In these photos from his 2002 and 2003 visits to Austria, the Monkey takes a trip around Vienna’s Ringstrasse and visits several key sights in the heart of the old Hapsburg capital.
Without doubt, Vienna is one of the West’s great cities. The Monkey always enjoys the chance to wander the streets of peaceful Vienna. Here, he inspects some ghoulish imperial ornamentation near the Burgtheater.
Vienna was first settled by the Celts, who were in turn overrun by the Romans in the 2nd Century CE. When the Romans departed in the 4th Century, they left the area open to various invasions by nomadic steppe peoples. Today’s Vienna has its roots in the early 12th Century, when the Austrian Leopold of Babenberg first rose and drove out the Magyars (Hungarians). Subsequent rulers began converting the town into a ducal city. In 1282, the Hapsburg clan took up official residency in Vienna, and their influence would mold the city for centuries to come. Despite occupation by the Hungarians in the 15th Century and a series of sieges by the Ottomans in the 16th and 17th Centuries, Vienna—alongside the power of the Hapsburgs—continued growing.
As the Hapsburg holdings expanded to become an empire, Vienna truly began to blossom. It became a center of learning and of music, of arts and of architecture, of political power and prestige. The imperial capital drew intellectuals, merchants, artists, and power-seekers from throughout the vast Austrian Empire, making Vienna one of the most cosmopolitan centers of the 18th and 19th Century world. In the late 19th Century, the city reached new heights with Emperor Franz Josef’s Ringstrasse project, during which the old city walls were removed and replaced by a circular boulevard lined with monumental new buildings on a grand scale. Though Vienna fared poorly with the collapse of the Empire and the two world wars, the city has bounced back and regained much of its earlier greatness. It is once again attracting people from a myriad of places, and its cultural life is resolutely resurgent.
The Stephansdom, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, is the center point of Vienna, and its colorful tiled roof and soaring 119-meter spire (sheathed in scaffolding here) are symbols of the city. The gargantuan cathedral dates back as far as the 12th Century, and has survived many traumas, including multiple Ottoman sieges in the 16th and 17th Century and Allied air raids in the 20th.
Along the Ringstrasse, the Monkey visited Austria’s Parliament. Designed by Theophil Hansen, the late 19th Century, neoclassical edifice originally served as a Parliament under the Hapsburgs and would later become the seat of the federal government following the collapse of the monarchy. In 2000, world attention was focused on the Parliament as Austrian voters flirted with the far-right, anti-immigrant Freedom Party (FPÖ), whose then-leader Jörg Haider was widely viewed as a Nazi apologist, and gave the FPÖ enough votes to ensure it considerable influence in the body. By the time of the Monkey’s second visit to Vienna in November 2003, the Freedom Party’s stale politics had been largely discredited and Haider had stepped down as party leader.
Resting atop a modern scultpture, Der Affe marvels at the vertical sweep of Vienna’s Votivkirche. The church dates from the 1850s, when Emperor Franz Josef ordered the demolition of the city’s medieval ramparts (stone walls had long been no match for artillery). In their place, he conceived of a grandiose ring-road lined with monumental new buildings for the expanding Empire’s capital city. The Votivkirche was the first such “grand projet” along the Ringstrasse.
Though Vienna’s public transport system has a buses, trains and subways, its most endearing mass transit vehicle must be the picturesque street trams (truth be told, street trams are quite common in Central and Eastern European cities). Here, the Monkey can’t mask his enthusiasm at the sight of traditional tram painted in the Austrian national colors rolling along the Ringstrasse just in front of the Parliament.
The Monkey at twilight on the Weihburggasse, a street in central Vienna. The white and gray building across the street is the Franziskanerkirche, or Franciscan Church, which dates from 1603.
The Monkey peers out at the back of one of the Ringstrasse trams.
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