Vienna was once the center of world power. I didn’t really know that. I feel like I learned a lot about history in school—but it was American history. While American history will always be my favorite, traveling helps me fill in the blanks about what I never learned. I thought Vienna was just the former capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (i.e. Austria and Hungary). But once the Hapsburgs ruled much of eastern and central Europe, even today’s Belgium & Luxembourg, from their capital in Vienna. Hapsburg family members controlled Spain, and even Maximilian of Mexico was the brother of the Hapsburg Emporer Franz Josef before his ouster by Benito Juarez. Where did I nod off in history class? Or did they forget to teach me this?
The result of this empire on modern-day Vienna is marvelous collections of art, great museums, extremely grand palaces, and a sense of history. The Art Nouveau buildings speckled throughout the city from the turn of the 20th century are also a delight.
Vienna felt like Paris without the French. Sure there’s no Eiffel Tower or Louvre, but there are also millions fewer tourists in Vienna. Do I think the French are bad? No. But there was less dog poop to avoid in Vienna.