Walking around Vienna the first thing that I don’t see is trash, graffiti, cigarette stubs (although smoking in public places and restaurants is still allowed here), newspapers blowing around, signposts covered in a bazillion stickers, dog poop, or people begging on the streets. Vienna is spotless. The city is huge, there are tourists EVERYWHERE, and the city is spotless. Vienna does have large well maintained green areas, beautiful gardens and fountains, benches everywhere to rest, working elevators at public buildings, the metro, train station, and on the main thoroughfare sidewalks there are raised patches of rippled walkway to guide the seeing impaired. What is there not to like?
Vienna is a city of elegance. In 1900 a local chemical maker needed a publicity stunt to prove that his chemicals really got things clean. He purchased two wine cellars under Graben, a ditch or moat originally used by the Romans at their military camp, now a pedestrian-only thoroughfare of great architecture, fine cafes, and fountains. Adolf Loos (1870-1933), a modernist style architect, believed less was more. He was convinced that unnecessary ornamentation was a waste of worker’s time and energy so he designed perfectly geometrical grid buildings with matching windows. Unheard of at the time! No statues, no plastered fake columns for him. Loos was commissioned to take the two wine cellars and turn them into fancy and classy public water closets. He did, complete with chandeliers and finely crafted mahogany walls, creating a very appealing place. They are so inviting, today they are sometimes used for poetry readings! Now we know why bathrooms are sometimes referred to as loos, who knew?
In the middle of the Graben is a 60 foot Holy Trinity Plague Column, (Pestsäule) a pillar of clouds sprouting angels and cherubs with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost at the top. in 1679 Vienna suffered from an epidemic of the bubonic plague, killing one third of the city. Leopold I (one quarter up the column), in public, begged God to save the city. His prayer was heard by Lady Faith, (the statue carrying the cross below Leopold) who with the help of the cherub tosses the old naked woman (the plague) into the wind and saves the city. Leopold erected the monument as a model for other cities ravaged by the same plague.
Michaelerplatz is the square dominated by the Hofburg Palace. In the fountain the four heroic giants illustrate Hercules wrestling with his great challenges.
This is the complex where the Hofburg emperors lived except in the summer, when they lived in the Schönbrunn Palace a few miles away. I can’t wait to see the Imperial Apartments and the museum for the Empress Sisi, but during our walk, we stopped for an ice cream at the famous Demel, (Hofzuckerbäckerei Demel) a famous pastry shop and chocolaterie on the Michaelerplatz, where it has been located since 1857. Yummy!
Having had a look at the fine architecture and the beautifully designed streets we have our itineraries marked for tomorrows museum tours. We will start the day early with Mass and a concert in Augustinian Church, and end the day, enjoying the activity in the Volksgarten Park and beautiful gardens of flowers. Meet you in the park tomorrow! Enjoy!