Circling the Ring

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A visit to the Austrian capital is a must for every tourist who steps onto Austrian soil. As during our last visit to my homeland, Bob and I, along with my niece Alia, hopped on the train (not any train but the Jet Rail) and zoomed at a speed of 200 km per hour (125 mph) past meadows, hills and fields towards the grand city along the blue Danube. Growing up just 180 km west of this former center of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, I have been to Vienna so many times I have stopped counting. But every time I come back and stroll along the pompous residences and Palais dominating the famous Graben and the Ringstrasse marking Vienna’s first district, I am overcome with a feeling of awe, harmony and perfection.
And our visit this time was no different. Under a glorious blue sky, with the tall spire of St. Stephen Cathedral rising into the sun, we met up with my nephew Karli (he lives in Vienna) at St. Stephen Square, the pulsating heart of the city right inside the famous Ring Boulevard.This particular section of the city, the fashionable First District, is a haven for pedestrians. Strolling down the Kaertner Strasse from the Opera House, one can admire fancy store fronts, watch street performers or just the throngs of people shuffling past never having to watch out for traffic.
So, that Friday afternoon, amidst thousands of strangers (Viennese locals and international tourists), we ambled along the Graben admiring and clicking at ornate buildings, each façade a work of art. Through the huge archway of the Hofburg (Office of the President) to the echoes of clicking horse hooves pulling Fiakers (Vienna’s famous horse drawn carriages), we headed across the Heldenplatz and Burg garden to the Café Landmann, one of the many elegant Viennese Coffee houses. Under umbrellas in the cinnamon flavored air, we chilled out to coffee and cake, taking in an impressive view of the Burgtheater, the University and the Wiener Rathaus (Viennese City Hall). These prestigious landmarks along with the Opera house, the Hofburg, the Natural Science and Art museums and the Parliament, line the majestic Ring Boulevard like precious jewels in a necklace and are a vivid reminder of Vienna’s rich cultural and historical heritage.

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