The full splendour of the monarchy

On the trail of the Habsburgs

A tour along the South Bank or North Bank route of the River Danube Cycle Trail is a journey back in time to the world of the Habsburgs. “One needs spectacles!” the Archduchess Maria Theresa (1717-1780) is said to have remarked and she certainly lived by this credo: When she drove her golden carousel carriage through the centre of Vienna, for example. This event was preceded by the Ladies’ Carousel, which Maria Theresa had organised with the ladies of the court at the winter riding school to mark the occasion of the reconquest of Prague. They danced the quadrille with horses and carriages and then trotted on into the amazed city. One of the once eight golden carousel carriages has been preserved: You can see it at the Wagenburg in Vienna, where it is part of the exhibition entitled “300 Years of Maria Theresa.” Other exhibits you can marvel at include the magnificent prince’s gala carriage, by which the imperial family often travelled to official occasions.

Maria Theresa could not be measured against the standards of her time – and not only because she enjoyed parties and used man’s saddle on her horse. “She was a fascinating personality who was able to harmoniously combine the various elements and tasks of her life”, Karl Habsburg, grandson of the last Emperor of Austria, Karl I once said of her. “She was a loving mother of 16 children, a far-sighted politician and an important military strategist.”

Vienna is without doubt the cultural highlight of the Danube’s fascination with the Habsburgs and the Baroque era. The Hofburg was the centre of power until 1918. The dazzling everyday life of the monarchs can still be felt in the Imperial Apartments today. Below them is the Sisi Museum, which explains the myths and truths surrounding the celebrated royal. The Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire is just one of the many treasures at the Kaiserlichen Schatzkammer (Imperial Treasury), the most important treasury in the world, while the State Hall of the Austrian National Library is still one of the beautiful of its kind in the world.

On to the Kaisergruft (Imperial Tomb): 149 Habsburgs, including 12 emperors and 19 empresses have found their final resting place here. This is one religious building in Vienna you’re certain not to miss. the south tower of St. Stephan’s Cathedral is 136 metres. If you master the 343 steps, you will be rewarded with a fantastic view of Vienna. Cycling along the Danube, you follow in the footsteps of the Habsburgs on a pan-European baroque adventure with magnificent architecture, engaging discovery trails and flower-filled baroque gardens. Empress Maria Theresa would probably have gone without her golden carousel carriage had the River Danube Cycle Trail existed in her time …

Author: Donau Oberösterreich / Donau Niederösterreich