Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hotel Sacher in Salzburg: A Review

Take yourself back to the 1800’s and discover the charming city of Salzburg. Let the historic elegance follow you up the grand marble staircases and all the way to bed. At the Sacher, every single room is unique from the carpets to the artwork, and has an Austrian regality the emperor would envy. From crystal chandeliers to silk-lined walls, the place oozes a Baroque sophistication that dates back to its formation in 1866.

The grand hotel sits beautifully on the banks of the river Salzach and boasts stunning views over the old town and the castle from its terraces. The classic atmosphere spills out into all three of the hotel restaurants where award winning chefs serve up traditional Austrian delicacies. The jewel on the crown of a great Austrian breakfast full of specialities is the famous Sacher torte. The five-star service is excellent, and you will get to try things you will be hard pushed to find elsewhere. The dinner menu caters for vegetarians, the bar staff are skilled, and the coffee house is great if you’d like a pastry and refreshment in the afternoon.

The beds here are big and comfortable, and the location is choice. As well as the excellent views, many of Salzburg’s attractions are within a walking distance. It’s just a quick stroll into the heart of the old town, and an easy walk to the renowned Mirabelle Palace and Gardens, as well as the Museum Carolino-Augusteum.

Hotel Sacher’s strongest point is its history filled hallways and carefully fashioned Baroque style. Although the rooms include flat-screen TV’s, if you’re looking for a minimalistic and modern luxury hotel this might not be up your street, but the place certainly earns its stars. As you explore Mozart’s birthplace, go on a romantic horse-carriage ride, visit the museum of modern art, or even take a Sound of Music tour.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Enjoy a Bird’s Eye View on the Giant Ferris Wheel of Vienna

Vienna ferris wheel in Prater
"Wiener Riesenrad" (Giant Ferris Wheel)

The giant Ferris wheel of Vienna, or the ‘Wiener Riesenrad’ has been one of Vienna’s great landmarks, rising up above the Viennese rooftops since its construction over 100 years ago. The Riesenrad charm obviously hasn’t worn off, as it has been consistently popular across the decades. It was among one of the first buildings to be reconstructed after the Second World War. Aside from being burnt to the ground and re-built, the wheel has been witness to numerous historical events and dramas, and often features in panoramas of Vienna and films including ‘The Third Man’ and ‘James Bond’.

The wheel has more recently been adorned with golden lighting and is spectacular after sunset. Enjoy the city from almost 200ft up and even find plenty to do from the ground, as the wheel is surrounded by shops, cafés, bars and sideshows, including installations in antiquated Ferris wheel waggons that float past, telling the story of the beautiful wheel that has now come to be part of a larger amusement park. Some tourists find the wider amusement park a little seedy and overrated, but none can deny the charm of the old wheel itself.

The giant Ferris wheel of Vienna

At the gift shop you can buy precious models of the Ferris wheel, or beautiful porcelain and crystal mementos. This is a great day out for families and couples alike, it’s easy to get to on the U-Bahn, and inexpensive. On the classic ride (in fact on one of the earliest wheels of its kind ever built) you can even privately rent a vintage wagon in which to enjoy champagne and a gourmet Viennese dinner, if you’re planning to pop the question, this is an extremely popular spot for proposals and you will be following in the footsteps of countless nervous individuals before you.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Discover the Schloss Hof Palace

Schloss Hof Palace
Schloss Hof Palace

At Schloss Hof it’s ‘The Year of Prince Eugene’, its former resident. Found near the Austria/Slovakia border, the palace grounds stretch over 50 hectares of land in eastern Austria, and have been called one of the most beautiful Baroque buildings in the world.

The palace was built initially in the 1720s as a country home and decadent hunting lodge for the extremely rich and very successful art lover, Prince Eugene of Savoy. Due to the wealth and status of its occupant, the building’s architect was really able to use his imagination. Though an extra story has been added since, and new owners have somewhat redecorated, the palace still possesses much of its original splendour. 

Schloss Hof Palace interior
Schloss Hof Palace interior

This said, the palace was allowed to fall into disrepair, and it is known that soldiers lived here along with their horses during the late 19th century and that this did little to protect the Baroque artistry. When the grounds became a training location for the Imperial and Royal Army, all the furniture was removed as well. But not to worry, you will find this scattered around numerous other Austrian palaces.

It was not until 2005 that restoration of Austria’s largest rural palace to its former glory was complete enough to allow visitors in. The restoration was a large and expensive project that used the original paintings and etchings of the palace to guide its work. Since, it has been a popular spot for those interested in Austrian history and Baroque culture. It even appears on a special honorary coin, ‘The Schlosshoff Castle Coin’.
You could spend an entire afternoon here exploring the grounds; the palace hosts a magnificent Christmas market, is home to many animals, and has managed to hang on to an authentic imperial feel.

Schloss Hof Palace from above
Schloss Hof Palace from above

Definitely well worth setting a couple of hours aside to visit if you are ever in this part of Austria.

*** Photo credits : ***

Discover the Belvedere Palace in Vienna

 Belvedere Palace in Vienna
The Belvedere Palace in Vienna

The Belvedere is a beautiful and historic set of palaces in Vienna. The grounds stretch for acres and are home to the palace stables, the Orangery, and the Belvedere museum. The whole landscape is quintessentially Baroque in style and littered with beautiful features, fountains, sculptures, and inside the palace, famous artwork.

The Upper palace was built in 1712 and the lower in 1717,
for Prince Eugene of Savoy who was part of the ruling dynasty during a period of economic success for Vienna and Austria, particularly after Prince Eugene won a series of Wars against the Ottoman Empire.

The palace still stands as a monument to this grand period of construction in Austria’s history, and on the walls hangs artwork, including Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’, which continues the theme of rich heritage and creativity. Many people come to see the art alone, however the green palace gardens unfolding in a strict symmetry between the palaces are reason enough to visit, and from here you can take in a great view of the city. 

Before wandering the grounds it is advisable to visit the museum within the palace to learn all about the buildings and their inhabitants, including Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The Archduke met his unfortunate end in Sarajevo, and many cite his assassination as the catalyst which began the First World War. Visit the palaces and enjoy the architecture of the Orangery and the Stables. Make sure you take a look at the impressive art collections beyond Klimt that Belvedere hosts, these include some brilliant modern exhibitions, and the stables now house over 150 objects of sacred medieval art, including panel painting and sculptures.

There are great places to eat and for kids to play here, and if you enjoy visiting Belvedere be sure to check out another astonishing Viennese palace –
Schönbrunn, in the south-western corner of Vienna.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

An Introduction to Jewish Vienna

Juden platz
Vienna is a city steeped in centuries of Jewish History, and despite the attacks on the Jewish population and culture in 19th & 20th century Europe, it remains to this day a place where one can explore Jewish museums, the ‘Judenplatz’, and beautiful synagogues. 

A large and flourishing Jewish population were a central part to building the city of Vienna we see today in terms of arts, business, and academia. While a lot of Jewish heritage in Vienna was destroyed by the National Socialist regime and the Second World War, the city ensures that it remembers these crimes appropriately and is committed to building and restoring the cultural heritage of Judaism and Jewish communities in Vienna. 

Today, Vienna boasts a confident and ever growing Jewish community with an excellent choice of places to visit and things to see. The Jewish City Temple, built in 1825, is the oldest synagogue left standing in the city. There are also several museums you can visit if you want to learn more about the rich Jewish history of Vienna. The newly renovated Jewish Museum houses a whole range of interesting exhibits, including modern day Jewish history; whereas the Museum Judenplatz Vienna takes us all the way back to the city’s medieval past. Both sites are active and ever changing.
Judenplatz is also home to Vienna’s Holocaust Memorial, and nearby in the city you can find the Memorial against War and Fascism. Vienna’s Central Cemetery is also home to a large Jewish section. Lastly for tourists, there are walking tours and audio guides which include numerous remembrance sites, and no doubt talk a little about some of Vienna’s famous Jews, such as Sigmund Freud and Arnold Schönberg.
Vienna is a place that will forever have a Jewish footprint upon it; although there are dark and light parts of its history, it is a certainly a city in which you can learn about and see a great deal of Austrian-Jewish heritage.