|Heldenplatz, where Hitler gave his speech |
announcing the Anscluss of Germany and Austria
First stop this series - Vienna. City of coffee, waltzes and the original croissant. At the time of the 1913 edition of Bradshaw's, Franz Ferdinand was still alive, just. As was the Austro-Hungarian Empire, just. By then it was ruling a ridiculous number of countries, but cracks were definitely appearing at the seams. Rebels in Vienna's midst were clamouring to transform its medieval society model into a vibrant, modern city. Russian spies were blackmailing the military, Freud was analysing the soul. Secession architects and Klimt were doing amazing things with gold leaf. Schiele, Schnitzler and Schoenberg were revolutionising cultural life. Exciting times, but with dark threats in murky corners. Jews were dominating the middle classes, but anti-Semitic feeling was rife. Adolf Hitler, amongst them, was failing to be an art student and acquiring beliefs that - as we all know - would have catastrophic consequences.
I once spent a week in Vienna, the house guest of a flautist who played in one of the city's orchestras. He lived round the corner from the Schoenbrunn Palace, whose garden at the time was bursting with spring flowers. The apartment block was full of musicians, and the sounds drifting up the stairwell as they all practised in their separate abodes was mesmering, yet as cacophonous as Schoenberg. The flautist slept on a chaise longue, bought us McDonald's to eat each evening and had his life ruled by his mother. He also got us free tickets for a box at the ballet on the Ringstrasse, where - as an interrailing student - I have never felt so underdressed in my life.
It was a busy week. A homage to Beethoven in the city cemetery. My first chance to brush against Klimt's Kiss, where his pencil drafts were still visible below that wonderful gold leaf. A wall of lace at the Museum of Applied Art. Wine at a Heurige. And a Melange coffee which kept me shaking for days.
|A building painted in the colours of the Slovenian flag|
We spent a week in Slovenia and I would rate it as one of my favourite countries to visit, ever. Such diversity within a tiny geographical area - Alps, meadows, waterfalls, castles, karst, coast. Venetian ports, Viennese cities. Warm, clean, friendly. My grumpy husband on a grumpier horse. A boat captain who brewed brandy-strength wine, sailed us to Trieste and gave me the worst hangover of my life. That should never be repeated, but a return visit to the country - one I day, I hope.