I arrived in Austria for the first time to visit the city of Linz. I had heard about the beauty and peacefulness of Austria and Vienna, its association with art and music, being well known all over the world for its artists and composers. I did not know what to expect to see in Linz. I knew that Linz was the European Capital of Culture in 2009, a future city that thinks forward. Thanks to this accolade, the city has received a boost, with many new museums which has resulted in many more tourists visiting.
When we drove out of Linz Airport my attention was drawn to the vista of open green fields. As we entered the city, there were simple low-rise buildings, terraced in rows, tinted in soft colors. I was there to spend 72 hours in Linz to experience Austria’s third largest. You can only get a glimpse of what awaits you on this, my first short visit. For me, it was love at first sight.
We walked through the old town, following our guide, passing small court yards with arches, colorful houses in narrow streets, boutique shops with attractive frontages, trendy café shops with colorful chairs and tables spreading out into the alleys. It was a pleasure to see some small chapels plus the Gothic masterpiece of Mariendom, the biggest cathedral in Austria which was built in 19th century.
It was a sunny day in September and a nice sound echoed in my ears. I felt more musical with every step as I explored this city. It is no surprise that the city has inspired famous musicians and composers such as Mozart and Beethoven. The city is also proud to have its own iconic musical son, Anton Bruckner who was brought up in Linz.
After an uphill climb we reached the modern Schloss (Castle) museum, built over the remains of the castle, exhibiting the cultural heritage of the region from displays of antique weaponry to modern time. Overwhelming artwork including displays of ornaments during the Nazi era. The museum, with its beautifully decorated restaurant, is one of the highest points in the city and offers stunning views of over brightly coloured houses, bell towers and church spires.
I found Linz a poetic and peaceful city, sketched in a natural setting surrounded by high green hills and forests. It is blessed with the Danube River, which flows just below the castle under the Nibelungen Bridge. The river streams from west to east through the heart of the city, dividing it into two parts separating the old city from newer parts on the north bank.
We walked down the steps towards the northern part of the town that leads to Hauptplatz, large square in the heart of the city. We passed through the narrow streets, lined by four to five story buildings tinted in hues of pink, white and gray with windows ledges decorated with colourful hanging baskets. The style of architecture was inspired by the simplicity and balance of Renaissance and Baroque architecture which is less complex than the Gothic period.
The vast rectangular shape of Hauptplatz is the main hub of the city connecting Landstrasse, a street full of shops crossing through the older part of the town (the Innenstadt) in the south and leading to Nibelungen Bridge in the north where Ars Electronica, an art and science museum is located. The glass walls of the museum become a light show, flashing different colours at night.
As I walked into the square, I saw the Baroque Holy Trinity Column, which is a statute in the middle of Hauptplatz surrounded with beautiful buildings, cafes and restaurants. In the east side of the square, I could see the city’s town hall and Linz’s oldest cathedral built in 1683. After experiencing the quiet small alleys there is, on entering the square, the feeling of a powerful energy surging through the pedestrianized street of Landstrasse, lined with glossy passageways and large retail stores.
The 250 metres in length and 30 metres wide, the Nibelungen Bridge extends over the Danube River, which forms a natural boundary between the north (Urfahr) and south (Innenstadt). In 1497 it is was a wooden bridge replaced in 1869 by a new steel bridge. This was not wide enough for traffic to pass across and had to be replaced by a new bridge built in 1940 and was commissioned by Hitler.
After the war Linz was an occupied city, divided into American and Russian controlled zones for 10 years. The checkpoints were placed on the bridge to control the movement of people and cars. In ancient times the location of this crossing was also the borderline between the Romans and the Germanic race (Barbarians) at the time of the Roman Empire.
Musiktheater am Volksgarten Opera House
In the evening, I had an invitation to visit the Musiktheater am Volksgarten, one of Europe’s most modern opera houses, to watch La Traviata produced by the famous director, Robert Wilson and performed by the Linz Bruckner Orchestra. I must admit I do not know much about Opera and obviously I could not understand the Italian spoken on stage, but I sensed the beauty of their acting and the power of their voices as the story unfolded. I read the subtitles which helped me to follow the plot. It was a captivating performance accompanied by a satisfying auditory experience and very effective lighting.
My second day in Linz started with a cruise of the city aboard the MS Linzerin. The Danube River allowed us to explore the city from different perspectives, discovering it’s past and present history.
Our boat departed from the quay next to Lentos Modern Art Museum. Along the river’s south bank, I found the Donaupark which is an open art gallery celebrating Linz’s industrial status. This long strip of parkland runs from Nibleungen to the Eisenbahn Bridge displays very large steel sculptures.
On the north side of the river, beautiful green landscapes circle around the city. As we sail past the park the old shipyards and industrial units come into view. On the horizon, I can see the smoke coming from the steel factories. As the boat moves smoothly near the small islands, industrial buildings and cargo ships merge with open-air galleries. The huge graffiti paint façade of the buildings in this area by renowned artists creates a distinctive appeal for cruise boats passing by. These harbour galleries are one of the most popular attractions in Austria. This short boat trip was a very interesting educational experience to get a glimpse of nature and industry combining within the city.
The Linzer Torte is a typical souvenir from Linz. I visited Jindrak, the famous Linz bakery in Herrenstraße to participate in a group-baking workshop with Master confectioner Leo Jindrak. We were given a ready-made circled dough made of flour, unsalted butter and egg. I covered the dough with jam and then rolled pieces of the same dough to make several strips dusted with confectioner’s sugar. I put a matrix of thin strips on the top of the jam to form a crisscross design. I brushed it the pastry lightly with egg yolks and added sliced almonds for decoration before it was put to the oven for baking. It was a fun experience to make my own cake supervised by Leo. The Linzer Torte, a traditional cake in Austria is the sweetest gift to take home.
My third day in Linz began with a visit to Höhenrausch 2015 in OK Platz, a centre for contemporary art. It is set up in the city centre and is built over the rooftops of the city’s buildings linking a 60-meter tower to the Ursuline church bell tower. Art exhibits are displayed in hallways and stairwells. In 2015, the Centre focuses on birds as a means of communicating between heaven and earth to explore artistic curiosity and fantasy. Here the complex theme of birds has been used as a tool to project dreams and illusions. On the roof, the cages were dedicated to various bird species, which were transferred from various zoos in Austria.
After experiencing the exhibition, I climbed 120 steps to the top of the 60-metre wooden tower to get a 360-degree panoramic overview of Linz. I was told that, on a clear day, I could even see the Alps.
Brucknerhaus Concert Hall
Visiting the Brucknerhaus on the Danube waterfront completed my last evening in Linz. We had dinner with the artistic director, Mr. Frey at Anklang Restaurant before joining other guests to listen to the Vienna Philharmonic as part of International Brucknerfest 2015.
A taster of Linz
Linz is a vibrant city, which looks forward to a bright future. It has a lot to offer to visitors from history to art, music and nature. I wish I had more time to explore its hidden courtyards, strolling in the old city, and hiking in parks across the river. I certainly want to return to Linz.