Tag Archive: Habsburgs

My parents arrived early in the morning, so we had the entire day to tour the city and I acted as their personal tour guide. Once we checked into our hotel, they helped me carry all my bags from my host mother’s house to the apartment. It was a little sad leaving the room that I had stayed in for about four months, but at the same time I was ready to leave and have some change in my routine.

Afterwards we headed down to the first district and I showed them the Rathaus with its amazing Christmas Market, it was extremely cold and snowing, so we didn’t want to hang out too long. Just a few days before my family arrived the temperature dropped to freezing and it has been that way ever since, sometimes even getting below freezing, which is pretty with the snow in the streets, but makes for a cold tour of the city.

I also showed them Parliament, Hofburg, and the National Library. We took a tour of the famous Spanish Riding School, which is host to the Lipizzan stallions. They are all white, because the emperor wanted them all to look the same, so they are bred that way. However, the school likes to have one Bay horse, because it is considered good luck.


The next day was museum day. To get to the first museum we headed out towards the south train station. The Belvedere is on the way, so we stopped to see the palace grounds covered in snow. There is also a Christmas Market outside the Belvedere.

*as an early Christmas present my parents bought me a fisheye lens, which is why the following photos are used with that lens =)

The ponds and fountains surrounding the Belvedere were frozen and the gardens were covered in snow.


Just a few blocks from Belvedere is the HGM (Heeresgeschichtliches Museum), which is a museum about the major wars fought in and around Austria. This includes the Turkish Sieges of Vienna, WW I, and WW II. It is probably one of my favorite museums here in Vienna. The amount of historic artifacts they have is impressive. Inside are a number of different weapons, armor, and other items of significance from influential people in history.

The stairway leading up to the second floor of the museum. The museum itself is a work of art.

The Staircase of the HGM

Weapons of WW II

Hot Air Balloon

The car below belonged to Franz Ferdinand, who was a Habsburg, the next in line under Franz Josef. However, he was assassinated in Sarajevo and because of this Franz Josef declared war. It was to be the beginning of the Great War. On the car are the bullet holes that missed Franz Ferdinand. In the room is also the couch where he died and the suit he died in. His suit had a small hole where the bullet hit.

Franz Ferdinand's Car

Next we headed to the Natural History Museum, which is right across from the Art History Museum. It hosts a number of different animals, minerals, meteors, and dinosaur bones.

The entrance.

Natural History Entrance

The ceiling of the museum.

Natural History Ceiling


Giant Bird

Pre-Historic Dinosaur

Pre-Historic Dino

The Christmas market on Maria-Theresien-Platz, between the Art History and Natural History.


Day 98: Budapest

One weekend we decided it was time to make a final trip together before the end of the semester. Budapest was our destination, only about three hours away by train. Therefore, we made day plans to leave Vienna early in the morning and return the same day. Although one day in Budapest was not enough to get to know the city very well it was a great break from all the work and stress that had been building up.

Like many of the cities we’ve been to, the train station was nowhere near the main attractions of the city, so once we oriented ourselves we set out towards the Buda Castle, which was on the other side of the Danube.

Heading away from the station, towards the Danube.

It might have just been the time that we visited, but the city was quiet. I know Budapest is a really popular city to travel to, but most of the city seemed empty and even the main tourist attractions weren’t very crowded.

 There are a lot of bridges crossing the Danube, the one below is the only white bridge and it looks somewhat out of place and too modern in such an old city.

Making our way across the bridge.

The Hungarian Flag

Directly across from the bridge was a cliff face that had stairs and paths built into it. At the top was a large statue and a nice view of the city.

Up on the hill is the castle and just on the right side of the river is another domed building which is the Parliament building. Budapest used to be the second most important city behind the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The empire was split into two parts with different governing bodies, but Franz Joseph was still technically King of Hungary as well as Emperor of Austria. In terms of defense and international affairs Franz Joseph’s law ruled supreme.


We made our way slowly to the castle, which was just open to the public. I’m not really sure what the castle is used for, but it was a nice place to wander around.

A small side entrance to the castle that we took.

Buda Castle

Just a bird friend that we made. They were everywhere and not at all afraid of people.


We headed out the back side of the castle and came to a small street with carts selling trinkets. This area had some more tourist activities, including archery. I had never tried archery before so of course I had to do it! I completely failed to launch the arrow on my first try. I let go of the string and the arrow just fell to the ground, but then Ari gave me a few pointers and I hit the target twice! It was fun and I definitely want to try it again.

After that we headed down a cute road full of restaurants and shops. This street reminded me a lot of the Golden Lane in Prague, although the houses were a lot larger. Eventually we came to Matthias Church, which had one of the more colorful roofs I’ve seen on a church. This church is up on the hill and looks out along the river.

Matthias Church

Just behind the church is Fisherman’s Bastion. It stands right on the top of the hill overlooking the river and was probably the only place that we went in Budapest that was a little crowded. I really like this place, because it was similar to a maze. Each tower has multiple twirling staircase and underneath each section are small hallways that people can walk through and look out towards Parliament.

Fisherman's Bastion2

Parlament from Fisherman's Bastion

Fisherman's Bastion

After taking a copious amount of photos, we got hungry and went to one of the restaurants along the road. It was really cheap and like a buffet style. Since we had been on the train for a good while and then exploring the city, it was around three when we actually had lunch and by that time it was already getting a little dark out. Therefore, we decided to head towards the riverfront to make sure that we could get pictures of Parliament at night.

Fisherman’s Bastion from below with the church rising behind it.

Fisherman's Bastion 3

The view of Parliament from Fisherman’s Bastion.

Parlament Day

The church with the sun setting.


The lights decorating Parliament didn’t turn on for some time, so while the sun set we sat next to the water and watched the cars rush by. Finally, the lights slowly came on. It is a really beautiful building at night.


It was getting late and we still needed to catch our train, so we headed back to the first bridge we could find.

The sidewalk, heading back to the train station.

The Dark Walk Back

Chain Bridge. This is the one that’s famous and has the lion statues on either end.

Chain Bridge at Night

We had a little extra time and wanted to see St. Stephan’s Basilica at night. It was very impressive to walk up to. It was the only building that was lit up and the square in front of it was mostly empty.

St. Stephans Basilika Budapest

I think that Budapest is one of the more beautiful cities I’ve seen at night. The way they light up the bridges it just amazing. I’m glad we got to see it in contrast to Vienna. Both were influenced by the Habsburg monarchy, but in very different ways.

It was a monday night, but Ari, Annika and I still decided that it was worth it to go to a concert by Mika. We traveled a long way from the center of the city to a place called the Gasometer. The Gasometer is actually one of four old gas tanks, which the city used to store gas. They were shut down a while ago, but now they are used for student housing, movie theater, shopping, restaurants, and a concert hall.

Our tickets had no seat numbers so we knew we had to arrive early to get a good standing place. We stepped right off the U-Bahn and there was the Gasometer, but the map was really confusing and we spent about a half hour trying to figure out how we could get to the concert hall, which was ground-level. All the elevators inside the building were closed or locked, so eventually we had to make our way back outside until we found the ground floor entrance. By the time we got there the line was long, but nothing that we were worried about.

Once inside we headed straight to the concert hall and stationed ourselves right at the front. Lucky for us there weren’t that many people there yet and we were only two people back from the stage.

*These pictures aren’t the best, because they were taken with my phone, but they do show just how close we were.*

Mika had a backup choir dressed in these horrible polka dot sheets. He said something about the choir only having rehearsed with them once. Sometimes he would look at them and laugh, because they were dressed so ridiculously, but they were having fun dance and acting along with Mika’s crazy performance.

I always worry that the bands I go see won’t be as good live, but so far they haven’t let me down!

The concert was really amazing, and what I liked about it most was the fact that Mika was so informal. He was constantly changing the set list, which probably made his new band a little nervous, but if they made a mistake he would joke around with them. It was really refreshing to see an artist that doesn’t take himself too seriously. He was constantly jumping around stage and dancing like he was just enjoying life and couldn’t care less what people thought.

Annika probably has the best description of him, she called him a “mischievous elf”.

It was a great night and although we were tired the next day it was worth every minute.


It’s been months since I went to the Imperial Crypt of the Habsburgs, but I returned to it one day with my class. This time I knew a lot more about the different people buried there after learning about basically every Habsburg that was ever important.

The rituals of the Habsburg’s burials were very important. Whenever one of them died, the heart was removed as well as the organs. These are stored in the crypt in St. Stephens. Although, the hearts are placed in different places depending on what each individual Habsburg wanted. They would also drain them of blood and fill their bodies with sawdust or other concoctions, which differed depending on the person who was preparing the body.

There is also a ritual that the body must go through to enter the crypt. First the dead are lead around Ringstraße and taken to St. Stephens where Mass is held. Then the body is transported to the crypt. Outside the many names and titles of the deceased are listed off, but the body is not allowed to enter. Slowly the titles are reduced until it is only the deceased’s name and yet they are still not allowed to enter the crypt. Finally, the name of the deceased is reduced to simply, “a dead man” and they are allowed to enter the crypt and in turn enter death just as they had entered the world.

The sarcophagi are made out of tin and often have to be restored or else they warp. Inside the sarcophagi are wood coffins.

The first part of the crypt is very different from the last half. This is because the coffins in the first half were built during the Baroque period and therefore they are adorned with entire figures made out of tin, while the most recent coffins, in the last part of the crypt, are simpler and made only a few years ago.

The front of Leopold I’s sarcophgus. He was one of the Baroque emperors and was ruler of the Habsburg lands during the 1683 Turkish siege. He spent most of his life fighting, but is said to have been a peace-loving man. The skull and leaves stand for victory over death.

The largest of the sarcophagi is the one for Maria Theresa and her husband Francis Stephen of Lorraine. Maria Theresa is on the left and her husband on the right. They were very much in love and when he died first she would visit him in the crypt until she could no longer walk. Together they had 16 children, probably the best known being Marie Antoinette. Maria Theresa was a very forward thinking ruler and she passed many reforms that benefitted her people.

Just to the right of Maria Theresa is the simple sarcophagus of the nanny who took care of Maria Theresa’s children. She is the only non-Habsburg to be buried in the crypt.

In the background is the sarcophagus of Maria Theresa. In the foreground is the sarcophagus of Joseph II, the son of Maria Theresa. They co-ruled for a time and when Maria Theresa died Joseph took control. He was one of the very first ruler that was truly of the Enlgihtenment and many would say far too ahead of his time.

He was a very practical thinking man. He opened the Prater and Augarten in Vienna to the public, which as you can imagine did not make some of the more wealthy very happy and he abolished torture and serfdom. However, some of his reforms were too drastic for the time. He believed religion should be an individual matter and the church subservient to the state, which was hard for people to understand when the church had always been so involved in their lives. He closed down 700 monasteries, becoming so extreme that the Pope himself visited Vienna to make him stop.

Joseph was also known for creating fake coffins, which had trap doors on the bottom so that the bodies could be dumped in the grave and the coffin reused without anyone knowing. Some believe that it is because of Joseph that Mozart’s body has never been found.

He also built a hospital for the poor in Vienna with a smaller building behind it for the clinically insane. This is the hospital in which I now have my German classes.

Joseph’s sarcophagus is lower than Maria Theresa’s because he was such a practical man and wanted to be at the level of his own people.

Franz Joseph and his wife Elisabeth, also known as Sisi. Sisi was loved by many, especially Franz Joseph, but she never really loved him back. She spent most of her time traveling. She was a mediator between Austria and Hungary and helped to create the Austro-Hungarian Empire. She was killed by an Italian anarchist on one trip.

Crown Prince Rudolf is to the right of Franz Joseph. He was one of the only Habsburgs to be tutored by someone other than a noble professor. He is said to have died on a hunting accident, but many believe that he killed himself. They also found a mistress dead with him. It is not known if he killed her or if she wanted to die with him, because she loved him so much.

Charles I.

After WW I he was asked to step down and the Habsburg Empire was no more. He was exiled to Switzerland, but always had a dream of coming back to try to reclaim his “rightful” place. His body is not in the crypt because of his exile.

The first day we were in Vienna, before we had left for Dorfgastein, one of our language instructors took us to a food market called Naschmarkt. After being in Vienna for about a week, we finally decided it was time to return to Naschmarkt for lunch.

Naschmarkt is almost like a farmers market. It has the usual stands full of fruit, fresh meat or bread, there are food carts where people can buy their food and then take it away, and there are also more perminent restaurants where people can sit down and enjoy their food right in the market. It’s a great place to get fresh and cheap food.

The most talked about food in Nashmarkt is the Turkish kabobs and dürüms. I ordered a chicken kabob, which was basically a really good sandwich, however, the best part about ordering these dishes is getting to see them prepared. Both the lamb and chicken are placed on vertical spits, which they then cut the meat off of to put in a sandwich. Somehow this makes the chicken extra delicious. They also add some sort of sauce, tomatoes, onions and the optional chile spices.

After lunch I had a lot of free time after my first lesson and before the next one started, so I decided to go exploring.

I feel like I’ve already been here a long time and yet its only been 14 days. I thought I had seen everything there was to see in the vicinity of the Institute. I know where Stephansdom is, where all the good places to eat and shop are, where the Opera is, where my house is. What else could I possibly need? My explorations today showed me just how wrong I was.

Just around the corner from the Institute there is not only a really great hotdog stand, but also the Albertina, an art museum. Below the museum is a fountain that’s a great place to sit and watch the tourists walk by.

If you head down the road on either side of the fountain you can climb the stairs up to the Albertina and also see the huge statue of one of Austria’s emperors Franz Joseph. From above he looks regally out over the bustling streets of Vienna as if he still commanded its people.

After climbing the steps to stand below Franz Joseph’s statue, I noticed that there was an entire park behind the Institute and two other huge buildings! How could I have missed this? From my vantage point I could only see the bright green rooftops and so I quickly headed down to explore a whole new area.

What I found was probably the largest library I’ve ever seen. In front of the library was a nice park where people were reading and sunbathing. I definitely want to return to this place and actually go inside when I have more time. It’s impossible for me to resist any place that holds so many books.

The entrance to the square is guarded by a double-headed eagle. It is the symbol of the Habsburgs and it is also associated with the Byzantine Empire. It’s a symbol that can be seen often around Vienna.

After wandering around the Institute, I decided to visit the resting place of the Habsburg family. The day before, our Professor had pointed it out to us, but we hadn’t had time to visit it. The Imperial Crypt is called Kaisergruft and is below the Capuchin church. It contains over 100 bodies of the royal family, some of the more well-known names being Franz Joseph and Maria Theresia.

Below is Franz Joseph’s tomb with his wife Elisabeth and his son Rudolf.

Many of the caskets were both simple and elegant. Others were huge, with human sized statues of angles, skeletons and cherubs. The artistry that went into making those tombs must have been amazing and awe-inspiring to say the least. I took a lot of pictures of the different tombs and quite frankly got a little lost on the names, even when there was a plaque explaining their relationship to one another.

There were multiple rooms that the caskets were set in. Some of the rooms were filled with up to ten or fifteen caskets, while others had only one or two. Some of the rooms were also hidden way back in the corner where only one or two caskets could be seen.

Many of the tombs were swimming in symbolism. The ones below were some of the most intricate tombs in the entire crypt.

Going through Kasiergruft was something I’ll always remember. The tombs made me feel small and insignificant. The Habsburg’s power was blatantly stated in the bronze crowns, the angels, the small floral flourishes. I was in the presence of royalty and even in death the Habsburgs did not want me to forget.


On a different note, after I returned to the Institute we took a trip to the Prater, which is a small amusement park with a grass park out front. It was one of those amusement parks that didn’t have the latest rides or even the fastest one, but there were no lines and it seemed to be a very nice place to simply hangout if you didn’t want to take a ride on anything. In September they also put on Oktoberfest out on the grass and we’ve been told it’s a must go.

The Prater also has a ferris wheel that goes around very slowly, but the cart is large enough that you can rent it and have a part inside with catering and everything.

We didn’t have time to actually try any of the rides, but most of us in the group have already chosen what we want to do when we return.