The Oxford historians' discovery of Vienna

Category Archives: Vienna Tips

Franz Ferdinand and the Beginning of the First World War

On 29 June 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Habsburg throne, was assassinated in Sarajevo. The death of this rather unpleasant character assumed the dimensions of a Shakespearean tragedy as it became the pretext for the First World War. Very soon, the whole of Europe would find out that the world was,…
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An Austrian Philosopher at Cambridge: Wittgenstein’s Tolstoyan Ethics

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century, was born in Vienna in an extremely wealthy and highly cultured Jewish family. He spent part of his academic career in Cambridge, where he worked with the British philosopher Bertrand Russell. The result was a slim, but hugely influential book that Wittgenstein…
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The Putti in the Belvedere Palace Gardens in Vienna

The Belvedere Palace, the lavish summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy, is one of the most impressive Baroque palaces in Europe. The Upper Belvedere is more spectacular and slightly later in date than the Lower Belvedere. The two complexes are connected by the gardens, an outstanding example of Baroque landscape architecture. The wide stairs…
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Fame But No Fortune? The Case of Mozart

One of the most die-hard elements of the Mozart myth is the notion that he died impoverished and was buried, on a stormy night, in an unknown, common grave. The motif of the beggars’ grave is certainly an invention. At the time, it was usual to bury all, but members of the aristocracy, in such…
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Hitler in Vienna: Learning from the Best

My friend Helmut once said that he was perfectly happy for people to think, as they often do, that Beethoven was Austrian, while Hitler was German. Helmut, as you can imagine, is Austrian. Indeed, Beethoven, who was born in Bonn, spent such a long time of his adult life in Vienna that one can understand…
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Prince Eugene of Savoy – the Debauched Boy Turned Military Hero

In 1682, King Louis XIV of France was approached by a short and unprepossessing-looking young man, who asked to be allowed to enlist in the French army. The young man was Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), who, as the fifth son of one of the important, aristocratic families in France had two careers open to…
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Empress Sisi: The Most Beautiful Royal in Europe

Strolling through the streets of central Vienna, there are two faces staring at you from cups, mugs, fridge magnets, chocolates, coffee-boxes, and all the rest of the tourist paraphernalia. One is Mozart, as can only be expected, the other one is the Empress Elizabeth (1837-1898), the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph, affectionately known as Sisi.…
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The Sacher Café and Viennese High Society

Traditional coffee-culture was very much a bourgeois culture. Most Viennese coffee-houses catered for their usual clientele – middle-class, almost exclusively male, intellectual, and overwhelmingly Jewish (the last two often overlapped). In this sense, the café at the Sacher Hotel, founded in 1876, was a notable exception. It was at the Sacher that one could come…
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Coffee Culture in the 10th District

When I first arrived in Vienna, I was warned by well-meaning locals to keep away from the 10th district, an area wrought with crime and beset with danger. I later worked out that “crime” in Austria means something very different from “crime” in the U.S., for example. Austrians generally don’t think of crime in terms…
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The Café Landtmann and the Borders of Europe

One of the most impressive historic cafes in Vienna is the Landtmann, which was founded in 1873. Next to the Burg Theatre and across from the Town Hall (the Rathaus), with its large open terrace in summer, it’s just a wonderful place. To Austrians, it’s known as the favourite café of Freud. Even Altenberg, the writer…
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The Café Museum and Modern Architecture

  Karlsplatz, the immense square in the centre of Vienna, is a good starting point for those who want to get a sense of some of the most interesting developments in Viennese architecture at the turn of the twentieth century. The square is, in fact, dominated by the grandiose Karlskirche, the famous Baroque church. [caption…
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The Café Mozart and The Third Man

  Along the Ring, not far from the Opera, is the Burg Kino, one of the cinemas for English speakers in Vienna. Whatever other films are on, there is usually an afternoon projection of The Third Man (1949), set in Vienna after the war. The script is by one of the great British novelists of…
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The Café Central: Plotting Revolution in Grand Surroundings

The Café Central: Plotting Revolution in Grand Surroundings The Café Central in the Herrengasse is certainly where one starts when it comes to Viennese coffee culture. The Herrengasse is a rather short street in the very heart of the city, which was one of the most prestigious addresses in imperial Vienna. The street ends in…
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