It’s not actually compulsory to waltz your way round Vienna, though it is a city that makes you want to. For centuries the capital of the Habsburg Empire, it is filled with music from the lightness of the Strauss family to all the great romantic composers, not least Beethoven. A period of relative drabness followed the Nazi Anschlüss and the post-war Harry Lime era (even that had the zither music) but Vienna has long been restored as the city of ‘wine, women and song’. There are two imperial palaces, the Hofburg (which Napoleon occupied) and the Schönbrunn summer residence – both worth extensive visits. The Musikverein is where the famous New year Concert is held (don’t even think about tickets); the ‘Third Man’ ferris wheel still circles at the Prater amusement park; you can eat scrumptious Sachertorte at the hotel that named it; you can watch the stylish Lippizanner horses of the Spanish Riding School strut their stuff. And if all that doesn’t cheer you – visit the museum home of Sigmund Freud.
Mountains and music says it all perhaps. But what mountains and what musicians! Even Beethoven, who was not Austrian, chose to live for many years in Vienna. Austria may now seem a politically unassuming European country but reminders of the mighty Habsburg Empire abound. Vienna itself, of course, was often a turning point in world history; but for today’s visitor, sipping coffee and devouring sacher torte on its elegant strasses, it is home to wonderful architecture and great music. To which Salzburg would retort that it was their city that produced Mozart, with the Festival being a highlight of the world’s musical year. And then the mountains. Sun-warmed Tyrolean pastures in summer, exhilarating skiing in winter; and if you go as the seasons change you can enjoy one of the many local festivities to mark the cattle’s coming down or Spring ascent. Even for non-skiers the excitement of World Cup racing at Kitzbuhel is stunning (or just sit in crisp Alpine sun and enjoy the gluhwein). Oh and at St Johan they have a street festival when 18 innkeepers provide 22,000 dumplings in 23 different flavours.
A city devoted to music, more especially one musician, Salzburg is where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in 1756. After his first ‘world tour’ at the precocious age of 6, he lived and worked for a number of years there interspersed with frequent trips abroad. Although he finally died in Vienna, aged just 35, the ‘Mozart industry’ is centered on his birthplace. A slightly ill-fitting ‘second bow’ is ‘The Sound of Music’, the real life story of Maria and the Von Trapp family. Mozart’s birthplace is now a museum and the July/Aug Salzburg Festival is a major international event. In fact there are several festivals; at Easter, at Whitsun, in the Summer, ‘Mozart week’ in January, and a Jazz Festival in November. There are many somewhat kitsch ‘candle-lit dinners with music’ available and the city has a neat Tourism Card that gives access to most attractions and public transport.