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On the Prowl: Vienna

Vienna Panorama with St. Stephen's Cathedral © Charles & Mary Love

Just returned from a working trip across fabulous Austria!

Following are a few brief comments about Vienna, our starting point.  Observations and tips related to the rest of our journey to follow soon.

Vienna, has been named the world’s most livable city for the third time in a row by Mercer, the international consultants who annually conduct quality-of-life surveys in cities and towns worldwide.

A few observations:

• It’s obvious how clean and well maintained the city is…and how proud the Viennese are of their stately capital. The grand Ringstrasse, which encircles the city, showcases the  architectural eclecticism typical of the late 19th century—all the “neos” are here, from Gothic to Renaissance to Baroque. Adding more visual interest are contemporary architectural landmarks that blend with traditional ones—on the rise around the city.

• Star cultural attractions include the MuseumsQuartier (www.mqw.at), the Hofburg imperial palace (www.hofburg.wien.info/en),  Schoenbrunn Palace (www.schoenbrunn.at), St. Stephen’s Cathedral (www.stephanskirche.at), the State Opera (www.wiener-staatsoper.at) among many others.

• Half of the city’s land area is green, accounted for by gardens, parks, woods and agricultural land.

• Thirty-six percent of travel within the city is by public transport (a European record). It’s very easy to get around.

• Vienna is the only major capital with a significant wine-growing industry within its city limits.

• The city is one of four UN headquarters. It also hosts numerous international organizations, including OPEC (Organization for Petroleum Exporting Coutnries) and the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).

• The best places, in our opinion, for panoramic views of the city are Le Loft, a restaurant and lounge atop the new, 5-star  Sofitel Vienna (www.sofitel.com/gb/hotel-6599-sofitel-vienna-stephansdom/index.shtml) and the Sky Bar (www.skybar.at) near the Cathedral.

• Our stay at the Hotel Falkensteiner (www.falkensteiner.com/en/hotel/schottenfeld), a relatively new accommodation, included extraordinary service, comfortable rooms and proximity to the city’s major attractions. We enthusiastically recommend this hotel to all prospective visitors.

New and noteworthy:

• The Vienna Festival’s summer music program includes 36 productions from 24 countries. (www.events.wien.info/en/rj/vienna-festival-concerts-2012, www.vienna.info)

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918). Exhibitions celebrating the 150th anniversary of Klimt’s birth are all over the city. An Austrian pioneer of modernist art, Klimt’s art flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Exhibitions of his work can be viewed at the Secession, the Belvedere, the Leopold Museum and several other venues.

• This summer, the cultural institutions at the MuseumsQuartier will be hosting  an extensive range of exhibitions, films, tours, and panel discussions dedicated to the subject of fashion (www.mqw.at, www.mumok.at, www.mqviennafashionweek.com)

• In addition to historically important hotels such as the Imperial and the Bristol (our favorite place for wine and hors d’oeuvres before a concert), Vienna boasts several contemporary-style boutique hotels in the historic Old Town. These include Topazz (www.hoteltopazz.com) whose rooms are done in shades of black, white and gray,  and Hotel Lamee (www.hotellamee.com), scheduled to open in August, 2012.  Up the street, in Stephansplatz, is Do & Co Hotel (www.doco.com), designed by Pritzker prize-winning architect Hans Hollein. Outside, pedestrians can see St. Stephen’s Cathedral reflected in its graceful curved glass facade. Inside, in the quirky Onyx Bar, guests enjoy an in-your-face-view of the cathedral’s spires and colorful roof.

• A popular addition to Viennal’s culinary scene is Gasthaus Plachutta bei der Oper (www.plachutta.at). Located near the State Opera (and other performing arts venues), it’s a great place to sit outside and enjoy a Viennese schnitzel before or after a concert.

• The renowned Spanish Riding School (www.srs.at/en) has broken its five-century tradition of hiring only male riders. In 2008, the school began to admit women students, who must complete a challenging 10-year training program to become one of approximately 20 official Riders.

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