Downtown Vienna: this is Graben, a main shopping street.

The Austrian Parliament building

In the centre of Vienna is a demonstration of the former power and grandeur of the Habsburgs. The Hofburg Palace has been the seat of their government since the thirteenth century. First as rulers of surrounding Ost Reich, then as rulers of the Holy Roman Empire and finally as Emperors of Austria, until it all came to an end in 1918.

 It began as a medieval castle and has been added to and extended throughout the centuries until today it is often described as a city within a city. The Michael Wing seen in this view was built in the eighteenth century.
With over two thousand rooms the Hofburg offers tours of selected apartments, houses numerous museums and collections, serves as a major conference centre and is also home to the famous Spanish Riding School.

Prince Eugene of Savoy, who earned his place in front of The Hofburg Palace by winning a few battles.

Two more images of the Hofburg Palace.

Vienna has a superb system of public transport. A few years ago thirteen euros would buy a three day pass that allows unlimited travel on all trams, buses, metro and urban trains anywhere within the city.

Compare that with our experience in London. Needing to get from the Eurostar at St Pancras to our sleeper back to Scotland from Euston we found it would cost us over £4 each for the one stop ride on the Northern Line, a consideration which quickly persuaded us that a brisk walk would do us good!
St Stephen's Church: inside and out.

It was a cold grey Sunday morning at the beginning of March when we visited the Prater Park. It was empty and deserted but the colour and life were still there and we could imagine the bustle, noise and throng we would find on a summer afternoon.

The Reisenrad or Giant Ferris Wheel was built in 1897 by a British engineer to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Emperor Franz Joseph. For over a hundred years it has provided visitors with a fine view of the city from its highest point, an impressive sixty five metres.

In 1944 it was burned down but the end of the war saw a citywide program of reconstruction, which included the Reisenrad. By 1947 it was back in operation, just in time to feature in the film The Third Man.
This film was responsible for our decision to visit the Prater Park in early March this year. The plan was to take the ride and when the car was at its highest to look down and say, preferably with an evil grin,
"Would you feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever?"
I have always wanted to say that! Unfortunately our planning proved to be less than perfect. Everything in the Prater was closed. 

On a cold gray day, a mid morning break for hot chocolate and and cake is a sound idea!

It is necessary to travel some distance from the city to see the real Vienna Woods. But it is possible to see a little of them by climbing to the top of the Kahlenberg on the edge of the city. What is even better, this can be done using public transport with the walking part confined to descending.

After enjoying the view of the city from the summit of Kahlenberg, we walked down through woods and vineyards to Nussdorf. On the way we spotted this small snake, sunning itself beside the path. If any herpetologist can tell me what it is, I would be interested to hear.  

In the woods outside Vienna we took a path once followed by a famous former visitor.

The Schloss Schonbrunn is high on any list of must see places in Vienna. It was built between 1695 and 1713 and is vast and spectacular. It was given to the Empress Maria Theresa as a gift and became her summer retreat. Some gift! The word alone illustrates the wealth and power of the Habsburgs.
Maria Theresa is responsible for the interior design of the nearly two thousand rooms. Visitors can view a small number of these on an interesting and well organised tour. Many of the others are rented out as private accommodation - a pragmatic solution to the problem of what to do with an extravagant structure with no real function.

The nine euro tour round Schloss Schonbrunn does not permit photography inside the palace. Using a very fast film speed and no flash, I nevertheless could not resist pointing the camera upwards and taking a surreptitious shot of this ceiling.

 Those Habsburgs did not exactly hold back when it came to decoration!

The building is impressive from all angles.

Waiting for an early morning tram, this is our last view of Vienna...still impressive.