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Viennese whirl; Great Escape Three-days to 'do' any capital city may not seem very long, but CARMEL STEWART defied time.

Byline: CARMEL STEWART

LOGICALLY three days are always of exactly the same duration - 72 hours, 4,320 minutes, 259,200 seconds.

Being human we can mentally compress or extend tine; sadly, not being Dr Who, we cannot do so in reality but we can pack a lot in when the need arises.

A little forward planning can make every second count - and even with none it is possible to spend a great few days in the Austrian capital, Vienna.

To begin with it is a compact city with excellent public transport, plenty to do and see.

It is also a city which welcomes visitors and doesn't charge them the earth to enjoy its delights - London, please take note.

A relaxed three-day break, absorbing its full flavour, along with its wiener schnitzels and apple strudels, is perfectly feasible without the need for a week's convalescence on returning home. Indeed, the Vienna Tourist Board has a 72-hour itinerary on its website: www.vienna.info. Our attempt to follow it was distracted by strudel. For those who have forsaken the delights of sweet pastry and cream, an apple strudel is a flaky, puffy pudding layered with apples and topped with cream (optional apparently).

On our flight my friend Sue, indulging in an uncharacteristic flirtation with organisation, discovered a place where we could watch appfel strudel being made.

Seeing as it was at the Habsburgs' summer pad we decided it was a must.

Also on the list were a Mozart concert, the Vienna Boys Choir, the Lipizzaner stallions, a museum/gallery or two and a visit to at least one of Vienna's famous coffee houses.

Sussing out a city on arrival can always be problematical but in Vienna airport, as you wait anxiously for the will-it-won't-it luggage to appear, a glance to the right reveals a strangers delight - an official transport/tourist booth where two English-speaking Austrians explain how to get from where you are to where you want to be, ply you with guides and brochures, order your taxi and, most importantly, give you a receipt for payment there and then so there is no haggling over the charge - it's a fixed rate and you pay in advance.

As you leave the terminal, armed with receipt and luggage, your driver meets you and whisks you away for the most hassle free start to a holiday you are ever likely to encounter.

Your choice of hotel will be determined by budget. If you have the ackers the Radisson SAS Style Hotel in the heart of Vienna is comfortable, friendly and very central (info.style.vienna@radissonsas.com).

But don't be afraid of staying a little way out. The public transport system is excellent - clean, frequent and cheap. Arrive about lunchtime and you'll have plenty of time for a tourist Hop-On-Hop- Off, bus ride. These cost around 13euro (just under pounds 10) and stop at various points around the city, allowing visitors to alight and board as the fancy takes them.

On the second time round we stopped off for coffee and the first of many strudels at Cafe Landtmann, "Vienna's most elegant coffee venue" once frequented by Marlene Dietrich, Burt Lancaster and Sigmund Freud. No celebs spotted on our visit but the coffee was good and the loos very clean.

A stroll up to St Stephens took us to the cobbled streets once walked by the young Mozart. The museum dedicated to his life in the city is housed over three floors in a nearby building where he and his family once lived.

A meal at the famous Cafe Central - once a smoky den of revolution - completed our first day. If we had had the legs for it, we would have skipped the meal and visited the open air film festival at Rathauspark where local foods are served from nearby stalls.

By day two a horrible truth dawned. We were not the only ones to think mid-summer a good time to travel - the Philharmonic and Symphony orchestras, the Vienna choirboys, and even the Lipizzaners, had all fled the city for their summer hols.

Undaunted, we booked a Mozart concert at the Musikverein (Golden Hall), with a red-coated salesman and a morning with the mares and foals of the Spanish Riding School. We then set out for the Schonbrunn Palace, the Hapsburgs' summer residence.

Readily accessible by train and huge in dimensions, this magnificent building is worth a full day, if you have the time.

For us the culture was less important than the culinary, so we immediately made our way to the Schonbrunner Apfelstrudeljause for a demonstration of how this wonderful dessert is made. Surprisingly, of all those (many) we tasted this was the least light and fluffy.

Day two was rounded off with an evening with Mozart. Not a trip for the aficionado, this musical experience panders unashamedly to the tourist, but was fun in its own way.

On day three, with our visit to the Spanish Riding School starting mid-morning, there was plenty of time to see one of the many galleries or to stroll round the shops or, as we did, take the second tourist bus to see another aspect of the city.

This route took in the famous Giant Ferris Wheel which affords panoramic views across the city, as well as the Danube. Plan your break before July and you'll be able to include the Vienna Boy's Choir in your Sunday morning itinerary.

Unlike many a short break, this one left us refreshed rather than exhausted. Cost will vary according to flights and accommodation but expect the price of eating out to be similar to the UK.

Vienna has more than 200 museums and 600 coffee houses. If you have time for just one of each opt for the Museum of Fine Arts which houses one of the world's

CAPTION(S):

APPLE MAGIC... the elegant Cafe Landmann, where stars such as Marlene Dietrich and Burt Lancaster once dined.; EXPERIENCE... there's plenty for tourists to see and do.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Sep 10, 2008
Words:997
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