Trafalgar Tours – Prague, Vienna and Budapest: Chapter 6

A Viennese whirl

Next day – 9.30 am and another glorious sunny day. We were in the museum quarter of this UNESCO listed city centre. Two identical museums face each other. The Natural History museum is full of ‘stones and bones’. Today as a group we were visiting its mirror image.

The Kunsthisorisches Museum houses the personal art treasures of the Habsburgs. Art for art’s sake. Why did they collect it all? Probably because they could. Opened in 1891 it has become one of the world greatest and richest collections of fine art. Too much to see in one visit. Our private guided tour of the Kunstkammer was excellent. Free from crowds too as Trafalgar had been given privileged early access.

Gold salt cellar by Cellini We were all captivated by a gold salt cellar by Cellini – sumptuous and exquisite and very expensive. My favourite was an automaton gold ship. Its final flourish cannons that fire.

After the tour we had free time for a wander. The great staircase, all marbled out was stunning. Upstairs there were some amazing paintings by some amazing people – van Dyke, Klimt, Bruegel and Rubens to name a few. In room 6 ‘Water’ by Guiseppe Arcimboldo (never heard of him) was memorable because it was a painting of a face which looked like a bad case of shingles. His other painting ‘Summer’ was even worse. A juxtaposition of fruits found during the season. Peaches, onions, garlic, cherries. An opened pea pod is supposed to resemble a row of teeth. I personally wonder why he even bothered – if his ‘Water’ looked like a face full of Herpes then ‘Summer’ looked like a face full of impetigo! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – apparently.

Next a drive around The Ring with Gabor and our guide Trudi. In the 19th century Emperor Franz Josef created the famous Ring – The Ringstrasse –  Vienna’s ring of confidence. Ancient ramparts and walls surrounding the inner core of the city were dismantled to create this wide and wonderful boulevard. The Ring houses the most impressive monumental buildings in Vienna. Most things happen here, so it’s natural to head here and start exploring. You can get the same experience as we did by taking the Ring Tram. It too is informative and the views are superb. A 3D architectural display from your window as the tram trundles along.

Spanish riding school Back again to the museum quarter and across the road to the opulent Hofburg Palace. This was home to the Habsburg monarchy an empire strengthened and expanded by strategic marriages. A 640-year rule.

Hard to believe, looking at it now, that it started out as a small 50 square metre insignificant fortress. Each ruler added a new palatial wing to demonstrate and celebrate their hold on power. It has become one of the largest imperial residences in Europe. 2600 rooms. And like Prague castle, a city within a city. Now spread over 47 acres it houses the President of Austria’s office – at present vacant.

It is home to the famous Spanish Riding School, and we were lucky to catch a glimpse of the Lipizzaner stallions as we strolled through the stables. Probably the most pampered horses in the world.

Prater sounds like an alien in Doctor Who. No it is Vienna’s wonderful amusement park home of the giant ferris wheel immortalised in the movie ‘The Third Man’. Looking like a large bike wheel, with very big stabilisers, with wooden sheds attached it has been doing the rounds since 1897. The view from 200 feet up is superb.

Vienna street scene There are almost 2000 coffee shops in Vienna and if I had the time I would visit each and every one. Famous ones include  Aida, Cafe Central, Hotel Sacher, Cafe Mozart, Cafe Sperl and Cafe Landtmann. The cafe culture is wonderful. Cafes full of laughter, voices filling the rooms. Full of joy, full of life, full of cake. Sit all day if you wish, you will never be asked to move on. It’s like stepping back in time. Let’s do the time warp. Marble clad, polished wood, mirrored reflections, coiffured hair, rustling of newspapers. Pop in for your caffeine fix. Our waiter in Aida had so much gel on his head that he looked like a walking advert for WD40.

If you are ordering coffee, and you must, then here are a few to try:

Fiaker – coffee refined with rum.
Einspanner – strong coffee with whipped cream on top.
Grosser Brauner – black coffee with a jug of coffee flavoured cream.
Mélange – half expresso, half frothy milk.
Franziskaner – mélange topped with whipped cream.
Verlangerter – as close to an Americano as you can get.

Back to the hotel to prepare for the highlight of our stay here. A night of music and dance and dinner and champagne. A chance to get dressed up, well some did, and mix with the great people of this wonderful city.

The Viennese have a lot of balls! It is not called the city of the waltz for nothing. It is a big business. There is at least one ball for each profession. The pharmacists ball, the doctors ball, the teachers ball. A ball for dentists for civil servants. I wonder if jugglers have more than one?

See also

217 people found this helpful

Share Article:

Dave Harcombe

Travelling pharmacist

Leave a comment


Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

Geoff Moore joined events across the island to celebrate Liberation Day, one of the most important dates in Guernsey’s calendar…
The Royal Shakespeare Company offers far more than just live theatre as Gillian Thornton found out on a visit to…

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.