Author Archives: YuQing Wu

Museum Albertina

The Albertina’s name comes from Count Albert von Sachsen-Teschen, one of Empress Maria Theresa’s sons-in-law. Different from most traditional museums modern confronts traditional at the Albertina’s exterior: a wing-shaped ‘trampolin’ by Austrian rebel architect Hans Hollein canopies part of the rococo palace’s terrace. Compared to the size of Belvedere Vienna and the Museum of Fine Art, the Albertina’s 12+ parlours feel almost ‘private’. Even so, they house top international and Austrian art.

Albertina Vienna: Jeanne and Donald Kahn Galleries The first thing art lovers associate with the Albertina are its 19th and 20th century artworks: From Claude Monet’s Lily Pond and Pablo Picasso’s Still Life With Guitar to Gerhard Richter’s Abstract Painting: The Albertina Vienna’s collection of paintings tracks 200 years of art history. This is a fantastic place to follow international art as it morphs from Impressionist blurry pastels to abstract art‘s fragmented objects and and dismembered individuals.

Coffee Culture in Wien

It’s said that retreating Ottoman soldiers left a few sacks of beans behind in 1683 after a failed siege, leaving behind the accidental ‘gift’ of coffee. The very first coffee house was opened in 1685, and since then, these rich cultural institutions have served as the backbone of Viennese life, not without their own ebb and flow in popularity over the years.

Unlike the grab-and-go speedy coffee shops that many of us in big cities are used to, a Viennese coffee shop is a place where you’re encouraged to linger. For the price of one cup of coffee (or one of the spectacular little cakes and tarts that are such a mainstay in Vienna), browse international newspapers, and let the morning (or afternoon) unfold before you, with no hurry to go anywhere or do anything in particular. Write a postcard, take in the atmosphere, and enjoy the unfurling of your day in a completely relaxed and unhurried manner. At night, it isn’t uncommon to hear live piano music; what a treat. Here are a few coffee shops that are worth noting for their traditional atmosphere.

The Hofburg

The Hofburg, Vienna’s Imperial Palace was orignially a medieval castle, but today only the castle chapel (‘Burgkapelle’) demonstrates its medieval past.The Hofburg was extended to a magnificent residence when the Habsburg’s power increased. That’s why one can find almost any architectural style, from gothic to art nouveau. Nowadays this enormous complex is home to “Österreichische Nationalbibliothek” (National Library), “Schatzkammer” (Imperial Treasury), and houses a collection of musical instruments, another collection of weapons, a “Museum für Völkerkunde” (Museum of Ethnography) and famous “Spanische Hofreitschule” (Spanish Riding School).

Vienna’s Imperial castle also houses exotic butterflies in a marvellous art-deco glass house! Vast “Heldenplatz” (sqare of heroes), situated next to it, is very impressive, too. Equestrian statues of Archduke Karl, who won the battle of Aspern against Napoleon’s troops (1809), and Prince Eugene of Savoy, who defeated the Turks, attest to Austria’s glorious past.

“Heldenplatz” is more than a square, it is one of Austria’s symbols of national identity.

 

Alte Donau

The Alte Donau is a Viennese playground and summer residence, with multiple summery activities and endless options for relaxing by the water and swimming if the weather and geese allow you to.

There’s a very long stretch of swimming options and public pool areas along Arbeiterstrandbadstrasse that have varying levels of entrance fees and perks for access, but our favourite spot on the Alte Donau is actually a free area that’s marked as ‘Arbeiterinnenstrand’.

If you want something more family-friendly and manicured, our second choice for Alte Donau swim days is Gänsehäufel, a gorgeous well kept swim spot with beach volleyball courts, on-site restaurants, a view across to the United Nations offices and options to swim in the pools or the Alte Donau. You could easily set up camp here for the day and feel a million miles away from city life.

Overall, the Alte Donau is a reliable option for fun swim times in Vienna – it can get crowded on weekends or during heat waves, but most people are friendly and it’s never too competitive to find a grassy patch to lay your towel down. If you’re lucky you might even have one of the roving Spritzer sellers come by and offer you an afternoon refreshment – and who could resist?

 

THE WINE GARDENS OF VIENNA

One of my very favourite things about living in Vienna? The heurigen (singular, ‘heuriger’). Incredible winelands are found just on the outskirts of the city. (I like to think that this is one of the key reasons Vienna is so eminently liveable). A heuriger is a wine garden, owned by a family-run winemaker. It’s always filled with local regulars year-round, who come for an hour or two in the evening to drink a bit of wine, have a chat, and listen to, in most cases, live music or singing, and have a simple bite to eat.

This typical Viennese pastime was created by Emperor Franz Josef, who passed a law allowing these family winemakers to sell their wine directly to the public, and serve food alongside it. ‘Heurige’ is an abbreviation of ‘heuriger Wein’—‘this year’s wine’—and it allows winemakers to sell their young wines straight to the public.

Hipster’s Guide

Get off the tourist track to start hanging out where the locals are. Right outside of the Inner City is the Naschmarkt. Put up with the crowds and walk at a slow pace to see all the exotic edibles on display. Buy only nibble-sized quantities as prices can be high. To satisfy your hunger go behind the stalls to the diverse restaurants and dine with the Viennese. On Saturdays the Naschmarkt expands to include Europe’s largest flea market. It’s fun to poke through all the dusty knick-knacks but the items are overpriced. (Nb: the Naschmarkt is closed on Sundays and holidays).

From Naschmarkt walk to the bordering bohemian 7th district which is called Neubau. Within a few blocks is Vienna’s biggest shopping street, Mariahilferstraße. If you want something original, check out the young designers on Zollergasse street. Then head east to hit the MuseumsQuartier to grab some culture, coffee, and just hang out.

A Jump-start for Visitors in Wien

Vienna is the capital of Austria and the smallest of the nine federal provinces. Vienna is home to 23 districts and was first documented as a city in 1137. In 1155, it became the residence of the dukes of the House of Babenberg, followed by the House of Habsburg which ruled for no less than 640 years.The official language of Austria is German, although most people speak English. It is nice to learn a few German words to be polite.

The Everyday German:

  • Hello – Hallo!
  • Good day! – Guten Tag!
  • Please – Bitte
  • Thank you – Danke
  • Do you speak English? – Sprichst du Englisch
  • Coffee – Kaffee
  • Help – Hilfe
  • I’m sorry – Es tut mir Leid
  • Excuse me – Entschuldigen Sie

Vienna has a tremendous amount of restaurants and coffee houses. Almost all large subway stations have bakeries for a quick pick me up snack. For something authentic, make sure you try various traditional dishes and drinks. I recommend the Viennese Schnitzel, Apfelstrudel (apple strudel) and of course, the almighty Viennese Coffee.

3 signs you’re becoming more Austrian

1. Stores closed on Sundays is normal and…nice!
After an initial adjustment period, having stores closed on a Sunday becomes completely normal to you. You relish the extra day to relax and unwind, being forced to spend times with loved ones. The thought of spending your Sundays working, schlepping around a mall or driving across town to Ikea in a frenzy, is now unknown to you. Sunday’s are a haven of relaxed chill time, in winter and summer, to reset for the week ahead.

2. You expect a glass of water served with your coffee. Every. Time.
Living in Vienna so long, you’ve come to adopt the local customs, and anytime your latte, melange or cappuccino is served without a refreshing glass of water on the side (complimentary of course) you question your existence and what lowly excuse for a cafe you’ve stumbled into.

3. The quiet pace of Vienna is delightful, not creepy. When you first moved to this laidback, sprawling, pretty city, you thought it was eerily quiet and empty. Now you know that all the best parts of town are hidden on rooftops, in small bars down alleyways or along the Donaukanal and beyond, in the hilltops.

A Weekend Getaway to Hallstatt

Hallstatt is a small village in the district of Gmunden, in the Austrian state of Upper Austria. Situated on Hallstätter See, it is part of the Dachstein / Salzkammergut Cultural Landscape, one of the World Heritage Sites in Austria.

Hallstatt is known for its production of salt, dating back to prehistoric times, and gave its name to the Hallstatt culture, a culture often linked to Celtic and Proto-Celtic people of the Early Iron Age Europe, c.800-450 BC. Some of the earliest archaeological evidence for the Celts was found in Hallstatt.

This beautiful almost unreal place is like a fairy-tale village, with not many modernized infrastructure, but really touch your heart with its rawness, tenderness, welcoming spirit.

 

Churches in Wien

St Stephen’s Cathedral

St Stephen’s Cathedral is a landmark of Vienna and the most important Gothic church in the city. The cathedral is about 197-meters long and 34-meters wide and has four towers – two of which lie on the west side and are built in a late Romantic style. The most famous of its 13 bells is the one called the Pummerin. It is the second biggest free swinging bell of Europe. The interior of St Stephen’s Cathedral has many altars and side chapels. Also worth visiting are the catacombs, which contain the graves of Viennese cardinals and archbishops.

Votive Church

Visitors will find the Votive Church in the neighborhood that surrounds the major university in Vienna. This 99-meter-high church is the second tallest church in Vienna, and one of the most important neo-Gothic sacred buildings in the world. After an assassination attempt on Franz Joseph in 1853, the monarch’s brother commissioned this church to give thanks for saving the life of the Emperor. In 1854, a project by the 26-year-old architect Heinrich von Ferstel was chosen as the design, and construction began. After a construction period lasting 23 years, the finished church was consecrated on the imperial couple’s silver wedding anniversary.

 

St Peter’s Church

St Peter’s Church is located in a small plaza in the inner city, very close to the Graben and the Plague Column. The original building, if there were some pieces of it left, dates back to late Antiquity, making it the oldest church and parish in Vienna. The new building, which was just ready after about 21 years of construction was the first dome building built in a baroque style in Vienna. Visitors will see the church only if they pass this small alley and stand directly in front of it.

 

First Opera Experience

The Viennese Opera House is without a doubt one of the leading opera houses of the world and has been through a lot during its “life”. Certainly, lots of the big opera stars have played here. The history has a tragic beginning as the construction of monumental building of the “Ringstraße’” became a calamity for its two architects.

Due to deep foundation, the building resembled a “sunken crate”. Such criticisms finally made Eduard van der Nüll commit suicide and two months after August von Siccardsburge died of a heart attack. Unfortunately they did not live to see the big opening with “Don Giovanni” in 1869. The imposing building is characterized through its “Renaissance elbow style”.

A central tract with a huge loggia leading to the “Ringstraße”, a transversing set of wings, a domed roof over the stairs, an auditorium and a stage. After the war the Opera House was rebuilt with many additions and reopened to “Fidelio”. The new auditorium accommodates 2,200 seats and standing places. Significant details of the building are the loggia, with its allegories in the arcades, the wall paintings, and the imposing staircase with the statues of the seven Free arts, made out of marble. The Schwind Foyer, the Gobelin Hall and the Marble Hall among other things make the Opera House very unique. In addition, the stage area covers a gigantic 1.500 m².