A Memorable Place

Despite plagues and war, Vienna sings


By Doris Masten



Christmas in Vienna this past season was wonderful, and evoked memories of my childhood in Baltimore.

In Vienna, one is immediately delighted with beautiful architecture, such as baroque confections in pinks and yellows decorated with icing-like flourishes. Then one observes newer, plain buildings filling in the gaps left after the bombing during World War II. During my visit, I learned that one-third of Vienna had been destroyed during the war.

St. Stephen's Cathedral, whose foundation stone was laid in 1359, suffered serious damage in the bombing, and its fire-blackened walls stand as a reminder of the horrors of war. To a child in Baltimore the war was frightening, but far away. In Vienna, the reality hits home.

The United States is such a young country by comparison to Austria, and in Vienna one begins to understand that until the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we Americans were removed from the kind of devastation that occurred in Europe during World War II.

But in Vienna, amazingly, most of the glorious churches, palaces and buildings remain. Despite the ravages of war, Vienna has retained -- or regained -- a comfortable, elegant attitude.

The heart of the city boasts many exclusive shops, but, with all its sophistication, Vienna moves at a relaxed pace. There is always time for a leisurely afternoon break -- coffee and a slice of delicate torte at one of the many 19th-century coffeehouses.

Perhaps the people are inspired by the beautiful music created here -- Mozart, Brahms and Strauss being among the favorites. This was the music I enjoyed in my childhood at summer concerts in Patterson Park. It is still everywhere in Vienna.

I took a picture of a monument at an abbey in the Vienna Woods. A similar one stands in the heart of Vienna, in the Graben, built at the end of the 17th century as a promise to God in supplication for an end to the plague.


Modern medicine has eliminated so many horrible diseases that could wipe out populations, as the plague did in Europe. It is humbling for an American to think how much Europe has endured and how fortunate we have been.

Vienna still sings and dances, and its museums and symphonies are still world-class. Its parks have merry-go-rounds, and at Christmas, advent markets are filled with exquisite ornaments, colorful balloons and handmade crafts.

The atmosphere is similar to what I recall from childhood in Baltimore, a slower place that allows one time to "smell the roses," time to be gracious and charming.

Vienna is a cosmopolitan city with a warm soul that sings.

Doris Masten lives in Westminster.

My Best Shot


Owen Michaud, Towson

Duck's wake

This picture was taken on a tour of Magnolia Plantation, near Charleston, S.C. The beauty and solitude of the swamps and gardens that surround Magnolia are striking. At one point, I watched a lone duck leave a trail in the duckweed that permeates the swamps.

Readers Recommend

Whitby, England

Frank Katz, Baltimore


Whitby, about 50 miles northeast of York, is still a working fishing port, and it's famous in a number of ways. Whitby Abbey is where the date of Easter was set for the Catholic Church around 800 A.D. Caedmon, the father of English verse, first recited poetry here. And James Cook, the explorer, was born near here and first sailed from here as a cabin boy.


Theresa Egan, Towson

I spent a wonderful week in Argentina last winter. One day our tour visited an estancia -- ranch -- about two hours outside Buenos Aires. As our bus entered the ranch, escorts greeted us with the American and Argentine flags. A riding demonstration took place, and we had a tour of the grounds in a horse and buggy. We visited the home of the owners, who raise polo ponies and grow grapes for wine. I can't wait to return.

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