Where old coexists with new
The Hilton Vienna Danube has a prime location on the Danube River, close to Vienna’s fair and exhibition site. The hotel has 367 rooms, two restaurants, a coffee house, a bar and a wide range of wellness facilities. You can use the Internet facility if you wish – it costs a minimum of Euro 5 for 15 minutes, and you will need a credit card. Indeed, a credit card is the preferred mode of payment even when you check in.
The city centre is only ten minutes away by shuttle service or public transportation, so you can enjoy all the attractions Vienna has to offer, from St. Stephan’s Cathedral to the Spanish Riding School. The hotel provides a complimentary shuttle service to the city centre at regular intervals.
There are several sightseeing spots in Vienna – St. Stephan’s Cathedral, State Opera, Art History Museum, Parliament, National Theatre, Town Hall, the University, the Danube Tower, Belvedere Castle, and many churches. The Ifra team arrived in Vienna on a Saturday afternoon. I, like most others, had only that afternoon and the following morning to spare for sightseeing. The rest of the time, till we left the following Friday, was just work.
Well, we got into our stride almost immediately after checking in at the Hotel Hilton Danube. Dean Roper, editor-in-chief of Ifra publications, my Chennai colleague Antony and myself headed towards Stephanplatz, a square at the centre of Vienna named after its most famous landmark, the Stephansdom, Vienna’s cathedral and one of the tallest churches in the world. St. Stephan’s Cathedral and horse-drawn carriages usually form the backdrop to most visit-Austria brochures and Vienna city maps. The sight of Stephansdom is simply awesome and you have to be there to experience it. Opposite Stephansdom is Haas-Haus, a piece of striking modern architecture – on its glass and steel structure you can see Stephansdom silhouetted – Wow!
The whole area around the Cathedral is a mixture of the old and new – some of the world’s best known brands in exclusive shopping streets vying for your attention with centuries-old buildings and churches around them. There is probably no better example of how the old can exist with the new in a harmonious blend, and if we have to protect and conserve our heritage, we must learn from Viennese and other Europeans as well. Because, in Darmstadt too, I noticed how well cared for some of the old buildings were. Either people live there or the basements are let out to shops. The buildings are in use, and that is the best way you can preserve heritage.
(Picture, from top: a view of St. Stephan's Cathedral; the glass and steel Haas-Haus; and a tourist overawed by the atmosphere.)