Sunday, July 17, 2016

AUSTRIA - The Land of The Old Eastern Empire

If you’re looking for a place in Europe full of high culture – in particular classical music – that you can travel to, look no further than the Republic of Austria. Anyone who has been fascinated with the concertos, symphonies and other musical pieces of the 18 th Century will have reason enough to pay a visit, and history buffs will get a kick out of seeing the land of the old Eastern Empire – Osterreich, later Austria – where the powerful noble house of Habsburg moved the state of affairs of Europe for centuries. We’ll focus on these two elements as we discuss what sights can be seen in this magnificent country.


The capital of Austria presents two prominent faces to the world at large: that of being the seat of the old and venerable Habsburg dynasty that ruled the Holy Roman Empire and produced rulers for several other empires and kingdoms in Europe, and that of being the City of (Classical) Music, with a who’s who of the foremost composers and musicians in history having made Vienna their home at some time or other.

You can marvel at the mighty legacy of the great Habsburg dynasty by touring the many palaces used by the Imperial Family during their centuries of rule. From their grand main residence in Hofburg castle, their summer palace in Schloss Schönbrunn, their imperial guest apartments in Albertina (now a museum of graphic art), and ultimately the Kaiserappartments where the Austria-Hungary Emperor Franz Joseph I of the Habsburg offshoot branch, the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, lived with his Empress in the final decades of imperial Austria before it was ended by World War I.

Then, if you’ve got some taste in you for the classics, immerse yourself in the melodic atmosphere of the city where the likes of Robert Haydn, Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, the elder and younger Johann Strauss, and Johannes Brahms, composed some of their finest pieces of musical work that nobody short of the deaf have heard at least once in their lives. Check out the city churches where Bach and Handel continue to glorify God, or both the Staatsoper and Musikverein where the masters’ masterpieces play on by the hand of talented interpretative musicians. Visit the homes of the legendary composers: the Mozarthaus Vienna, the Beethoven Paqualatihaus, the Haydnhaus, and the younger Johann Strauss’ residence where he composed the iconic “Blue Danube” waltz.


Two things are readily remembered by the average person when thinking about the city of Salzburg: genius classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the Von Trapp family of “The Sound of Music” fame. A word of advice however: the romanticized American film and the musical it was based on is not so popular in Austria and neighboring Germany, who prefer the more historically accurate and locally-produced movie “Die Trapp-Familie” and its sequel.

Nonetheless, you should be fine exploring the locale to pick out places featured in “The Sound of Music”, such as Nonnberg Abbey where the character of Fraulein Maria (later Mrs. Trapp) was a novice before leaving to work for the family – and later marrying Georg (von) Trapp; only the chapel is open to the public however. The palatial Schloss Leopoldskorn – now a plush hotel – served as an exterior for the Von Trapp residence (the boating scene). And every year, running for five weeks starting in late July, is the music and drama extravaganza of the Salzburg Festival, where the Trapp family performed as a singing group before fleeing the Nazi regime.

But let’s not forget the city’s favorite son, Mozart the “Marvelous Boy”. Here in his birthplace and childhood home his godlike talent for making classical music developed (the melody for the “ABC” song and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”? All him) until his father Leopold began to take him places to show off his prodigious talent for music. If you are interested to learn more, drop by two of the Mozart family’s Salzburg addresses at the Mozart-Wohnhaus and Mozarts Geburtshaus.

Wrap up your tour of this picturesque city by visiting the impressive fortifications of Festung Hohensalzburg, as well the Residenzthe palatial home of Salzburg’s archbishop-prince, before the territory was absorbed into the Habsburg dominion.

Grossglockner High Alpine Road

Going out of the city of Salzburg (but still within Salzburg state), you can choose to head for the quaint municipality of Bruck and der Grossglocknerstrasse – Bruck for short. Here you can access via a toll, and if you have a vehicle handy, the majestic High Alpine Road. Named after Austria’s highest mountain, the Grossglockner road is the highest surface mountain pass motorway in the country, running up the Höhe Tauern mountain range and crossing a divide in the Alps, with a spectacular overlook at the Kaiser-Franz- Josefs-Höhe.

Any way you look at it, Austria has a gargantuan lot going for it when showcasing to curious
visitors. Whether you fancy their rich history or their treasure trove of beautiful music, travelling to the wondrous country of Austria will so be worth it. You’ll be hearing Mozart, Beethoven and their contemporaries in your head as you go along.

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