Grand architecture, coffeehouses with domes and marble columns like mosques and Turkish kebabs as fast food
24.10.2010 - 08.11.2010 59 °F
I have been in Turkey for 7 months and am taking my first trip out of the country the end of October to attend a class in Stockerau, Austria, a suburb of Vienna. My good friend Jean is traveling with me. We will visit Vienna and then take a train to Prague to stay for 4 nights. Until this trip I had not focused on the connection between the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires. Both dominated the region and lasted for hundreds of years. Twice the Turks were at the city walls of Vienna but were not successful in capturing the city (1529 and 1683).
The Ottomans had the first military bands and it is said that when the Ottomans were pushed away from Vienna the bands left their instruments on the field of battle, and that is how the Holy Roman Empire (and therefore the other Western countries) acquired cymbals, triangles, and bass drums.
The other legacy is that the croissant was invented in Vienna, either in 1683 or during the earlier siege in 1529, to celebrate the defeat of the Ottoman attack of the city, with the shape referring to the crescents on the Ottoman flags. This version of the origin of the croissant is supported by the fact that croissants in French are referred to as Viennoiserie, and the French popular belief that Vienna-born Marie Antoinette introduced the pastry to France in 1770.
After the battle, the Austrians discovered many bags of coffee in the abandoned Ottoman encampment. Using this captured stock, Franciszek Jerzy Kulczycki opened the third coffeehouse in Europe and the first in Vienna where, according to legend, Kulczycki himself added milk and honey to sweeten the bitter coffee, thereby inventing cappuccino.
In modern time (1964) the Austrian government opened up an office in Istanbul to recruit guest workers. Today 70,000 people in Vienna speak Turkish and 4% of the population are originally from Turkey. The Austrians have adopted the doner and kebab as fast food and you see many Turkish water pipes and scarfs in the shop windows. While I was there I met several waiters and taxi drivers that were originally from Turkey.
There is an old worldliness about Vienna from the days when it was the capital of a vast, multinational empire. Today the population is 1.5M. The city seems to be built for a much larger population. The avenues and city squares are not so crowded especially compared to Istanbul with 18M people and no large boulevards and few large public squares. It seemed like the people were on holiday and out of the city, but that is the norm. I did not see major traffic on the roads or the sidewalks. It is usually rated as one of the most livable cities.
Austria is also a supremely law-abiding nation, where no one jaywalks or drops litter, and the trains and trams run on time. I had to restrain myself to wait till the light changed to cross the street. It is much more free form in Istanbul!
The country is 80% Catholic and opening hours of the shops are controlled by the government. In Stockerau, the shops closed at 5 except on Thursday when they stayed open until 8PM. All shops are closed on Sunday. Vienna seemed to have longer shopping hours.
Pictures of a few of their grand monuments and buildings.
I was very impressed with the Kunsthistorisches Museum. It has a fabulous collection starting with an Egyptian collection through Greek and Roman including a mosaic floor that was found in a Roman house in Salzburg. The national art gallery is also there. It was originally built as a museum and the interior is fabulous and competes with the collection as a work of art. I spent the day and thoroughly enjoyed it. There is an Ephesus Museum that houses some of the statues that the Austrian archeological teams brought back to Vienna. Austria has been the country that has been excavating Ephesus since the 1800's.
The winter hats are quite lovely in Vienna. Very stylist and expensive.
We attended the Sunday service at St. Augustine. It is in Josefsplatz near the Hofburg, winter palace of the Habsburg Dynasty and where many of the royal family were married and buried. They have wonderful music with full orchestra and choir as you would expect from the city of Mozart, Schubert, and Beethoven. The pews are wonderfully carved. Other picture is of the organ and choir loft.
We were fortunate to get tickets for the opera and a concert at the Musikverein, the golden hall where the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra plays every year on New Year's Eve listen to 2011 concert here.. It was a much smaller hall than I expected and the only tickets we could get were standing room only, but it was a treat to be there. I now know that you need to order tickets on line months before performances.
We enjoyed the Naschmarkt which has existed since the 16th century in Vienna and sells all kinds of fresh meats, cheese, vegetables, fruits, vinegars, and pastries. The Naschmarkt is a unique mixture of Austrian traditions and oriental influences. Viennese shrewdness meets bazaar mentality as one guidebook put it.
We had one meal at Sperl Cafe, one of the coffee houses from the 1800's near our hotel. Lots of atmosphere.
We had our final meal in Cafe Central, opened in 1860, Josip Broz Tito, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Lenin, and Leon Trotsky (the latter two being regulars) were often there.