The Magic of Vienna
by Lynn Crain
In May of this year, my husband and I said goodbye to our house, family and everything I have ever known to run away from home to Vienna, Austria. The DH had received a job offer that we couldn’t refuse, so he took it. In short order, much faster than we expected, we were off on the adventure of a lifetime. Our children were grown and this was some needed ‘us’ time was how the DH presented it. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy about moving at first but I understood it. I knew this was a fantastic opportunity to live somewhere different and visit all those places I thought about when I was a kid, first in rural Ohio then Nevada. I knew it would be great for my husband’s career.
One thing I want to say to those who envy me, be careful what you wish for but that would be a lie because it’s all a matter of perspective. When we are young, everything looks cool because it’s different from what we have or where we are. When we’re older, we look at our lives in a new light, wondering what’s the economic impact. My thought process went immediately to my writing and how I could make it better. The historical aspect of this city boggles my mind. The whole town oozes history in more ways than I can count. Let’s take a look at the illustrious history, both good and bad, that make up Vienna. I will only touch upon those areas that I have experienced myself as it is much too much to get into one tiny blog post. At the end, I will give a list of websites that will give you even more detail.
Vienna’s history started when the Romans decided to place a military camp in the centre of the present day city. This was during the first century and there are various places today where that occupation can still be seen. Places like Michaelerplatz and Stubentor still hold Roman wall remnants. For those willing to go further afield, then a trip to Carnuntum approximately 25 kilometers outside the city is the place to be. There one can experience a Roman amphitheater that rivals the Coliseum. Just recently, the biggest gladiatorial school was located within that area. Here are a few pictures of our day trip to the ruins. We plan to go back many, many times.
The Ruins at Carnuntum
The Ancient Cobbles of a Roman Road
The early medieval streets and houses followed the former Roman walls and it is thought that at least some of the ancient fortifications were used by the people who settled the area. The first documented mention of Vienna is from 881 when a battle called apud Weniam was fought against the Hungarians. It isn’t clear whether it was the city itself or the river in the passage. Coins from the 6th century have been found near the city center, which may indicate an area for trade. During that time the Lombards controlled the area followed by the Slavs and Avars. There is a mention of a battle against the Magyars in Wenia in 881 that is thought to be another mention of Vienna. The city proper didn’t start to develop more towards the Middle Ages.
In 976, Margraviate of Ostarrîchi was given to the Babenburg family or basically, a woman was married off to Leopold I who then gained control of the area known as the Eastern March. He received this as a reward for his fidelity to Otto II during the Bavarian rising of 976 and during his time extended it even more at the expense of the Hungarians. The word Margraviate is a heredity title give to those noblemen and women responsible for the border provinces of a kingdom. The history of this group is intense and convoluted and even after I’ve read it five times, it’s hard to keep straight.
An important time of note is around the Third Crusade. King Richard the Lionheart was discovered by Duke Leopold V, two days before Christmas 1192 in Erdberg, near Vienna. Duke Leopold asked an enormous ransom at the time of 50,000 Silver Marks. With this money, a mint was created and the city constructed walls around the area. Stubentor, which I mentioned above, is one area that those walls can be seen as some parts were built upon the even older Roman walls. It’s interesting to mention that today, I can ride a train to Erdberg as it is a major stop on one of the train lines.
The time of the Hapsburgs started in 1278 with Rudolph the first and didn’t end until Emperor Franz Joseph the first on his death in 1916, whose 68-year reign was one of Austria’s longest. Franz Joseph shaped the image of Austrian imperial rule and under him Vienna became one of Europe’s most important metropolises of its day. He made the city the center of a multi-national state that extended from Hungary to northern Italy and deep into southern Europe. Everything I see out my flat window has his touch stamped on it along with the history that made his time possible. My building was built during the height of his rule in 1868.
During Franz Joseph’s reign, Johann Strauss became the King of Waltz and Sigmund Freud founded the psychoanalytical school of psychology. Around 1900, Art Nouveau peaked with such artists as Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele as well as the famed architects of Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos. The Ringstrasse was built and museums dotted the landscape. But Austria was also a ticking time bomb with ethnic tensions, making the monarchy an accident waiting to happen. The assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 14 in Sarajevo marked the beginning of World War I.
Standing next to the desk where Emperor Franz Joseph signed the declaration of war was an eerie feeling to say the least. It happened at his hunting lodge known as Kaiservilla, where many events of his life had played out: falling in love, children, the death of his beloved Sisi. It is near Salzburg in a little town called Bad Ischl and is well worth visiting if you ever have a chance. Here are a few pictures then we’ll return to Vienna proper.
Mountains behind Kaiservilla
The back of Kaiservilla
The whole of Kaiservilla
Under the trees at the top of the ridge behind Kaiservilla
In 1916 during the war, Franz Joseph dies. In 1918 after the war was over, the first Republic of Austria was established ending the 640-year-old rule of the Habsburg dynasty. It was unfortunate that the young republic suffered massive inflation, unemployment and near economic collapse. In 1933, the weak coalition government between the Christian-Social and the Social-Democratic parties gave way to Engelbert Dollfuss becoming Chancellor in 1932 of a right-wing government. In 1934, he declared martial law to protect Austria from Hitler but he was killed that same year in July thus paving the way for Germany to take over the country.
Not much is said by the Austrians about their part in World War II but there are quite a few memorials and museums that bare witness to what happened here and elsewhere in Europe. It took Austria ten years to get back to where they were in 1937. In May 1955, they declared permanent neutrality and became a nerve center between East and West during the time of the Iron Curtain. Austria has been granting asylum to refugees since 1956 and is the host country to many international organizations, such as the UN and the CTBTO, which my husband work for. In 1995, Austria became a member of the European Union and remains so today.
I live across the street from the Palace Belvedere and the Palace Schwartenberg. Belevedere was once a summer home for the Habsburgs and in particular Prince Eugene. I’m still trying to understand where Palace Schwartenberg figures into all of this but I do know there’s a house on the grounds for rent. We’re actually thinking about checking it out as we love the area. :-) Now the street I live on is named after the Prince and is called Prince Eugen Strasse. That’s just the start of everything: there’s the Hofburg, Schonnbrunn, Carnuntum which is the Roman ruin I mentioned above and deserves more than a day, Stephensplatz, Karlsplatz and more churches like them that you wouldn’t believe. Recently, I saw a Templar church they’ve uncovered under Stephensplatz. I’ve noted that early man lived here as did the Celts. Just reading Wikipedia to get the overview can be overwhelming...but...think of the opportunity for historicals, for contemporaries or for anything a writer can think up. Here’s a few more pictures to show you what I mean.
While this is the view out my office window, I should make note that not only do I see the guard quarters for Belvedere as well as part of the grounds, but history. If I look a little harder, I’m sure I can see the Emperors and Empresses of a day gone by, of kings and queens and their children as they play on the grounds surrounding the palaces.
Out My Office Window
Here’s some pictures of one of my favorite places to visit, Schönbrunn, the palace to rival Versailles.
One of the many gardens
The Neptune Fountain
Rear view and gardens of Schönbrunn
Then there’s the museums. Here’s some of my favorites.
The Crown Jewels
The Complete Crown Jewels
The Egyptian Glyphs
More Egyptian Artifacts
These pictures don’t even begin to do the place justice. I have only touched on the bare minimum of the history I see and feel and touch daily. Sometimes the senses can be overwhelmed by it as I try to picture what it used to be like. I promise to bring you more and more of the historical perspective on living in Vienna, Austria. Yes, this place has plenty for a writer to learn, plenty for me to figure out and understand. Even though the perspective has changed a lot from when I was younger, living the fairy tale can and does have its own perks.
For more about Austria, visit my blog, A Writer In Vienna, as I try to give all my impressions for living in a foreign country. Some days I revisit history, others I might be taking in a big ride or even a wild ride as my husband and I take to the streets driving here for the first time. Life is always interesting! Don’t hesitate to drop me a line if you need any information concerning the area. If you’re going to be in my neck of the woods, please let me know. I just love visitors!
You can find me at twitter (oddlynn3) or Facebook (oddlynn3) as well as my website, and regular blog. Please excuse the dust on both the website and blog as they are currently being revamped. Be ready for their unveiling in Spring 2012. Look for my new short, A Lover for Rachel, from Shooting Star Books for only $0.99 at all ebook outlets. I’ve included the cover art...who doesn’t love a Jimmy cover?
See you all next time!
Here’s a list to get you started with Vienna. It is by no means inclusive as there are many, many interesting books and takes on life here and how it all began. These are just a few that I used while creating this blog posting.