Oh Vienna, you are so charming, so gorgeous and so so elegant. It is hard to aptly describe the city that took me by its very lady like charm. Contrary to several people’s notion that the city boring and dull, I found Vienna to be just the opposite and thank the Central European team at Context Travel to acquaint me with the city. Context Travel organises city tours/walks globally with local historians in small groups (max of 6 people). They also offer individual tours offering in depth experience and information which is perfect base if you are in a new city!
While I was in Vienna, Piroska Meyer-Sebastian of Context Travel showed me around the 1st District which happens to be the most legendary areas of the charismatic city.
I was the only person for that morning’s tour so everything was done at my pace. I could ask a million questions (sometimes even unrelated to history) and linger around for longer intervals. For instance I totally bored Piroska about buying the best Viennese chocolates or visiting the city’s favorite spots. It was a blessing to be with a her, a local, who was really helpful. She took me to her favorite store after the walk, even recommended a bunch of goodies which I ended up buying for home 🙂
What is the 1st District??
Our walk was part of the 1st District which constitutes the ancient part of Vienna that was developed by the Romans (oh yes they were everywhere). It includes many of the sights that a tourist would normally not know on their first visit to the city. We started with the city’s oldest church- Ruprechtskirche. The ivy laden Gothic church is dedicated to the patron saint of Salzburg- St. Rupert.
The area around the church is very compact and charming. Just at the corner is 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 from the 13th century and the big Jewish community in the city is testament to that. There are Jewish clubs, schools, museums and newspapers even now in the city. A big memorial to the Austrian Holocaust Victims is right in the middle of the historic centre which was also part of the walk.
Apart from the synagogue, there were small cafes and shops around the area worth visiting. One that I especially returned to later was the Shakespeare & Company book shop offering a huge selection of books in English.
We walked around the quiet area of the 1st Distict crossing what must be regular sightings in Vienna- horse driven carriages. I squealed in delight! Moving onwards to the Parliament, Hofburg Palace and the St. Stephen’s cathedral I could only see more of the imperial charm and elegance of the city. I was 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. Also the Peace Museum. Did you know??
My mind was full of information and several new names. We visited several small and quaint streets of Vienna that I do not remember but there was always something which led to something more. It was intriguing. The three hour walk wasn’t just boring and historic, if you may. Even modern Vienna was discussed and talked about and I think that really kept my interest because I could understand the layers of the city by knowing from now to then or vice versa.
My favorite part of the walk include the grounds of the Hofburg Palace which I returned to the next day. There was a different atmosphere around that area. 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.