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A Viennese Ballet

By Sarah Collins, 14 March 2017

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Vienna

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On our first morning in the imperial city of Vienna, we were met by our knowledgeable guide, Inge, who took us on a private walking tour of the city. It was not only an excellent way to discover the city and orientate ourselves, but also gave us unique insight into the turbulent history of this grand city.

We were interested to learn that the famous Ringstrasse, which encircles the old town, had been built in place of the old city walls in 1857 in an attempt to emulate the prestige of the Parisian Champs-Elysées (but also to distract the citizens of Emperor Franz Joseph's unpopular politics). Whilst walking along the Ringstrasse Inge would point out the colourful characters who had resided there throughout its history, bringing the city to life.

We continued our tour through the Old Town, to St Stephen's cathedral, with our guide pointing out the paths which Mozart and Beethoven had trod before us: including the doorway where a young Beethoven had approached Mozart asking for piano lessons and the last residence of Mozart. Whilst in a city with music so embedded in its history, we had to make time to visit the grandeur of Vienna's Staatsoper. The building alone is truly remarkable – an homage to various different styles of architecture, from the gothic columns to the baroque ceiling – and it now stands as the home of some of the finest opera, concert and ballet productions in the world. It is essential to book in advance, but the Kirker Concierge can secure tickets to any performance before you travel.

We saw John Neumeier's Le Pavillon d'Armide and Le Sacre ballets. I was astonished by the quality of the production - the effortlessness and elegance that the dancers possessed as they held themselves in remarkable positions, which require an enormous amount of physical strength. Set in such a magnificent building, accompanied by the superb orchestra, it was truly an evening to remember, and something which should be on every traveller’s wish list – regardless of whether you are a ballet aficionado or – like me – a curious novice.

Music isn't all this city has to offer however: Vienna is also home to a vast array of museums. Many museums are concentrated in Vienna's Museum Quarter, and Kirker clients receive a complimentary ‘Masterticket’ which includes entrance to two of the best. The Kunsthistorisches Museum houses a vast collection of fine art and classical antiquities in a beautiful palatial building (the sister of the Naturhistorisches (natural history) Museum, they face each other across Maria-Theresien-Platz). The Leopold Museum contrasts with this – the focus here being Austrian art from the early twentieth century. Collected over five decades by Dr Rudolph Leopold, the works on display include influential Austrian artists such as Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. However, to see Gustav Klimt's most famous painting, The Kiss, you must head to the Upper Belvedere – part of the Belvedere Palace complex, located just outside of the city centre. The Upper Belvedere houses an impressive art collection across a cross section of different styles, whilst the Lower Belvedere – linked by a formal garden – is home to changing temporary exhibits.

With a combination of meandering cobbled streets, grand palaces and museums, concert and opera halls, fine food and delightful coffee and pastry houses, Vienna is a city that will capture the heart of any discerning traveller.

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