I felt a bit nostalgic this morning. I've not been anywhere in mainland Europe since April 2012 and it made me think of all the fabulous places that are around to visit.
Vienna came to mind first. I've only spent around 5 days in the area and they were a fantastic 5 days.
The tourist spots are endless, the architecture amazing. There are so many museums, art galleries and famous public buildings it is so difficult to choose which to visit. Walk on any street in the central old city and I can guarantee something will catch your eye and make you want to stop and savour.
Full of grandeur, the wealth of different architectural styles is absolutely breathtaking. I have some lovely photos of my October trip (school holiday week) but unfortunately I'm not so good at writing down where photos are taken. If you can identify any of the unlabelled ones please jot it down in the comments box!
So much can be done on foot in the central old city, but equally there are other ways of seeing the attractions of this splendid place. On my visit we either walked or used the tram system. Back then, in 2002, we got used to working out the different tram routes around the old city centre but today that's not necessary.
|Vienna tram 2002|
Recently inaugurated, the new Ring Tram system makes it easier to see the old inner city areas since it has a hop-on, hop-off system. Around half an hour will take you round the perimeter of the old city making it just perfect for a first reconnaissance, after which you can choose which attractions first take your fancy. Look for the Yellow trams now!
Or what about trotting around the old city in a horse drawn carriage? That was fantastic fun, though not exactly for the limited pocket!
The huge Kunsthistorische Museum has such wonderful collections it’s far too difficult to decide exactly what to spend time on. I could have spent my whole week’s holiday in that one museum. Go early in the day would be my advice because you just might need to rest your legs now, and again.
If you’re more of a modern art lover you cannot go to Vienna without visiting the Gustav Klimt collection. The Kiss, by Klimt, is quite amazing to view, its golden hues and deep colours have a vitality that I found astounding considering the painting is now more than a century old, painted in 1907/1908.
There are so many art galleries in Vienna that the decision to visit boiled down to what my husband and I could reasonably fit into our short holiday. Visiting the Schonbrunn and Belvedere Palaces were a must since the belongings of the Habsburg rulers are at the heart of Viennese culture.
I would love to have seen the famous stallions of Vienna- a Lipizzaner show being described as a feat of unparalleled horsemanship, and a stupendous ballet. Unfortunately it wasn't to be- it was expensive but there was no convenient show which fitted into our packed timetable.
The New Year’s Day Concert broadcast from Vienna and seen on millions of TVs worldwide was no stranger to us since it's a regular Ne'erday feature for us. I really fancied a night in that fantastic building of glittering chandeliers, full of splendidly dressed patrons. We didn't manage that either-although we did a tour of the building one morning.
Time and money were major considerations on my short visit, but a night at the opera was a must. What we saw was absolutely splendid. A Mozart Opera performed by the Statsopera, in the Musikverein was breathtaking. Our holiday fund didn’t run to seats close to the stage-but where we were was such fun!
We were way up in ‘the gods’, in seats at the very font, though if you are the least bit inclined to suffer from vertigo-don’t go up so high. The view was incredible - opera glasses definitely recommended - and the overhead translation of the libretto was an extra bonus.
Alternatively you might prefer to laze away your afternoon at the park called the Prater. On a sunny, warm day you can loll about the wonderful park areas, picnic on the grass, enjoy the world pass by…or you could be up on the giant Ferris wheel getting a bird’s eye view of the city. My trip was during October, and not so warm, but the view from the top of the Ferris wheel was stunning. No ordinary Ferris wheel, the Prater wheel has cars, holding quite a few people- as in a cable car. Since we visited in October we had a private viewing. Nice. Very nice.
I've forgotten to mention the plethora of fantastic sculpture that is also all over central Vienna, on the facades of buildings and in free standing statues.
I've got this lovely photo of a classical Roman statue which would have been great to use for my Celtic/Roman A to Z blog posts in April, but sadly I have no idea who is meant to be represented in the sculpture. If you know please tell me!
That’s only a tiny bit of what we saw in Vienna, and what’s available to see. Vienna truly is a fabulous city to visit and I’d love to go back again. What about you?
It was such a beautiful city to visit I just had to sneak Vienna into my writing. It features in my ancestral mystery Topaz Eyes, though my main character Keira has some scary moments there.
Please read on and find a nice long Sunday excerpt for your coffee break read. You'll see that at this part of the story Keira's experience is just a little different from mine!
Instead of walking back to her hotel, she hopped onto the Ring-tram as it squeaked to a halt outside the impressive museum frontage. Entering through the middle doors, she punched her ticket and squeezed her way to the rear of the car. It was jam-packed, but she found an empty seat when a couple made an impromptu late choice to get off at the stop, jumping up in a flurry. As she settled down, her gaze drifted to the front of the tram. Just before the doors closed and the car slid into motion, a man forced his way through the closing space at the front doors.
Oh God! That shit again?
Panic set in. She stared out the window for guidance, from who knows what, or whom. The grip on her bag threatened to break the leather strap, her fingers trembling against her chest.
Rat in a trap.
Not absorbing a thing outside, she willed calm to descend. She was being ridiculous again. The back of one hand snaked up to towel her sweaty brow. The tram was packed full of people, the man trailing her couldn’t do anything to her while she was on… but when she got off? Her eyes tracked her surroundings. Wide open. Squelching down her fear, she made plans. Exit really quickly, so fast her hunter would be unable to follow her. He was still wedged down near the front and that was a good thing. Wasn’t it?
Oh God! Why was the tram so hot? The window close to her was open, but she felt as if she was a tasty bit of meat on a spit… just ready for the picking. Or more like the meat in amongst all the vegetables on a plate: her pursuer the fork, poised and ready.
Having got on at the Museumplatz area, she guessed the tram might get less busy by the time it reached the University quarter. That was a good few stops ahead. She had to get off before then to lose her shadow. Once she lost him, she could do normal things like... find somewhere to eat? She felt nauseous already. Drawing on reserves of strength, she fought back the bile threatening to erupt and concentrated on the elusive being-normal thing.
According to her guidebook, there were plenty of good restaurants around the area called Schottenkirche, and it wasn’t too far from her hotel. She yanked open her map so fast a split screeched down the middle. Her eye movements were feverish as she blinked to a clear vision, one finger tracing her route. When her tram passed along the Rathaus Park, she could get off and walk down the street named Schottengasse, and stop at some place when she was sure the man wasn’t following her.
She avidly scanned to confirm her bearings. When the car hissed to a halt at the next stop, lots of people around her were exiting. Finding no street name, she swallowed her alarm. She must be at Schottengasse already! How did that happen? Scrambling from the seat, she ducked down as low as she could and followed the queue. When she was almost out of the door, she leaned to the side to track her snowy-haired follower.
Her stomach almost heaved up its contents. He’d forced his way to the nearest doors. Panic overtook her; her foot froze on the lowest step, her body fully out of the vehicle. In slow freeze frames, her pursuer got off. A pile of travellers surged behind him and forced him to move further onto the pavement.
Keira’s chin whipped around. No-one exited behind her. Zipping back inside, the doors hissed to a close before the tram wheezed into motion. Thumping down onto the nearest seat, her eyes gravitated to the window. Her stalker speed-walked alongside the tram. She was terrified. He looked furious. Now he wasn’t just a white head as his features imprinted on her memory banks. An aquiline nose sat above tightly-drawn thin lips. Strong blue eyes flared his anger.
Keira shut her eyes tight. She couldn’t look out the window any more. Her hand willed the rapid pulse at her neck to still. Involuntarily, her lips curled up in a nervous smile. Her nerves were still a jingle, but she also felt exhilaration, a heady excitement. She’d lost him. Steeling herself to be braver, she scanned the street up ahead. He’d have to run much faster to keep up since the stretch they were travelling on moved alongside the edges of the Rathaus Park, now a greater distance between the tram stops.
That was confusing.
Pulling up her map, she checked again. A genuine smile of delight split her face; her body slid even further down the vinyl seat, beginning to relax a little. All those people had exited at the Burgtheatre, the city theatre, and there was still a bit of park to pass along before the next stop. She wasn’t near Schottengasse yet. Relief flooded as the tram clicked into an even faster pace. No-one got off or entered at the next stop. Keira heaved a sigh of relief when there was no sign of her shadow alongside.
Her legs trembled like mad when she got off at Schottengasse. As she walked down the fairly major thoroughfare, she willed her nerves to calm. She sporadically scanned back on her speed-walk, relieved there was no sign of her pursuer. After a few long blocks, she slowed her pace and regained her breath. She couldn’t truly appreciate the marvellous architecture around her, though she tried. When she was close to the Schottenkirche, the local parish church, she selected a place to eat.
A peculiar invitation to Heidelberg embroils Keira Drummond in the search for a mysterious collection of extraordinary jewels once owned by a Mughal Emperor; a hoard that was last known to be in the possession of Amsterdam resident, Geertje Hoogeveen, in 1910.
Who among the progeny of Geertje – hitherto unfamiliar third cousins brought together for the quest – can Keira rely on? Distrust and suspicion among them is rife.
Which one is greedy, and determined enough, to hire thugs to tail her… and worse… as she travels to Vienna and Minnesota? Can Keira even trust Teun Zeger - a Californian she is becoming very drawn to – as they pair up to unearth the jewellery?
As they follow a trail of clues, will they uncover the full collection before the hired gun kills them? Details remain furtive and undisclosed until danger and death forces their exposure. And who harbours the ultimate mystery item that is even more precious than the Mughal jewels?
Greed, suspicion and murder are balanced by growing family loyalty, trust, and love.
You can see my book trailer video here: