This capital city of Austria may well attract Indians in large numbers – charmed by its magnificent cityscape, splendid hotels, wide-ranging tourist attractions and the hospitality of its people. The 415 sq km city – just about the size of Mumbai’s, but with a population of 1.8 million, in contrast to Mumbai’s 22 million – is celebrating 150 years of its famed Ringstrasse (or Ring Road), with an offering of year-long festivities that will make it even more worthy of a visit.
One of the most magnificent boulevards in the world, the Ringstrasse was inaugurated by Emperor Franz Joseph on 1 May 1865. It defines the character of the city with its dense concentration of architecturally stunning buildings, monumental palaces and expansive parks, some 850 of them. It now circles Vienna where massive ramparts once protected its imperial centre from her enemies, its construction having been the greatest municipal
planning project of the time.
Vienna, after all, was once the seat of the mighty Austro-Hungarian Empire ruled by the Habsburg monarchy. Established as the Austrian Empire in 1814, it expanded into the Dual Monarchy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire by 1867, dissolving abruptly at the end of War I in 1918. The Habsburg family grew to European prominence with the marriage and adoption
treaty by Emperor Maximilian I at the First Congress of Vienna in 1515. For several generations, the family ruled nearly all of Europe from the mighty Hofburg Palace, in the heart of Vienna. The city’s history dates back much further, to the first post- Christian century when the Romans established their military camp called Vindobona. Today, Vienna is consistently ranked amongst the world’s most livable cities.
In the past five years, overnight stays, or the number of nights spent, by Indian travellers in hotels in Vienna grew at a compound annual growth rate of 18.4 per cent to 64,621 last year, mentions Isabella Rauter of Vienna Tourist Board. “The city is multi-dimensional and appeals to a diverse section of Indian tourists, right from young travellers to honey-moon- ers to families,” she says. “And these are the three target segments of the Vienna Tourist Board.” The Board is looking to 100,000 overnight stays from Indian travellers by 2017.
Overall, this city of 1.8 million hosted 6.3 million tourists from around the world who spent 13.5 million overnight stays in 2014. While Germans, Austrians, Americans, Italians and Russians comprise Vienna’s top five tourist segments, India, South Korea, China and Brazil have shown strong growth. Use Heigerth, tourist guide with the
Vienna Tourist Board, says Vienna has something for all ages and all kinds of travellers. Recreation areas of Prater beckon children, Vienna Woods and Lobau are ideal for day trips, hikes and bicycle tours for the young tourists, while honey-mooners can opt for the many Viennese balls that happen throughout the year or even swim or go boating in the river Danube. In Vienna, the Danube is omnipresent, whether in the form of the Donau-Auen National Park or Old Danube, Danube Island or Danube Canal. “For those Indians who miss home food, there are plenty of restaurants offering a delightful Indian fare,” she mentions.
Curiously, Vienna is one major city that has vineyards within its boundaries. Those who like wine can head for any of the numerous “heurige”, or wine taverns, that are on the outskirts of the city located in secluded gardens or homely parlours. In their comfortable atmosphere, they offer their patrons entertainment, fine Viennese wines and the fitting culinary accompaniment. The real Viennese heurige, in which only Viennese wines are served, are identified by a bunch of pine branches and by the word ‘Ausg’steckt’ written on a board, which simultaneously shows when the tavern is open.
Hailed as the world’s music capital, Vienna is very much alive with
the Sound of Music. It has been the birthplace or home to some of the greatest baroque, classical and light classical composers in history. Those who lived there for parts of their lives have been Joseph Haydn (1732- 1809), the son of a wheelwright who was born in lower Austria, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), born in Salzburg, and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), who was the son of a drunken, abusive court singer in Bonn. Franz Schubert (1797-1828) was born in Vienna to an impoverished schoolteacher, as
also the ‘Waltz King’, Johann Strauss, (1825-99) whose father was an Austrian composer of light music. Strauss composed over 500 waltzes, polkas, quadrilles and other types of dance music, as well as several operettas and a ballet. His two younger brothers, Josef and Eduard, wrote light music as well.
Gastronomy is an important element of Vienna. Amongst the most popular dishes of Viennese cuisine are the Wiener Schnitzel, a breaded and fried veal escalope, Tafelspitz, which is boiled beef, Fiaker goulash with Sacher sausages, and Backhendl, which is fried breaded chicken. For the vegetarians, there is Stuffed Peppers, Sacher style, Onion quiche, Bohemian mushroom goulash, and poppyseed noodles a la Sacher. For the sweet-toothed, there are sumptuous Viennese desserts like the famed Sachertorte a la Sacher, Kai- serschmarren a la Sacher (pancake), and Apple Strudel a la Sacher, the ‘Sacher’ recalling their creator, Vienna-born Franz Sacher (1816-1907), who was an Austrian-Jewish confectioner, best known as the inventor of the world-famous chocolate cake, the Sachertorte.
♦ SAROSH BANA
Pune, says communication designer and artist Falguni Gokhale, is “an interesting city with a distinctive personality”. Gokhale, who set up and runs the awardwinning design studio Design Directions with her husband Satish, has designed a Pune Brand logo and a heritage bus for the Pune Dar- shan tourist circuit. The brief given by the
Pune Municipal Corporation was very abstract – “to capture the essence of the city” – she says. “I created the letter- forms for the logo in Marathi and English within a typical wada window frame,” she explains. “Though the calligraphic letters denote a sense of tradition, the rendering is
From Genesis to Christ, and up to now, is the theme of a new book by a husband- and-wife team who run a specialised travel agency. The book, co-author Pornima Kamle points out, brings the sights of the Holy Land alive, taking the reader onto an exciting journey back through time. “The narrative is based on the holy sites in Israel, Jordan and Egypt, and their Biblical references. It also covers the festivals, cuisine and history of the Holy Land,” she says. Film and television actress Jennifer Winget, who released Walk on the footsteps of Jesus Christ modern. These are represented by various colours: green for environment, orange for culture, blue for knowledge and education, pink for celebration and youth, and grey for a sense of timelessness. The bird flying high denotes that the people of the city can achieve their dreams here. The bus, too, has tried to capture the colours of the logo joyfully in the various heritage buildings.” A graduate of the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, Gokhale needs to deliver effective design solutions for brand identity, package design and communication strategy for corporate clients as per their timelines and budgets. “But I also fulfil my emotional and instinctive need to make things just for myself,” she says. And so, she dabbles in ‘this and that’ – painting, jewellery and miniature installations that capture her childhood memories of her grandmother’s home using traditional copper-and-brass Indian toys.