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Austria- Discover the charm of old and new
November 6, 2017, 4:32 pm
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The journey really is the destination in Austria. To travel here is to meander through deeply carved valleys on railways that unzip the Alps, as it threads improbably along sheer mountain flanks, past glaciers and through flower-freckled meadows. The lyrical landscapes are a temptation beckoning you to leap onto a bicycle or lace up hiking boots and try to explore every nook and corner of this enticing country.

Traveling to Austria is not limited to the scenic wonders that it has to offer; rather, the country draws you in with its fine arts and music, large collection of palaces and castles and the immense number of museums and cultural centers adorning the region.

The work of classical pop stars such as Mozart, Strauss, Mahler, Haydn and Schubert echo as loudly as ever at lavishly gilded concert halls, and music festivals like Salzburg Festival and Bregenzer Festspiele are staged against uplifting lakeside or mountain backdrops.

For the hungry venture, there is more to Austrian cuisine than boot-sized schnitzels and dumplings heavier than bowling balls. The country has taken culinary leaps and bounds recently, while staying true to its ethos of careful local sourcing. A visit to Austria with its entire splendor promises a captivating holiday that leaves you coming back for more. 

Vienna

With a musical heritage that includes composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Strauss among countless others, Vienna is known as the City of Music. Music comes to life through interactive exhibits at the captivating Haus der Musik museum, but is also displayed on the streets and forms the soundtrack to your visit in this mesmerizing city. 

Vienna's imperial grandeur is the legacy of the powerful Habsburg monarchy. Their home for more than six centuries, the Hofburg palace complex incorporates the Burgkapelle (Imperial Chapel), the famed Spanish Riding School — where Lipizzaner stallions perform elegant equine ballet — along with a trove of museums.

Other immense palaces include the baroque Schloss Belvedere and the Habsburgs' 1441-room summer residence, Schloss Schönbrunn. Meanwhile 19th-century splendors such as the neo-Gothic Rathaus (City Hall) line the magnificent Ringstrasse encircling the Innere Stadt (inner city). One of the Habsburgs' most dazzling Rinsgstrasse palaces, the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, houses the Imperial Art collection. It is packed with priceless works by Old Masters, and treasures including one of the world's richest coin collections.

Behind the Hofburg, the former imperial stables have been transformed into the innovative Museums Quartier, with a diverse ensemble of museums that showcase the 19th- and 20th-century Austrian art at the Leopold Museum to often-shocking avant-garde works at the contemporary MUMOK, all contributing to the boundless artistic feasts in store for visitors.

The Viennese appreciation of the finer things in life extends to its opulent coffee-house 'living rooms' serving spectacular cakes and baked treats; beloved pub-like Beisln dishing up hearty portions of Wiener Schnitzel, Tafelspitz (prime boiled beef) and goulash; elegant restaurants; Local and international delicacies that fill the heady Naschmarkt stalls, and creative chefs experimenting with local produce and fresh new flavor combinations in innovative, often repurposed venues.

Salzburg

Standing beside the fast-flowing Salzach River, this storybook old town burrowed below steep hills, looks much as it did when Mozart lived here 250 years ago and is adorned with graceful domes and spires, a formidable cliff-top fortress and surrounded by picturesque mountains.

Beyond Salzburg’s biggest cultural treasures — Mozart and The Sound of Music — hides a city with a burgeoning arts scene, wonderful food, manicured parks, quiet side streets where classical music wafts from open windows, and concert halls that uphold musical tradition 365 days a year. Salzburg's most visible icon is the mighty 900-year-old cliff-top fortress Festung Hohensalzburg, one of the biggest and best preserved in Europe. It is easy to spend half a day here, roaming the ramparts for far-reaching views over the city's spires, the Salzach River and the mountains in the distance. 

The hills are alive with The Original Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg, and fans of the ‘Sound of Music’ can enjoy a day trip visiting the breathtaking landscapes and locations where the famous musical was filmed. This popular guide not only shows you the highlights of the film, but also the historical and architectural landmarks in the city, along with part of the picturesque Lake District.

Innsbruck

The charming town of Innsbruck is a popular destination among tourists visiting Austria for a number of reasons. The jagged rock spires of the Nordkette range are so close that within minutes it is possible to travel from the city's heart to over 2000m above sea level and alpine pastures where cowbells chime. Innsbruck is in many ways Austria in microcosm: its late-medieval Altstadt is picturesque wonder, presided over by a grand Habsburg palace and baroque cathedral, while its Olympic ski jump with big mountain views make a spectacular leap between the urban and the outdoors.

Innsbruck allows for travelers to experience the local cuisine, markets, shops and small holiday villages such as Kematen, Vols and Zirl that surround the city, and provides a modest insight into the rich history and culture of Austria. The city also opens the doors to ski adventures and hikes that acquaint tourists with the natural wonder of the region. Summer and winter activities abound outdoors, and it is understandable why some visitors only take a peek at Innsbruck proper before heading for the hills.

Eisriesenwelt

Billed as the world’s largest accessible ice caves, Eisriesenwelt is a glittering ice empire spanning 30,000 square meters and with 42km of narrow passages burrowing deep into the heart of the mountains. As you climb up wooden steps and down pitch-black passages, with carbide lamps aglow, emerging from the shadows are otherworldly ice sculptures shaped like polar bears and elephants, frozen columns and lakes. A highlight is the cavernous Eispalast (ice palace), where the frost crystals twinkle when a magnesium flare is held up to them. Regardless of the weather outside, entering the caves in any season is like stepping into a deep freeze, an escape from the outside world into chambers of blue ice promising an experience like no other.

 

 

 

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