Vienna So Close to Paris Such a Different Culture

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 One of the pluses of living in Paris is that within less than two hours, you can be in another country, not to mention another culture. If you hit the Internet, more frequently than not, you can snag a round-trip air ticket for less than 150 Euros. If your destination is Vienna, it takes only sixteen minutes to travel from the airport to the center of the city if you hop on the CAT train. It’s not only economical but also fast and clean.   Access a hotel-booking site; invariably there are last minute deals to be had.  Business people who are “stuck” in the EU for a weekend are able to gather new perspectives as the world becomes increasingly global. Many people refer to Vienna the most imperial city in Europe.  With its many palaces, galleries, parks and more, visitors can understand why it has garnered that reputation.   Our base was the extremely high-tech and beautiful Le Meridien Vienna which is a showstopper and so very different from the classical hotels of Viennese fame and fortune. As someone who is Internet addicted, the 294 room Meridien, which opened in November 2003 and is equipped for business guests.  As modern goes, what it does, it does well.    Even if you can’t afford to stay in one of the two of the most exclusive hotels in the city, (and it’s becoming more of a stretch with the dollar falling through the floor), do visit The Sacher Hotel. It’s known not only for its accommodations and history but is renowned for the most sinful and famous chocolat cake that’s the city’s gastronomic trademark. Just walking through its lobby is an eye-opener.    Everyone should eat a Sacher torte at least once in his or her life, albeit the calories, which are too copious to count. I remember the first time I had a taste while sitting at the outdoor café overlooking the more than splendid Opera House.  At age 13, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. This certainly wasn’t Kansas, Dorothy. Nope, the world isn’t flat and visiting different countries, if only for a short look-see, only adds to one’s knowledge bank about how others think, feel and live. In addition, if you’re flying from Paris, you’re already on the same time zone and won’t suffer from jet-lag hell.   The Imperial Hotel is another palace worth seeing. Originally, it was the Vienna residence of the prince of Württemberg and was transformed into a hotel for the universal exhibition in 1873. In reality, it’s a mini-Versailles where people can book rooms and be treated as if they’re royalty.    When you say Vienna, certain things spring to mind. The Vienna State Opera, the Viennese Waltz, Sigmund Freud, Mozart, the composer/conductor Gustav Mahler renowned for his symphonies, not to mention Haydn, Beethoven, Strauss, and Schubert and so many other great musicians who have created a musical legacy for the world to enjoy. Even when RAP and Hip Hop music are out of fashion, concertgoers will always have some of the world’s greatest classical music. One of the lovely things about Vienna is that it’s easy to wander into a church and listen to live performances. For many, they’re religious experiences without the need to genuflect.   Visitors can explore different cuisines; walk through wonderful parks that are so pervasive in European cities, visit museums (and Vienna has some of the greatest in the world) and experience different life styles. Just sitting at a café (omni-present in this city which centers around a ring) enlightens visitors about a special type of life even if they don’t speak a word of German. Not traveling with a rigid agenda leaves time to encounter the unexpected and expand horizons.   A few must-sees: St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Albertina, the city’s renowned history museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Belvedere Palace, the Imperial Apartments at the Schloss Palace and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  If you want to see the city from on high, head for the Giant Ferris Wheel for a bird’s eye view.   Even though Paris is my favorite city, taking a break and exploring other places is always enlightening, albeit Paris’s Notre Dame ranking as definitely one of my favorite take-your-breath away sites anywhere.   Unless you grew up studying world history, visits to European cities invariably enhance your desire to know more about a country’s evolution, what roles it played and to which it was subjected during World War I and II, where many Jews were forced to flee or live in exile. So many American students are quasi-oblivious when sitting in a classroom.  Many hardly remember the Kennedy era much less what took place decades before.  After spending a few days in a city, tourists invariably come away enriched.    Vienna is Austria’s capital city and the center of finance, business and government.  An estimated 3.2 million people inhabit the metropolitan area; in 2001, Unesco designated the city center a world heritage site. The city has been ranked Vienna as third for its quality of life.   Since tourism is a large part of its economy, there’s something for everyone in addition to cultural events.  Bus tours, open mini-red tram tours, cruises on the Danube, horse drawn carriages, extensive shopping of all sorts, eating at the outdoor market,…
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