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Published: December 20th 2016
It seems the longer I'm home, the harder it is to get at finishing my blog. Countries and continents away -- and a week later -- it's hard to remember what we did already. We went to a different place every day. We saw new things every day. It was amazing, and almost overwhelming. I haven't talked at all about the ship. It was always there, warm and waiting for us to come back with tired feet and sore backs, and cameras full of pictures. Dinner was always a three course affair, with appetiser, main course, and dessert. And the wine flowed freely too. The food was great, and the staff treated us like royalty. The only thing I could have wished for is more time. I didn't have enough energy to cram in everything that was offered. And it's not like I can go back to Vienna and go to the Mozart concert some other day. sigh. But hey, we did as much as we could, and we had a great time!
So, here we are in Vienna. The day was cold and foggy. The fog stuck around, and the sky was cloudy. Pretty much a dreary kind of
day. We had a tour in the morning that was part bus tour and part walking tour. We walked around the Hapsburg Palace, which was a huge complex with ornate baroque interiors, imperial apartments, & a silver museum. You can even drive through one part of the palace. The Hapsburgs ruled most parts of Europe for centuries. Here's what else we found out:
Vienna was once the seat of the Hapsburg Dynasty and the centre of the holy Roman Empire. (No separation of church and state in those days.) The rise and fall of the House of Hapsburg began along the Danube's banks in 1276. With Austria firmly in their grasp, the family gained new territories by marriage until their serial weddings put most of Europe under their power. As their wealth and territory grew, few royal families remained to help them acquire more kingdoms. Their solution to the problem may have also been their undoing.
The Hapsburgs sought to retain their holdings and power through intermarriage between cousins or uncle and niece. "The best spouse for a Hapsburg is another Hapsburg" went the saying. The last of the Spanish line, Charles II, was disabled from birth, (most
likely from a genetic disorder typical to children born from siblings), and died young. It's likely the Austrian Hapsburg line ended for the same reasons. In 1918, at the end of WWI, Charles I withdrew the Hapsburg role in all state affairs.
Today, the Hapsburgss are still active in European politics and business. The House of Hapsburg is now de-throned, and members of that family are princes and dukes in title only.
We also were able to walk around the open display of excavated ruins of a Roman wall & village settlement in the city square that's on the back side of the Palace. So, this same site has housed rulers since around 700 AD. That will never cease to amaze me!
Another thing that Vienna is known for is its coffee houses. And of course the cakes and pastries that you can get to go along with your coffee. YUM!
Also found in the centre square of Vienna is a statue called the Plague Column. It depicts humans, angels, and even the holy trinity, casting down a figure that symbolizes the plague. Statues like this were erected as a declaration of faith and out of
gratitude for surviving the plague. The first wooden column in Vienna went up while the plague was still raging through the city, and various artists worked on it over several years after the end of the plague.
Vienna is also known for The Giant Ferris Wheel, which was built in 1896/97. The cars of the ferris wheel are as big as a room, and some are made over into a restaurant where you can eat a meal while going around the ferris wheel with your date. We didn't go to see it, but it was hard to miss when looking over the city skyline.
If I ever make it back to Vienna, I will make sure that I have more than one day to take in all of the sights and sounds of this historic city.
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