The Hills Are Alive

By Chef Dad

I don’t think the Habsburg dynasty was the greatest dynasty, but I think it was the classiest.


Vienna is the architectural center of the Habsburg/Austro-Hungarian empire, though it hasn’t always been the most powerful capital city in the realm.  We struck out quickly for Schönbrunn Palace, the summer home of the royals, and the most impressive of three great palaces in the city.

The palace is surrounded by acres and acres of gardens, including a couple of mazes to walk through.  We never did solve one of them.  Mr. N and Miss A had a good time walking through the grounds.  At the far end of the gardens, atop a big hill, sits the Gloriette.


I am fairly certain the Gloriette was built simply to ensure that the Habsburgs had the absolute best wedding venue on the planet.  It’s a long walk up the hill, and it was a hot day and we were tired.  We were going to skip it and until we turned around, that would have been my choice.  But the view from the hill is magnificent.


In the evening, we were joined at the palace by 100,000 Austrians who had come to see the Wien Philharmonic put on their annual free Sommernachtskonzert.  We actually had no idea that such a thing existed, much less that it was on the day of our visit, but we stuck around and had a great time.


I should mention, though, before I get too much further along, that we were also joined by two other guests–Maggie and Allie, Kristy’s cousins, who we picked up at the airport a day earlier.


We started them off easy, with a restful visit to the Museumquartier, which is a really cool building with a lot of different, edgy exhibits and modern art, set in an old building with a courtyard that’s got shops, cafes and live music, along with benches to rest on.


Not a bad way to kill some time in Vienna, but before too long, we had to go for some of Vienna’s–nay, the worlds’s–most famous chocolate cake, the original Sacher Torte from the Sacher Hotel.


I don’t think Vienna is my favorite city that we’ve visited on our trip, but it’s probably the deepest in terms of the sheer number of great sites.  In addition to Schonbrunn, the Hofburg Palace and the museum and apartments that surround it form a beautiful city center.


But that’s not all.  There’s a third palace, Belvedere, just down the road.  We didn’t get to spend much time there, but we did take a stroll through the gardens and grounds.

There’s also Parliament, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Naschmarkt, and a thriving, walkable historic old town with classic architecture everywhere.  On Maggie and Allie’s first full day in town, we walked over 25,000 steps and 11 miles according to my iPhone.  They also went through a few bandaids to cover up blisters from shoes that weren’t quite broken in.

With all that walking, it’s good to squeeze in a break now and again, and the river, complete with a makeshift beach and reggae band, was a perfect spot to relax.

Sadly, the bar didn’t have Red Stripe, but we made due with some really good Gruner Veltliner.  Like I said, Vienna is classy.  We took in some of that class with a trip to the Wien Operhaus too.


The operahouse has a deal where you can go for 3 Euros and watch from standing room seats at the back of the theatre.  Seats are quite a bit more expensive.  We went the value route.

The standing room seats are incredibly crowded and hot.  The kids couldn’t see and were tired and fidgety.  People were jostling for space everywhere.  Miss A especially had a really difficult time.  I told Kristy when it was over, I didn’t enjoy a minute of it but I’m extremely glad we did it.  The opera house is beautiful, the staging was wonderful and it’s an experience that I’m really glad we had.  We stayed until the first intermission–staying longer would have been cruel to our children, but it was well worth the price (in dollars and patience).

A visit to Vienna wouldn’t be complete without a trip to a Heuriger.  Heurigers are massive wine bars that sit on the outskirts of Vienna, but still in the city limits.  Winemakers serve their proprietary wines, along with heapings of traditional food in a way that resembles a cafeteria.  We visited two.


It’s a fun experience, though we were thwarted at the first place by an inconsiderate group in front of us in line and thwarted at the second place by torrential downpours (not something we could have predicted from the photo above, taken a few hours earlier).


I’m struck looking back on our trip at just how many fun things there are to do and see in Vienna.  The Habsburg dynasty may have ended with World War I, but it left behind a beautiful city and a beautiful legacy.

12 thoughts on “The Hills Are Alive

  1. ChgoJohn says:

    I think I’d love Vienna,Mike.The pastries alone would keep me happy. Mustm’t forget thecastles.I love me some castles. It doesn’t get much better much better than that and I haven’t even mentioned the Sommernachtskonzert. Believe it or not, when I’ve gone “touring” as opposed to my recent family visits, concert performances are usually part of the itinerary. In fact, I saw the Prague Philharmonic perform Dvorak’s “New World Symphony”. The 3 of us fell asleep during the performance but we tend to overlook that part of the story. Besides, it’s not like we hadn’t heard it already. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Eva Taylor says:

    Several years ago JT got a deal with one of our national airlines (now defunct), we went for ten days; four were with my family in Budapest (we rented a car and drove to Budapest) the rest in Vienna. It was a lot of time there. We enjoyed it immensely. We did similar things to what you did. JT is not an opera fan (I have grown to adore it) so we didn’t do the opera, but I would LOVE the standing room only fare! I totally wish we had that. It’s soooo expensive here. I usually only go when my darling niece, Annie performs and usually only when they discount the tickets from $150 ++ to $50!!! I just can’t justify it. Vienna is one of my fav cities, but mainly because it’s a stopover for Budapest, and we’ve done it so often (6 and counting!) it feels so comfortable. Such a lovely post Mike, thank you. I am living Europe vicariously through your trip. Can’t wait for the fall.


  3. Raymund says:

    Wow you watched the Sommernachtskonzert, that looks amazing. I love travelling like this when there are unexpected things happening. I still remember the first time we visited Paris we never knew it was Bastille day until we were there, lots of people everywhere so at first it was annoying but it was well worth it to see the celebration

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Debra says:

    And here I am excited about going to the Hollywood Bowl this coming weekend. LOL! The opera house, the concerts, the culture! Austria seems rather amazing to me. And how wonderful to have had guests come to visit. Heuriger–completely new to me. Delightful!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Eha says:

    And I thought we would be in Salzburg and I could rave about Christopher Plummer!! OK, seriously, I so agree with you about Vienna and its ‘classiness’ . . . Lord knows why – never really ‘took to it’!! The Opera House: have done both the expensive seat route and the stand in Q for 48-hours stand-up way! Would so do it again!! Had a way-back wonderful b’day present when I attended a Sunday Church service at the Hofburgkapelle with members of the Vienna Boys Choir taking the choral service: one of the ‘happenings’ of my lifetime. . . . *smile* yep, sort of remember ‘doing’ the Sacher also!!! Thanks a million for the memories!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Eha says:

      Wandered back during a work-a-day lunchtime: you mean you went to Schönbrunn and saw/heard the Lebeque Sisters play Poulenc ?: now I AM totally peagreen . . .


  6. Amy says:

    Nice visiting dignitaries! I am reading a biography of Catherine the Great. It is touching on the various alliances involving Austria. I will look for classiness in the book and let you know if I find any elsewhere. Lots of infidelity so far!


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