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Vienna

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About Vienna

Vienna (Wien) is a unique blend of the historic and the modern, so full of tradition, it can be read on the face of the city, yet with a forward-looking approach that will surprise the visitor. Vienna’s role as the seat of the Hapsburg Empire for centuries can be seen in the wealth of architecture and in the city’s artistic and musical heritage. Many of the world’s most important composers, including Beethoven and Mozart, have lived and performed behind Vienna’s Baroque façades. In addition to this Baroque splendour, there are excellent examples of the Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) architecture that also flourished here.

The fall of the Hapsburg Empire, at the end of World War I, allowed Vienna’s socialist undercurrents to come to the fore during the ÙRed Vienna’ period, resulting in numerous social housing and other projects, which still play a role in the city. Vienna’s occupation by the Nazis and subsequent partitioning by the four Allied powers tend to be forgotten, as the city instead focuses on its post-war neutrality and the glittering remnants of its Imperial glory. This seems to be reinforced by the image of older Viennese walking small dogs or eating cakes in cafés but it ignores the energy of Vienna’s alternative and underground scenes, whose members react against the attachment to tradition in a way similar to their Secessionist counterparts a century before.

Vienna is divided into 23 Bezirke (districts). The original city that lay within the protective walls comprises the First District of modern Vienna. The demolition of the city walls led to the construction of the Ringstrasse and an impressive parade of buildings along its length. The majority of the tourist attractions lie on and within the Ringstrasse. Districts two to nine are arrayed between the Ringstrasse and the concentric Gürtel (belt). The other districts lie beyond the Gürtel and extend into the foothills of the Wienerwald (Vienna Woods), where Heurigen (wine taverns) and pretty villages are dotted among the vineyards.

Vienna’s climate is generally moderate, although the city can experience heavy snowfalls and low temperatures from December to March, as well as occasionally very high temperatures in July and August. Summer, however, is usually comfortable with an average daily temperature of 20°C. Heavy thundershowers are likely during the season, however.

The city is not only the capital of Austria but also a federal province as well, surrounded by Niederösterreich (Lower Austria). Vienna’s location on the east–west trade route along the Danube River played an important part in its history – an empire that once covered a large part of Europe was ruled from here. Even today, Vienna is the financial and administrative capital of Austria, and home to a number of international organisations, including the United Nations. And with the fall of Communism, Vienna is once again at the centre of Europe.

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