There are some places in the world that just resonate with you. These are the spots in a city that you constantly return to when you are seeking inner peace and calm. I’ll be writing about these spots and how they resonate with me in a series I’ll call “My favourite spots in the world”.
This is Heldenplatz, Vienna; the heroes square. It is a spot I would constantly return to during my explorations of the art and culture of Vienna. Maybe I was overwhelmed because Vienna really defines art and culture.
Heldenplatz is a large square cradled by the grand Hofburg palace with its sweeping wings providing majestic protection to the treasures of Austria. Entering the square your eye flows from the majestic palace to the semicircular Neue Burg, a museum with some stunning historic collections including some gorgeous musical instruments.
Nestled next to it is the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien (Art History Museum) holding the vastest collection of European art I’ve ever seen. A stone’s throw away is its twin, the Naturhistorisches Museum Vienna (Natural History Museum); facing each other they challenge you to explore the labyrinths within. Don’t attempt this in one day, unless you have well worn in travelers feet!
A strong sense of grandeur and civility overcomes you in this vast square, you get the sense that some significant historical events have taken place here, and they did! When I visited, it was unseasonably warm and sunny for a European winter and I spent hours gratefully soaking up the timid rays while examining each of the towering ornate buildings. My imagination ran wild with images of gilded carriages filing through tall gates, awaiting admission to a grand ball with the Hofburgs. I also conjured images of red banners and swastikas draping down over the curving facades and tanks rolling down cobbled streets as this was where Hitler famously announced Anschluss – the union of Austria and Germany on 12 March 1938. Ok, I conjured those images later when I researched the history, I mainly just lounged on the grass and nursed my hangover as Vienna has a surprisingly awesome nightlife, but that’s a different story!
Over the bed of grass that was my hangover refuge is the Volksgarten, the people’s garden. It’s manicured to perfection, with people lounging on the surrounding benches, soaking up the rays and socialising.
A little further across the park is the lavish Austrian Parliament with imposing columns reminding us of the Greek roots of its democratic systems.
On my travels around Europe, I found that squares are social places where people go to relax and unwind, alone in contemplation or with friends. Heldenplatz will always be dear to me, I returned there time after time, not just for its rich history and cultural significance, but for the way it resonated with me. I could relax as a local, socialising and finding tranquillity from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.