leopold’s army captured him. He considered that a journey over land would be less dangerous than one over the sea, where there was a higher risk of being captured either by pirates or by his archenemy King Philippe Auguste of France. But luck was not on his side as he fell to the hands of Leopold.

 

http://www.flickr.com

 

The Austrian Duke was a little baffled about what to do with the royal hostage so he kept him locked in the Durnstein Castle until a decision was to be taken about the future of this inmate. Leopold, in alliance with Henry IV, was planning to receive a huge ransom if Richard was to be set free.

It is here that the historical reality ceases and in its place comes the legendary rescue conducted by Richard’s troubadour. He had managed to escape the ambush in which his king was caught and he fled to England where he informed the people about the king’s terrible fate.

There were numerous attempts to discover where Richard was held captive but none had succeeded. Blondel then took it upon himself to find his master. He came up with an intelligent plan which would undoubtedly unveil the whereabouts of Richard the Lionheart.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org

 

He and Richard were the only two people acquainted with a specific song, so Blondel decided to sing this tune near each grand castle in the hopes that his master will give a response. Legend has it that, upon beginning the song near Durnstein Castle, the voice of Richard came through, singing the second verse. The story goes on with mentioning how Blondel came to Richard’s rescue, helping him escape his imprisonment.

But the reality was that the English army succeeded in tracing down their king and that the capturers negotiated his freedom.

http://www.vancouvermoments.com

 

Even if the events have been documented and there is an evident inaccuracy in the legend presented above, this makes a good story nonetheless as it stresses out important traits such as friendship and loyalty. Just to understand the importance of these aspects, characteristic of human nature, it is enough to think that the legend has survived the passage of time, being transmitted from generation to generation.

Such moving stories, but also the historical events that took place within the walls of the edifice, make the Durnstein Castle such an important tourist attraction. It is precisely this that urges tourists to climb up the rocky path and admire the remains of the castle, but also the valley below.

May 02

Vienna’s Museum of Natural History (Muzeul de Istorie Naturala)

The Museum of Natural History, which has been constructed by King Franz I as a “Cabinet of Natural Sciences” for the Vienna Imperial Court, is a place where tourists can get insight into the history of the earth and the diversity of nature.

http://www.wn.com

 

The museum occupies the third position among the top largest museum in the world, being surpassed only by the New York and London Museums. The architects behind the project were Gottfried Semper and Carl Hasenauer who have designed the museum in 1748 as an annex to the Museum of Art History. The official inauguration occurred back in 1889.

The construction is the epicenter of Vienna and attracts millions of tourists every year. The edifice has a surface of almost 8.700 square meters and has more than 22 million pieces on exhibition. The array ranges from insects to precious stones and minerals, from extinct animals to animals threatened by extinction.

http://www.flickr.com

 

The museum is definitely worth your time as you will have the opportunity to visit the Gem Hall where precious stones are on display, among which you can also admire a gigantic topaz which weights 117 kg, and the exquisite statue “Venus of Willendorf,” an ancient sculpture which has almost 25.000 “years of age.”

It is this small statue, but highly renowned that stands as a reminder of a forgone time – of the incipient stages of civilization. Another item reminiscent of the planet’s evolution is the skeleton of a Diplodocus (a large vegetarian dinosaur with an extremely long neck).

http://www.tripadvisor.com

 

If you are interested in evolution, then this is definitely the place to visit. The Dinosaur Hall is a specially arranged section of the museum where all sorts of skeletons of primitive animals are found. The hall also holds an accurate replica of an Allosaurus (a therapod dinosaur that lived in the late Jurassic Period).

The reproduction is actually developed based on scientific discoveries so there is no doubt that it presents the original to the core.  In order to make the model as realistic as possible, the developers have made it move and roar so as to capture the essence of the dinosaur.

http://www.checkpointmedia.com

Tours are organized only accompanied by a guide but this is actually to your advantage as you will get valuable information about the objects on display. A highly appreciated moment in the tour is the visit to the museum’s roof which offers a beautiful image of Vienna.

So if you are ever in Vienna, you should make it one of your priorities to visit the Museum of Natural History as it is one of the most valuable museums in the world. It is impressive through the multitude of objects (located in 39 exhibition halls) which offer clear evidence of the evolution of the planet: of humanity, of the plant and animal life.

http://www.psrd.hawaii.edu

 

The museum was meant as the “the land of nature and its exploration” – this being the scope for which it had been developed by Franz I. Today, the people who conduct scientific research in behalf of the museum have the same objective in mind: they want to continue the legacy of the monarch.

Apr 19

Hofburg Imperial Palace (Palatul Imperial Hofburg)

Hofburg Imperial Palace is situated in Vienna, one of the most beautiful European capitals, and it has been the residence of some of the most important figures in the history of Austria.

History

The Hofburg Palace was the epicenter of the Habsburg Empire for more than 600 years. Throughout time it has evolved into one of the most valuable historical centers in all of Europe.

http://www.art.com

 

The Habsburg ruling began in the 13th century, at first there were the reigns of the Austrian region and from 1452, the emperors of the Roman Holy Empire.  When the monarchy was installed in 1806, they became emperors of Austria, a title kept until the regime fell in 1918.

The palace was initially a fortress, but it has changed throughout time as each emperor conducted further extension work on the edifice. At present, the asymmetrical construction has a surface of 240.000 sq. ft. and it has an impressive structure, comprising 19 interior courts, 18 wings, and 2.600 rooms. The palace still houses almost 5.000 people who work or live here.

http://www.gothereguide.com

 

Important historical events took place within these walls. For example, it was here where the emperor Joseph II came up with the revolutionary plan for the reform, where the Vienna Congress organized meetings, where lavish receptions and balls were organized and where the emperor Franz Joseph received important people.

Now, the Hofburg Palace holds the official office of the President of Austria, of the Prime Minister, as well as of the other ministers of the state.

The immense edifice has an impressive architecture where different styles can be noticed: from the Gothic style to the Art Nouveau style – and it is only natural for the palace to be architectonically diversified taking into account the different periods of time it passed through and the interventions performed by all the rulers of Austria.

Tourists have the possibility to walk through the private rooms where the emperor Franz Joseph and the empress Elizabeth lived, or to visit the common room and admire the beautiful design and decoration of the edifice.

http://farm2.staticflickr.com

 

Amelienburg

This is a wing named after Amalie Wilhelmine, the widow of Joseph I. This section of the building, which was created as the dwelling of Rudolf II, is reflective of the late Renaissance style. Some of the elements which are noteworthy in this wing are the tower with the dome and the astronomical clock which adorns the front of the building.

Swiss Wing

This section follows the Renaissance architectural design and it is renowned for the Swiss Gate which is colored in red and black. On this gate, tourists can admire the emblem of the Order of the Golden Fleece and they can find out what titles bore Ferdinand I, as all of them are on display here.

http://img.posterlounge.de

 

 Imperial Library

Initially, this building was not part of the Hofburg Palace. The library, placed on the other side of the ensemble, was constructed on the orders of Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, but it was his son Joseph Emanuel who completed the work in 1735.

Tourists can admire the artistically created fresco which covers the ceiling of the hall (done by Daniel Gran) and the sculptures made by Paul Strudel which represent the Habsburg emperors. These pieces of art make the Imperial Library one of the most significant artistic statements in Austria.

http://www.altorizont.com

 

Lorenzo Mattielli was the artist to adorn the exterior of the edifice with Attika statues. These are situated as follows: Pallas Athena, riding a chariot drawn by four horses, reigns over the main entrance, Atlas is situated on the roof (on the left side) and it is represented carrying the celestial globe and having the allegories of Astrology and Astronomy by his side. Also on the roof, but opposed to Atlas, lays Gaia, carrying the terrestrial globe and having Geometry on one side and Geography on the next.

These are only three of the buildings which can be visited inside the Hofburg Imperial Palace. People going to Vienna should not pass the opportunity to visit this place where history and art blend and form a luxurious edifice.

Hofburg is opened every day of the week in the interval:

  • 9:00 – 17:30 (September – June)
  • 9:00 – 18:00 (July – August)

 

http://www.gothereguide.com

 

Tickets

There are four types of tickets you can buy, depending on the places you wish to get access to:

1. The Hofburg ticket allows you to visit the imperial suits, the silver collection and the Sisi Museum. The price depends on the age of the visitor:

  • Adults: 9,90 euros;
  • Children aged 6 to 18: 5,90 euros;
  • Students aged 19 to 25: 8,90 euros;
  • Groups of children aged 6 to 18: 4,90 euros.

 

2.The Sisi ticket provides access to three tourist attractions: the Hofburg Palace, Schonbrunn Palace (access to 40 rooms), and the collection of imperial furniture. You will also be spared of having to wait in line in order to get access in the palace. The price of the ticket:

  • Adults: 22,50 euros;
  • Children aged 6 to 18: 13,50 euros;
  • Students aged 19 to 25: 20 euros;
  • Groups of children aged 6 to 18: 11,50 euros.

 

3. The ticket for the silver collection: 2,5 euros;

4. The ticket for the imperial suits includes access to the private apartments of Franz Joseph I and the Empress Elizabeth. The price for the ticket is:

  • Adults: 12,40 euros;
  • Children aged 6 to 18: 6,90 euros;
  • Students aged 19 to 25: 11,40 euros;
  • Groups of children aged 6 to 8: 5,90 euros.

 

Tourist will benefit of an audio guide which is available in 8 languages of international circulation: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Magyar, Japanese and the Czech language.