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Austria

A Winter's Day in Linz, Austria

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My visit to Linz was just a day trip from Passau, and it took place in December, so all I had were a few short daylight hours. It was a really glorious winter's day with quite a bit of snow on the ground, and after a foggy morning the sun broke through. I decided against indoor sights in favour of being outside, walking and taking photos.

I like Christmas markets a lot, so this was another point on my list. Hauptplatz, the central square and 'living room' of the city, was prettily decorated and illuminated.

What I enjoyed most, though, was the excursion by tram to the top of Pöstlingberg, a mountain on the Northern edge of the city. The top overlooks the city and the Danube valley. There is a pilgrimage church on top, and some other attractions which were unfortunately closed for winter. Anyway, the walk in the snow and the view were very pleasant.

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Tram Ride up Pöstlingberg

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View from Pöstlingberg

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Pöstlingberg is the house mountain of Linz, north of the city centre. From the banks of the Danube it is impossible to overlook. Its summit reaches an altitude of 539 metres above sea level (the city centre is at about 150 metres). It has been a pilgrimage centre since the 18th century. The baroque pilgrimage church with its two spires is overlooking the city and the Danube valley. The slopes face south and offer a fine view and sunshine - they have become the most upscale residential quarters of the city.

The mountain top is a popular destination among locals and visitors. In addition to the view and the church, it has a restaurant and beer garden and an attraction for small kids and big kids;-), the Grottenbahn, a little train inside one of the bulwarks that takes its passengers through fairytale scenes and the kingdom of gnomes - unfortunately it wasn’t running on weekdays in winter so I could not go...

Getting there is easy: Take the Pöstlingberg tram from Hauptplatz which takes you to the top in some 20 minutes.

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For a long time the slopes and top of Pöstlingberg were reachable by a narrow-gauge cogwheel train that ended on the northern river bank. In the context of Linz becoming cultural capital of Europe in 2009, the track was substituted by a modern tram line which runs on the same gauge as the other trams in the city. This tram is said to be the steepest non-cogwheel tram line in the world (10.5%).

The tram now crosses the Danube at Nibelungenbrücke and begins/ends in Hauptplatz. It has a separate stop next to the stop of the regular trams. Trams run every 30 minutes (minute .00 and .30) from 6 a.m. (weekends 7.30 a.m.) to 10 p.m.

The ride is pleasant, as the view slowly widens, the higher you get. The tram stops all have those little shelters and old-fashioned signs. Underneath each stop the altitude above sea level is stated.

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The large terrace below the church offers the widest view of the city, the Danube valley and the surrounding hilly landscape.

There is a board with explanations of the cityscape and sights, and some coin-operated telescopes if you want a closer look at the things down there.

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The church on the summit of Pöstlingberg is a sanctuary of the Virgin Mary and a pilgrimage centre. It was founded in the early 18th century. Pilgrimages take place only on certain dates. The church, though, is always open for visitors during daytime hours.

The baroque church suffered damage from fire twice in the last century but was repaired and restored to its former shape.

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There are two stairways leading up to the church from the viewing platform. In winter, only one of them is cleared from snow and ice - take this one, don’t try the other one because in wintery conditions it’s dangerous. There is a chain that closes its top but not the bottom.

To get an idea of the place and the surrounding landscape, there is a walking trail that leads all around the summit. The walk is more or less flat and takes about 15 minutes. It is best in the winter half of the year when the trees are bare, otherwise the leaves will obscure most of the view. The trail is marked as „Rundgang“ - simply follow the signs. It leads past everything which is of interest on the hilltop.

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On the ‘back’ side of the hilltop the trail leads along the ramparts of 19th century fortifications, with views into the moat and towards the bulwarks. This mountain, despite its prominent topographical situation, had not had any military significance until the Napoleonic wars around 1800 when some fights took place on its slopes. Only afterwards the summit was turned into a fortress.

It was the most gorgeous winter's day, so the camera was very busy...
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The steeples of the baroque church made for many interesting perspectives.
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The terrace is a beer garden in more favourable seasons. Sitting here with a dring and the view over the whole city must be pleasant in summer.
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A simple fence meets winter magic.
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The cross by the stairway up to the church.
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Snowy tree and baroque facade

Hauptplatz

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Trinity Column

Hauptplatz, the central square close to the river, is the heart of the town. The rectangular square (huh?!) is the location of events like the Christmas market. It is the best starting point to walk the lanes of the old town, easy to reach by tram from about anywhere in the city. It is also the starting point of the Pöstlingberg tram.

The baroque Holy Trinity Column in the middle of the square was put up around 1720. Many Austrian cities have these columns; they are religious monuments that were meant as thanksgiving for the end of the plague or other severe threats but also as symbol of the Habsburg monastery and the victory of Catholicism against the reformation.

The square is surrounded by palace-like buildings. The facades are mostly 18th/19th century due to the various fires that devastated the city in its history. The buildings behind them have older origins, though, like the 16th century town hall (the pink building with the small tower on the street corner).

Alter Dom - Old Cathedral

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The „old“ cathedral, located in a corner of Hauptplatz, is actually the former convent church of the Jesuit order. The huge main altar which fills the entire back wall is typical for Jesuit churches.

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It is named the old cathedral because there is a „new“ one: the much larger „Neuer Dom“, or Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. This enormous neogothic church (1862-1935) is located outside the old town but impossible to overlook in the cityscape.

Alter Dom, though, is probably the more interesting one. The baroque church dates from the late 17th century. After the Jesuit order was closed down in 1773, the church stood empty until it was selected as cathedral for the newly founded Diocese of Linz in 1785.

The most famous employee of this church was Anton Bruckner, who worked here as organist and choir conductor from 1856 to 1868. A small stone plaque on the facade recalls the composer’s workplace.

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Hauptplatz and Dom seen from Pöstlingberg

Christmas Market in Hauptplatz

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Linz’s main Christmas market occupies about one quarter of the large central square (Hauptplatz). It is not very big but nicely decorated and illuminated. Merchandise isn’t really special, anyway nice to look at.

If you are in for a mulled wine, the stalls offer a wide variety of Punsch and Glühwein types. It is worth checking and comparing the ingredients. For example, I had a hot orange juice with rum at one of the stalls.

There is a second Christmas market in Volksgarten, a park close to the main train station. That second one is more directed at children and families and has more activities.

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Old Town

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The old town of Linz is the area around Hauptplatz, especially towards the castle. The origins are medieval, though the city has been rebuilt, refurbished, repaired again and again after fires and such - the architecture is quite a mix. Most facades show 18th and 19th century styles, although much older structures can be behind them. The general appearance reminded me a lot of Vienna’s centre. Many historical buildings have plaques with some basic information - in German, obviously.

Explore the side streets, the arcades, passages and alleyways. If you like photography, look for details of the facades. The photos in here are just a random selection.

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Schloss

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The castle, or better palace, of Linz dates back to the early middle ages. What you see now, however, derives mostly from the times around 1600 when Emperor Rudolf II had it enlarged and refurbished.

The Schloss is located on a rock close to the river bank in the northwestern corner of the old town. The way up on foot involves, no matter from which direction, a short but steep stairway.

The four wings enclose a wide courtyard. A fire in 1800 destroyed the southern wing, the one towards the city. The gap stayed open for 200 years. Only in 2006 planning started to build a new wing. The winners of the architects’ competition, the studio HoG architektur from Graz, designed it as a modern steel and glass construction that looks a bit alien side by side with the old building.

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The building complex is the seat of the Schlossmuseum, a museum of history, folk art and culture - which I unfortunately could not visit because I ran out of time.

The new steel and glass wing is partly a bridge, with an open terrace underneath. This terrace offers a fine view of the old town and its towers. The steeples and spires are higher than the terrace and they are rather close, in other words, have the camera ready.

The architecture also provides options for some photo tricks.

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There is a cafe on the terrace with open seating in the warmer seasons, which should be a pleasant place to rest and enjoy the view and a coffee. And there is a 3D model of the old town before 1800, which gives an idea what it looked like before the big fire that destroyed the southern wing of the palace as well as a large part of the city.

Posted by Kathrin_E 14:05 Archived in Austria Tagged austria christmas_market Comments (0)

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