26.07.2014 - 26.07.2014
So! The Habsburgs were a family that pretty much ruled most of Europe for almost 700 years, from the late 13th century until WW1 in the early 20th century. Mostly through strategic alliances (ie marriages), at their greatest point they controlled Germany, France, Spain, Italy and much of eastern/central Europe. At some point they also had the Netherlands, Belgium, and some other western European lands. Eventually it was the Habsburgs that were the Holy Roman Emperors as well! And through Spain, they technically also had their fingers in a lot of Asian pies.
However, it wasn't just lands that made them great. For the most part their capital was Vienna, and Vienna was a place of great learning and culture.
Probably the most famous contributions are two women, or at least they're the ones I remember! Maria Theresia was born in 1717 and became Queen when her father Charles died. She married a guy called Francis Stephen partly because she loved him (unfortunately he had a rather public mistress) but also because she couldn't legally be a holy Roman emperor. She was also the only child, I mean, that's why she got all the power, but she really did prevent the Habsburg dynasty from dying, which it almost did. She made some really great reforms, like compulsory education for children. And she had 16 kids, 1 of whom was the famous Marie Antoinette, who married into the French monarchy and was guillotined during the French revolution.
And pretty much the only reason the dynasty really failed in the end was because just before WW1 the Austrian empire was allied to the Germans, and obviously that side lost in the war. The Holy Roman Empire had been dismantled by Napoleon, and after that Austria had been forced into a dual Austro-Hungarian empire. It was this empire that got completely broken up by the world war into the smaller countries we see today (almost). And so the end of the Habsburgs as a world power.
Okay, a lot of that was recent research haha. But a family like that can't be forgotten, and one of the only reasons I even went to Vienna was to see the influence they had on their capital. To breath in history.
Vienna felt like a bunch of huge ornate buildings in close proximity with each other. A lot of the nice ones were baroque or renaissance I think. When I say huge I really mean huge huge, and crowded into a small city, like how sg has. Build more and more until eventually it's saturated. Yes most of the buildings were gorgeous, but it's still overcrowded.
To be honest it was a real boring and tiring day haha. For some reason Vienna doesn't have free walking tours, even though Prague had like 5 different operators and even bratislava has one. They must have some kind of law against it! So I followed two online walking tour guides, it wasn't bad but not enough infooo.
My alarm rang at 8am, and I only really got up at 8.20. From there it was a 20min rush to change, wash up, pack my day bag, half run to the station, buy a ticket, and get up to the platform. Pleased to say that I made it with a couple of minutes to spare. Living life on the edge hehe. Trains are every 2h by the way, so that was important.
Strangely, I had shwarma and noodles for brunch. So in Austria, a gastronomic city, I eat Turkish and Chinese food. Okay. And then walked around the entire day. With extremely frequent rest stops cos my feet were dying and it was so hot.
Got to enter the crypt of the Habsburgs! So I stood among the dead of one of the most influential families of all time. Paid 4.5 for that experience, I guess I consider it worth it.
Had apple strudel (wasn't very good) and latched on to free WiFi. Later I counted money in my head and decided that I had enough euros to go around (I only need it for Slovenia) so decided to splurge on a good dinner. Had Saffron risotto with chicken and prosecco at an Italian place, La Piazza haha. But then towards the end of that good meal, I realised with horror that the actual money I had on hand was not enough. So I paid by card sigh that was lame and a waste of money. I was only short by 1 plus!
Then back to the train station, I had to wait more than an hour because the train, which is supposed to be hourly, skipped the 7.21, which I would have been just on time for. Read 20,000 leagues, forgive me for saying that it's a bit boring. I got to the part just before they head out hunting in the undersea forest.
Tomorrow is a quick walk up to the memorial, and then my bus to Budapest! Where I'll soak in baths for the afternoon and rest my weary feet.