Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Eastern Europe Part 2

[Disclaimer: As mentioned earlier my camera was misplaced in Prague, so all the photos in this post are of the crappy-cellphone variety.]
One of the many amazingly cool statues in Vienna

4 hours by train from Prague, Vienna is the current capital of Austria and the last capital of the Holy Roman Empire. Famous as the city of Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, and Haydn, it is drowning in music halls, operas, and musical history in general. It is also, in my opinion, the most beautiful city in Europe.

Vienna was originally a Celtic city, but pretty quickly came under the rule of the Roman empire, and was even briefly threatened by the Mongolian empire of Genghis Khan as his son Ă–gedai marched the armies across Eastern Europe. After about 1500 years of being part of someone else's empire, they returned to championship form with 3 consecutive dynasties, the Badenberg, Hapsburg, and finally the Holy Roman Empire which later became the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and lasted until 1918, making it one of the most recent empires in Europe. Briefly occupied by the Nazis during WW2, and the Allies for about 10 years after, it very quickly regained its glory as one of the most prosperous cities in Europe.

Ludwig van Beethoven

Due to its long-lasting empires, and relatively benign occupations around WW2, Vienna's amazing architecture and riches accumulated during its time of power remain in really good shape. Rome's riches are mind-bogglingly cool, but being thousands of years old, part of the allure is imagining how magnificent Rome used to be. There is no need for that imagination in Vienna, the city still is that remarkable.


I'm not much for hopping on and off of tour-buses, so we didn't take any "official" tours of they city. We did, however, grab a map from the Mozart tour company, so we spent a day hopping from places that Mozart slept or played music and ended the day with a pretty magnificent performance of some of his most famous works by the Viennese Orchestra. After the unintentionally comic performance of American show-tunes we saw in Prague, this was an incredibly enjoyable performance (and a much better use of 25 Euros).

George Clooney is huge in Europe

Not having much need anymore for all the palaces, summer palaces, and other remarkable creations built just to show off imperial power, many of these amazing constructions are now put to more practical use as libraries, schools, or museums. We visited the Museum of Natural History in the aptly named Museum Quarter, and I think I spent as much time marveling at the architecture and statues of the old palace grounds as I did studying the museum exhibits themselves.

This is a science museum

The main library in Vienna is another of these amazing buildings. Located just behind the parliament in an extremely large and extremely impressive building that probably stressed the ability of lazy royalty to traverse its many steps, it was one of the first buildings in Vienna to have an elevator. While I am sure it was an amazing invention at the time, the lack of doors and the inability to actually stop (to let people load and unload easily) makes it a bit of an adventure for the more modern lazy among us.

cool elevator

Vienna is definitely one of the places everyone should get to at least once in their lives. For more amazingly bad cellphone photos (and videos) of Vienna, and a few from Prague and Berlin, click here. And please do a Google image search for Vienna too, to get much better pictures than my horrible photos here.

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