Vienna Once More

I’m rolling down the Danube, reentering familiar territory on the northern bank of the Danube. Now the language makes more sense, and the river that has run through so much of my travels returns to view once more, wide and brown-grey, rolling through time.

People have lived in the Alpine foreland just west of Vienna, the Vienna Woods, since the Paleolithic. The area had fish, wild plants, shelter, and was on the way to a lot of other places. The Danube flows between the Alps and the edge of the Bohemian Massif to the north, and is a natural highway. Eventually farming seeped into the area, and the people later called the Celts moved in. The site of Krems, upstream of Vienna, has been occupied steadily since the Neolithic.

A few hundred years after the La Tene people settled the region, Rome established a town at Vindobona (between modern Rotenturm Strasse and Marcus Aurelius Strasse), then the larger settlement of Caernuntum downstream. People remained in the area, the Germanic tribes, the Huns and Avars swept in and out, Slavs drifted through, and then Germanic people reasserted themselves on top of Rome’s presence.

There are parts of the city, and times, when you can feel that age. On foggy evenings, the city feels as if she were brooding over the long past, recalling wars and plagues and imperial glory. There’s a tension between the old Vienna tourists want to sample, where Mozart and Beethoven lived, where the Empress Elizabeth “Sisi” reigned, and the modern city of the UN and OPEC, where most Viennese live.

I prefer the old city, Vienna 1, but I’m a history person. I understand that Vienna is not a city in amber. There are political undercurrents that I only vaguely sense, reasons why women don’t wear traditional dress here the way they do elsewhere. I see the Turks and others sunning in the parks and enjoying the museums in greater and greater numbers, and wonder what Prinz Eugen would say. (OK, I can guess, and its not suitable for this blog.)

Vienna 1 is people-sized. It has a human scale to it that other big cities lack. I can get around easily through the medieval maze without as much fear of being flattened by cars (Paris) or bicycles (Brussels, Amsterdam, Bruges).

So I’m on my way to rest a little, re-pack everything, perhaps shop and museum visit, before heading west and south to home. It seems fitting to end my trip here, where my first Central European adventure began, back in the early 1990s.

10 thoughts on “Vienna Once More

  1. Vienna – the only city in all my adventures that really was everything it was cracked up to be.

  2. Never made it to Austria, but I made it to Mozart’s birthplace in Salzburg.

    If I had any filk-song talent*, there’s a tune there:

    Proud Alma, perhaps?

    Rollin’, Rollin’,
    Rollin’ down the Danube

    ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

    (*) Of course, being able to sing most anything off key isn’t a recognizable musical talent…

    • Don’t be so sure. Charles Ives was trained by his father to play a song in one key while singing it in another, to stretch his ears.

      • Which is why a LOT of choristers would like to have โ€œwordsโ€ with him. Unkind, uncharitable words.

      • Not sure any more. (It’s been a long time since I’ve seen those.) The dogs don’t run away, so that’s a plus.

  3. My opinion is that most rivers in Eastern Europe have names that sound like you’re playing a record backwards.

    In my defense, I never said it was a good opinion….

  4. I rather liked Vienna, when I visited as a teenager in 1970. It reminded me of London – slightly shabby, with marvelous parks and gardens all around.
    We stayed in a youth hostel in Esterhazy Park, which had been an underground air raid shelter for Nazi officers during WWII. Quite the oddest location for a youth hostel, save for the old sailing ship in Stockholm, which also became a youth hostel.

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