Vienna, the capital of Austria is at the same time the republic's smallest and most populous state (pop. 1,516,000), home to almost 1/5 of all Austrians. The size of the city, which goes back about 2,000 years to the Roman Border stronghold of Vindo-bona, is a vestige of the 640 years during which Vienna was the center of power of the Habsburg empire which, by the late 19th century, encompassed all of central Europe and more than 50 million people. The splendor of imperial days still pervades Vienna; little of it has been lost in the last 70 years. The Baroque of 18th century Vienna gloriosa remains the dominant visual impression of the city. Fascinating art treasures fill palaces, churches, museums. Opera houses and concert halls resound with the music created in Vienna during the hey-day of the empire. A proper social event, to this day, means waltzing the night away at a palace, a gala of august elegance. The pace at which locals and guests savor the good life is still very much of the good old days.
Many of Vienna's prime sights are within easy walking distance in the Old Quarter, the core of the city formerly inside the mighty walls. At the very center of the Old City is St. Stephen's, a soaring cathedral built in magnificent Gothic from the 12th to the 16th centuries. From this landmark church, the pedestrians-only shopping streets of Graben and Kohlmarkt lead to the Imperial Palace, a focal point of European History through the ages. The Imperial Treasuries, recently refurbished, display the crown jewels of the empire; at the Chapel, the Vienna Boys' Choir sings mass on Sunday mornings; the fabulous Spanish Riding School performs in one wing; a stylish convention center, the unique Ephesus Museum with classical antiquities from Asia Minor and the Ethnological Museum share space in the New Palace.
Just across the Ring, the grand boulevard created after 1857 when the formidable walls that had protected Vienna for centuries were razed, is the Museum of Fine Arts, one of the foremost collections of Egyptian antiquities, paintings, sculptures and decorative art in the world. A short distance outside the Ring, more key sights beckon: the magnificent Church of St. Charles Borromea; Belvedere Palace, a sprawling, lavish complex of beautiful buildings connected by fountains and formal gardens which houses art museums dedicated to several major periods.
The most popular sight of them all is a few miles to the west of the Old Quarter: Schönbrunn palace, the summer retreat of the Habsburg dynasty for better than 200 years. Of the 1,441 rooms in the palace, about 45 are on display in the course of a tour of the State Rooms.
Vienna ranks at the very top among the world's cultural capitals. The season never ends - the State Opera presents the classical repertoire, the Volksoper German opera and the vibrant Viennese operetta almost 300 evenings a year, from September through June; concerts are scheduled practically very night at theMusikverein or the Konzerthaus, at palaces and community centers and schools. Except during summer vacations, the Vienna Boys' Choir sings mass every Sunday morning at the Chapel of the Imperial Palace. White Lippisian stallions show classical dressage set to music at the Spanish Riding School.
Special treats: ride the sedate 90-year old Giant Ferris Wheel in the famous Prater for a panoramic view from more than 200 feet up, attend a waltz concert at the Stadtpark or on a river boat move on the Danube Canal, explore the café culture and relax at a Kaffeehaus, visit the lovely little Clock Museum and learn the history of keeping time. On Saturday, January 5, 2002, join the optional all day Vienna Cultural/Educational tour including 'A journey through the HOUSE OF MUSIC VIENNA' which invites to a musical journey where music will be heard, seen, felt and experienced in both real and virtual experience rooms. Let your ears take a stroll - visitors find themselves again in a 'prenatal sensory rush', confronted with their first musical experience in the womb in order to be brought closer to the fundamentals of music. Following visitors step into larger than life musical instruments and discover various noises, sounds and tones. Seven significant musical characters - Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, J. Strauss, Mahler, Schönberg are revisited by means of documents, models, costumes... the virtual conductor allows you to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra yourself... be acclaimed.. or reprimanded; the Brain Opera shows visitors a possible future of music and music making. Hyperinstru-ments, stimulated by movement, touch and voices, turn every amateur into a musician. This extraordinary experience is followed by lunch in a typical e restaurant, a guided visit to the Imperial Palace at Schönbrunn, an enticing 'Apfel Strudel' baking demonstration in one of the castle's kitchen.