Thursday, August 25, 2011

walking in Vienna

Second stop on our Main/Danube tour was Vienna – though it turns out that the Danube only touches the city rather peripherally. From the hotel near the Westbahnhof we had to walk across the entire city to find the river, taking in an interesting cross section from the Parisian style boulevard Mariahilfer Str. that leads from the station down to the historic city centre, through the Burggarten, past the disneyfied tourist spots with their horse-drawn carriages and people in Mozart costumes trying to sell concert tickets, and then through some outer districts with crumbling industrial sites between the Danube canal and the Danube river itself.

Clearly, the city turned its back on the river, and the idea that anyone might walk down to the river never occurred to anybody involved with its planning. Parallel to the river on the city side there is a little used railway line, but to cross it there are only the motorway bridges crossing over the river as well. Walking along the rail line, we eventually found an old station with a level crossing where we could sneak through and on to the river bank. Which was, of course, blocked up entirely with several Titanic-sized cruise ships.

The city’s other river, the Wien, is also disappointing, as it is completely walled in (see photo, left) and over long stretches even covered up.

A bit of a history lesson, we saw the spectacular Flakturm in the Augarten, and the one in Esterhazy Park, which hosts an aquarium/terrarium. These WWII upright bunkers with walls 5 metres thick are apparently so strong that it wasn’t economically feasible to demolish them, so they are still sitting around. The Lonely Planet guide of Vienna offers a half-page explanation of these monstrosities, while the German Baedeker chooses to ignore them, a case of “Don’t mention the war”?

On the Northeast side of the Burggarten there is a tropical greenhouse specially for exotic butterflies, the Schmetterlingshaus:

wien 1103

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