You can’t sling a cat in Vienna without hitting a church. It’s a fact. However, I don’t recommend actually slinging a cat because that’s just cruel.
I rather accidentally ran into Karlskirche when I emerged out of the end of Naschmarkt nearest the city centre. It’s hard to miss Karlskirche, what with its massive dome, spiral entrance pieces, and its commanding presence in the square. The most dominating piece, however, is the magnificent fresco on the ceiling. It looks rather 3D, but that’s just some amazing painting. Personally, I can’t imagine hanging by ropes to paint that. Vertigo and all.
It’s hard to tell if the scaffolding inside is meant to be there, or it’s just there to get people up closer to God – or the paintings in the ceiling. One can take an elevator up, then continue to walk up rickety scaffolding to see the frescos more closely.
Since my strength and power were waning at this point, I knew that visiting the massive art museum, Kunsthistorisches, was not going to happen unless I wanted to drag myself through it and not appreciate anything. Instead, I chose to visit Stephansdom, the massive Catholic cathedral in the centre of the city. It’s a massive cathedral, with a beautiful mosaic roof that featured the national eagle symbol. While visiting the cathedral’s interiors isn’t ticketed, if you wish to see the mysterious catacombs or visit one of the top towers, there is a ticket price.
I’d been into the catacombs in Paris and seen the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic (a highly recommended site, just FYI), so I was pretty good on viewing human remains. After all, we don’t look all that different in death, even for as much emphasis as we put on our physical bodies in life. We end up in the ground, put into little containers as ashes, or made into bone art in a church. Gruesome, perhaps, but inevitable.
Instead, I opted to pay to visit the northern tower, which meant I could see the stretch of the city from such great heights. Despite the windy chill up there, the view was beautiful. The sun managed to peek out just a bit, casting a golden hue over one of the most lovely cities I’d ever had the privilege to see.
However, since I’m not one to rest easy until I’d scraped enough cobblestones under my worn-out Nikes, I sought out a few more local churches recommended in Lonely Planet: Vienna. Yes, one church can start to look like all the others after awhile, but if you come at each one with fresh eyes, looking for something unique inside it, popping into churches (without disturbing prayers or worship services, of course) yields incredible results. They’re small art and architecture museums.
And you should see as many churches in Vienna as possible. Yes, really.