AUSTRIA Sajan Abraham takes the road less travelled in Vienna and discovers the romantic in himself

I was looking forward to my visit to the lovely city of Vienna but when I landed at Vienna, my ‘lost’ luggage and a phone that did not ‘roam’ did not exactly seem to be the signs of good times to come. Fortunately that was the last of the misfortunes to plague me for the trip which turned out to be a treat for the senses.

It is very difficult for one to not fall in love with the sheer charm of the city with its grand buildings almost caught in a time warp, and fortunately so, the thirty odd palaces, museums and 805 parks. Vienna is truly a cultural centre and the fact that it is the city of Johann Strauss, the Viennese Waltz King, only adds more credence to the claim.

But in this piece I would rather talk about subjects other than palaces, museum and classical music.

Vienna is probably the only city in the world that cultivates wine within its city limits. A visit outside the Vienna Woods, to the 19th district will soon transport to you to different world. A world of wine taverns or heurige where one can enjoy the light young wine of the current year along with some lip-smacking local cuisine. I was pleasantly surprised to get my share of wine, which is mostly white, in a mini beer mug. And to add more flavour to the trip you also get to listen to talented musicians supported by singers, usually a soprano and a tenor, often accompanied by two energetic dancers.

The other not so conventional place to visit in Vienna is the Hundertwasserhaus in district 3. It is an apartment house built after the idea and concept of the controversial Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. A very colourful, non-symmetrical apartment block with close to 50 apartments, this building is unique for the landscaping of terraces and balconies with trees and ivy.

Kärntner Straße is the most famous pedestrian shopping street in central Vienna. Shops can’t be too different in any city apart from some of the local delights and flavours. But what I was taken aback by was the spilling of music on to the streets. Accomplished musicians performing classical pieces with flair, including one Ms. Soryang, of Korean origin, and a concert pianist performing on a grand piano plonked right in the middle of the street. You can check her out on www.soryang.at.

A day trip to the Wachau Danube Valley is a must to bring out the romantic in you. You will be floored by the sheer beauty of the landscape dominated by charming villages, medieval castles and vineyards. A cruise from Spitz to Melk lasting a little over an hour will take you past the quaint village of Durnstein and its castle high up on a hill, and now in ruins, which was once home to a famous prisoner, King Richard the Lion-hearted. Legend has it that the place of Richard's imprisonment was discovered by his favourite minstrel Blondel when King Richard responded to a song sung by this wandering troubadour who had set upon the task of finding his king. Sounds almost like a Hindi film!

You will also pass the Schonbuhel Castle or the “Watchman of the Wachau” standing proud and tall on the edge of a high, uneven cliff. The other fact that you will notice is the use of the sunny colour combination of mustard and white for buildings including the famous monastery at Melk.

The Melk Abbey, a Benedictine abbey, was founded in 1089 AD when Leopold II, Margrave of Austria gave one of his castles to the Benedictine monks. This Baroque style building with 497 rooms and 1888 windows is located on a rocky outcrop above the town of Melk and is built over an area of 188,000 sq.ft.

The museum at the Abbey houses some precious relics. There is a splinter size piece of the Cross of Christ inside the jeweled compartment of a cross, splinter from the shin bone of St. John the Baptist and a couple of relics from St. Coloman.

Then there is the magnificent library which has close to 100,000 manuscripts, a fraction of which is on display for public viewing.

There is also a globe that is over 300 years old which has an accurate display of the world map. One wonders how the cartography must have been implemented in those days.

The passage from the library to the church is via the famous spiral staircase which when looked down or up seems to go on to infinity. The church itself is an ornate piece of art with its gilded altar and statues that leaves one gazing in wonder.

The trip over, I get back into the double decker bus for my ride back to Vienna at over 100 km per hour and still smooth as silk!

If you do get to visit lovely Vienna don’t forget to say prost (cheers) to the Wine Taverns and the picturesque Danube Valley.

Vienna is probably the only city in the world that cultivates wine within its city limits. A visit outside the Vienna Woods, to the 19th district will soon transport to you to different world

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