Vienna, Austria

Vienna, the city of music, homes of famous composers such as Beethoven, Strauss, Mozart, Haydn, Strauss, Schubert, Schoenberg, Brahms, and others.  Vienna, also the city of dreams, home to Sigmund Freud.  Visitors like to come to the city to enjoy a dose of Vienna’s refined arts and culture which is year round.  During the winter there is the added benefit of the Alps for skiing.

Being by the Danube, early settlements were of many groups of people from the Celtics tribes to the Romans.  It became the resident city of the Hapsburg Dynasty during the Austria-Hungarian Empire and the capital of the Holy Roman Empire.  In 1945, after the Second World War, Austria was split into four areas govern by Soviet Union, France, British, and the United States.  In 1955,  the Austrian State Treaty, that declared Austria would stay neutral, allowed the return of the governing power back to the Austrians.

The UNESCO area is around the Ring Road (Ringstraße) which was built during the 19th century, surrounding the historic center which consisted of buildings of various architectural style including Baroque style castle and garden.  Lining the Ringstrasse are grand buildings and monuments.  Statues are everywhere decorating the city within.

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One just could not stop taking pictures of the endless beautiful buildings.

In the center of the pedestrian path is the St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

A very nice restaurant with good food and service.

Very nice Cafe as well.

More beautiful buildings.  This is certainly one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.  More pictures of the city to enjoy.

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End with a touch of music from Kursalon Wien.

Kusalon Wien

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hofburg of Vienna

Hofburg, the former imperial palace of the Hapsburgs where they stay mainly in the winter.

St. Michael’s Wing facing the square. Guarding the gate are four statues of Hercules.  The first left statue is Hercules slaying the Lernaean Hydra,

The palace had been built slowly adding expansions, such as the Royal Court Chapel, the Imperial Library, the Treasury, Burgtheater, and a Spanish Riding School long with stables and stalls.  Today, it is also the official working office and residence of the President of Austria.

The stables for the Spanish Riding School.

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Joseph Square houses the Imperial Library, the roof is of attic style by Lorenzo Mattlielli in 1726. In front is a statue of Emperor Joseph II on a horse
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Athena riding in a chariot depicting Triumph
Gaia (Mother Earth) supporting the terrestrial Globe with Geography and Geometry
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Atlas holding the celestial Globe with Astronomy and Astrology
Austrian National Library
Court Library (Hofbibliothek)

Entrance to the most beautiful library.  It was first constructed by Charles VI, the Holy Roman Emperor in 1722 to house the collection of all the valuable books and manuscripts collected since the Middle Ages.  After the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire.  Under the Hapsburgs the library began to take on a new mission to be the place where information and knowledge could be sought and provided.  It started to accumulate a wider field of the 19 century’s knowledge of science and topography as well as some rare literary works of foreign languages such as papyrus collection.  Its splendor signifies its importance to the Hapsburgs.

Entry to the Prunksaal- the State Hall is the central structure of the old Imperial Library open to visitors. Lined with statues of Holy Roman Emperors
Statue of Charles VI in the center of the Prunksaal by Peter and Paul Strudel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind the statue, one can see every wall space was designed to store books and reading light provided by the windows upstairs.
The center fresco of the dome is the glorification of Emperor Charles VI held up by Hercules and Apollo. Surrounded by pictorial of Hapsburgs virtuous deeds, wealth and expanded domains.  In between the windows are groups questing for various knowledge.

On the arches above the columns are frescos about war and peace.  See below.

The globe of 18 century

We now know there was a quest for knowledge but look at the Globe, we find that their knowledge then was limited.  So is the theory of a “Just War” which only serve to justify war over peace.  With what we know today,  could there ever be a “Just War” without destroying the only earth we know off?

 

Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria

20171113_113159.jpgSchonbrunn Palace is a popular attraction of Vienna.  The ground used to be the recreational hunting ground for the emperors of the Roman Empire and its name which means beautiful spring is due to the spring water from the well that quenched the royal thirsts.   The Palace in its present form was built and finished during the Mari Theresa’s reign of the Austria-Hungary Empire.  During the Habsburg’s rule, it was the summer residence of the Habsburg’s royals.  Today, of the palace’s 1441 rooms, only 45 rooms which were the royals’ personal living quarters are being opened for visitors.  The rest of the rooms are rentals.  So if you would like to have a palace for your address, you may want to rent an apartment here.

Schonbrunn Palace or the Art Historical Museum
one of the fountain in the front of the palace “Both groups of Naiads (spirits of springs and rivers who belonged to the sea-god Neptune’s followers) were created by Wilhelm Beyer. “

 

 

 

 

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The grounds of Schonbrunn Palace include the once private hunting grounds had been turned into a large beautiful garden by Maria Theresa which contains the oldest zoo, a greenhouse,  Roman Ruin and many fountains and sculptures.  This garden now serves as a park for the public.  The grounds are carefully managed and is a popular venue for filmmaking and live concert performances.

statue of Flora, goddess of flowers and spring leading the Grand Walkway.
Neptune Fountain, and the Gloriette in the background.  In the Gloriette is a cafe.  It sits on a hill of 60 meters high and on its roof gave a panoramic view of the area.  The Gloriette was a monument erected by Maria Theresa for a “Just War”, a war that leads to peace.

 

 

 

 

Budapest, Hungary ( anUNESCO Heritage Site)

Budapest,  the capital city of Hungary sits on the Danube with Buda part of the city on the west bank and the Pest part of the city on the east bank.  It is one of the large city in the European Union.  The Pest part of the city is on flat land but the Buda side is on the hills.  They are connected by the Chain Bridge and the White Bridge or Elizabeth Bridge and 5 other bridges.

Below is the night scene of the bridges.

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The White Bridge  and the Liberty Bridge over the Danube River

Budapest has 80 geothermal springs and the largest underground thermal water cave system.  This is why there are a lot of public bath houses here.

 

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One of the famous bathhouse in Budapest along the Danube on the Buda side of the Liberty Bridge.

Being a major city during the Roman Empire as well as the Ottoman Empire and then became the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  It was the center of cultural exchange since ancient time so one will find a blend of the finest of east and the west.  Especially in its architectural style.

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City Park

On Castle Hill of the Buda side is named Fisherman’s Bastion, due to the fact that this stretch of the Danube used to be protected by the fishermen’s guild in the Middle Ages.  The terrace on top of the Castle Hill has a panoramic view of the Danube River, Pest part of the city, Margaret Island, and Gellert Hill.

Here is the view from Castle Hill.

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The Great Market Hall built in 1896 at Fovam Square near Liberty Bridge.  It is the oldest and largest indoor market in Budapest.

Scenes from the indoor market

 

 

I wonder if they sell horse meat here or Hungarian wine. Whatever the mural is interesting.

 

 

 

Too cold for ice bar but we had delicious hot apple cider here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The market leads to Vaci Street, the famous street for pedestrians.  It has a variety of shops and restaurants but walking in a -4 degree Centigrade temperature only resulted in 2 pictures, that was after I had a deliciously warm cup of apple cider.

Budapest is a beautiful city by day, but by night the banks of Danube becomes spectacular.

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Alishan National Forest in Taiwan (阿里山)

Alishan National Forest an area of approximately 415 square kilometers  is located in Chiayi County.  It is a resort and tourist area with good quality of mountain trail for hiking.  Excellent quality of fresh air with fragrance from the famous cypresses known for this area.  It is said that the fragrance has a calming effect on the nerves that it would settle the mind during the day and promote sleep during the night.  I think I can attest to that.

Alishan’s climate is versatile, it can change momentary so a light rain proof jacket is recommended.  It is because of this versatility, one can see a massive amount of drifting clouds, layer upon layer ever-changing making lots of wonderful picturesque scene of nature. 

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Dawn from Yushan, neighboring mountain which is also the highest mountain of Taiwan very good for professional mountain hikers.

In addition, there are a lot of beautiful rare birds acclimatized to this area which makes Alishan a good place for bird watching as well.

 

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I was told that this is one type of  song birds

In the summer, Alishan has cherry blossoms along with many wild beautiful flowers making Alishan one of the top choice for photographers.   But most people come here to be infused in the cypress forest air.

 

It was during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan that mass logging for the precious cypress in Alishan started.  The Japanese build a railway just for moving the logs down the mountain.  It was estimated 300,000 yellow cypress was cut down.  Therefore there is no yellow cypress in Alishan over 100 years old.

Any giant trees that are left are all of the red cypress variety.  The yellow cypress was chosen over the red cypress is because the yellow cypress is solid while the red cypress has cracks inside making it not as solid and prone for disease cause by bacteria and mold.  I guess sometimes imperfection is an advantage.  One can see a lot of cypress grew out of the dead cypress and they call these second generation cypress.  Each one of these second generation cypress has a unique form which is open for imaginations.

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This is actually a third generation cypress which is a new cypress took root on second generation cypress and in turn the second generation cypress took root on the first generation cypress.

The Alishan Forest train left by the Japanese would take you up the mountain to greet the sun in the morning.  If your lucky, you will be able to see the sunset from the top of your hotel.  They can be both exuberant and  beautiful.

We made a stop at Fenqihu (奮起湖) , an old town midway up Alishan where workers use to replenish their supplies.  Due to the destruction by typhoons, these days, this is the last stop for trains going up Alishan.  There is a museum of old trains for visitors in town.  However, we stopped for the famous old railroad lunch box.

Along the way down Alishan, another good place to stretch your legs is Chukou Village.  You will appreciate the stop due to the winding road of the mountain which was finished in 1980

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A mountain view of the  winding Alishan highway with it’s open tunnel finished in 1980.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hanging Monastery(懸空寺)

Hanging Monastery

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The Hanging Monastery was built in the later years of Northern Wei Dynasty around 1500 years ago.  It had been repaired many times since but the foundation and structure had never been altered.  It is located about 65 kilometers away from the city Datong, Shanxi, facing Mount Heng and back along the precipice of Mount Cuiping (翠屏山).  Above it hangs dangerous stratum of rock layers and below is a 75 meters deep valley.  It is an architectural wonder.  The straight pillars that you see are not the support of  the temple.  The actual supports are the cross beams that was inserted into the side of the mountain.  It has survived with minimum erosion for so many years is due to its positioned in a natural crevice which gets minimal exposure to sunlight, wind, and rain.  It is said that it conforms to the Taoist theory of no noises.  It is shield from all noises by nature.

Legend has it that the reason for building a hanging monastery was because this mountain was mainly a Taoist cultivation ground.  But monk  Liao Ran (了然), who also had been cultivating here wanted to build a Buddhist monastery.  Fearing that the Taoist would oppose his Buddhist temple, he built it single handily off the cliff and also included the monastery a temple dedicate to Sakyamuni Buddha,  Laozi, and Confucius.

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See to crossbeam underneath.  It is the real support of the monastery

It is small but concise including everything that a large monastery would have.  If you are venturous enough to go up to have a closer look, be sure to watch your head while going up and down the stairs.  It feels like on a boat without the waves.

 

Yungang Grottoes (雲岡石窟)

On the north cliff of Wuzhou Mountain of Datong is Yungang Grottoes.  For 1 kilometer along the mountain were 53 caves and about 51,000 sandstone statues.  The Grottoes were started around 450 AD during the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-354).  The sculptures were heavily influenced by the Indian Buddhist art incorporated with the Chinese culture and the social features of that time. Not all caves were open to the public.  While we were there, a number of caves were closed for restorations.

The entrance park designed in accordance to the artwork found on the cave walls of Yungang Grottoes.

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A typical architect of the Wei Dynasty

 

 

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Sandstone caves.  These are either windows or entrance way.  Many served as temples for cultivation.

This is cave #20.  Although this giant Sakyamuni Buddha is exposed outside for all to see, it was once inside a cave when it was first built like the other caves with windows and entrance way.   Due to the window opening damaged the structure’s support stone over the doorway, the front of the cave collapsed shortly after it was built.  But, there is always a silver lining to this calamity, this Giant White Buddha exposed became the main feature of Yungang Grottoes.

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The big Sakyamuni Buddha, a perfect person.  One can see the influence of Indian Buddhist art here. Notice the intricate carvings behind the Buddha.

Cave 1 and 2, which are dual caves in stupa form.  In the middle of the Cave #1 is the stupa like column of 5.75 meters in height.

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square stupa like a pillar of cave #1

 

Around the cave were more carvings depicting the Buddha stories and other Buddhas.

Interconnected cave #2 also has a square stupa like column support of approximately 6 meters high.

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square stupa like a pillar in cave #2

Surrounding it were also more Buddha stories and Buddha carvings.

One can see these art relics are heavily eroded by nature.  Yungang Grottoes are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001.

Cave #3 is the largest cave of Yungang Grottoes.  It is an unfinished cave which is lucky for us because it left indications of how they were made from the top first then continue down the cave.

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Main Buddha,  Amitabha Buddha

Cave #5  and #6  are another dual cave and are one of the richest.  The cave entrance is covered with eaves which made it look like a temple from the outside.  We were told that originally, every cave entrance has these eaves built extended from the cave.  This one was reconstructed during the Qing Dynasty.

 

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Temple-like eaves extended from the front of the Dual Cave #5 and #6

Inside the cave are covered with painted carvings.  In the center is a large column reaching 15 meters high into the ceiling.  Top of the caves were carvings of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and celestial beings.  On the column were carved with stories of the life of Buddha Sakyamuni.  Around the bottom portion of the wall were carved with stories from the scriptures.  The painting was done many times over by each Dynasty so it would be hard to identify the original color scheme.

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The upper level of the center column against the backdrop of the walls of carvings of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and celestial beings.

The lower level of the column depicting the life of Buddha Sakyamuni.

One needs to spend a lot more time to study these cave carvings.  These are only a minute few just to tickle your interest.

We can see from the outside through the window of Cave #18

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Outside of Cave #19

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You can see what a herculean effort would be required to maintain and restore these treasured relics.