Stunning Hallstatt

Austria, Europe, Video

We all have hopes and dreams. Some are easily attainable and some border on the impossible and wishful thinking. Often, as life happens, we give up on these dreams, accepting the fact that, just because we want them, doesn’t mean that we will have them.

On the other hand, there are dreams and wishes that we keep safe and nurture in our hearts. No matter how much time passes, and no matter the odds, we hold out hope that they will come true.

This is what Hallstatt is for me. It was a dream not I thought at that time, was nearly impossible for me to fulfill.

I was only 24 when I first saw videos and pictures of Hallstatt. From that moment on, I knew in my heart that I wanted to come visit it someday.  I wanted to see the lakeside wooden houses facing the Austrian Alps.

But I knew that it was a pipe dream. I was a starving journalist then and my salary wasn’t enough to afford a trip to Europe. So I put the dream in the back burner,  hoping for some miracle.

It took me 10 years before I could finally fulfill this dream, but  Ofinally, I was able to achieve recently and the long wait, only makes the trip all the more sweeter and memorable.

Here’s a short video of what I saw in Hallstatt. More stories on Hallstatt coming soon.

Photos and Videos Taken Using Asus Zenfone 4

 

Advertisements

Belvedere Schloss: Vienna’s Crowning Jewel

Austria, Europe

If by any chance, you happen to find yourself in the city of Vienna, one of the most breathtakingly picturesque and beautiful cities in Europe, you just have to travel to the city’s southeast edge and find the astonishing Baroque complex of Belvedere.

Originally built as the summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy, the complex, made up of gardens, Upper and Lower Belvederes, a Winter Palace, an orangery and a grand Horse stable, was later acquired by Maria Theresa, one of the most prominent leaders of the then mighty Austro-Hungarian Habsburg empire.

11146199_10152810161465735_4245809173476779998_n

The prince commissioned Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt to build the palaces, which are considered to be among the best Baroque-style architecture in the world.

Today, the structure houses a grand museum and photo gallery/exhibit featuring some famous works of art including works of renowned painter Gustav Klimt.

klimt_kuss_400

Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss

The Belvedere houses the biggest collection of Klimt paintings in the world. Klimt’s ‘Kiss” and “Judith” are housed here.

11128849_10152810135185735_1999649372172036446_n

The Upper Belvedere, in particular attracts millions of visitors because of beauty and charm.

The Baroque architecture of the structure, along with the ornate sphinxes that adorn the front gardens are great throwbacks to the Vienna of the olden times, the 17th to 18th century in fact, when the complex was commissioned and completed.

16029_10152810087515735_7390895838930882446_n (1)

The expansive moat and the the wrought iron gates add appeal to the already gorgeous structure.

Over the course of history, the Upper Belvedere has been used for official representative purposes while the Lower Belvedere was used as a residential place and a depository of important works of art.

Lower Belvere. Photo courtesy of www.belvedere.at

Lower Belvere. Photo courtesy of http://www.belvedere.at

An Evening With Vienna’s Wiener Riesenrad

Austria, Europe

Anyone’s who’s seen the movie ‘Before Sunrise’, knows the beauty of Vienna.

The 1995 movie showed some of the highlights of everyday Viennese life, most prominent of which is the ‘Wiener Riesenrad’, a century-old wooden Ferris wheel that dominates Vienna’s landmark.

The movie left a great impression on me and it made me fall in love with Vienna, so much so, that I promised to visit it someday.

1506412_10152810163790735_8162121562478512653_n

A view of Wiener Praterstern from one of the cabins

Fast forward to 2015, and that goal has been fulfilled. I visited Vienna this year and it was a very surreal experience. Vienna is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and it exceeded all my expectations.

A big part of that was Wiener Riesenrad.

It was a chilly Saturday evening when I trooped to the Prater district, from the city center. From the train station, the wheel looms and it will give you the impulse to jump for joy, after all, the wheel is inside the Wiener Praternstern, an amusement park that caters to the young and to the young at heart.

19491_10152810162395735_4043384008945539646_n

I certainly had to contain myself from giggling as I approach the wheel.

At the same time, I was instantly aware that I am in the vicinity of one of the most famous landmarks in Vienna.

Built in 1887 in celebration of the Grand Jubilee of Franz Joseph I, the Wiener Riesenrad has been a symbol of Vienna, and has served as a famous meeting place for lovers, families and friends.

11147178_10152810163195735_8696446717378968754_n

Unfortunately, it was burned down during the chaos of World War 11 in 1944, but the love of the city allowed for a quick reconstruction by the year 1945. In 2002, the eight lost cabins were returned and were turned as part of the Wheel of History, which gives visitors the chance to take a stroll down memory lane to revisit the illustrious past of Vienna and Prater.

You need to pay Euro 9.5 to get inside one of the cabins along with 20 other people. Children ages 3-14 need only pay Euro4, whilw children under three years old get a free pass.

1507623_10152810172485735_4213175839519866051_n

The Museum

The tour takes about 30 minutes and it gives a chance to see the Vienna landscape from above.

If you want to have a cabin all on your own, you can hire the luxury and hire cabins. You can hire the Jubilee cabin for Euro 280 for an hour while a cabin with a dinner for two set up will cost you Euro 220.

10427360_10152810171305735_6408567839223824868_n

A view of Vienna from one of the cabins

Vienna is even more enchanting aboard one of the wooden cabins of the Wiener Riesenrad.

There are no tall buildings as is the norm in Europe. Instead, you will see the intricate designs of the homes and houses near Prater.

11133804_10152810172565735_6100281941937376012_n

A scale model of Wiener Riesenrad displayed at the museum

Riding the Wiener Riesenrad was truly an emotional moment for me as it allowed me to catch the Vienna sunset. It also allowed me to look back to that time when I was still dreaming of traveling around the world.

if I ever get the chance to visit Vienna and the wheel again, I go for it in a heartbeat.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral: The Heart of Vienna

Austria, Europe

While the majestic Schonbrunn Schloss has become the most famous landmark Vienna in the eyes of the outside world, Viennese still consider one familiar structure situated in the very center of the city, to be the Austrian capital’s heart and soul, dating back to the 12th century.

The impressive Stephanskirche or St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Stephanplatz remains, to this day, the very heart of Vienna.

A stunning Gothic cathedral that dominates Vienna’s skyline, St. Stephen’s Cathedral has been the national symbol of Vienna ever since its construction in 1147 AD. It bore witness to the growth of Vienna as a city, and as the seat of the Habsburg empire for centuries, until it suffered sever damage during the Turkish siege in the 17th century.

20992_10152810323110735_7492101731525997035_n

Stephanskirche also fell victim to heavy fighting the second world war, with its roof as the main casualty. Citizens of Vienna rallied to repair the church, donating tiles, leading to its eventual re-opening in 1948. It is said that each Viennese citizen owns a symbolic tile of the church,as tribute to the love and devotion shown by the city and its people to the church.

In between, St. Stephen’s Cathedral went through several reconstruction and transformation including its redesign from Romanesque to Gothic in the 14th century, as ordered by Duke Rudolph IV of Habsburg. It also bore witness to other events including the funeral of music virtuoso Mozart.

11150977_10152810322250735_4184411795881501393_n

11150208_10152810321940735_7032996897445869553_n

The church is well known throughout the world by its diamond patterned roof and its tall, lean southern tower fondly called “Steffie”, which made it one of the tallest structures in Europe. The treasures inside the church also make it one of the most important places in history.

Within its catacomb lies the tomb of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1754), the Altarpiece of Wiener Neustadt, the pulpit by Anton Pilgram (1514-15), the sepulcher of Emperor Frederik III by Niclas Gerhaert (1467-1513), the watchman`s lookout, a self portrait of the sculptor, and the Gothic winged altar.

11136723_10152810321645735_3967529123812084682_n

I visited the church this spring and it was indeed one of the most stunning architectural wonders I have seen. The roof is just so pretty that you can’t help but admire it.

No matter the time of day, tourists from within Austria and beyond, troop to the church to marvel at its fantastic design, and wander inside to see its altars and naves.

11038730_10152810183570735_3548466230291872848_n

Its bluish altar also makes it one of the most unique churches I have ever visited.

I spent more than an hour inside the church, alternately praying and marveling at its gorgeous interiors. In that short timespan, I immediately realized why this church is so special to the Viennese. It is simply a jewel, in a city that is already one of the prettiest in the world.

The Breathtaking Beauty of Schonbrunn Schloss in Vienna

Austria, Europe

Have you ever seen something so gorgeous, so mesmerizing, it literally stops you in your tracks?

It was my first day in Vienna, the capital city of Austria and the former seat of the once powerful Habsburg Empire which covered the vast majority of Eastern and Western Europe in the 18th to 20th century.

My first stop for the day? None other than the grand Schonbrunn Palace.

Since childhood, I have heard friends and relatives talk about the grandeur and allure of this palace. They talked about it with so much joy and passion that I thought, they must have really loved this place.

I also checked Lonely Planet, Time magazine, Rick Steves, and Fodor’s travel guidebooks and they all share the same conclusion that Schonbrunn is indeed one of the most majestic buildings in all of Europe. Such many people and guidebooks can’t all be wrong. Besides, this place is the number one tourist destination in Vienna.

Still, I tempered my expectations. All throughout my bus ride from Wien Niderhofstrasse, I was telling myself to calm done and not expect too much. It’s just a building, for Chrissake!!! And after all,

View of the Schloss from the Hill

After all, in my numerous travels, I have seen buildings and castles that were honestly, a bit of a letdown, after so much hype and praise.

I got off the bus and joined the sea of tourists heading to the Schonbrunn. In the street, I can see posters of the past monarchs who ruled the Habsburg Empire and called the palace their home since the 16th century.

These include the venerable Maria Theresa, said to be the most accomplished and efficient leader of the empire. There were also posters of Franz Joseph, the longest running emperor of Austria, and his wife Empress Elizabeth or Sisi, whose beauty was known througout Europe.

Schonbrunn Schloss, Up Close

After a few minutes walk, the gates of the Palace was already visible. I had so many thoughts and doubts going into the palace, but nothing prepared me for the sheer beauty of the schloss.

The immense size and grandiose of Schonbrunn Schloss took me by surprise. My jaw literally dropped and for a few minutes, I just stood at the gate admiring its perfection.

The Roman Ruins

The two fountains in front were already works of art. But they are no match for the main building itself. This Baroque and neo-classical Palace is so immense, it has 1, 441 rooms inside, all magnificent, I assume.

One lady tourist must have seen my mouth agape, as she gently approached me and placed a gentle hand on my shoulder. “If you think this is magnificent, wait till you see the other side,” she said.

I took as much photos as I could of the schloss’s facade and joined the throngs of people through the gate and to the other side of the building.

Then, I was simply dumbfounded.

The Gloriette

It was so beautiful and big, and yellow, and pretty and gorgeous.

All I could say was ‘Wow”.

The gardens in front of it were beyond reproach. They are just too perfect.

Before I proceed, you have to understand where I am coming from. You see, you don’t see buildings and structure this grand and beautiful in the Philippines.

I am not trying to put my country down but I just think that architecture and beautifying the country’s landscape was not a top priority for the previous governments and empires. If there were buildings this beautiful, they are all gone.

Even with an aching feet, I strived to cover the entire complex of the schloss to discover all its hidden and famous portions.

I went inside Sisi’ privy gardens and I walked along the Great Parterre. I was absorbed by the beauty and nostalgia of the Roman Ruins or the Ruins of Carthage built inside the complex in the mid-18th century.

There was also the orangerie and the Tiergarten.

I felt so much joy after seeing couples sit and kiss in front of the Neptune Fountain located right at the foot of the hill. This is where most tourists young and old, stop to take a breather before taking on the 200-feet Schonbrunn hill.

Lying on the Gloriette Hill

I joined thousands of visitors climb the 60-meter high hill to see the Gloriette, a symbol of the power of the Habsburg empire ordered built by the great Maria Theresa. From the Gloriette, you will have a breathtaking view of the schloss, the entire complex and a great portion of Vienna.

Overwhelmed by the beauty of the hill and the palace below, I just laid on the grass for hours while staring at the bright blue Austrian sky.

Schonbrunn Schloss is not just a historical relic for the Viennese. It is also a part of everyday life.

All around the complex, you will see locals jogging and exercising in the many nooks and crannies of the gardens. At the rolling hill, you will see friends and families enjoying a picnic while admiring a spectacular view of the palace.

I didn’t know that it was set in Salzburg, I would have erupted into a rendition of “The Sound of Music”. In fact, I was singing the song all throughout my stay.

I was such in my happy place that I didn’t notice the passing of time. A quick look at the time and it showed that it was past 2pm. I stayed in the complex for more than four hours. That hasn’t happened to me before!!!

I usually check out a place and make a quick exit.

Right then and there I realized, that this place is truly different from all the other places I have seen it before.

The Neptune Fountain

Schonbrunn Schloss exudes so much charm and sophistication that I was completelt under its spell. I really wanted to stay the whole day, but alas, I have to visit other sites around Vienna, so I bid a bittersweet farewell. But I promise to come back soon, really, really soon.

The Great Parterre
The Neptune Fountain
A couple admiring the view of the schloss
The Roman Ruin
Me at the Roman Ruin