Oh Vienna, it is so hard to aptly describe you in one word but the first that pops in my mind is elegance! Contrary to several people’s belief that Vienna is boring and dull, I found it to be quite the opposite.
The Central European team at Context Travel helped me in that regard. Context Travel is a company specialising in city tours/walks with local historians. Their USP is in their small groups and in offering in depth information of the city so that one can understand history and local culture. I am so glad I took a walk with them in Vienna because the city is a bit overwhelming!
Piroska Meyer-Sebastian of Context Travel showed me around the 1st District of Vienna which happens to be the most legendary areas of the charismatic city.
I was the only person for that morning’s tour (how cool) so everything was done at my pace. Which means–I could ask a million questions, (sometimes even unrelated to history) take breaks and linger around for longer intervals. For instance I totally bored Piroska about Viennese chocolates and visiting the city’s favorite spots. It was a blessing to be with a local who was not only informative but fun.
What is the 1st District??
Coming back to the walk…. It started in the 1st District, which was the ancient part of Vienna made by the Romans. Oh yes they were everywhere. The walk included many of the sights that a tourist would normally not know on their first visit but since Context offers deep meaningful tours, I visited several hidden areas. We started with the city’s oldest church- Ruprechtskirche. The ivy laden Gothic church is dedicated to the patron saint of Salzburg- St. Rupert. It was kinda eerie inside but outside so pretty especially because of the weather.
The area around the church was very compact and charming. Just at the corner was one of the oldest synagogues from the 12th century where the first Jews of the city started living. The Jews have had a tumultuous history and the Jewish community in the city is testament to that. I was told that there are Jewish clubs, schools, museums and newspapers even now in Vienna.
The whole area around the Synagogue was protected and armed. There was small alleys leading to more alleys and I chanced upon an English bookstore behind an old restaurant. We walked past the main cathedral of St. Stephen’s where there were many cafes and shops worth visiting. I mentally made note of that.
Next Piroska and I visited a big memorial of the Austrian Holocaust Victims right in the middle of the historic centre. It was amazing to see how the Austrians had preserved their history.
We walked around the quiet area of the 1st District crossing what must be regular sightings in Vienna- horse driven carriages!! I squealed in delight!!
We crossed the Parliament and Hofburg Palace where I was told a million things I don’t remember of imperial city. I was also suggested a list of museums to see depending on my mood and interest. I had no idea that there was a Globe Museum in Vienna neither did I know there was a Museum of Peace.
We visited several small and quaint streets of Vienna which were empty and more intriguing. In the three hour walk it was history, food and chocolates all combined into one. I think that really kept my interest because I could understand the layers of the city by knowing from then to now.
My favorite part of the walk included the grounds of the Hofburg Palace which I returned to the next day. It was as if I went back in the 60s.
Disclaimer: My walk in Vienna was made possible thanks to Context Travel but the views here are completely my own.