Friday, December 27, 2013

The Tranquil and Famous Mirabelle Gardens in Salzburg

Mirabelle Gardens
Famous Mirabelle Gardens in Salzburg

In the city of Salzburg, lies the Mirabelle Palace built in 1606. The palace was damaged by the great fire that swept through the city on 30 April 1818, but the truly grand marble staircase that led into the palace, and the marble hall survive to this day. Today the palace houses the mayoral and council offices, but the Marble Hall (formerly the prince-archbishops' ballroom and concert venue) is often considered to be one of the most beautiful wedding halls in the world.

 More famous than the palace itself is the surrounding Mirabelle gardens. The gardens house countless sculptures, statues, and fountains, and you are bound to see something new and interesting at every turn – things like the Dwarf Garden, full of grotesquely deformed dwarfs!

Another famous resident of the gardens is the Grand Parterre, the oldest part of the grounds. Here you will find a plethora of Roman gods dating back to 1689. Moving forward, the large Pegasus fountain, once a centrepiece of the gardens, was installed in 1913 and surrounded by much older sculptures that represent the elements, the copper fountain is a sight to behold and well worth visiting

Another very beautiful part of the gardens is the Rose Hill, come up here for a striking view of the grounds and the Hohensalzburg Fortress. It is best to come here in the day time, however, as the spot is a well-known place for naughty meet ups in the evenings, and you may be privy to less pleasant views!

Mirabelle Gardens
Summer time in Salzburg's Mirabelle Palace and gardens

 The Mirabelle Gardens were first opened to the public in 1854. For hundreds of years people have come to enjoy them, but it is only in recent years that you find people singing ‘Do-Re-Mi’ while running through the hedge tunnel. For those of you with a theatrical flair, the Hedge Theatre is one of the oldest of its kind, and is still used for performances today, including concerts for the Salzburg Festival. While many come to recreate scenes from The Sound of Music, today the gardens are a horticultural masterpiece in their own right, and serve as a popular backdrop for weddings and photographers.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Story of Gustav Klimt the Painter

Gustav Klimt July 14, 1862 – February 6, 1918

Few people go through life without hearing his name or seeing his painting ‘The Kiss’. Gustav Klimt was an Austrian artist born in 1862 just outside of Vienna. He was a symbolist painter whose pieces were often considered pornographic at the time, and he was certainly fond of the female form, fathering upwards of fourteen children.

Klimt was commissioned to create public art only once, for the ceiling of the Great Hall of the University of Vienna; however, many officials reacted with shock and horror to his piece which never went up. The 3 separate paintings hung in a gallery until they were all destroyed by the retreating SS forces during World War Two

Growing up Klimt idolised another very popular Viennese painter Hans Makart, and was awarded a scholarship to the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts. He went his own way, however, when he moved on to the Vienna art scene and became one of the founding members of the ‘Wiener Sezession’ (Vienna Secession) in 1897. This was a group of artists who couldn’t stand the conservative nature of the art scene, regulated by the Association of Austrian Artists. Klimt became the first president of this new and pioneering group, who made waves across Vienna with the slogan ‘To every age its art, to art its freedom’. Similar secession movements were even set up in Berlin and Munich. The group held its very first exhibition in Vienna in 1898, but the heady days of dissident art came to an end in 1905 due to differences of artistic opinion between the Naturalists, Realists, and Symbolists.

"The Kiss" painted between 1908 to 1909

After the Secession years, Klimt really found success, using the period signature gold leaf, and receiving first prize in the world exhibitions in Rome. Klimt continued to work up until suffering a fatal stroke on February 6, 1918. He was buried at the Hietzing Cemetery in Vienna. He left behind one of the most impressive artistic legacies to date, with his portrait ‘Adele Bloch-Bauer I’ selling for $135 million - the highest price ever recorded for a painting.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Danube Tower of Vienna

The Danube Tower of Vienna
The Danube Tower of Vienna

The ‘Vienna Donauturm’ or Danube Tower was built in 1964 and has since become an integral part of the Vienna skyline. As a popular tourist viewing point, the tower has over 450,000 visitors a year. Rising for 252 meters from the greenery of the Donaupark, the tower looks over the bank of Europe’s second longest river, the Danube. The park and gardens around the tower are relaxing and lovely to walk through, and there is a beer garden situated at the base of the tower, so give yourself some time to reach the main attraction. 

776 steps lead to the Donauturm viewing platform; but don’t worry, if you aren’t up for the climb there are two elevators to help you out. These travel 150 meters in just 35 seconds. Although once the site of a tragic air-balloon accident in 1968, the platform now serves as what I’m sure is a very safe bungee site for some of the thrill seekers among you! Rather you than me – I have to say!

The Danube Tower isn’t just a pretty place, it serves as a communication tower, and is also
home to not one, but two revolving restaurants! The ‘Panorama’ and ‘Isola’ restaurants sit above the viewing platform, and from here you can gaze over the old Austrian capital and the Vienna woods from one of the tallest buildings in the city. 

Vienna Donauturm
View of the Danube Tower from a distance

You’ll need to call ahead and book a table during the summer months, and pay a fee to enter the tower; however if you time your meal to coincide with the sunset it will all definitely be well worth it. Enjoy some excellent Austrian delicacies here, but perhaps leave it a while before hitting the bungee ropes.

The Danube Tower of Vienna really is a great tourist attraction in its own right; but it also serves as one of the most fashionable eating establishments in the city with a view that really is to die for.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Tauern Spa: A Review

Tauern Spa Logo

Tauren Spa is an oasis of water and wood, nestled among the Austrian Alps. Although the spa is a little out of the way, this is a choice location for any hotel, let alone such a luxury retreat. You can absorb the breath-taking views not only from the warm salt-water pool or the outdoor bar, but also from your room. Most of the rooms at Tauern Spa have a view to die for, but make sure you specify if you want the best panoramic views and book well in advance if you plan to visit over the weekend. 

Tauern Spa
Tauern Spa from outside
The simple, modern, and luxuriantly comfortable bathrooms and bedrooms are the perfect place to kickback after a day in the mountains. If the hiking trails, bike routes, ski trips, or shopping sprees leave you a little achy, the range of treatments and chill out areas will melt away any tension you arrived with. The relax room with a library, and the sauna are the most peaceful corners of the retreat; soak in the heat while you gaze up at emerald pastures and snow-capped mountains. There are plenty of deckchairs, and to the relief of parents and tranquillity-seekers alike, there are even separate kids pools, family expeditions, and a play room.

Relaxing in Tauern Spa
Relaxing in Tauern Spa
When you wake up to the bright Austrian sunlight, next on the list is breakfast, and it doesn’t disappoint. Don’t be put off by the buffet style assortment, they say it’s the most important meal of the day and Tauern Spa certainly seems to agree; the food is great quality and thoughtfully prepared, easily one of the better hotel breakfasts you will have on your travels. The Hotel dinner gets five stars, too, one for each course! You will sit down to 5 courses of modern Austrian food, and international cuisine, beautifully presented in a contemporary restaurant accented with traditional Austrian spirit.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wildlife and nature surrounding the Danube River

Wildlife on the Danube river
The Donau-Auen National Park
You will find DonauauenNational Park situated in a lush ‘green ribbon’ that lies in between the two closest capital cities in Europe; Bratislava and Vienna. Established in 1996, The park spans over 40 square miles and is a highly important conservation area; as well as a centre for science and research.
The second largest river on the continent, The Danube, flows through Donauauen untamed, feeding and watering the plentiful wildlife, and sustaining what is the last large wetland ecosystem in Central Europe. The park is full of things to do, and is an excellent place for explorers of all ages.

Danube river banks
Danube river banks

Spot rare and endangered species such as the Beaver and the Kingfisher; take one of the many walking tours; or rest up and sail the Danube. The neighbouring town of Orth also holds the tourist and information centre for the park, where you can learn about the environment in much more detail, get yourself some maps and check out the day’s tours and activities. Additionally the National Park House was opened in 2007 and was built beautifully in order to reflect and complement its surroundings. Shops, exhibitions, cafés, and events can all be found within.
Falling trees next to the Danube river
The Donauauen National Park is one of 6 protected parks in Austria, and locals use the well-established hiking and cycling routes to see the most of the vast forests and bodies of water that make the park so special. The most popular route is 11 km long and is aptly named the Napoleon Loop, as it passes a memorial to the 1809 Battle of Aspern-Essling, as well as some battlefield sites, and the headquarters of Napoleon himself. 

As well as these main activities, there are places you can go for a swim, or take part in water sports. For a whistle-stop tour of the park, you can even board the Admiral Tegetthoff in Vienna and sail right through the park, arriving in the medieval town of Hainburg.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Spare Some Time to Visit the Augarten Palace

The Augarten Palace
The Augarten Palace

The Augarten Palace or ‘Palais Augarten’ is a striking Baroque palace nestled in an old Jewish district of Vienna. It now serves as a boarding school for the Boys’ Choir of Vienna, and had retained its original sweeping appearance, decoration, and furnishings despite extensive damage caused by the Second World War.
The palace was designed and built in Austria’s popular Baroque period, nestled in a beautifully landscaped park that exists to this day. The Palace was a well-used place, and even featured a salon where some big names in music such as Wagner and Liszt came to hang out. Great balls for 18th  and 19th century aristocrats to dance the night away at were commonplace, and the largest party ever to be held Augarten Palace was the 1873 Viennese World Fair.
In the 20th century, the palace was occupied by the Austrian chancellor before being badly damaged in the war. Since 1948, however, the world famous Vienna Boys’ Choir has lived, practiced, and performed here, although the building itself is state owned.
The grounds contain a lively market, restaurant, and beautiful gardens as well as the palace and concert hall that was opened in 2012 especially for the choir. You will also find a porcelain museum and studio of contemporary art. The porcelain manufactory holds morning tours that many deem to be a hidden delight of their visit to the Palais Augarten. You can see the whole porcelain making process, and watch artists hard at work with their tiny brushes. Saturdays are an especially busy time in this area of Vienna, as the markets swell and tourists and locals gather to eat, drink and enjoy the landscape. An experience you will definitely find hard to beat on your wonderful trip to the Austrian capital.