skies Vienna .. yes!

Trip Start Nov 20, 2012
Trip End Dec 25, 2012

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Flag of Austria  , Vienna,
Friday, December 7, 2012

A hearty breakfast at Meininger Hotel for 5.90 euro , and it's the last 24 hours for our Vienna discovery. The Hop on and Hop Off bus ( available in all major cities worldwide) is a transport hassle/ free /informative way to see the the  main points of the city.(20 euro 10am to 5pm..a great deal) First stop..Schönbrunn Palace  ( circa 1672 and the current buildings approx 1700) ...a former imperial 1,441-room  summer residence.The enormous gardens ..some 1.2 kms square are picture perfect in spring / summer and breathtaking in winter.  The Palace is one of the most important cultural monuments in the country, since the 1960s it has been one of the major tourist attractions in Vienna.
Famous for it's royalty ..Emperor Franz Joseph (ruled 1848-1916), he was born here in 1830 and Empress Maria Theresa...(13 May 1717 – 29 November 1780)  she was the only female ruler.. 40 years long.. of the Habsburg era.
And of course there are the Xmas stalls... traditional handicrafts, hand-made Christmas decorations and local foods & hot wines!

The extra added bonus to the day was no snow, no rain.. still a chilly -2  degrees but the bluest sky!! Not much warmth in the sun but in theory it helps!

Another , the Belvedere Palace complex  .... The Belvedere’s two magnificent palaces, the Upper (Oberes) and Lower (Unteres) Belvedere, were built by Baroque architect Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt, in the 18th century as the summer residence for the important general Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736).    The palaces with their extensive gardens( all hidden under the snow) are considered to be one of the world’s finest Baroque landmarks.   These days the Upper Belvedere houses a collection of Austrian art dating from the middle Ages to the present day. It holds the world's largest Gustav Klimt collection. There are also works by Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, among others. The lower Belvedere includes Prince Eugene's living quarters and staterooms. In front of the Palace there are the obligatory Xmas fares to tempt you...

Another hour on board shows all the main ring road ..seeing places such as State Opera Building, Heroes' Square, the City University ,St Stephens Cathedral etc etc. The enormity and facades on some buildings is astounding. Obvious is the post war hurriedly built box style apartments . Vienna lost over 40,000 buildings and over 86,000 apartments..
Mustn't go a day without a Xmas market so it is off to The Old Viennese Christmas Market on Freyung in the city center.. It is committed to tradition.. A Christmas market was held here as early as 1772; today, it is a place to buy handicrafts, glass decorations, traditional cribs and ceramics. A different style of market too with  live farm animals for the kiddies to interact with and  the biggest hay patch for them to play /build etc So child orientated a lot of the markets here in Europe... the merry go round here was surreal.. weird aeroplanes, cages to enclose the child / wacky birds etc all powered by the operator riding his attached bicycle around and around..perhaps that is how exercise bikes were originally...

An amble along the main shopping precinct to admire all the european mid to high fashions and wares( there is a Swarvoski Crystal shop with 3 levels to tempt the bling lovers) ..and the Xmas decorations of course... preluded a last viennese meal.

The day was finished off with a special treat.. A Mozart & Strauss evening at the Kursalon.. a magnificent building cica 1867 in the tradition of the Italian Renaissance. An orchestra of approx 10 delighted us with many of the two composers brilliance... some known , some not. Also performing were a soprano, a tenor and the dance couple who delighted with some ballet and waltz. Add some Austrian humour and a wonderful night was had.

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