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Exploring Austria’s Great Cities

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Anyone who’s seen the 1970′s film The Sound of Music will understand why the breath-taking landscapes that are shown in the movie make such a popular backdrop for walking holidays in Austria. Who can forget the spectacular scenery when Julie Andrews sang The Hills are Alive? But it’s not only the rural scenery that makes this country a great place to visit. The beautiful cultural cities of Vienna and Salzburg also provide many places of interest to visit and to learn about the history of this wonderful country.

Vienna

Vienna is known for its opera house and its coffee houses, and whilst both of these fully deserve their reputation there are plenty of other attractions for those on walking holidays in Austria to experience as well. However, let’s start with The Vienna State Opera, which is amongst the most famous opera houses in the world. Building started in 1861 and was completed in 1869; the premiere presentation was Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Despite the stage and auditorium being destroyed by fire during World War II, the foyer with its wonderful frescoes and the magnificent stairway and tearoom were unscathed. It was not fully reopened until 1955, with a performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio. Today, operas and ballets continue to be performed here and it is one of the busiest opera houses in the world – putting on around 50 to 60 operas a year and ten ballets. Among the great artists who have performed here are Herbert Von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein and Gustav Mahler.

The Hofburg Imperial Palace is the official residence of the President of Austria and was the Hapsburg’s main winter residence. It has been the seat of kings since 1438. It’s the home of the Spanish Riding School, with its wonderful Lipizzaner stallions, as well as the Vienna Boys’ Choir. The Imperial Apartments are opulent rooms where the royals entertained and listened to their subjects, and the Treasury stores an impressive collection of jewels. You can stroll through 21 rooms filled with priceless objects, including a 500-year-old unicorn horn (allegedly).

The Vienna Boys’ Choir sings in the Imperial Chapel at Mass every Sunday from September until March, and if you can’t get in you can hear their beautiful voices outside and watch the mass on TV monitors. For horse lovers, the practice sessions of The Spanish Riding School are open to the public and can be watched in a chandelier clad Baroque Hall.

The Schonbrunn Palace has been compared to Versailles, and the 1,441-room palace was the summer residence of the Hapsburgs. The beautiful gardens are a wonderful place to stroll around for some gentler activity on your walking holidays in Austria. The Privy Garden houses the oldest zoo in the world, along with a maze and labyrinth.

Salzburg

Salzburg is, of course, known as the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and is a beautiful city to visit when on walking holidays in Austria. One of the attractions of this city is the wonderful Hohensalzburg Castle, which is one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Europe. Sitting at the top of the Festungsberg Mountain it presides over the city below. Within the castle is the Salzburg Bull, which is a magnificent organ with more than 200 pipes.

Of course you shouldn’t visit Salzburg without a visit to Mozart’s birthplace, which is now the site of Salzburg’s most popular museum. While Mozart was born in this house in 1756, you can also visit the house where he lived and worked as an adult.

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Linda Barbara

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