News>Travel - Vienna offers picturesque, historic sites within easy reach
A sculpture of Erzherzog Karl stands on grounds of the Hofburg Palace. The palace has housed some of the most powerful people in European and Austrian history, and currently serves as the official residence of the president of Austria. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Erick Saks)
A sphinx stands guard over the grounds at the Belvedere Palace. The Belvedere includes two picturesque palaces in the middle of a park filled with gardens, fountains and statues. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Erick Saks)
Sunlight, tinted by massive stained-glass windows, flows across stonework and sculptures at Saint Stephen's Cathedral. Dedicated in 1147, the outside of the building features soaring towers and menacing gargoyles. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Erick Saks)
by Capt. Erick Saks
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
7/5/2012 - VIENNA -- Team Aviano explorers looking to visit a large international city within the reach of a weekend excursion may set their sights north to the capitol city of Austria.
About a five-hour drive from Aviano Air Base, Vienna is a bustling, modern city with historic sites and magnificent gardens which allow summer visitors to enjoy the weather while exploring the scenery.
The drive itself offers photo-friendly countryside including rolling hills and the occasional ruins of a medieval castle. When entering Austria, motorists are required to stop to get a vignette. At a cost of less than 10 euros for the weekend, the vignette is basically a toll you pay for travelling on the Autobahn. Hefty fines await those who ignore the signs and proceed without acquiring the small sticker which is adhered to the inside of your windshield.
Drivers should also be aware that there are countless tunnels along the route and the speed limit fluctuates frequently. Motorist must be vigilant along the route to stay safe and avoid a speeding ticket from one of the many, many traffic cameras posted along the road.
Once in the city, travelers may find the roads complicated to navigate. The ever-present trolleys along the city streets add to its charm, but also add to the confusion of driving on unfamiliar roads. Mapping out your path to your hotel before arriving can avoid unnecessary stress and danger.
Like any large city, there are numerous lodging options ranging from spectacular five-star hotels near the city center to small inexpensive options on the outskirts of town. Travelers may be interested to know that many of the hotels they know from the United States are located within large cities such as Vienna. A benefit of staying at such a hotel is easy booking and many of these hotels offer military discounts which are available worldwide.
Once settled you may want to get out to explore as soon as possible. Vienna has so many attractions that you would not be able to visit them all in numerous visits. Needless to say you will barely be able to scratch the surface in a single weekend. Prior to departing, it is recommended that you research the sites and prioritize which sites you would like to see. One option to explore the city is to take advantage of one of the hop-on, hop-off bus services which circle the city's major sites. The buses run throughout the day, allowing customers to come and go as they please. They also include narration to allow travelers to learn about the history of the city and the sites.
The significant sites in Vienna include palaces, museums, cathedrals and gardens.
Schönbrunn Palace is one of the most significant cultural monuments in Austria. You will not want to forget your camera when visiting the 1,441-room palace and grounds which have a history reaching back to the 1500s.
The Belvedere includes two picturesque palaces in the middle of a park filled with gardens, fountains and statues. Both palaces house innumerable paintings and sculptures from artists including Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
Vienna is home to the Spanish Riding School, which is the oldest and last riding school in the world to "cultivate classical equitation in the Renaissance tradition of the haute école." Founded in 1572, the school is known for the Lipizzaner stallions which are trained to perform a type of ballet to the sound of classical music.
A final highly visited site in the city is Saint Stephen's Cathedral. Dedicated in 1147, the building is a spectacular sight featuring soaring towers and menacing gargoyles. Inside, the sunlight, tinted by massive stained-glass windows, flows across incredible stonework and sculptures.