Vienna is a city of large buildings in various architectural styles that prides itself as a center of music and the arts. Most of the attractions are in an area surrounded by a circular road called the Ringstrasse. Our apartment is conveniently located one block inside the Ringstasse with the airport bus stop outside our front door, a tram stop one block away, and a metro stop three blocks away. We can walk to anywhere inside the ring in about thirty minutes. We could probably walk there faster, but it has been really hot and humid since we arrived so quite frankly – we are dragging! Today the temperature peaked at 99 F. Our apartment has a portable air conditioner in the bedroom, so we can keep that room comfortable. The living/dining area is bearable with a fan. We tried riding the tram yesterday; but it wasn’t air conditioned, so it was even hotter than walking.
The area around us is filled with sidewalk cafes, bars, and gelato stands. It seems half the people on the street are eating gelato at any time of the day. Most of these restaurants are not air conditioned, so it is more comfortable eating outside. I read somewhere that Vienna has a higher percentage of smokers than any other European city. Based on these sidewalk cafes, that would seem to be true. It is not unusual to see someone smoking at every table.
We tried our first free guided tour the other day. We have talked to people who recommend them, so we decided to give it a try. The guide worked for tips and made it clear from the beginning that he expected to be tipped. Our guide was very good and filled the 2.5 hour tour with history and interesting anecdotes.Most of the buildings in town were built in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. The architects would base the architectural style of the building on its purpose. For instance, the design of the opera house above was based on classical Italian design since Italy was known for its music. In the same way, the parliament building was based on classic Greek design since democracy had its beginnings in Athens. As a result, most buildings are much newer than their architectural style would indicate.Austria is one of four neutral countries in the European Union. Their constitution prohibits joining any military alliance. This square in the center of the city is The Monument Against War and Fascism.When Hitler controlled Austria, the Jews were forced to clean the streets with a scrub brush as shown here in The Monument. The barbed wire was not part of the original design, but was added when people kept mistaking this for a bench to sit on. Problem solved!Vienna is filled with parks as well as impressive buildings. This is part of the Hofburg Palace. The palace consists of numerous buildings and we have not toured it yet. We are soldiering on in the heat with the promise of cooler weather next week.