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May 3, 2022
Vienna, Austria: The World’s Greatest Outdoor Museum

St. Michael’s Gate at Hofburg Imperial Palace

Vienna is the national capital, largest city, and most populous city of Austria. Until World War I (and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), Vienna was the largest German-speaking city in the world. As the home of composers including Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert, Brahms and Mahler, Vienna is called “The City of Music.” As the home of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, Vienna is called “The City of Dreams.”

Vienna straddles four branches of the Danube River. (Our guide confessed that the Danube is not blue, and has never been blue.) Graffiti is allowed and even encouraged on the canal walls.

Where the city walls once stood, there is now a Ringstrasse (Ring Road) that surrounds Old Town Vienna

Our Viking Tour Director Sue calls Vienna “the world’s greatest outdoor museum.” When you walk around Old Town, you can see why. Every building seems to be a masterpiece of architecture and history.

Our Grand European Tour includes two full days in Vienna. This morning, guests had their choice between two included half-day excursions. “Panoramic Vienna” is a bus ride into Old Town, followed by a walking tour. “Vienna Up Close City Tour” is for those who are revisiting Vienna or prefer more walking. In this alternate tour, you take the U-Bahn (Metro) system to get to Old Town.

We chose “Panoramic Vienna,” as we have not been here in 20 years and don’t want to exhaust ourselves on the first day. Our Viking bus took us on a guided drive to Hofburg Palace, where we began a guided walking tour.

Hofburg Palace, in the center of Vienna, was once the imperial palace of the Hapsburg dynasty. Originally built in the 13th century, it has been expanded several times over the centuries into a gigantic complex. Since 1946 it has been the residence and workplace of Austria’s president.

This wing of the Hofburg Palace is now a museum

Maria Theresa, the only female Hapsurg Ruler

The palace is full of fascinating history. For example, outside of Heroes’ Square are two equestrian statues created in 1878 by Anton Dominik Fernkorn. For the statue of Archduke Karl, Frenkorn accomplished an astonishing artistic feat: for the first time ever, a monumental bronze statue is supported at only two points – the horse’s hind legs.

Fernkorn tried duplicating this feat for the second statue, Prince Eugene of Savoy, but was unable to do so. Instead, Prince Eugene’s statue is supported at three points – the horse’s hind legs… and its tail. Fernkorn became so stressed by the mental and physical pressure of the project, he went insane. He was placed under medical supervision and spent the rest of his life in an asylum.

Fernkorn’s statue of Archduke Karl

Fernkorn’s statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy

From Hofburg Palace, we walked down busy Graben Singerstrasse to Stephensplatz (St. Stephen’s Square), site of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Here we had an hour to walk around on an expectedly gorgeous, sunny day. Gail and Cameron found some lebkuchen (gingerbread); Russell ran around taking pictures.

Graben Singerstrasse (a monument to the Plague is in the center)

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Inside St. Stephen’s Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral has a humorous hidden feature on its façade. There are sculptures of male and female genitalia, to inform illiterate villagers which side of the cathedral they should sit on.

The male side

The female side (pay no attention to the pigeons)

After lunch aboard ship, we went our separate ways. Russell and Cameron went for a walk, while Gail took an optional afternoon excursion.

The Viking Vili is docked on a branch of the Danube River near the Reichsbrüke (Imperial Bridge), northeast of Old Town. Russell and Cameron took a half-hour walk to the Wiener Riesenvad, the world’s oldest Ferris wheel still running. They were stunned to find an entire multi-acre amusement park, the Prater, around the Ferris wheel.

The Wiener Riesenvad

The Prater

Meanwhile, Gail joined the “Historic Farmers’ Market Visit with Local Chef.” Attendees took the U-Bahn to the market center to look at oil, cheese and bread, and got to taste some samples.

But that’s not all. Following an early dinner, Russell and Gail went on an optional Viking excursion: “Mozart & Strauss Concert.” And tonight’s event was especially unique. Musical prodigy Alma Deutsch presented a concert exclusively for Viking guests. At 17 years old, she is the youngest of Viking’s many ship godmothers. Ms. Deutsch conducted a chamber symphony orchestra through the entire concert without a score, entirely from memory. She played a couple of violin solos and directed a couple of original compositions. She even danced an elegant waltz with a partner during one of Strauss’ waltzes. And following an Austrian custom, we topped off the concert with a late-night snack of goulash back aboard ship.

The Wiener Konzert Haus is full of private concert salon rooms

Alma Deutscher (in white) directs the chamber symphony orchestra

It was a long and active day. And tomorrow we will have another full day in Vienna!

On the Grand Staircase of the Viking Vili

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