Austrian allure: Vienna’s vintage delights

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Vienna, on the banks of the Danube. (Shutterstock)
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The Hofburg palace complex in Vienna. (Shutterstock)
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Vienna's Naschmarkt. (Shutterstock)
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The Sachertorte, a type of chocolate cake invented for Prince Wenzel von Metternich by the Sacher Hotel’s founder, Franz Sacher, in 1832. (Shutterstock)
Updated 18 June 2019

Austrian allure: Vienna’s vintage delights

  • The Austrian capital remains one of Europe’s great cities
  • Vienna is one of the world’s great art capitals, and a city obsessed with music

DUBLIN: There are few places more regal than Vienna. The former capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire is one of Europe’s great cities, filled with imperial palaces, baroque architecture and countless artistic and cultural highlights. It’s also increasingly being seen as a haven for design and food — and gradually shedding its rather staid reputation: while Austria’s star may have fallen since the heady days when it ruled a large part of the world, Vienna’s star is very much in ascendance.

First, the palaces. You can thank the Habsburg Monarchy for the Hofburg palace complex, a stunning collection of imperial architecture in the center of the city. Highlights include the Spanish Riding School, where stallions perform intricate equine dances; the Burgkapelle, where the Vienna Boy’s Choir sings at Sunday Mass; and the fascinating Kaiserappartments, where the city’s royalty lived and played.

Other palaces worth visiting are the Schloss Schonbrunn, the Habsburg’s 1,441-room summer residence, and the Schloss Belvedere, a huge complex of baroque buildings, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and includes a museum featuring a plethora of Austrian art.

And if you’re looking for an artistic fix, you are in the right place — Vienna is one of the world’s great art capitals. Head to the Albertina first, which is a converted 19th-century palace filled with old masters and some of the world’s best 20th-century artists. There’s work by everyone from Monet to Picasso to Rothko and it’s worth spending a few hours here to take it all in. A few minutes away is mumok, Vienna’s contemporary art museum. It has a huge collection of more than 10,000 works, featuring the likes of Jasper Johns, Roy Lichenstein and Pablo Picasso. It focuses on modern art, something reflected in the building’s stark design.

By this stage, you are going to need a pit stop, and a few minutes’ walk from mumok is the Hotel Sacher — the most storied hotel in the city. It’s hosted Queen Elizabeth II, John F. Kennedy and a host of other world leaders and A-listers. It is deservedly famous for its Sachertorte, a type of chocolate cake invented for Prince Wenzel von Metternich by the hotel’s founder, Franz Sacher, in 1832.

Given that its former residents include the likes of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Strauss, it’s no surprise that Vienna is a city obsessed with music. There are countless venues across the city where you can hear classical music, including Musikverein, where the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra perform; the stunningly designed gold-and-crystal Staatsoper (State Opera House); and the wonderful Konzerthaus. For a tour of the city’s musical heritage, pay a visit to Haus der Musik, which features a range of interactive exhibits and traces the musical journey from the prehistoric age to the present day. It’s located in the Palace of Archduke Charles, where the founder of the Vienna Philharmonic once lived.

Vienna may not traditionally be known for its food (aside from the ubiquitous schnitzel), but recent years have seen it rise up the foodie ranks. A good place to start is Naschmarkt, a popular market dotted with small stalls and restaurants. There’s everything from noodles and falafel to, of course, wurstel.

For something more upmarket, head to Gastwirtschaft Wratschko, a favorite of the late Anthony Bourdain. Housed in a low-lit, wood-paneled restaurant that oozes atmosphere, it features a huge range of traditional Austrian cuisine. We recommend trying the steak with green peppercorn sauce, although if you want to go veggie, opt for the cabbage, tomato and cheese lasagna.

Once you are fed and watered, head to the Riesenrad, a huge Ferris wheel built in 1897 that’s over 65 meters high, and takes 20 minutes to complete its rotation. You may recognize it from its many cinematic appearances, including the 1987 James Bond movie “The Living Daylights.”

For something more down to earth, sign up for one of the many river cruises that head up and down the Danube. Most of the cruises offer similar itineraries, although costs can vary wildly, so do your research. The Danube is Europe’s second-longest river and flows nearly 3,000km through 10 countries, and there are plenty of boats that will bring you across Eastern Europe via the river. Although Vienna’s charms are such you’ll likely be reluctant to leave.

Celine Dion returns to Canada to kick off world tour

Updated 6 min 44 sec ago

Celine Dion returns to Canada to kick off world tour

  • The Grammy winner also recently announced the release of a new album titled “Courage”
  • She said in April that she felt motivated to create new music and hit the road after the 2016 death of her husband and manager

QUEBEC CITY: After living and crooning for years in Las Vegas, French-Canadian superstar Celine Dion returned home to Quebec to kick off her first world tour in a decade on Wednesday.
At 51, the Grammy winner also recently announced the release of a new album titled “Courage,” which will be her 12th in English and is due out on November 15.
The first single “Flying On My Own,” featuring her powerful vocals backed by techno beats, has already hit the airwaves, while three more dropped Wednesday: “Courage,” “Lying Down” and “Imperfections.”
Known for her blockbuster ballads, Dion said in April that she felt motivated to create new music and hit the road after the 2016 death of her husband and manager Rene Angelil.
“When I lost Rene, he wanted me back on stage. He wanted to make sure I was still practicing my passion,” she said. “I wanted to prove to him that I’m fine, we’re fine, we’re going to be OK. I’ve got this.”
So, after more than 1,140 concerts for 4.5 million fans over 16 years in Sin City, she bid adieu to the Colosseum at Caesars Palace with a final two-hour show.
“Courage is exactly the way I feel,” she told public broadcaster CBC at the time, talking up the upcoming tour of the same name.
“In the past three years, it has been difficult for me to talk to my children, to raise them, to lose my husband, wondering am I going to sing again... so much has happened, but at the same time I feel that I’m in control of my life.”
Some 60 dates in North American have been confirmed so far, her label said, with two arena shows in Quebec City on Wednesday and Saturday kicking off the tour, which will run through April 2020, and will be her first world tour since 2008-2009.
Her show was almost two hours of mastery, as she performed some of her greatest hits — from “I’m Alive” to “My Heart Will Go On” — as well as new material to an ecstatic crowd of roughly 20,000.
“It was really impossible to miss Celine at home,” Nicolas Delivre, a French university exchange student in Montreal, told AFP.
Donald Berard, from Quebec City, said he had grown up listening to Dion. “We love her like a member of our family.”
“Courage” marks the first album and tour in Dion’s long career without Angelil, who steered her success beginning in 1981 when he mortgaged his house to finance the young teen’s debut album.
The pair began a personal relationship in 1988 when she was only 19 years old, and married in a lavish ceremony in 1994. Angelil died of throat cancer at age 73.
In an interview with NBC’s Today show, Dion revealed that she longs for the hugs and laughs that come with a relationship, but added, “I’m not ready to date.”
The youngest of a family of 14 children raised in the suburbs of Montreal, Dion has sold 250 million copies of 23 studio albums in English and French, including collaborations with French singer-songwriter Jean-Jacques Goldman, Barbra Streisand and Stevie Wonder.
Back in Canada, she told the Montreal Gazette that the tour schedule was “a little crazy,” but that she had found time in advance to take in life’s small pleasures.
At a press junket last Friday, Dion told Radio-Canada: “There are good wines that age well, and there are good wines that age badly. I hope to be a good bottle of wine.”
“I’m not a new Celine,” Dion added. “I’m a continuity of myself.”