Eastern Europe Trip – Day 14 – Vienna, Austria

Today I woke up at 7:00am. After getting ready I walked to a McDonald’s at a nearby mall, where I had a coffee and an Egg McMuffin. The Egg McMuffin was different than the ones that we get here, because they don’t put back bacon in the sandwich.

In the morning I explored Bundesamtsgebäude, Urania-Sternwarte, UNIQA Tower, Österreichische Postsparkasse, Gasometers of Vienna, Flak tower, Katholische Kirche St. Florian, and Majolikahaus von Otto Wagner.

Bundesamtsgebäude is the Federal Office Building. Due ot its octagonal shape, the building is oftern referred to as Octoneum. The three ring-shaped octagons and courtyards on the upper floors correspond to the three public zones on the ground floor. The octagons symbolize tradition, aesthetics, function, commitment, monumentality, technology, innovation, and economy.

Urania-Sternwarte (Kinder Train Museum) is a public educational institute and observatory. It was built in Art Nouveau style by architect Max Fabiani, who was a student of the very famous Otto Wagner. It was opened in 1910 by Franz Joseph I originally as an educational facility and public observatory. During World War 2 it was severely damaged, with the observatory dome being completely destroyed. It was reopened in 1957 after extensive renovations.

The UNIQA Tower is a 75-metre-tall tower that was built between 2001 and 2004 for Uniqa Insurance Group. The tower has 22 floors and was designed by Austrian architect Heinz Neumann.

Österreichische Postsparkasse was the headquarters of a postal savings bank that was owned by the Austrian Mail that merged in October 2005 with BAWAG to form BAWAG P.S.K. The building was designed and built by the famous Otto Wagner in Vienna Secession (Art Nouveau) style between 1904 and 1906. It was opened on December 17th 1906, and an extension was added between 1910 and 1912. The building is now used by BAWAG P.S.K. as their headquarters. The eight-story high building occupies an entire city block. The beautiful façade is covered with square marble slabs and aluminum applications. Granite slabs are attached to the lower and upper levels.

The Gasometers of Vienna are four former 90000 m3 gas tanks that were built as part of the Vienna municipal gas works project of 1896-1899. They were used between 1899 and 1984 as gas storage tanks. After the changeover from town gas to natural gas between 1969 and 1978, they were no longer used and were shut down. The spheres were designated as protected historic landmarks in 1978. In 1995 ideas were presented on how to repurpose the structures. The chosen designs by the architects Jean Nouvel (Gasometer A), Coop Himmelblau (Gasometer B), Manfred Wehdorn (Gasometer C) and Wilhelm Holzbauer (Gasometer D) were completed between 1999 and 2001. Each gasometer was divided into several zones for living (at the top), working (in the middle), and entertainment / shopping (ground floors). The historic exterior wall was conserved. The shopping mall levels in each gasometer are connected to the others by sky bridges.

Flak Tower VIII (G-Tower Arenbergpark) is a former concrete bunker from the Second World War. The tower had room for over 20000 people who could shelter during bombings, and there was also space for the storage of goods. The bunker was equipped with Flake anti-aircraft guns. These large towers were built during the Second World War in the cities of Berlin (Germany), Hamburg (Germany) and Vienna (Austria). The tower is now used for the storage of art.

Katholische Kirche St. Florian was built between 1961 and 1963. The concrete frame structure was built according to the plans of German architect Rudolf Schwarz, despite him passing away before the structure was completed. Johann Petermaier completed the construction of the building. The church has undergone a few renovations from 2005 to 2016. It’s really hard to pinpoint the style of this church to be honest; it’s a bit of everything.

Majolikahaus of Otto Wagner, also known as the Linke Wienzeile Buildings, are two apartment buildings that were designed by Otto Wagner, and constructed between 1898 and 1899 in Vienna Secession (Art Nouveau) style. They are lavishly decorated in colourful tiles, sculptures an wrought iron.

I was starting to get hungry so it was time to get some lunch. I stopped in at a restaurant called Wirr, where I had a delicious smoked salmon bagel, and some coffee.

After lunch I explored Neue Burg, Artaria Haus, Apotheke Zum weißen Engel, Innere Stadt Street, Anker Clock, Regensburger Hof, Karlsplatz Metro Station, Karlskirche, and the Vienna Opera House.

Neue Burg, also known as Hofburg, is a former imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty. Today it serves as the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria. It was built in the 13th century and expanded several times afterwards. It also served as the imperial winter residence, as Schönbrunn Palace was the summer residence. Numerous architects have executed work at the Hofburg as it expanded, notably the Italian architect-engineer Filiberto Luchese, Lodovico Burnacini and Martino and Domenico Carlone, the Baroque architects Lukas von Hildebrandt and Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach, Johann Fischer von Erlach, and the architects of the Neue Burg built between 1881 and 1913.

Artaria Haus is an Art-Noveau style building that was built between 1900 and 1902. It was designed by Max Fabiana. The marble cladding of the facade is considered a parallel to Otto Wagner’s ideas, and the later very popular bay windows appear on this building for the first time in Vienna. The façade of the house is set back opposite the row of houses, which goes back to a regulatory plan that never came into effect. The Artaria House is also one of the first buildings in which electrical cables were laid under plaster.

Apotheke Zum weißen Engel, also known as the Pharmacy to the White Angel, is one of the oldest pharmacies in Vienna, started in 1587. It was relocated a few times in its history before settling on its currently location and Art Nouveau style building in 1901-1902. The new building and design of the pharmacy was carried out by Oskar Laske.

The Innere Stadt is the old town of Vienna. It’s the first municipal district of Vienna. Vienna’s city boundaries were expanded in 1850.

Anker Clock is a beautiful Art-Nouveau style public clock that was designed by Franz Matsch, and built between 1914 and 1915 at the Der Anker insurance company headquarters building. The completion of the clock took longer than expected due to World War 1. After two trial runs the water stayed off for quite some time. It was decided that it would be a “peace watch” and only after the end of the war it would be turned on. After World War 1 ended it was turned on. Sadly, during World War 2 it was badly damaged by arson. It remained out of service from 1945 to 1956.

Regensburger Hof is a beautiful building that dates back to the 14th century, however has been rebuilt many times. It was once the site of a historical meeting between Emperor Friedrich III, and the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus in February 1470. The original building was demolished in 1896, despite numerous protests. The current building was built in 1897.

Karlsplatz Metro Station is a former metro station of the Viennese Stadtbahn (Vienna Metropolitan Railway) that was operated from 1898 to 1989. The building is a great example of Jugendstil architecture, also known as the “Youth Style” architectural movement from 1895 to 1910. This architectural movement was known as the German Art Nouveau style of architecture. The building was designed by the famous Otoo Wagner. Toda the buildings are now used as an exhibition space by the Vienna Museum, with an U-Bahn entrance in its rear, and as a café.

Karlskirche, also known as St. Charles Church, is a Baroque church that was built between 1716 and 1737. The church is dedicated to Saint Charles Borromeo, one of the great counter-reformers of the sixteenth century. You can take an elevator inside to the very top, which offers great views of Vienna below.

The Vienna State Opera House was built between 1861 and 1869. The opera house can seat 1709 people, in addition to 567 standing people. It was designed by August Sicard von Sicardsburg, Eduard van der Nüll, and Josef Hlávka. The Neo-Renaissance style building is home to the Vienna State Ballet and also hosts the annual Vienna Operal Ball during carinval season.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 10 – Budapest, Hungary

Today I continued exploring Budapest. I slept in until 8:00am today, which was nice, as I was quite tired. I had some breakfast and coffee before venturing outside. It was quite chilly this morning, so I brought my jacket with me.

I took a tram to the Anantara New York Palace Budapest Hotel. The building was constructed in 1894 by the New York Life Insurance Company to be used as their local head office. It was designed by Alajos Hauszmann, Flóris Korb and Kálmán Giergl. During the communist era the building was nationalized. After the collapse of communism, the structure was purchased by Italian Boscolo Hotels in February 2001, and was totally renovated and reopened in May 2006 as a 107-room luxury hotel.

I then walked to the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, which was established in 1875 as a live concert hall and music university. It is also home to the Liszt Collection, which feature several valuable books and manuscripts donated by Franz Liszt when he died. The academy is currently located in a beautiful Art Nouveau style building that was built in 1907. It was designed by Flóris Korb and Kálmán Giergl at the request of Baron Gyula Wlassics, who was the Minister of Culture at that time. The façade is dominated by a statue of Liszt, which was sculpted by Alajos Stróbl. The building is fairly beautiful on the outside, however is supposed to be quite beautiful on the inside, however I was unable to get inside as they use a keycard system to enter.

Close by is Lotz Hall, which was originally a casino in 1884, under the name “Terézvárosi Kaszinó”, and became a department store in the 20th century. The beautiful Art Nouveau style building was designed by Karoly Lotz. When you enter the building it still says “Párisi Nagy Áruház” (“Paris Department Store”) on a sign on the façade, bringing homage to the history of this beautiful building. Abandoned for years, the building was brought back to life by the Alexandra bookstore, which had a café in the Lotz Hall and its stock downstairs. In March 2017, the business suddenly shut down and the Lotz Hall was closed to the public for almost two years until it was transformed into a venue that can be rented out, with a French-style cafe called “Café Párisi” on the top floor. Sadly the café closed during COVID-19, and there is a for rent sign out front.

Café Párisi is located on the famous Andrássy út street, which is one of the main boulevards in Budapest, dating back to 1872. The boulevard is lined with spectacular Neo-renaissance mansions and townhouses featuring fine facades and interiors. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002.

A short walk away is the Hungarian State Opera, which was also closed due to extensive renovations. The Hungarian State Opera House is a beautiful Neo-Renaissance style opera house, with elements of Baroque, that was built between 1875 and 1884. It was designed by Miklós Ybl, a major figure of 19th-century Hungarian architecture. The opera house has capacity for 1300 people. A major renovation occurred between 1980 and 1984. The decoration of the symmetrical façade follows a musical theme. At the main entrance there is a beautiful wide sweeping stone staircase that is illuminated by wrought-iron lamps. The foyers contain marble columns, and the vaulted ceilings are covered in beautiful murals created by Bertalan Székely and Mór Than.

Continuing down Andrássy út street I eventually came to St. Stephen’s Basilica, which is a Roman Catholic basilica that was built between 1851 and 1905. The reason that the basilica took so long to build was the collapse of the dome in 1868 which required complete demolition of the completed works and rebuilding from the ground up. It was named in honour of King Stephen, the first King of Hungary from 975 AD to 1038 AD. The church was built on the site of a former theater, named Hetz-Theater, where animal fights were hosted. After the theatre was knocked down a temporary church was built in its place by a rich Hungarian named János Zitterbarth before the permanent church was built with money that was fundraised. The building is in Neo-Classical architecture style, and is the second tallest building in Budapest at 96 metres (315 feet) tall. The reason for this was that regulations prohibited building any building taller than this for a long time. It’s simply stunning on the inside.

I started walking towards the Hungarian Parliament building with two quick photo stops at the Postal Savings Bank, and the House of Hungarian Art Nouveau, which also was sadly a COVID causality. It recently gone out of business as well.

The Postal Savings Bank building is a beautiful Secessionist style building containing colourful tiles and folk motifs. It was built by Ödön Lechner in 1901. The building is now utilized by the National Bank of Hungary.

House of Hungarian Art Nouveau is dedicated to the Hungarian Art Nouveau Secession style. The museum is located in a house built by Emil Vidor in 1903 for the Bedő family. The contemporary furniture, decorative objects, paintings and instruments displayed in the museum showcase what it would have been like to live in the beginning of the 20th century. The building was restored between 2003 and 2007 by architect Benkovich Attila and the architectural historian János Gerle.

The Hungarian Parliament Building is the largest building in Hungary. It was designed by Hungarian architect Imre Steindl in neo-Gothic style and was completed in 1904. When Budapest was united from the three cities of Buda, Óbuda, and Pest it was decided to establish a new parliament building that would express sovereignty of the nation. The design was chosen from an international competition, with Imre Steindl emerging as the victor. The plans of the other two competitors were later also realized in the form of the Néprajzi Múzeum (Ethnographic Museum) and Vajdahunyad Castle (the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture), both facing the Parliament Building. The building took over 100000 people the build, 40 million bricks, 500000 precious stones, and nearly 100 pounds of gold.

Close to the parliament building is the The Shoes on the Danube Bank memorial, which was opened on April 16th 2005 to honour the Jews were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen during World War 2. They were ordered to take off their shoes and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies would fall into the river when they died. It represents their shoes that were left behind. The memorial was designed by Gyula Pauer.

By this point in time my feet were in absolute agony. These new Nike’s were just not working for me, so I decided to go to a shoe store in the suburbs to pick up a pair of ASICS. It was about a 40 minute ride, but completely worth it. My feet were instantly happy.

Near the shoe store was a neat hotel called Hotel Budapest. It’s a cylindrical shaped brutalism style hotel that was opened in 1967. It was designed by György Szrogh and built using slipform construction and fair-faced concrete, which was quite cutting-edge technology at the time. During it’s prime days it had a dance club on the top floor, which was then turned into a sauna and roof terrace, however in 1994 it was converted into rooms.

I then went back to my hotel quickly to drop off my bag with my Nike’s in there, and went to Mazel Tov for some food, which my friend Pat recommended to me. I had a Shawarma platter and an IPA beer. Both were extremely delicious!

The final stop for today was The House of Terror museum, which features exhibits related to the fascist and communist regimes in the 20th century Hungary. It also serves as a memorial to the victims of these regimes. The museum was opened on February 24th 2002. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take any interior photos, but it was an excellent exhibit, and I highly recommend visiting it.

I then tried to book a bus to Bratislava for Saturday, however it seemed that the bus company wasn’t operating, so I’ll just head straight to Vienna on Saturday (in two days), and then do a day trip to Bratislava on another day. I was still hungry so I walked across the street from my hotel to Sali Salad Library and had a Greek salad.

Be sure to check back tomorrow, as it is my last day in Budapest.

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