Vienna and Salzburg are an odd couple. Starting with Vienna, the Michaelerplatz is the hub of the Inner Stadt, the part of Vienna within the Ringstrasse, the ring road. Through the archway there is the Vienna Riding School, the museum of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, (otherwise known as the Sisi Museum) and then on to the Ringstrasse (about which, see below).
Michaelerplatz is usually full of tourists, but I photographed it early in the day. That was easy and convenient to do because our hotel was just a hundred metres along the street from there.
Usually there is a line of horse-drawn carriages (known as fiakers) drawn up like a taxi rank around the Michaelerplatz as you can see in this next photo. They are waiting to take passengers (tourists) on circular rides around the old city.
Horses on the Ringstrasse
There is a story about the Ringstrasse, the ring road that runs around Vienna. The city was originally surrounded by fortifications that prevented the Turks from taking the city in two separate sieges, decades apart. After the second siege, time moved on and the fortifications were no longer needed. The emperor had a bright idea to use the waste ground, and the ring road was built.
Nowadays trams go around and around the Ringstrasse. There are two lines, the inner going clockwise and the outer going counter-clockwise. We rode the tram part of the way around the Ringstrasse, and if you ever visit Vienna, it’s a good and cheap way to get an overview of the Inner Stadt of the city.
Here are fiaker horses waiting on a street by the Ringstrasse in Vienna.
Notice the little pointy caps on the horses’ ears. We thought they might be to reduce the sound of traffic noise and help to calm the horses as they were walked around the city.
Tamara asked one of the fiaker drivers and he said they were to protect the horses’ ears from bothersome flies.
We didn’t take a fiaker ride in Vienna, but we did take one in Salzburg and we noticed that Salzburg fiaker horses do not have ear covers, and we asked why.
You would think (wouldn’t you) that there would be a brotherhood of fiaker drivers across Austria and that they would know every tiny detail of how they do things across the land. But no, the Salzburg drivers had no idea why Vienna horses had ear covers.
Friedrich Stowasser, known by his pseudonym Hundertwasser was an architect whose claim to fame is that he didn’t like straight lines. He designed the Hundertwasserhaus – an apartment block in Vienna, and the Kunsthaus Wien. This is Tamara taking a photo in the courtyard of the building.
And here is a shot of the mens’ urinals, because the architectural detail didn’t just stretch to the facade.
Not All Grand Boulevards
Vienna is not all grand boulevards, although it has those. It is really quite a small city and it has its cosy narrow streets like this one behind the cathedral. And there are classy restaurants on the side streets.
Vienna is an affluent city. And also something that is becoming increasingly rare in the modern world – independent shops. At a guess, there are more independent shops than chains in the inner city within the ring road. There are high-class jewellery shops on the main street, but then this clothes shop (Wascherflott) is just a hundred metres or so from the Michaelerplatz.
Vienna Is A Staid City
Vienna is a staid city. There’s something old-fashioned about Vienna, as though it doesn’t want to be kicked out of the past. Austria was part of the Axis during World War II, and after the war it was divided into zones and controlled by the Soviet Union, the United States, France and the United Kingdom. That lasted until 1955 when Austria promised neutrality in return for being allowed to run its own affairs. Perhaps it is still living under the cloud of those times. Vienna in particular is an odd place, but less odd that when I last visited in the 1990s.
There is a Memorial Against War and Fascism sculpture or set of sculptures in Albertina Square in Vienna. It was erected in 1988 and it shows among other objects a Jewish man on his knees scrubbing anti-Nazi graffiti from the pavement. The Jews of Austria and the Simon Wiesenthal Institute objected to the one-dimensional view of Jews presented in that memorial. As a result, there is a Holocaust Memorial in Judenplatz that makes a statement that cannot be ignored.
It’s a perspective-defying sculpture. Looked at from one position and it fills the Square. Looked at from another position and it seems to be in the far corner. It shows concrete books with the spines of the books facing inwards, representing the unwritten stories of those who were murdered.
Look For The Quirky Bits
As I said, Vienna is a staid city. It is not bohemian (except for the Hundertwasser experiment), and you need to look for the quirky bits, like this tree. You can see that it has decided to take a look down the street from the narrow passage where it is growing. It is intent on seeing whether the coast is clear before it makes a dash for freedom.
Mozart Kugel In Salzburg
This little confectionary shop is one of many in Salzburg that specialise in Mozart-themed chocolates. You can see a painting of Mozart on the wall outside the shop. And I can tell you that there every kugel and box of chocolate bore one or other image of Mozart.
The Mozartkugel or Mozart ball is a small, round sugar confection made of pistachio marzipan and nougat covered with dark chocolate. It was originally known as a Mozart Bonbon when it was created in 1890 by the confectioner Paul Fürst. Even at that time Mozart was big news for the city, and so Fürst named the balls after the city’s famous son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
The Kollegienkirche In Salzburg
This is the interior of the Kollegienkirche, or college church, in Salzburg. It is huge inside, so big and so empty and white that its scale confuses the eyes.
There are frothy white sculptured splodges representing clouds, set around the window above the altar. It is way over the top, but pretty.
The church is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and there is a placard to that effect outside.
As its name indicates, the Kollegienkirche (college church) is the church of the University of Salzburg, and it is located in a Square behind the house in which Mozart was born.
Mozart was born in a house at Getreidegasse 9, and when Tamara and I were in Mozart’s house I looked out of the windows and saw the dome of the church – which is what prompted me to go exploring to find it.
Mozart’s house is the deep yellow house in this panorama photograph taken from the steps of the church. It is the house just behind the two white tent-like covers that are in front of an ice cream shop.
In the nature of panoramas, the effect is to spread the view. So you have to imagine that you are looking at a Square that has been peeled back, as it were, with the sides of the Square disappearing off to the edge of the frame.
I read that the church commissioned a piece by Mozart that had its premiere in the church itself in 1769. Assuming that is true, then I can imagine Mozart walking around from his house and humming the tune to himself as he made his way to the premiere.
The Mozart family lived on the third floor of 9 Getreidegasse in Salzburg from 1747 to 1773. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born there on 27 January 1756. So that would make Mozart thirteen years old when he composed the piece for the church.
Vienna and Salzburg
Vienna and Salzburg are an odd couple. Vienna is grand and staid, whereas Salzburg is smaller and more free. Salzburg is the Sound Of Music and the mountains, and Mozart. Vienna is the Third Man and the grand history of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.