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AUSTRIA

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Trip Extension: Vienna

Visit the famed Spanish Riding School and sample local flavors on this optional extension.

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PRE-TRIP EXTENSION

Vienna, Austria

DAYS IN AUSTRIA
4

Enjoy time to explore Vienna at your own pace—seek out famous sites like Hofburg Palace
Tour Schoenbrunn Palace—the Habsurg's summer estate and a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Enjoy the Best of Vienna on an optional tour, including the opera house and the city’s iconic Ferris Wheel

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Our Activity Level rating system ranks adventures on a scale of 1 to 5 to help you determine if a trip is right for you. See the descriptions below for more information about the physical requirements associated with each rating.

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Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 25 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 1-2 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last at least 1-2 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 2:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 40 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 2-3 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for at least 2-3 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 3:

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Moderate

Travelers should be able to climb 60 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 3 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 3 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet.

Activity Level 4:

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Moderately Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 80 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 4 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.

Activity Level 5:

1 2 3 4 5

Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 100 or more stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 8 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 10,000 feet or more.

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Watch this video showcasing what makes this country so unforgettable

Vienna and the Danube

Revel in the iconic staples of Viennese culture, from coffeehouses to dance floors, with travel expert Rudy Maxa.

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Austria: Month-by-Month

There are pros and cons to visiting a destination during any time of the year. Find out what you can expect during your ideal travel time, from weather and climate, to holidays, festivals, and more.

Austria in December-February

Usually beginning in December, heavy snowfall colors the Alpine region a Christmassy white. During the night, temperatures may hover around zero degrees—perfect weather for hot chocolates and mulled wines (which you may pick up at the Christmas markets that begin lining the enchanting streets this time of year). January and February are typically the coldest months of the year in Austria, and with the Alps shrouded in fresh powder from recent snow, the country transforms into a skier's paradise. 

Holidays & Events

  • December 25: Christmas Day
  • January 1: New Year's Day
  • Late January: Dating back to 1924, the yearly Philharmoniker Ball is a highlight of Austria's carnival season (or ball season). 
  • February: On the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, the Vienna Opera House hosts the annual Viennese Opernball, a primarily upper class ball that is another main event of carnival season.

Must See

During the holiday season, delightful Christmas markets begin sprouting up throughout the streets of Austria. Offering anything from handmade garments and crafts to festive holiday treats, including pastries and mulled wines, these markets add just the right amount of holiday spirit and flare to an Austrian adventure. Gigantic Christmas trees are often on display in town squares, and as in the U.S., the glimmer of decorative ornaments shines through many of the windows you'll pass by. Rounding out the festivities as the new year rolls around, NeuJahrsKonzert is a celebratory concert put on by the Vienna Philharmonic each New Year's Day.

Watch this film to discover more about Austria.

Bare Feet: Waltzing in Vienna

Watch this dancer make her way from Vienna to some Austrian villages to learn everything from a regal waltz to a knee-slapping folk dance.

27:27 | 1486 views
1

Austria in March-May

March sees Austria's temperatures beginning to warm up, with an average high of 48 degrees. April and May are even hotter, with average highs of 57 and 68 respectively. The warm, sunny spring days are typically punctuated by bouts of cold rain, making it critical to dress in layers this time of year. May is perhaps the best time of year for outdoor activities, with the warmer weather drawing visitors to national parks, and to the mountains for scenic walks. 

Holidays & Events

  • March & April: The annual OsterKlang Wien Easter music festival takes place. 
  • March or April: Easter Sunday & Monday.
  • May: Beginning in May and lasting five to six weeks, the Viennese Wiener Festwochen draws nearly 200,000 visitors each year to the square in front of Vienna's City Hall. At this cultural festival, attendees are entertained by theater performances, orchestral productions, and more.
  • Mid-May: The Vienna International Festival brings together artists from across the globe to share their talents. Expect to see drama performances, musical theater, and a variety of dance styles.
  • Late May: Salzburg's Whitsun Festival concert series celebrates and showcases the best of Baroque music.

Watch this film to discover more about Austria.

Bare Feet: Waltzing in Vienna

Watch this dancer make her way from Vienna to some Austrian villages to learn everything from a regal waltz to a knee-slapping folk dance.

27:27 | 1486 views
1

Austria in June-August

Summer ushers in pleasant weather, longer daylight hours, and more sunshine. Throughout Austria, the daytime temperatures average in the 60s and 70s, with highs sometimes reaching into the 90s. The further south you go in Austria, the more likely you are to experience warmer weather that evokes the climate of the Mediterranean. You can expect the warmest temperatures in July, but be sure to pack accordingly as temperatures can drop into the 50s at night. Also be prepared for more precipitation in June and July when thunderstorms are common throughout the country.   

Take advantage of more daylight during the summer that can last for up to 15 hours. Delight in the combination of the long daylight hours and the warm weather during a stroll through Austria's picturesque gardens and parks. But, be prepared for more crowds during the summer as large groups of tourists flock to Austria to soak up the summer weather.

Holidays & Events

  • June 21: The Midsummer solstice is celebrated on the longest day of the year. Festivities include ship processions that make their way down the Danube and colorful firework shows. 
  • Late July: The annual Salzburg Festival is a celebration of opera, theater, and other musical genres. This popular event draws large crowds in July and August.  

Must See

The Vienna Film Festival is a popular event that brings together Austrian culture and gastronomy. A large screen is set up at Rathausplatz square in Vienna where recordings of orchestra performances, operas, concerts, ballets, and more are shown through September. Important sporting events that fall around the same time of the festival are also broadcasted. For example, fans crowded into the square when the women's national team's semifinal game was broadcasted at the film festival. International cuisine is also a highlight of the festival as chefs from around the world come to Austria to showcase their culinary talents. 

Watch this film to discover more about Austria.

Bare Feet: Waltzing in Vienna

Watch this dancer make her way from Vienna to some Austrian villages to learn everything from a regal waltz to a knee-slapping folk dance.

27:27 | 1486 views
1

Austria in September-November

The hills are alive with the colors of autumn, as the changing leaves paint Austria's slopes a majestic patchwork of yellow, orange, and red. During the fall months, scenic nature walks make for a pleasant leisure activity, and with fewer tourists, you'll have more opportunity to enjoy the scenery. As we head into November, light flurries of snow hint at what's to come in December.

Holidays & Events

  • Late September-Early October: During Vienna's Wine Hiking Days, vineyards open up for public wine samplings.
  • Mid-October: A series of affordable concerts known as Salzburger Kulturtage takes place. 
  • October 26: On Austrian National Day, the country's flag is proudly displayed, memorial ceremonies take place, many museums offer free admission, and around 100,000 people embark on fitness marches (organized hikes) each year. 
  • November 11: On St. Martin's Day, children engage in trick-or-treating-like activities, similar to Halloween celebrations in the United States.

Must See

In early October, during what are referred to as Almabtrieb processions, farmers relocate their cows from the mountains to better grazing in the valleys. As part of the celebration, the cows are dressed in ornately decorated hats and other finery. 

Watch this film to discover more about Austria.

Bare Feet: Waltzing in Vienna

Watch this dancer make her way from Vienna to some Austrian villages to learn everything from a regal waltz to a knee-slapping folk dance.

27:27 | 1486 views
1

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Schoenbrunn Palace

The strikingly yellow and sprawling 460-acre Schoenbrunn Palace and gardens date back to the 15th century. The property, a fraction of the current palace on display, was owned by the Klosterneuburg Monastery and was known as the Katterburg.

By 1569, the Hapsburg family came into possession of the property—with whom it would remain for the majority of its history. Members of the Hapsburgs used Katterburg as a hunting lodge and by 1642 they officially renamed the estate Schoenbrunn—a name that was inspired by Emperor Matthias who, while hunting on the property, came across a Schöner Brunnen, which roughly translates to a beautiful spring.

After the estate fell to Turkish invaders who destroyed the structure completely in the late 17th century, the Hapsburg family reacquired the land and transformed it into a royal summer residence. The new palace and gardens were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 due to the preservation of the Baroque architecture and display of Hapsburg style.  

The land is also home to an impressive greenhouse called The Palm House which hosts multiple climates and a variety of plant species. Another majestic structure at Schoenbrunn is the Gloriette Arcade. Built in 1775, this neoclassical gem boasts panoramic views of the gardens, palace, and Vienna. 

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Ringstrasse

Emperor Franz Joseph had a vision for a boulevard to eclipse all other boulevards. The Emperor announced the building of the Ringstrasse in 1857 in a decree that famously announced, “It is my will.”  Joseph reclaimed space where city walls and military structures once stood in order, he said, to “beautify my residence, the imperial capital.” The wealthiest families rushed to build their palaces along the route, with private homes interspersed among the most important cultural buildings in the nation. Instead of uniformity, the major buildings were designed using architecture to match their purposes. The State Opera and university were built in Renaissance style, while the theater was Baroque, and the Vienna Stock Exchange was Gothic. The Parliament was the lone building erected in Greek classic style as a nod to democracy. Officially inaugurated in 1865, the stunning Ringstrasse remains unparalleled and has become the definitive heart of Vienna.

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Spanish Riding School

The Spanish Riding School holds a timeless tradition that has been part of Viennese culture for more than 450 years. This age-old practice was even placed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in 2015.

The first documentation of a riding school in Vienna is from 1565—this school influenced the modern Spanish Riding School that is currently in place. In 1580, Archduke Charles II introduced Spanish horses to an arena he founded in Lipizza—these stallions came to be known as “Lipizzaners.” The Lipizzaner horse breed is still widely valued by the Spanish Riding School today. 

Up until World War I, the equestrian shows these stallions put on were reserved for royalty and guests of congress, but after the end of the war, the school opened up to the public. During your free time in Vienna, you may reserve tickets to see these graceful horses perform, or you may choose a guided tour to get a glimpse behind the scenes of the Spanish Riding School.

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Melk Abbey

From its steep, cliffside perch, the magnificently ornate Melk Abbey has served as a center of worship and scholarship since its founding in 1089. Its fascinating, cherub-filled library features one window for every day of the year, and contains more than 70,000 books and 2,000 manuscripts—chiefly from the ninth through the 15th centuries.

The abbey’s interior, some of which was rebuilt following disastrous fires in 1297 and 1683, is exquisitely opulent, rich with intricate gilding, beautiful paintings, and unique design elements—such as its famous helical stairway. Melk Abbey also inspired Umberto Eco’s popular novel The Name of the Rose.

In addition to its rich religious, artistic, and scholastic legacy, Melk Abbey also holds a place in Austria’s musical history. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s family brought him to Melk to play its already famous organ when he was only 11, and he made a big impression on the Abbey officials (who described him as “the famous musician” in their journals at the time).

One of the monks, Maximilian Stadler, stayed in touch with the composer, eventually becoming friends with the grown Mozart and his wife Constanze in Vienna. When Mozart died, the monk from Melk became Constanze’s musical advisor; the first to catalogue Mozart’s manuscripts, he then oversaw the transcription and publication of Mozart’s final unfinished Requiem.

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Innsbruck

The capital of Austrian Tyrol since 1429, Innsbruck sits in the Inn Valley and has been continuously inhabited since the Stone Age. The city has a rich history as the home of nobility, kings, and emperors, many of whom built fabulous structures that are still standing today.

Most famously, the city’s grand imperial style was established by the Habsburg dynasty, starting with Archduke Sigismund the Rich, who commissioned the Gothic Hofburg Palace, with its stunning 100-foot-long “Giant Hall.”

Though the Habsburgs are gone, evidence of their glory days remains, from the Triumphal Arch watching over passersby through the city center, to the Golden Roof prominently adorning a building in the heart of the Old City. Ambras Castle, built in 1563, is one of the most-visited destinations in all of Austria. The restored fixtures speak to the elegance of the time and the decorations provide a colorful glimpse of a lost era. From 300 portraits of the family members to bespoke suits of armor tailored to fit Ferdinand II, the castle offers the most personal look at those who once ruled Tyrol and called it home.

Innsbruck is also renowned as an outdoor sports destination, and twice had the honor of hosting the Winter Olympics: once in 1964, and again in 1976. Winter sports enthusiasts flock to alpine city today, to enjoy its ample opportunities for skiing, climbing, and hiking.

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The Danube River

Immortalized in song, the “blue” Danube is known as the most “multinational” river in the world, touching ten different countries and passing through four capital cities. It is the second-longest river in Europe (after the Volga), covering more than 1,700 miles from the Black Forest in Germany to the Black Sea in Romania.

More than just the place where “East meets West,” the Danube River is home to a unique mélange of historical influence that spans nearly 2,000 years. Ever since Roman times, it has served as both a connector of cultures and a physical boundary between them—facilitating both trade and transport and the preservation of cultural diversity. Wine-producing vineyards drape the riverside with green, enhancing the gorgeous landscapes that have inspired artists, musicians, and travelers alike over the centuries.

Experience the Danube River with us on:

Featured Reading

Immerse yourself in Austria with this selection of articles, recipes, and more

ARTICLE

Find out how these sought-after varieties gain their esteemed, distinctive taste.

ARTICLE

Vienna’s turn-of-the-century artists find freedom

RECIPE

Embrace the flavor of the Alps with this easy recipe for traditional Swiss Fondue.

ARTICLE

Uncover the lasting legacy of the powerful Habsburg family in Tyrol.

Alpine Cheese: A Taste of Tradition

by Philip McCluskey from Insider

Alpine cheeses are appreciated by connoisseurs for many reasons, from their unique production process to the high standards of quality they meet. Most of all, though, it is the distinctive taste of these delectable cheeses that makes them among the most sought after in the world.

There are a wealth of popular varieties under the esteemed “Alpine cheese” umbrella, including Emmentaler, Gruyère, and Comté. Though they all are made in the rarefied air of the Alps, differences naturally developed over the years because conditions (and the vegetation they cows fed on) varied from region to region. The result? Each of these cheeses has its own distinctive, complex flavor profile, which may be described as everything from spicy and nutty to floral and buttery. The cheeses evolved over time, and it was Mother Nature who helped create the recipes.

The Alps are justly famous for their idyllic landscapes: The snow-capped peaks, crystalline lakes, and meadows dotted with wildflowers make it a virtual pastoral paradise. Yet one issue perpetually vexed the farmers of these mountains—the bitter cold winter months. The temperatures and conditions made farming and hunting difficult, which meant there wasn’t much fresh food available. So farmers decided to pool their bovine resources (each farmer only had a few cows) and use the herd to create particularly hearty cheeses.

They adapted as conditions evolved throughout the year. As the seasons changed, so did the diet of their cows—they grazed on the lush mountain grasses at higher altitudes in the summer and hay at lower altitudes in the winter (a practice called transhumance). Farmers would even build cheese-making huts at higher elevations so that they didn’t have to transport the milk all the way down the mountain in order to start the process of making cheese.

The end result was a lot of product, and these industrious cheesemakers had to find the best way to transport it down to the markets. They generally produced massive wheels of the cheese, which made them more stable and sturdy as they were brought down from the mountains. And this is still the case today: Wheels of Comté and Gruyère weigh up to 85 pounds, while wheels of Emmentaler can be more than 200 pounds.

Speaking of Emmentaler, people in the United States may know it by another name: Swiss. While it is a Swiss cheese, it is certainly not the only one (Gruyère is another well-known cheese from this central European country). The famous holes in Emmentaler—and, in fact, in many Alpine cheeses—are the result of bacteria called Propionibacterium shermannii. In addition to adding flavor to the cheese, the organisms release carbon dioxide, so as the cheese hardens, the gas bubbles become the holes cheese-lovers are used to seeing.

Comté is another Alpine staple that has been produced in the Jura Massif region of France since Charlemagne ruled the land. The pale-yellow color, small holes, and nutty flavor are distinctive characteristics of this variety. It is still produced as it has been for centuries: using milk from Montbeliarde cattle and maturing in caves for up to two years.

Reblochon cheese has an interesting backstory (and a fruity taste). The name means “to milk a second time,” and refers to the tradition of medieval farmers giving the output of the first milking to the owners (which was often an abbey), and using the second round for their own purposes. This milk was creamier with higher fat content, thus creating a different and—most would say—better type of cheese.

Of course, that is just the beginning. There are many types of Alpine cheeses made in Europe—and no matter which one you sample, you’re sure to be tasting tradition.

A Taste of Tradition

Counter Culture

Of imperfect castles and perfect strolls

by Gigi Ongun, Program Director, Germany

The term “fin de siecle” most often conjures up images of Paris, where artists reacted against a supposedly decadent, morally bankrupt society created by industrialization, Art Nouveau thrived, and the seeds of modernism were sown. But the Austrian capital of Vienna had its own turn-of-the-century renaissance, too.

It was there where a population boom and the rise of the middle class fueled an economy of ideas and art that included contributions from such luminaries as Sigmund Freud, Gustov Klimt, and composer Arnold Schoenberg. The city’s monetary and intellectual wealth led to the rise of an artistic epoch reflected in all aspects of society, from architecture to fashion.

In 1900, Vienna was the European capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in which the House of Hapsburg ruled over the remains of the ancient Holy Roman Empire, with 51 million subjects spread over a geographical area stretching roughly from the Balkans to Ukraine. Between 1870 and 1910, Vienna’s population more than doubled—reaching 2 million as citizens from all over the Empire moved to the thriving capital. They were drawn by opportunities for employment created during the massive civic-building program instituted by Emperor Franz-Joseph in the 1860s.

The Ringstrasse

This building boom resulted in the dozens of impressive neoclassical buildings that today line Vienna’s Ringstrasse, a circular boulevard built to replace the capital’s crumbling medieval walls and pay tribute to the Hapsburg family’s power and wealth. The ornate and immense buildings created during this project include the Austrian Parliament Building, the Rathaus (Town Hall), and the University of Vienna, which visitors may still admire during a stroll along this 3.3-mile loop.

Almost all of the Ringstrasse buildings and their interior artwork harken back to historical eras—ancient Rome and Renaissance Italy, for example. But the classical, academic, and (given the scale of the Ringstrasse project) monolithic nature of the works being produced led the city’s prominent artists to chafe against what they saw as an old-fashioned, unimaginative mind-set.

A new school

In 1897, dissatisfied with the conservative views of the Association of Austrian Artists and the private Künstlerhaus Genessenschaft exhibition society, a group of painters, sculptors, and architects resigned their memberships and created the Vienna Secession. At the time, the Academy and Künstlerhaus controlled Vienna’s two main exhibition halls and was responsible for choosing the vast majority of art displayed in the city. Artists went before artistically traditional committees that often rejected impressionist and modernist works in favor of naturalism. The frustrated artists were left with no way to exhibit their contemporary works.

The Secessionists saw the beginnings of the Modernist movement taking hold elsewhere in Europe and worried that Austria’s presumed preference for classical art was leaving their country behind the curve. So they organized and dedicated themselves to creating and exhibiting innovative art and design. The group built an exhibition house that became known simply as The Secession. They stated their desire to push boundaries and break from historical styles in the motto emblazoned above the door: “To every age its art, to every art its freedom.”

The Secession building, with its starkwhite, windowless exterior topped by an oversized round cupola of golden metal-work, could not have broken more strongly from the Ringstrasse style. It was equal parts admired and ridiculed, with the cupola providing its most popular nickname: “The golden cabbage.” Mocked or not, the new exhibition space was much needed. The Secessionists’ first exhibition, for which they rented out the Horticultural Society building, drew 57,000 visitors, including the Emperor himself.

But for all of their new ideas, the Secessionists were not out to dismantle the art establishment. Almost all of them were already well-established in their fields, with painter Gustov Klimt the best known for his work as decorator of many Ringstrasse buildings. They were employed artists, interested in making a living from their craft as well as following the avant-garde, so they didn’t so much rage against the machine as build their own, slightly edgier machine.

The buyers for their work came from Vienna’s burgeoning bourgeoisie, merchants and traders who thrived in the prosperous city. This new middle-class embraced the avant-garde aesthetic as an outlet for expressing their individuality and flaunting their newfound wealth and social status. The market became quite competitive, with collectors vying to have the newest, most progressive pieces.

Life as art

The public embrace of the new aesthetic and the artists’ concept of creating works that touched every aspect of daily life, from architecture to kitchen utensils, produced the philosophy of “Gesamtkunstwerk” or the “total work of art.” The idea behind Gesamtkunstwerk is that a person’s entire life should be lived in alignment with the Art Nouveau aesthetic—their art, their house, their furniture, and even the clothes they wore would be designed by artists. Their life itself would be lived as a work of art.

Gesamtkunstwerk resulted in the establishment of the Wiener Werkstatte (Vienna Workshop) in 1903. Its founders, Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser, applied their designs to everyday objects from picture frames to trash cans. They took a page from the arts and crafts movement in England, which rejected industrialization and focused on the value of handmade objects and extolled individual craftsmanship and effort, with the workshop’s motto “Better to work 10 days on one product than to manufacture 10 products in one day.

The Workshop maintained separate facilities for metalwork, leatherwork, bookbinding, woodworking and a paint shop, and employed 100 artists in its heyday. With such diverse artisans available, the Workshop was able to take on projects that involved designing every aspect of a place like the Cabaret Fledermaus theater, from the floors to the menus.

The success of a concept as philosophical and involved as Gesamtkunstwerk seems less outlandish when viewed together with the constant, open public discourse that thrived in fin de sciele Vienna. The artists who formed the Secession didn’t meet in private homes or salons, but in public cafes that were the heart and soul of intellectual debate and new ideas.

Coffeehouse culture

They gathered in the Café Zum Blauen Freihaus and the Café Sperl (which today still serves coffee in Ringstrasse-style opulence), which functioned more as open clubs than places of commerce—the purchase of a single cup of coffee entitled you to as much time in the cafe as you wanted. Some establishments even allowed patrons to store a change of clothes on the premises.

Part of the cafes’ allure was their large collection of international newspapers, bringing in new ideas for artists to debate daily from across the continent. The flow of international information was a key part of the Secessionist movement. Klimt, for example, was influenced by the flat planes, strong colors and patterned surfaces of Japanese woodblock prints as well as the intricate patterns of Byzantine mosaics. These influences can be seen in many of Klimt’s most iconic works, including The Kiss.

Another aspect of the cafes’ wide popularity was their willing embrace of art and artists. Musical performances and literary events were held in the evenings. Writers who spent their days composing in the cafes were affectionately nicknamed “coffeehouse poets.” One writer, Peter Altenberg, spent so much time at the iconic Cafe Central that he had his mail delivered there.

The cafes were also favored by future leaders and revolutionaries, drawn, perhaps, by their open exchange of new ideas. Cafe Central was visited by Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, and Josip Broz Tito. In designating “Viennese Coffee House Culture” as a recognized part of Austria’s Intangible Cultural Heritage, UNESCO noted poetically that cafes were places “where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill.”

Musicians of note

The city’s avant-garde spirit extended to musicians and composers, as well. Reflecting the same sort of break from classical modes of expression that the Secessionists embraced, Viennese composer Arnold Schoenberg developed a new system for composition. The “twelve-tone technique” for composing atonal pieces became widely used throughout Europe and America.

Also known as dodecaphony or twelvetone serialism, Schoenberg’s technique provided composers of atonal pieces with an alternative structure to the traditional strictures of tonal harmony. The twelve-tone technique holds that each of the twelve tones of the chromatic scale must be used equally often in a piece of music, thus preventing an emphasis on any one note.

The technique replaced the classical structural tonal harmony with the new structure of thematic oneness—in other words, parts of the piece don’t have to sound the same, they simply have to be structured the same. Schoenberg’s method influenced composers throughout the first half of the 20th century, including masters like Igor Stravinsky.

Sudden change

Vienna’s golden age was brought to an abrupt and violent end with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and the advent of World War I. The wealth that financed and encouraged Vienna’s artists was drained by the war and the dissolution of the Empire. Klimt perished in a flu pandemic that swept Europe in 1918, and the Vienna Workshop was forced into bankruptcy and closure in 1932.

Thankfully, much of the fine art produced during Vienna’s creative heyday remains. The Secession Building continues to exhibit contemporary art, as well as being the permanent home of Klimt’s stunning Beethoven Frieze. Prints of posters designed by the Vienna Workshop can be found throughout the city. And for the price of a single cup of coffee, visitors may still linger in the same cafes that inspired talented young artists at the turn of the century.

Vienna’s turn-of-the-century artists find freedom

Recipe: Swiss Fondue

Fondue was invented by Swiss peasants in the 18th century. With little to eat in the winter but aged cheese and stale bread, these inventive Alpine culinarians found that by melting their cheese in a pot with wine and garlic, their meager provisions became a veritable feast. Soon, fondue’s appeal caught on across all of Switzerland, and even became the country’s national dish in 1930.

Follow along with the recipe below, and gather around a bubbling pot of fondue with friends and family for a memorable meal. The cheese blend that you use will determine the flavor, so feel free to experiment with your own proportions until you find your perfect combination. What you dip in the fondue is up to you—cubes of crusty bread are traditional, but fingerling potatoes, apple slices, and sausage can also be delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Emmentaler cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Appenzeller cheese
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 dash kirsch (optional—can be omitted or substituted with alternate fruit brandy)
  • fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • crusty bread, cut into large cubes

Preparation:

  1. Combine all of the cheeses and the flour in a medium bowl, and toss.
  2. Use the garlic halves to coat the inside of a 2 quart steel or cast iron pot with an enameled interior, then discard the garlic.
  3. Pour the wine into the pot and apply medium heat until hot, but not boiling.
  4. Add the lemon juice and kirsch into the pot, and stir.
  5. Gradually add the cheese into the wine mixture, one small handful at a time. Stir the pot constantly in a figure-8 pattern, and wait until the cheese has melted before you add another handful. Continue until all the cheese is melted, and the fondue bubbles gently, with the appearance of a light creamy sauce. Season with pepper and nutmeg.
  6. Remove the pot from the stove and transfer to an alcohol safety burner on your serving table. Adjust the burner flame so the fondue continues to bubble gently.
  7. Serve with crusty bread cubes at the end of fondue forks or skewers, continuing to stir as you eat, to keep the mixture thin.

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Servings: 6-8

The legacy of the Habsburgs in Tyrol

by David Valdes Greenwood

Without this strategic land ... the Habsburgs would never again be so powerful.

For four hundred years, the Habsburgs were the most powerful family in Europe, ruling parts of Austria, Hungary, Spain, and beyond. From the 15th century to the dawn of the 19th, they were the Holy Roman Emperors, and they used marriage, trade, land acquisition, and religious favor to cement their status.  For much of this time, a territory that would prove key to their wealth and power was Tyrol. Flush with silver and copper mines, the land itself was rich, but it was also strategic, in that whoever controlled these mountain passes could control trade and cut off the advancing forces of opponents.

Making over a city

When they first acquired Tyrol, the mighty family was content to manage affairs from afar, dwelling in splendor in Vienna and abroad. But in 1420, the first Habsburg ruler moved to Tyrol. A duke from the family, nicknamed Freddy Empty Pockets, tried to play down the Habsburg wealth and make inroads with the common people—but his son, known as Sigismund the Rich, immediately reversed this impression. Surrounding himself with finery, Sigismund began to remake Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol, in grand style, commissioning the Gothic Hofburg Palace, with its stunning 100-foot-long “Giant Hall.”

With trade routes all the way to Burgundy on the line, Emperor Maximilian I established even deeper roots in Innsbruck, while embellishing on the glorification that Sigismund began. Maximilian’s biggest showpiece was Goldenes Dachl, or Golden Roof, an extension of the royal family residence. A three-story balcony created for the private viewing habits of Maximilian and his wife, the roof was crowned with 2,738 gilded copper tiles.

In 1563, Archduke Ferdinand II ordered that the site of a medieval fortress be transformed into a Renaissance castle, in honor of the new wife he'd married in secret because she was a commoner. She was so beloved for her charity work with the local people that they referred to her as “Merciful Miss,” but the couple also filled Ambras Castle with treasure, including great artworks of the Renaissance. Sadly, their children had no interest in the castle and, once the parents died, it was never the royal family residence again.

For love or money?

No matter which castle or manor a Habsburg lived in, ruling Tyrol was a lucrative and powerful position. In the 17th century, Archduke Leopold V was supposed to give his life to the church, and was declared Bishop of Passau and Strasbourg (despite not ever actually studying for the priesthood). But what he really wanted was to rule the land, and to make himself a more attractive candidate for the job, he abandoned his clerical duties to marry a Medici, another of the era’s great dynastic families. This did the trick, and Leopold and new bride Claudia became the most powerful couple in Tyrol.

The Dogana, the first hall built specifically for theater in the Germanic world, was the brainchild of Claudia, and it was the epicenter of Habsburg glory for the next century. But the sudden death of the Austrian Emperor Franz Stephan after a stroke in the theatre during a royal wedding changed the tone of everything. His widow had the room in which he died turned into a chapel and home to a small religious order. The Triumphal Gate newly erected to celebrate the wedding was adorned with permanent symbols of loss as well.

When Austria was defeated by Napoleon in 1805, the Habsburgs were powerless to set terms, and Tyrol was awarded to Bavaria. Without this strategic land, or any way to recoup the riches they had poured into it, the Habsburgs would never again be so powerful.

Still shining

Though the Habsburgs are gone, their handiwork remains. The Triumphal Arch still stands, but now cars and buses drive through it. Golden Roof has become a symbol of the city, and the building it adorns is home to the Innsbruck Archive, the Alpine Convention Office, and a museum. Hofburg Palace is considered a national treasure and one of the three most important buildings in Austria.

The Dogana was converted into a riding school, then became a Customs house. In the 20th century, the Dogana was damaged by bombing. In 1966, it was decided to restore the Dogana but incorporate it into a larger, extended campus known as the Congress, making it the nation’s premiere conference space and performing arts complex. As the largest of 20 spaces in the Congress, the Dogana seats 1,300 audience members and remains the oldest theatre of its kind in the entire region.

Today, Ambras Castle is one of the most-visited destinations in all of Austria. The restored fixtures speak to the elegance of the time and the decorations provide a colorful glimpse of a lost era. From 300 portraits of the family members to bespoke suits of armor tailored to fit Ferdinand II, the castle offers the most personal look at those who once ruled Tyrol and called it home.

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