Linz – beauty and tranquility combined

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Linz from the hills

Linz

My very first trip to Austria was to visit the city of Linz. I had heard about the beauty and tranquillity of Austria and Vienna, its association with art, music and being well known all over the world for its famous artists and composers. But I did not know what to expect to see in Linz. I knew that Linz was the European Capital of Culture in 2009, and was considered a forward-thinking place. Thanks to this accolade, the city has received a boost, with many new museums and many more tourists visiting.

When we drove out of Linz airport, an open green field ending in the far horizon grabbed my attention. It was a flat land carpeted in green. Our taxi driver wanted me to miss the beauty of the landscape for he drove far to fast interrupting my attention as I tried to observe how the green belt of the city blended into the residential areas. To him, the journey’s appeal was probably lost as he undertook this same trip many times a day. To me it was new, attractive and encouraging. As we entered the city, there were simple low-rise buildings, terraced in rows and tinted in soft colorful paints.

the surrounding fields and the Danube

the surrounding fields and the Danube

I was only in Linz, the third largest city in Austria for 72 hours so I knew I would only have a brief glimpse at what the city had to offer. But city breaks are rarely loner than this and they are one of the fastest growing forms of holidays. For me, it was love at first sight. We walked through the old town, following our guide, passing small court yards with arches, colourful houses in narrow streets, boutique shops with attractive frontages and trendy cafés with manicured chairs and tables laid out in the many lanes. It was a pleasure to see small chapels and one of the prides of the city, the Gothic masterpiece of Mariendom, the biggest cathedral in Austria which was built in 19th century.

As we strolled around the old town, I realised that this city is unlike any other and a different energy circulates in its alleys and squares.

It was a sunny day in September and a pleasant sound echoed in my ears. I felt more musical as I took every step and navigated my way up the steep hill towards the remains of schloss (castle) built in 16th century. No wonder the city has inspired famous musicians and composers such as Mozart and Beethoven. The city is also honoured to have its own musical son, Anton Bruckner.

the Scholss Museum at night

the Scholss Museum at night

Up on the summit, the modern Schloss Castle museum, built over the remains of the castle, showcases the cultural heritage of the region from the ancient period full of antique weaponry to modern times. It contains vast amounts of art including displays of ornaments from the Nazi era. The museum, with its beautifully decorated restaurant, is one of the highest points in the city with stunning views of neighborhoods with bell towers and spirals of churches creating a breathtaking experience in a picturesque scenery.

I found Linz a poetic and peaceful city, sketched in a natural setting surrounded by green high hills and forests. It is blessed with having the Danube river, which flows just below the castle under the Nibelungen Bridge and then on into other parts of Austria. The river streams from west to east through the heart of the city, dividing it into two parts and separating the old city from newer parts on the north bank.

the older part of Linz

the older part of Linz

We walked down the steps in the cobblestoned street towards the northern part of the city leading to Hauptplatz, a large square in the heart of the city. We passed through the narrow streets, lined with four to five story buildings coloured in pink, white and grey colours with windows edged in various shapes and arty designs, decorated with blooming hanging baskets. The style of the buildings is based on simplicity and balance echoing baroque and renaissance architecture

The vast rectangular shape of Hauptplatz is the main hub of the city connecting Landstrasse, a shopping high street going 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.

ARS Electronica c Stadt Linz.

ARS Electronica c Stadt Linz.

The 250m long and 30m wide bridge extends over the Danube River, which is a natural boundary between the north (Urfahr) and south (Innenstadt). From 1497, here stood a wooden bridge but that was replaced with a steel one in 1869. It was not wide enough for traffic to pass and was replaced by a new bridge commissioned by Hitler in 1938.

After the war Linz was an occupied city, divided between American and Russian control for 10 years. The checkpoints were placed on the bridge to control the movement of people and cars. The symbolic location of this bridge in the history of Linz was also a reminder of an earlier border, one between the Romans and the Germanic race (Barbarians) during the Roman Empire.

Linz_024As I walked into the Hauptplatz , I saw the baroque Holy Trinity column, which is a statute in the middle of the square 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 wandering down the quiet small lanes behind the square, I experienced a different feeling combined with a very powerful energy as I walked through the pedestrianised street of Landstrasse aligned with its glossy passages and large retail stores.

In the evening, I had an invitation to visit the Musiktheater am Volksgarten, one of Europe’s most modern opera houses, to watch the premier of La Traviata. Produced by the famous director, Robert Wilson and played 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. Reading subtitles to follow it up, I found it be a captivating performance.

My second day in Linz started with a harbour cruise tour of the city aboard the MS Linzerin which provided the opportunity of exploring the city from a different angle and letting me see both the past and the present.

Our boat departed from the harbour next to Lentos Modern Art Museum. Along the south bank, the Donaupark is an open art gallery of Linz’s industrial status. The long strip of the park from Nibleungen to Eisenbahn bridge showcases very large, steel sculptures reminding us all of the city’s steel factories and shipyards.

graffiti on some of the old industrial buildings. Or is it art?

graffiti on some of the old industrial buildings. Or is it art?

On the north side of the river, beautiful green landscapes encircle the city. As we pass the park, the old shipyards and industrial units appear. Not very far across the horizon, I can see smoke in the air from the steel factories. The short trip was a very interesting educational experience to get a glimpse of nature and industry. As the boat moves smoothly near the small islands, the industrial buildings and cargo ships emerge with other open-air galleries. The huge graffiti painted on the 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.

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 circle of dough which I then covered with jam. Rolling the dough out you cut it to make several strips which you then dust with confectioner’s sugar. Forming a crisscross design, I lightly brushed egg yolks over the pastry and dotted it with slices of almond before it was put to the oven for baking. It was a nice experience to make my own cake supervised by Leo. The Linzer Torte, a traditional cake in Austria is the sweetest gift to take home. Now you too know how to make a Linzer torte.

The arts museum

The Ars Electronica in daylight

I started my third day in Linz by visiting Höhenrausch 2015 in OK Platz, a centre for contemporary art with a focus on media and artworks installation. Art exhibits are displayed in hallways and stairwells. In 2015, the centre focuses on birds as a means of communicating between heaven and earth and explores artistic curiosity and fantasy. The complex theme of birds has always been a tool projecting dreams and illusions.

After visiting the exhibition, I climbed 120 steps going to the top of the 60-metre wooden tower to watch Linz in a 360-degree panoramic scenery. I was told that I could even see the Alps in the far horizon on a clear day.

Visiting the Brucknerhaus on the Danube waterfront completed my last evening in Linz. We had dinner with the artistic director, Herr Frey, at Anklang restaurant before joining other guests to listen to the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra as part of International Brucknerfest 2015.

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.

For more information about Linz click here or visit www.linztourismus.at/en or www.austria.info/uk.

For more images of Linz visit www.amirinia.com/austria or click here.

Images and story © Mohammed Reza Amirinia

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