Its early summer in the Austrian capital, Vienna. The Horse Chestnuts and Linden trees are in full glorious bloom. The Chestnuts were apparently brought here by the invading Turks to provide food for their horses. They did us a great service, the trees are magnificent! There’s more to thank the Turks for …. coffee. Coffee houses are a Viennese way of life …. they would say, an extension of their living rooms. Coffee and apple strudel what a perfect combo. Viennese Strudel is the best in the world, the apple cocooned in the lightest, flakiest most delicious layers of phyllo ……can you tell I’m a fan?!
The vast and imposing Schonbrunn Palace (above) is the bright, shiny jewel in Vienna’s crown. The former summer residence of the Hapsburg royal family, hosted Russian President Nikita Khruschev and American President John Kennedy here at the height of the cold war. They dined in the Great Gallery, a Rococo triumph, which sports vast amounts of gilt, mirrors and splendid chandeliers, lit by more than a thousand bulbs. It would have made the dining experience other worldly, if not convivial! The royal apartments are all lavishly furnished and bedecked with exquisite tapestries. There’s also a very beautiful formal garden to wander in behind the palace.
Vienna is home to the famed Spanish Riding School and our city stroll takes us for a glimpse of their palatial stables which are part of the Hofburg Imperial Palace complex. These are some pampered equines! Several of the impressive Lipizzaners are in residence, peering curiously out of their stable doors. The palace itself is now the home of Austria’s President.
If Bratislava is music country, Vienna is its capital. Johann Strauss 11 composed his famous Blue Danube Waltz here. His big hit is revered in the city and is traditionally played by national broadcasters each New Year’s Eve at exactly one minute past midnight. The Austrian royals were high profile patrons of the arts and to this day classical music performances are on offer all over Vienna. In the evening we do as the locals do, its part of being Viennese, we’re told, to take in a concert in a fin de siècle concert hall. There is opera and ballet, waltzes and polkas. We lose ourselves in the music and for a moment there are transported back to the time of the Hapsburgs.