When it comes to spending free time, I’m a city boy through and through. Give me a choice between a sunny beach and a historically and culturally rich city, and I will probably… do both 😉 But if that’s impossible, I would much rather take a stroll down some narrow alleyways of an old town than suntan (especially if it’s 40C and the old town in question is fountain-rich Grenada)
That said, even I can get bored or tired of asphalt and concrete. When that time comes, I venture forth in search of some oasis of calm and quiet in the middle of the city. All good cities have them: either public parks, or temple gardens, or urban forests. But the ones that really remain in memory are places that have that little something extra; a spark of brilliance or a touch of history that makes them stand out from the rest.
Here’s a list of my top 5 favourite of such getaways: all five are free to enter, though not always free to get to. You will notice these are also one of the top cities to live in, according to various surveys. It’s no coincidence; the best governed cities have also the best public spaces.Read More »
As you may have noticed by now, my visit to Vienna was a bit on the unorthodox side. Skipping the galleries and palaces (but not the cafes!), I’ve spent my two days searching for the weirder bits of the city. After spotting some old Nazi Dark Towers, I then boarded the U3 line towards Simmering, alighting at the Gasometer station.
The station’s name spoils the surprise a bit, but then if you ventured so far away from the city centre, you probably already know what’s waiting for you. A vertical brick wall, arcing to the left and right, forming a giant cylinder. One of those huge XIXth century coal gas tanks that every European city used to have. But this one is different; and not only because there are four of them in one place.Read More »
(I’ve been to Vienna last week. This is the first of my impressions of the city.)
You’d be forgiven to miss them on the map. They are not marked in any way, other than the pale pink of ‘some building’. You’d be forgiven to miss them in a guide, as they are not listed under the main attractions of the city – of which there are many (except one of them, on which more below).
But you should not miss them while standing anywhere within quarter of a mile from these dread-inspiring constructions. Fifty meters tall and forty meters wide, these blocks of solid concrete stand out not just like sore thumbs, but like entire sole limbs, looming over some of the more picturesque parts of the city. Just try to go to Augarten park and ignore their existence (as does everyone else around you). It’s impossible.Read More »