St. Stephen's Cathedral

Vienna's Icon: the Steffl

The metropolitan church of the Arch Bishop of Vienna is dedicated to St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. The city's inhabitants refer to it affectionately as the Steffl. The cathedral is Vienna's best-known icon and is also regarded as one of Austria's national sanctuaries. Be one of the three million visitors annually and learn about the architectural history spanning from the Romanesque over the Gothic to the Baroque periods. See altars, art monuments and relics, and listen to ancient legends connected to St. Stephen's. Athletic visitors can climb the 343 steps to the top of the southern tower – or simply use the elevator inside the northern tower, where you can also see the Pummerin, Austria's largest church bell.

Imperial Vienna

From the Swiss Counts of Habsburg to Kings and Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation Austria was governed by the Habsburgs for more than 600 years, mostly from Vienna. From the middle of the 15th century till 1806, the Habsburg rulers were elected kings as well as emperors of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation. Let me guide you to locations that are irrevocably connected to this dynasty: the Hofburg with its Imperial Apartments, the Sisi-Museum, the Imperial Silver Collection, the Court Library, the Treasure Chamber, the Church of the Augustinian Friars, St. Stephen's Cathedral, the Imperial Burial Vault, the palace, its park, and the Imperial Coach Collection of Schoenbrunn.You will also learn what an imperial bagel, an imperial melange and an imperial pancake is. 
All visitors to Vienna love apple strudel. Would you like to learn the perfect recipe for this delicious pastry? Let's visit the historical vault of the court bakery of Schoenbrunn and learn all the secrets of the perfect strudel during the 'strudel show'. You may also try it with a cup of coffee, of course.

Vienna in the Baroque Era

Baroque Jewels of Vienna

Following the second siege of Vienna by the Turks in 1683, an intensive period of building ensued. All over the city center, Italian, and later Austrian, architects erected magnificent buildings in the Baroque style: parts of the Hofburg, Schoenbrunn Palace, churches, palaces for the nobility, interior courts, fountains, the Large Ceremonial Room of the National Library. These architectural works of art are forever connected to the names of their initiators and architects, sculptors, painters, the creators of the frescoes, and plasterers – among them Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, Lucas von Hildebrandt, Paul and Peter Strudel, Raphael Donner, Johann Michael Rottmayr, Matthias Steinl, Andrea Pozzo. We will finish the walk by using the elevator to the top of the Karlskirche, which offers a spectacular sight of Vienna.

The Ringstraße – an architectural feat

During the last sixty years of Habsburg rule, a magnificant boulervard was created along the historical fortifications around the ancient city center. It features parks, official residences such as the opera, city-hall, parliament, universities, museums, and a large number of palaces and noble apartment buildings – a unique ensemble in the style of historism. However, by designing his  post-office in the art nouveau style, Otto Wagner heralded in the era of modernism. Take an imaginary trip to the times of the Ringstraßenkorso, when the nobiltiy of the city went out to see and be seen during imperial times. You will find landmarks of famous Viennese citizens and others from abroad in the City Park, the Burggarten, at Heldenplatz, the Volksgarten as well as in the City Hall's Court Yard. Use the opportunity of getting some rest in the shade of the trees to get ready for the rest of out six-kilometer tour.

Art Nouveau Vienna

The Secession-Style 

Groundbreaking buildings by Otto Wagner such as the Postsparkasse, the Church at the Steinhof, tenements and the technical buildings and the Stationpavilions of the city train system, the first 'subway' of Vienna, are at the center of this guided tour. Joseph Maria Olbrichs Secession with its famous Beethoven-frieze by Gustav Klimt offered a new creative home to architects, painters, and artisans at the beginning of the 20th centuy. Being enemies of the ubiquitious style of Historism, Joseph Olbrich, Otto Wagner, Carl Moll, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Josef Hoffmann, and Kolo Moser established the Secession-style in order to pave the way from Historism towards Modernism.

The end of this period is marked by the elegant, functional, completely unornamental style of architect Adolf Loos.

 

On the Tracks of Famous Composers

Walking Tours for Music Lovers

Vivaldi, Gluck, Salieri, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, Lanner, the Strauß-family, and a great many other composers – native and foreign ones – all helped create Vienna's reputation as musical capital of the world. We will explore places where these geniuses lived, composed, and often made music themselves. We will look at memorial places and also graves. We may also book tours to the State Opera, the Museum for Historical Instruments inside the Neue Hofburg, at the Arnold Schöneberg Center, as well as to the highly-entertaining 'Haus Of Music'. Under no circumstances should you miss seeing the world-famous ' Golden Hall' of the Musikverein, from which the New Year's Concert by the Vienna Philharmonics is annually broadcast into the entire world.

 

Mozart's Years in Vienna

Salzburg's most famous son spent the last ten years of his life in Vienna and created his best-known compositions here. However, it was already at age six that he made music in front of Maria Theresia for the first time at Schloß Schönbrunn. Our tour will lead us to all the places where Mozart lived, got married, performed as conductor, violonist and pianist, and finally, where his life found a premature end at only age 36. We will slowly let the tour come to an end at a very appropiate place – Cafe Frauenhuber in Himmelfortgasse, where Mozart regularly performed his own music. 

Beethoven in Vienna and its Surroundings

Let me guide you to some of the locations that played an important role in Beethoven's life and work. He moved from Bonn, Germany, to Vienna at a very early age in order to take musical classes from Haydn, Salieri, and Albrechtberger. He stayed forever and followed Haydn and Mozart in perfecting the classical Viennese period. This fidgety individual changed his personal adress around 80 times. Some of these original apartments are still in existence. Walking through the city center, we will visit his apartment inside the Pasqualatihaus, built directly on the ancient city defense systems, and we will see a number of noble palaces, where Beethoven used to perform and conduct. From spring till autumn, he lived at various locations in the Wienerwald. The imperial summer residence of Baden, Mödling, the villages of Döbling, Heiligenstadt, and Nußdorf are closely connected to his accomplishments. His works reflect the influence of his natural surroundings greatly. We will also visit the village of Heiligenstdt, whose economy is largely based on the producion of first-quality wine; as a high-light, we will see the original house where Beethoven created his harrowing 'Heiligenstädter Testament'.

 

Is Vienna even thinkable without Coffee Houses?

After visiting a sample of Vienna's typical Cafes, your answer will surely be 'No'. Following the second siege of Vienna by the Turks, Armeinan traders were first granted permission by the Emperor to open what they called Cafes. The populatuion soon fell in love with this unheard of beverage, and soon more and more Cafes opened. Each Cafes has its own unique, individual atmosphere. Join me and explore the Viennese Cafe Culture in some of the most traditional and interesting cafes in the city. Try out the different sorts and learn the difference between a 'Braunem', 'Verlängertem', 'Melange', 'Einspänner', and Kapuziner', experience sitting in a 'Schanigarten', and learn where famous authors, composers, actors, and singers have met and killed time in style. To this day, the cafes form an important traditional part of life for most inhabitants of Vienna. The Cafe is the perfect place to meet friends, do business, tutor younger fellow-students, listen to music, play  billiards, chess, or cards – or to simply kill hours by browsing through countless national or international newspapers and magazines, all this while consuming only one glass of delicious coffee – waiters would never dream of disturbing you to order more, which is considered almost an affront at the Vienna cafe, where time stands still.

Empress Elisabeth in and around Vienna

Elisabeth – from Bavarian Princess to Empress of Austria                

Who wouldn't know her: Elisabeth, one of the most beautiful women of her times, made world-famous by the movies with Romy Schneider? After a happy childhood in Bavaria she developed into an extravagant, deeply unhappy woman, whose fate is subject to an innumerable number of books. Explore her life stations in and around Vienna. In 1854, the 16-year-old princess married her cousin, Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I., in the Church of the Augustinian Friars. They spent their honeymoon at Laxenburg Palace south of Vienna – at least theoretically, since Elisabeth's husband spent each day working in Vienna. It was also at Laxenburg that two of her children were born. When the Queen was not travelling, she spent winter-time at the Hofburg (imperial apartments and Sisi-Museum), summer-time at Schönbrunn Palace or at Hermes Villa at Lainzer Tiergarten. When she was murdered in Geneva in 1889, Queen Elisabeth found her final resting place at the Kapuzinergruft inside St. Stephen's Cathedral.

Copyright © Mechthild Lena Latzin, 2011