Easy like Sunday morning
Ha, another unintentional (I swear!) music reference in the title. Already the second article in a row when that happens. But I digress.
On Sunday I had a blessedly slow start heading out. A great, filling breakfast was followed by a slow gallivanting alone through town. Baby Anja was still doing her morning beauty sleep when I left. I agreed with my hosts to meet in town after she wakes up.
For the whole day, I went Google Maps free, to test my memory. I managed not to get lost. Kudos me! Before leaving, I calculated that if I go from my friend’s place straight towards the city centre, I will eventually reach the Hofburg. As my friends live in the west of town, it was a mere four kilometres walk.
The Hofburg has been the former main imperial residence of the Habsburg dynasty. You’d think it’s just one palace, but it’s actually a collection of 16 interconnected wings. They take quite a big area. I’d estimate something like 4 large blocks wide by 2 deep. Its massive scale is basically the result of neverending expansion, which happened on and off since the 13th to the 20th century.
Before getting there though, I pretty much stumbled upon what turned out to be the Museum Quarter.
The Museum Quarter is a relatively new institution, having been opened in 2001. The renovated Court Stables along with a bunch of modern buildings cover a surface of 60.000 m2. To get an idea of what that size means, you can consider that at one point 600 horses and 200 court coaches were housed here.
In the MQ you’ll find:
- the Museum of Modern Art (funnily abbreviated MUMOK),
- the Leopold Museum featuring modern Austrian art, from artists like Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, etc,
- an exhibition hall housed in the former Winter Riding Arena building (yes, they actually had a building for that. Posh, innit?),
- an architecture museum and more.
Wasting no time with this museum distraction, I crossed right through one of the buildings, emerging in the Museumsplatz.
The Museum Square (you guessed it, that’s the translation from German) is just on the other side of the Museumsquartier and across the road from the Maria-Theresien-Platz, which is just across the road from Heldenplatz and the Hofburg. You could say all this part of town was dedicated to the royal court, which makes it significantly bigger than the Buckingham Palace and surrounding area.
An imperial Forum (Kaizerforum) was planned for this area, and most of it was actually built. A big rectangle, it was supposed to have the Hofburg at one end, the Court Stables at the other, and be flanked by two museums and two new palace wings. But for one of the wings, the rest of it has been erected.
This is clearly one of the most interesting and majestic areas of Vienna. They basically took advantage of an area cleared after the Napoleonic Wars, to create the two big squares Maria-Theresien-Platz and Heldenplatz. These were then flanked by the museums and the new Palace Wing, the Neue Burg.
You’ll see all of these photographed here. I for one had a blast being a witness to this grandiose area again.
As Vienna has already taught me, a water fountain is never too far away. I found one in Heldenplatz. The best part about these fountains? The water is refreshingly cold and crisp. I don’t know how they manage it, especially on such a hot day.
After being done with the Hofburg, I kept going east. I went so far to the east that I reached a monument dedicated to the Red Army!
Around that time, I’ve made contact with my friendly hosts. They were making their way into town, baby in pram and all. We decided to meet approximately halfway, at an Italian deli. Since all of us were recently returned from Italian adventures, it felt appropriate. And not only appropriate but necessary, as we were in need of some good sustenance and a couple of beers.
We debated for quite a while what direction to take after lunch until I’ve proposed to go check out the Danube. I remembered it to be quite majestic. I also remembered it as windy and freezing, as it was January the last time I was in Vienna with my brother.
What we discovered is that walking to the river from where we were, with a pram, was quite a challenge. We basically had to give up about 70% of the way, after exploring the Augarten park.
This park is quite old, with a history of over 350 years. One of its key features is the Palace Augarten, which suffered extensive damage in World War 2. Luckily, the damage is repaired but there are other memorials of the war to be found in this park.
I am of course talking about the Anti Aircraft towers. These reinforced concrete monstrosities stand at 55 and respectively 51 meters tall. We saw them way before seeing the park itself. Due to their height, they can be noticed from afar. They were never finished, as the war ended before that happened.
Unfinished they might be, but they are also impossible to destroy. While researching these I discovered the ones in the Augarten are not the only such towers to be found in Vienna. There are another two sets of two to be found. Something to do on a next visit, perhaps?!