Monday, September 30, 2013

Enchanting Eastern Europe - Graz/Vienna/Austria

We said our goodbye to Slovenia after breakfast on September 15. It will stay fresh in my memory for the good time we had helped no doubt by the good weather, and yes, Alja. At our rest stops we broke for a photo with our tour leader Alice (in red below). Being a Sunday we had a brief time of worship on the coach, singing a few songs and a member shared on the Ten Commandments.

Re-entering Austria we stopped at Graz, the second largest city in Austria with a population of 300,000. Surprisingly it has 6 universities for a city of this size thus earning itself the nickname of student city. We chanced upon a cultural event taking place on arrival. It was a local social event where residents dressed in national costumes performed on an open stage to spectators, many of them found our presence welcoming as they agreed to take pictures with us. Look at the portable toilets. I used one and found it odorless and clean.

I was looking forward to the Hilton Vienna Danube where we will be staying for 2 nights and praying to get a room overlooking the romantic river. My prayer was answer, we got room 442 which was spacious with a huge super king sized bed. In fact I was told all our tour members got rooms facing the river! Must be due to charming Alice! Best hotel so far.

September 16. We remember today as the 50th anniversary of the formation of Malaysia. Later in the evening, reading my online news, I learned that Chin Peng, the defunct Malayan Communist Party leader died in exile in Bangkok at 6.20am this morning. His dying wish to return to his hometown of Sitiawan, Perak (coincidentally mine as well) to live out his last days was denied by the government.

Today we visited the Schonbrunn Palace and have a walking tour of the Vienna city centre before we end the day with dinner and concert performance. The weather was cloudy but clear and no rain until after the concert when it poured.

Our Schonbrunn guide was Carla, a Malaysian lady married to an Austrian. She appeared very happy to be meeting fellow Malaysians. This is my second visit to this grand palace (in 1999 previously).

Schönbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the imperial family, is one of Europe's most impressive Baroque palace complexes. The land had been in the possession of the Habsburgs since 1569, when the wife of Emperor Ferdinand II. had a summer residence built there in 1642, which she called "Schönbrunn". The palace and garden complex built here from 1696, after the Turkish occupation, was redesigned from the ground up by Maria Theresia after 1743. For most of the year, the Habsburgs resided in the countless chambers that a large imperial family needed in addition to the formal state rooms.

Emperor Franz Joseph, who later married the enchanting Sisi and reigned from 1848 to 1916, was born here in 1830. The monarch spent his last years entirely in the palace, which became the property of the new Republic of Austria only two years after his death. Today, the palace is part of UNESCO’s cultural heritage due to its historic importance, its unique grounds and its splendid furnishings.


As indoor photography was prohibited I'll just show some outdoor pictures of the garden.

The afternoon was spent (rather 'killed') at the city square known as St Stephen's Place which is where the St Stephen's Cathedral (under renovation to clean up the blackened exteriors and roofs) is. We asked Alice to bring those of us who don't prefer shopping to the nearby Johann Strauss Park.


If you are looking for the ideal place for a souvenir photo, then Vienna's Stadtpark is the spot - at the foot of the golden Johann Strauß memorial, one of the world's most photographed monuments. Also located in the Stadtpark, are monuments to Franz Schubert, Franz Lehar and Robert Stolz, a marble statue of the painter, Hans Makart, bronze busts of composer, Anton Bruckner, Vienna Mayor, Andreas Zelinka, under whose governance the Stadtpark was laid out, and many more. This makes the Stadtpark the richest park in Vienna for monuments and sculptures. Meadows, flowerbeds, the occasional exotic tree and a large pond make the Stadtpark a green oasis in the center of the city. The park was opened in 1862, following the demolition of the old city wall and the construction of the Ringstraße, and was Vienna's first public park.


We appreciated the solitude and serenity of just being there, resting and enjoying the flowers, the ponds and the ducks.

The highlight of our Vienna holiday is to experience a real concert Mozart style. So after dinner some 30 of us were driven to the Wiener Mozart Orchester to experience and enjoy live performance of orchestral music and opera singing. It was founded in 1986 by musicians from the most famous Viennese orchestras. The setting, the programme and the authentic costumes, make the audience feel like they were in the 18th century. The orchestra performs the Wiener Mozart Konzerte, and takes place in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein, the Vienna State Opera and the Konzerthaus, Vienna’s best known concert halls. Again although indoor photography was disallowed I can't help but steal a few shots for remembrance.


Anonymous said...

Hi Peter, I enjoy reading your blog on EE, trust you continue to have a great and safe holiday, God Bless, Francis (Sydney)

Peter Yew said...

Thanks for dropping by Francis of Sydney. My family was in Sydney a few years back and love it very much.


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