Postcard from Bavaria Part 1 – Vienna

As promised, here is the start of my journal from our recent travels. I already posted all the photos. Hope you enjoy them.



Part 1 – Vienna


Maps present a landscape, but writing about a place re-represents a place as it was experienced, the feel of a place as it registered in one’s muscles and bones. If we experience space as an idea, we experiences places through sensory impressions – the seen, heard, smelled, felt, tasted. Here, then, are distillation of my memories, from Vienna to Salzburg, from Bavaria and Munich to Cologne.


Vienna is a ghost of glory past. This city of a dynasty of Holy Roman Emperors, of Maria Theresa’s many children, a gaggle of Strausses, of Brahms and Freud, still wears the trappings of empire, but now presides over a shrunken and politically insignificant Austria. The city is a melting pot, a residue of the old empire, filled with people whose grandparents came from Hungary, Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Romania. A capital that once controlled the lives of 60 million people, the city now governs a country of less than 8 million. Still, the palaces and the cathedrals, the wide boulevards and art filled museums maintain the illusion that this is a place of power and glory.


SchØnbrunn, the Hapsburg summer palace, resplendid with its ochre walls (the color so favored by Maria Teresa), was the first stop on our itinerary.  While I could appreciate the effect its gilded rooms and art filled walls depicting heroic battles has on the visitor, I was more impressed by the manicured acres of gardens culminating in the Glorietta at the top of the landscape, as well as the heroic fountains that, unfortunately, were turned off at the time of our visit. On the sun filled day, as we looked about the palace, it was easy to imagine the coaches of the nobility disgorging ladies in ball gowns and gentlemen in satin breeches and waistcoats, making their way into the palace, as strains of a Strauss waltz came drifting through the flower scented air.


Miki and son Peter can only be entertained for so long looking at ancient splendor before their demands for culinary satisfaction have to be satisfied. We made our way back to the center of the city, and resorted to our oft tried and always successful way of finding a good place to eat. Miki stuck her head inside a hair salon we were passing, and asked in her best German (pretty good after 13 years of attending a Deutsche Schule in Santiago) if the gentleman knew of a good place nearby for lunch. Indeed, the owner was more than happy to direct us to Boiste’s Beisl, located only a block away. He insisted we tell the restaurant proprietor that he had recommended us to him, and we would receive especially good treatment. This promise turned out to be true, and Miki was able to enjoy the first of what turned out to be many of her Wiener Schnitzels (breaded veal cutlet) of our trip. (Her insistence on ordering the same dish after finding one she likes, and refusal to venture beyond her first success, has been a source of much discussion between us, but I’ll spare you further details.) A Beisl is a uniquely Viennese tavern, sort of a cross between an English pub and a French brasserie. Ours was filled with stuffed animals and an obvious hunting motif. A marmot and a fox peeked over Peter’s shoulder during our meal, while various game birds festooned the walls and rafters of the place. The food was delicious, the price reasonable, and we all left with that self-satisfied glow that the ever-present Apfelstrudel endows on those that consume it.


As it was a sunny and balmy day, we chose to spend the afternoon wandering through Stadtpark, soaking in the rays on one of the many park benches, kept company by elder, well dressed couples partaking of the same inactivity, watching young mothers push baby strollers filled with pink cheeked cherubs amidst the swirling russets and golds of the fall leaves. A gilded statue of Johann Strauss stood beside us, appropriate for a musician whose stature at the time rivaled the greatest of our current rock stars. (It was said that so many ladies demanded locks of his curly dark hair that he was forced to give them clippings from his equally curly haired dog. His concert in Boston was a sell-out with 50,000 attendees!)


Many of our group chose to attend an evening concert of Mozart and Strauss, while Miki, Peter and I decided to walk through the city. There is something special about walking near sunset and taking pictures of the old part of the city, of ancient buildings with their long histories, their brilliant complications, their tragedy and sorrow. You can’t get a real feeling for a city without walking its streets, getting attuned to its rhythms, watching its people going about their daily business.


Vienna at night takes on a new character. Green-tinted lights illuminate the Hofburg, the giant complex of buildings built over 640 years that was the Hapsburg imperial palace. Stephanplatz and St. Stephan’s Cathedral are similarly lit up, as is the gothic confectionary of the Rathaus (city hall) and the nearby Votive Kirche (built in gratitude for an assassin’s missed bullet.) Street performers fill Stephanplatz, despite the half -hearted attempts of the local police to shoo them away. A young man plays a soulful gypsy tune on his violin, followed by a Mozart favorite. I leave some coins in his jar, grateful for his talent.


There are innumerable places in Vienna worthy of comment, but I’ll restrict myself to two. Belvedere means “beautiful view.” And this is exactly what awaits you if choose to visit Belvedere Palace, the showplace of Prince Eugene of Savoy. Rejected by Louis XIV of France as being too short and ugly to be in his service, the young prince threw in his lot with the Hapsburgs, who were desperate to find anyone willing to fight their mortal enemies, the Turks. Eugene turned out to be a brilliant military genius, and Belvedere was his reward for services performed for the crown. The wrought iron gates in front of the palace make for a popular Kodak moment. The top palace overlooks Baroque gardens, flanked by two sphinxes. The panoramic view encompasses the lower palace at the far end of the gardens, as well as the towers of St. Stephan’s cathedral in the distance.


Hundertwasser was a Viennese environmentalist and painter. His Hundertwasserhaus is a complex of 50 apartments built by the government as subsidized housing in 1980. Each window in the house is different, painted in various colors, creating a checkerboard mosaic. With its curving walls and irregular contours (he claimed that “straight lines are godless”) the place is reminiscent of many of Gaudi’s buildings in Barcelona, though lacking in his architectural flair. I was told that nearly all the original inhabitants got fed up with the novelty and moved out. The current occupants have to contend with a constant stream of tourists snapping photos of their home.


Next: From Baden to Salzburg


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17 Responses to Postcard from Bavaria Part 1 – Vienna

  1. not such crazy says:

    Hallo Jorge
    thank you for such  virtual jurney …
    the photos, your feelings, observations and historical discription together make the fantastic story..I enjoy it wery much and will be looking for continuation…
    P.S. Hundertwasser is fantastic, he is one of my all time favorites 🙂

  2. Cheryl says:

    Now that was a very enjoyable read.  I have not traveled much in my life and now in the autum of my life I doubt i will start anytime soon.  I travedel all over the United States, Mexico and Canada but that is the extent of it.  So I love reading other peoples descriptions of other places and cultural beliefs….Very good..Thanks

  3. Holy says:

    It\’s interesting that you capture the notion and importance of culinary experiences in this travelogue…I work in the tourism industry and we consider it an integral component to packaging and promoting travel – your trip IS what you eat.
    I remember eating weiner schnitzel in Austria…can\’t imagine eating it every day of a trip there, mind you 🙂

  4. Edith says:

    Sigh… how incredibly beautiful you make it… I\’ve always believed in the "magic" of unknown places and longed to travel to countries steeped in ancient culture… where one can lose ones self in the architecture and mystique… imagining the streets filled with people who we only see now portrayed in movies and read about in books.  I\’m a dreamer, I know… perhaps because of books and movies and stories told by those who\’ve been there.

  5. Jane says:

    I havent been to Austria in 30 years. It was a wonderful place to ski. Thankyou for refreshing warm memories!

  6. Suzalita says:

    These are such descriptive stories – I feel like I\’m there with you! I also have a tendency to order the same thing that I like over and over and then compare how each place prepares it a bit differently – I took photos of all the beautiful salade Nicoise that I had for lunch in France last summer and enjoyed how each was just a little different! LOL

  7. Charlotte says:

    You write so elouqently, which makes me feel that I was right there enjoying the sights and food right along with you.  will be waiting for the next chapter.
    hugs, lottiemae

  8. Edith says:

    Thank you so much for your visit to my blog, and for your very insightful and caring comments. You are right that I should not expect him to change his “loner” ways. I didn’t think about that. Really, I don’t think I’d mind so much if during the times he actually spent with me he showed more desire for me… let me know he was attracted to me, or thought me sexy, or beautiful… something. I think every woman needs to feel that from her mate. He SAYS it sometimes… calls me “sexy” or “beautiful”, but because most of the time he doesn’t SHOW me that he feels that way, when he says it I feel it’s just a put-on… just something he thinks he should do, rather than how he really feels. Then again, as my counselor says, I can’t begin to actually know what he’s thinking, and I shouldn’t “read” into him… I could be mis-reading a lot. I’m trying to work on this… I don’t know yet what’s going to happen, but I’m still trying.

  9. Katarzyna says:

    Oh, I see you really enjoyed your trip and i felt as if I had seen it as well. Thank you for describing it all so intriguingly :)Looking forward to the next part of your trip.Take care,nally

  10. Tim says:

    Thanks, Jorge, for taking me back to the memory of my first visit to Austria.  I\’ve often thought since then that Vienna, Graz, and Innsbruck are cities caught in a time-warp.
    Charming and delightful.  Regardless of their present-day significance, or lack thereof, I still love the relative peaceful pace of life in Austria, compared to the rat-race in which I\’m engaged in the Northeastern US!

  11. Kathryn says:

    You wrote: "Maps present a landscape, but writing about a place re-represents a place as it was experienced, the feel of a place as it registered in one\’s muscles and bones. "…I just love that — *smile*
    miss you too my friend — I need to visit more often, as I get so behind and lose touch with what\’s going on with my blogger buddies…

  12. Stephen Craig says:

    Jorge,  Thank you for taking me back to the Germany of my youth.  I have many fond memorys of my time there.  Though I was soldier, I was still a person and allowed to live in the villiage.   Cobble stone streets and the celler in my house was over a thousand years old.  The experience gave me a passport for this world and others.  My friend,  As ever be well.  Stephen Craig Rowe
    By the way…….Flying Monkeys are back up! 
    And I had a plan that seems to be working.  Take a peek when you have time. 

  13. Marie says:

    This is the best travel journal I have ever read!!  The photos are so good – better than most postcards being sold commercially.  I can hardly wait for the next part – Salzburg!!
    Hugs, Marie

  14. Betty says:

    Hi Jorge,
    Thank you for your thoughtful comments on my space.  I\’m doing okay, but I have my moments.
    Your photos are great.  I love the angles you chose for some of them.  I\’ve never been to Austria, but you could be a travel writer if you ever tire of your present career.  Through the entire reading I could mentally hear strains of a Viennese waltz.
    Thank you for the tour.

  15. PJ says:

    Good Evening Jorge,
    BE STILL MY HEART!!!!!! Your photos and words are making my heart race. Absolutely breath-taking, my friend. Thank you so very much for this entry. I feel as if I have walked those sunset evenings before.
    Jorge…you are truly an amazing author as well as photographer. Again , I thank you.
    Until next time….Keep Smiling.

  16. David says:

    I am so with your friend Miki on food when travelling.  Try as I will, I can\’t get past a certain cowardice with food.  Though I have eaten a number of things, like camel, to be polite in travelling, I really tend to find something I feel comfortable with as soon as possible and stick with it.  Your travels sound great.  I had heard some version of that \’straight lines are godless\’ gag, but I had no idea who said it.  I think I am with the folks who fled the constant visitors.  It would have driven me bonkers – and you hear all these stories of the amazing affrontery of some tourists who do not seem to realize that a l=place is someone\’s home.  I have neveer been to Vienna – this makes me want to go.

  17. Gelati Farms says:

    Lisa and I spent a few days in Vienna…I remember our surprise when weiner schnitzel turned out to be breaded veal instead of hot dogs.  We could not figure out what made hot dogs so expensive in Austria…thought at first they used really expensive condiments 😉
    I felt the same way about the palace.  Not too much into the ornate myself…I kept peeking out the windows when I could.  I remember thinking that I would get so tired of the fussiness…and that I would always feel that my walls were better dressed than me…
    My grandmother waltzed in that grand ballroom, she tells me…said she felt like a princess.  (secretly…between you and me…I think she thinks she is a queen anyways…so, not much of a stretch for her…rather like a demotion, actually…)
    Loved the story of Strauss and his wavy locks…very sneaky of him, really.  And you never really experience a city or country until you have eaten their food.  Good of Peter and Miki to indulge you on your historical tours.  Especially when they knew that all of that glorious food was just waiting for them…
    Thank you for the virtual tour.  With your words…it was just like being there again…

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