A thousand years ago the name Ostarrichi (later Österreich) first appeared in
an official document. To honor the millennium, Austria hosted a big birthday party
and anniversary celebrations were held in many of the Imperial cities and other towns.
Perhaps no country in Europe offers the visitor as great a choice of operas, concerts,
recitals, dance, balls and other forms of entertainment. In 1996 the roster was even
greater than usual. Although many of the activities centered around the capital—Live
in Vienna in '96 and Wiener Küche—other metropolises marked the 12 months with
exhibitions and performances that were arranged to commemorate Austria's history
and its musical heritage. Some of the venues where special events took pkace were
at the world-famous abbey in Melk, the Graz Opera House and the St.
There are over 12,000 performances in Austria each year. For complete lists, as well
as detailed tourist information, contact the Austrian National Tourist Office,
Inc., P.O. Box 1142, Times Square, New York, NY 10108-1142, tel. 212-955-6880 or
P.O. Box 491938, Los Angeles, CA 90049, tel. 310-477-3332. ANTO's web site
http://www.anto. provides more news.
During ther trip to preview some of the special '96 happenings and we also visited
historic sites, listened to music, dined in popular restaurants and enjoyed the hospitality
of the city's premier hotel.
The purchase of a Vienna card (available at hotels along with a coupon book and
relevant details) is recommended. The $18 tab covers free transportation for 72 hours
and discounts on entrance fees, shopping and dining. A brochure called "Museums"
lists residences, palaces, theaters, churches and so forth and includes addresses
For an overall view of Vienna, board a trolley (numbers 1 or 2) that waltzes around
the Ring, the wide two and one-half miles-long boulevard enclosing the old city.
More horseshoe-shaped than circular, it is the concourse of majestic old buildings,
monuments and parks. All touring streets within the Ring lead to St. Stephen's,
a Gothic cathedral whose filigreed towers are visible from every part of town. Its
address, Stephans Platz, is at the intersection of Graben and Kärntner,
pedestrian malls that are the scene of the city's heartbeat and a stage for spontaneous
Nearby at Michaelerplatz is the vast and sprawling complex of the Hofburg,
the Imperial (winter) Palace. One of Austria's two most lavish edifices, it chronicles
the Hapsburg rule. Of the 2,500 rooms only a few wings are open to the public–the
state rooms, the Imperial apartments and the court silver and tableware depot. The
latter is worth a visit if only to see what appears to be the world's most elaborately
|Schönbrun Palace, Vienna (credit: Edwin Fancher)
Some other important central city destinations are the National Library;
the Spanish Riding School; the Museum of Fine Arts (Kunsthistorisches);
and Schönbrun Palace, the Hapsburg summer dwelling where six-year old
Mozart played, the Congress of Vienna danced and Emperor Franz Joseph lived. This
most popular destination in Austria is not in the middle of the city, but is easily
accessible by metro number 4. To learn more about palace intrigue and about history,
take the arranged tour of the Bergl rooms rather than strolling about on your own.
A pamphlet, "Walks in Vienna," covering 41 different subjects and led
by licensed guides, gives information on content, dates, times, telephone numbers
and places at which the groups assemble. Call ahead to make certain that the tour
is on. We engaged Irene Koller (tel. and fax 43-1-804-19-61) to conduct a
private tour for us. Although her area of expertise is music, we found her to be
knowledgeable in hosting "Turn-of-the-Century Vienna Around Sigmund Freud"
and we liked her non-pedantic manner.
Dr. Freud's office at the famous 19 Bergasse can, of course, be visited
on one's own. Ask for the English directory explaining the exhibits.
James Weisman, a Philadelphia native, international entrepreneur and real estate
investor, has in the last 10 years during 50 visits to Vienna spent a total of 13
months at the Imperial Hotel. "It is," he said, "the best hotel in
the world." The reason he feels this way is because of the staff, which he added
is "exceedingly friendly." Mr. Weisman is recognized on sight by everyone
at the front desk and by many others who work there, too.
The Imperial, the only royal hotel in Austria, was built by the Emperor Franz
Joseph as a wedding gift for his nephew, the Duke of Würtemberg, in the mid-19th
century. When the Duke vacated Palais Würtemberg, the premises became
the private guesthouse of the Hapsburgs. In 1874, the year that it officially opened
as a hotel, the Emperor housed royal visitors and other notables who attended the
|Imperial Hotel, Vienna (credit:Edwin Fancher)
Today guests are still treated like nobility, although befitting present day customs
in a less formal manner. The surroundings are as palatial as in the days of the monarchy.
A recent $40 million dollar renovation included rebuilding the stucco ceiling, dating
from 1863, in the lobby . Moiré and damask wallpapers in varying hues decorate
every suite and room. Ceilings reach at least 12 feet and in some rooms soar as high
as 15. Even the bathrooms retain the original gilded moldings. The Duke's own furniture
stands in the grandest and largest of all apartments. The originals of the most famous
portraits of Elizabeth and Franz Joseph hang in the corridors. A wide and tall staircase
in the center of the building–horses could tread its shallow steps– is the building's
most dramatic feature.
It all began in 1894 when a successful businessman founded the Bristol on a corner
of the great boulevard called the Ring, shortly after the Emperor decided to tear
down Vienna's medieval walls and replace them with a grand concourse. The hotel's
name and coat of arms were bestowed by the 5th Earl of Bristol, a distinction reserved
only for those establishments meeting his discriminating standards of taste and comfort.
Constructed like a townhouse, the building very much typifies the way upper-class
Viennese lived in the late 1880s and the 90s. Rooms on two of the floors have balconies,
hallways are lined with stained-glass windows and antique prints and every room has
Although the old-fashioned ambiance has been preserved through the fourth story,
floors five and six offer another experience. The club floor and business center
on five cater to high-end leisure travelers and businesspeople, particularly women
whose satisfaction and safety are assured by special amenities. Unusual penthouse
suites– one has an octagonal bedroom–with terraces and sloping ceilings occupy floor
Hotel Imperial, Kärntner Ring 16, tel. 43-1-501-23-425, is part of
the Luxury Collection ITT Sheraton. 800-325-3589. Rates start at $465
as part of A Taste of Europe and Welcome to Europe programs. www.starwood.com/luxury/search/hotel_detail.html?propertyID=97
Hotel Bristol, Kärntner Ring 1, tel. 43-1-515-16-0, is part of the Luxury
Collection ITT Sheraton. 800-325-3589. Rates start at $419 as part of A Taste
of Europe and Welcome to Europe programs. www.starwood.com/westin/search/hotel_detail.html?propertyID=89
Wiener Küche '96 was a promotion of restaurants by the Tourist Bureau offering
unique dining opportunities. The municipality is the only one on earth with a cuisine
named after it. Indeed the famous Time-Life series "Foods of the World"
focuses on national cooking with the one exception being a book entitled "The
Cooking of Vienna's Empire." Each month the Tourist Board sent a three-course
menu to the more than 70 participating restaurants ranging from the four-star Drei
Hussaren and Steinereck to the modest Griensteidl and Landtmann
All offered the same prix fixe menu translated into four languages with complete
descriptions of each dish, delicacies that have their roots all over Europe—Bohemia,
Hungary, Poland, Italy, France and even Turkey, whose invaders introduced coffee
to the Austrians. A complete sample menu was herring salad; veal knuckle with mushrooms,
Viennese rice, lettuce with vinegar, oil and bacon; and nut soufflé with sabayon
or potato soup, leg of venison with semolina butter noodles and grape strudel.
Prices for these set menus varied. At Anna Sacher in the fashionable Sacher Hotel
the tab was $100. But at the Café Imperial in the Imperial Hotel dinner was
only $28. The k & k guide (pick one up at the Tourist Bureau) is invaluable for
its photos, brief descriptions and locations. It includes other culinary information
like facts about food, the names of 40 participating cafés and pastry shops,
as well as a few notes on art, culture and music.
For an updated copy of "Wiener Küche & Cafés" contact the
Austrian National Tourist Office.
To sample the February Wiener Küche, we picked this second floor eatery upstairs
from the renowned Café Europa because it overlooks the action on Kärntner
Strasse. The price of the month's special prix fixe menu was probably about the lowest
in town, $24, and the herring was great. Can anyone spoil that delectable dish? However,
the service was sullen and slow, despite the fact that only one other table was occupied.
We had a meal fit for a king in glamorous surroundings at the eponymous Imperial
restaurant. The beau mondes of Vienna, some of whom dress in black tie for the occasion,
sip cocktails in the Maria Theresia piano bar before moving on to dinner. The belle
époque-style dining room is a series of dimly lighted small salons separated
by etched glass partitions and decorated with turn-of-the-century furnishings.
|Piano Bar, Vienna (Credit: Edwiin Fancher)
Service was perfect and every morsel of our four-course dinner was delicious.
How's this for dining like royalty? Carpaccio with truffle sauce and Parmesan, oxtail
soup sealed in puff pastry, fillet of salmon trout gratinated with potatoes (they
looked like fish scales) and filled with trout caviar, baby vegetables and curd cheese
mousse gnocchi with fruit sauce and fresh fruits.
Every guide book suggests a visit to Grinzing, the village at the foothills
of the Vienna Woods that is known for the quaintness and density of its taverns
called heuringen–meaning "this year's" wine. The new wine is especially
tart and acidic and a pine bough hanging over the doors indicates that it is being
served. In nearby Heilgenstadt the Beethoven House, so named because the composer
lived there in 1817, is owned by the wine-producing Mayer clan. Viennese families
gather to eat, drink and sing in the large, spare, but pleasant dining hall. Guests
choose from a cold and hot buffet and serve themselves. The food, consisting of broiled
and roasted meats, grilled chicken, sausages, croquettes, cheeses, vegetables, salads
and fruit, was surprisingly good. In summer many heuringen set up tables outdoors.
Transportation is available from the city by trolley and bus.
A beisel is a tavern that serves typical Viennese food at prices reasonable
enough so that you can move on to a ubiquitous konditerei with enough leftover
schillings for kaffe and a torte. Figmuller, reputed to be the best beisel
in town for wiener schnitzel ($13), turned out to be disappointing. If this was the
best, what could some of the other schnitzels taste like? The portion was huge, one
order could have easily fed three, but the overly-pounded veal was sinewy and the
breading was greasy. There are no menus, only a blackboard, and no credit cards are
accepted. Insisting that it came from a bottle rather than the tap, our waiter added
$3.00 to the bill for a glass of water we did not request. Nevertheless, the locals
seemed to be enjoying themselves here.
Restaurant Sirk, a second-floor dining room in the Hotel Bristol overlooking the
Vienna State Opera, is the perfect spot for weekend brunch. The room is well dressed
in an understated way. It is the food, both a buffet and cooked-to-order-dishes,
that made the statement. A beautifully presented and copious assortment of platters
from which to help yourself were irresistible. The variety seemed more Scandinavian
than Viennese with poached fish, gossamer salmon, cured ham, patés, imaginative
salads combining many varieties of vegetables and greens and cheeses. Among the entrees
was a proper Wiener Schnitzel made of top-quality veal and deftly prepared. Many
of the specialties that make the city famous for its pastries were on the dessert
Capped by a tower roof that is the only remnant of the city wall dating from 1200
and initially mentioned in civil documents in 1447, Griechen Beisel is the oldest
and most historic public house in Vienna. Bay windows, a cobbled courtyard and alleyway
near the entrance and a warren of tiny, cozy rooms that do not appear to have changed
over the centuries give this restaurant a medieval feel. Most intriguing of the small
interior spaces is the Mark Twain room where Wagner, Mozart, Schubert, Strauss
and other notables autographed the walls and ceilings when they came here to dine
and drink, particularly Pilsner beer for which the tavern is famous. A large menu
offered all of the traditional dishes such as goulash and filet of beef and pork.
The soups were delicious.
|Greichen Beisel, Vienna (Credit: Edwin Fancher)
At the beginning of the 20th century Viennese cafés became the center of
intellectual life, places where artists, the literati and politicians gathered to
passionately debate ideas and to linger over a newspaper and a cup of kleiner
schwarzer. Café Central can list as its esteemed habitués the likes
of Trotsky, Schnitzler, Mahler and Freud. The building itself is as distinguished
as those who made it their gathering place. The café, furnished with Thonet
bistro chairs, is on the street level of the Palais Ferstel. Built in Renaissance
style at the time when the Ring was going up, its vaulted rooms, marble staircases,
glass ceiling and labyrinthine of corridors were once slated for the wrecker's ball.
Now the former stock exchange and bank is the setting for special events (with Café
Central catering, of course). We had a lovely lunch of carpaccio, creamed herb soup
and veal medallions, along with samples of some of the signature desserts on display
at a pastry counter.
Korso, across from the Opera House, stands out among Vienna's top restaurants
and justifiably so. With a celebrity chef and a sommelier who applied for the job
because he wanted to develop a wine list to match the masterful cooking of Reinhard
Gerer, dinner here is an event. Although many people select Korso as the venue for
an after the opera supper, the swanky atmosphere and the food merit an evening's
undivided attention. This is the place to try well-known main courses such as tafelspitz,
hearty boiled beef and its accompaniments or venison ragout and dumplings. Chef Gerer
also does classics with unusual twists like roast pike-perch with saffron beer-sabayon
and his own rendition of beuschel. Said Gerer, "It tastes like a traditional
beuschel (calves' innards or 'lights',
wine, cream, egg and vegetables), but it's fresher and subtler."
Donnerbrunnen, Hotel Europa, Kärntner Strasse 18. Tel. 513-12-23. Inexpensive.
Imperial Restaurant, Hotel Imperial, Kärntner Ring 16. Tel. 43-1-5010-0.
Mayer Beethovenhaus, Am Pfarrplatz, Heiligenstadt. Tel. 0222-371287. Inexpensive
Figlmüller's, Wollzeille 5. Tel. 512-61-77. Inexpensive.
Restaurant Sirk, Hotel Bristol, Kärntner Ring 1. Tel. 43-1-515-16-0. Moderate.
Greichen Beisel, Fleischmarkt 11. Tel. 533-19-17. Inexpensive.
Café Central, Palais Ferstel, Strauchgasse 5. Tel. 0222-533-37-58. Moderately
Korso, Mahlerstrasse 2. Tel. 0222-533-37-63. Very expensive. .
Some of the best concerts are held in the city's churches, the most singular musical
experience being the performances by the Vienna Boys' Choir. Most Sunday mornings
at 9:15 a soprano chorus of two dozen lads, dressed in sailor suits, sing a Mass
in the Chapel of the Hofburg. Entrance is by ticket and a few are usually
available at the last minute at the chapel. Not all seats afford views of the altar
or even of the choir. Latecomers can sometimes listen from the standing room section.
No ticket is necessary for the 11 a.m. Mass at Augustinerkiche, which also
has a celebrated choir.
The most sought after ticket is the one to the Vienna State Opera House, open
every night of the year except in July and August. Three or four nights each month
are devoted to ballet and on the remaining evenings, classical operas are sung. A
booklet, Events in Vienna, is available from ANTO and gives the various options for
securing tickets. You can telephone from the States and charge them by calling 011-43-1-513513
from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saurday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Sunday and
holidays, 9 a.m. to noon. Ask the overseas operator for the time in Austria. A not-to-be-missed
Now in its fifth year, this hit musical was scheduled to close, but is so popular
that the run has been exteneded. Vienna is saturated with the history and myth of
the Empress Elizabeth (Sisi) and her
Emperor Franz Joseph. Visits to the Imperial Palaces provide some of the background
for the action. Part legend, part imagination, the scenes alternate between modern
times; Elizabeth as a feminist and one who flirts with death, and her life in another
century. Pop, rock, jazz, waltz tunes, synmphonic and classical elements and chorus
numbers are integrated into the well-sung production. But it is the staging that
really makes this show a brilliantly conceived spectacle: a moving brothel, characters
in picture frames, dancers at a ball as a chess game and cafe tables fashioned
like amusement park electric cars.
A detailed English synopsis is provided in the program, making it possible to follow
the story line. Performances take place at the Theater An Der Wien, an opera house
dating from the early 1880s and an architectural gem.
|Old Salzburg (Credit: Edwin Fancher)
For your escort in Salzburg we recommend Count Walderdorff, general manager of
the Hotel Goldener Hirsch. The Count doesn't actually conduct tour groups, but he
recently published a delightfully penned and beautifully illustrated brochure, Mein
Salzburg, a Stroll with Count Johannes Walderdorff. He suggests a lovely walk that
covers the high spots of town and leads you through courtyards, passageways and arcades,
which are so much a part of the area's architecture. But he also writes charmingly
about the background of the hotel and of his family's history, tracing his lineage
back to 1211.
With the purchase of a Salzburg card the visitor's fees for the salt mine
and cable car are reduced and the use of the public transport system and the
admission to most of the town's attractions are free.
The house where Mozart lived from 1773 until 1780 and where he composed most of
the music written during his Salzburg period was restored and opened in January 1966.
The Mozarteum, like other interactive museums, is imaginatively conceived. Family
memorabilia– paintings, furniture, musical instruments, letters and original compositions–are
on display. An automatic audio cassette, spoken in many languages and playing Mozart's
music in the background, describes the objects and discusses family history. The
narration changes as the visitor moves from room to room. A fetching biographical
video, produced from a collage of paintings, makes use of the same tape to describe
the chronology of his life. But what music lovers will praise the most is the extensive
sound and film library of the composer's work. You can listen to every recorded interpretation
of his music on a tape recorder or listen to and watch performances on video monitors.
The most singularly impressive edifice in Salzburg is the Residenz, the magnificent
Renaissance Palace of the Prince-Archbishops who once ruled the region. The complex
of which the palace is part also includes the Franciscan church and the Cathedral.
With the use of the leaflet available at the front desk, you can take a self-guided
tour through the rooms, learning about their functions and the furnishings in them.
The Salzburg Residenz is often used for festive events. During the time we were in
the city Archduchess Maria-Christine came to Salzburg to marry Clemens von Guggenberg
in St. Peter's Church. The wedding celebration took place at the Residenz with catering
by the Goldener Hirsch.
"It's so typically Austrian," said an American wedding guest as she
checked in at The Goldener Hirsch. Much like a hunting lodge or country estate, the
hotel has a peculiar charm, rustic and snug, with winding stairs, arched windows
and old treasures. Count Walderdorff likes to point out that most fine traditional
hotels were built in the last century or transformed from palaces. The Goldener Hirsch,
however, was first mentioned as an inn on the 1407 tax roles in a written record
of the Benedictine Abbey of Nonnberg. Reopened in 1948 by the Count's parents, the
hotel has become the center of the city's social life and a haven for international
The Walderdorffs' passion for collecting shaped the character of the public spaces
and 70 guest rooms. Beautiful local red marble floors and old stone walls are still
intact at the five-floor hostelry, which stretches over both sides of quaint Getreidesgasse.
The restaurant was a former stable and the original forge graces the dining room.
The Count's favorite dessert is a Hungarian chocolate pastry, Rigo Jancsi, and
he often joins guests in the late afternoon in the atrium-like bar, hung with old
prints and stags' heads, to chat, to drink coffee and to indulge in his favorite
Hotel Goldener Hirsch, Getreidegasse 37, tel. (0662) 84 85 11, is part of
the Luxury Collection ITT Sheraton, 800-325-3589.Rates start at $305 for A Taste
of Europe or Welcome to Europe programs. www.goldenerhirsch.com/index1-e.htm
|Hotel Goldener Hirsch, Salzburg
The hotel's restaurant is as colorful as the rest of the premises. Serving
local specialties that are prepared and presented as though they are haute cuisine,
the dining room strikes a nice balance. Informality and excellence. Waiters
wear regional costumes– Steirer-rock jackets in grey and loden green made of
wool in winter and linen in summer. The prix fixe dinner menu might include
hors d'oeuvres of local fish, cream of pumpkin soup with curd dumplings, filet
of beef with foie gras, potato cakes and vegetables, Austrian cheeses and dessert.
Every dish that we sampled was quite tasty, but we especially liked the fluffy,
sweet soufflé called Salzburger Nockerl, which is the city's indigenous
dessert. Expensive. www.goldenerhirsch.com/restaurantes-e.htm