My writer friend Reza Amirinia, owner of www.amirinia.com fell in love with Linz/Austria on first sight. From making Linzer Torte and listening to opera to going on a river cruise and wearing the soles of his shoes thin from all the walking: here is his account!
I had only 72 hours to explore Linz, Austria’s third largest city, just enough to get an overview. For me, it was love at first sight. We walked through the old town, following our guide, passing small court yards with arches, colorful houses in narrow streets, boutiques with attractive displays, trendy cafés with colorful chairs and tables spreading out into the alleys. It was a pleasure to see some small chapels plus the Gothic masterpiece of Mariendom, the biggest cathedral in Austria which was built in 19th century.
September sunshine and all the beauty around me put music in my step. It is no surprise that the city has inspired famous musicians and composers such as Mozart and Beethoven and is proud to have its own iconic musical son, Anton Bruckner who was brought up in Linz.
After an uphill climb we reached the modern Schloss (Castle) museum, built over the remains of the castle, exhibiting the cultural heritage of the region. The museum, with its beautifully decorated restaurant, is one of the highest points in the city and offers stunning views over bell towers, church spires and the Nibelungenbridge . 250 m long and 30 m wide, the Nibelungen Bridge extends over the Danube River, which forms a natural boundary between the north (Urfahr) and south (Innenstadt). In 1497 it is was a wooden bridge replaced in 1869 by a new steel bridge. This was not wide enough for traffic to pass across and had to be replaced by a new bridge built in 1940, commissioned by Hitler.
After the war Linz was an occupied city, divided into American and Russian controlled zones for 10 years. The checkpoints were placed on the bridge to control the movement of people and cars. During the Roman Empire ,this crossing was also the borderline between the Romans and Barbarians.
We walked down the steps towards the northern part of the town which leads to Hauptplatz, a large square in the heart of the city. We passed through the narrow streets, lined by four to five story buildings painted in hues of pink, white and gray with windows ledges decorated with hanging baskets full of flowers.
The vast rectangular shape of Hauptplatz is the main hub of the city connecting Landstrasse, a street full of shops crossing 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.
As I walked into the square, I saw the Baroque Holy Trinity Column, which is a statute in the middle of Hauptplatz surrounded by beautiful buildings, cafes and restaurants. In the east side of the square, lie the Town Hall and Linz’s oldest cathedral built in 1683.
In the evening, I had an invitation to visit the Musiktheater am Volksgarten, one of Europe’s most modern opera houses, to watch La Traviata produced by the famous director, Robert Wilson and performed by the Linz Bruckner Orchestra. I must admit I do not know much about Opera and obviously I could not understand the Italian sung on stage, but I sensed the beauty of their acting and the power of their voices as the story unfolded. I read the subtitles which helped me to follow the plot. It was a captivating performance accompanied by a satisfying auditory experience and very effective lighting.
My second day in Linz started with a river cruise aboard the MS Linzerin. The Danube River allowed us to explore the city from different perspectives, discovering it’s past and present history.
Our boat departed from the quay next to Lentos Modern Art Museum. Along the river’s south bank, I found the Donaupark which is an open art gallery celebrating Linz’s industrial status. This long strip of parkland running from Nibleungen Bridge to the Eisenbahn Bridge displays very large steel sculptures.
On the north side of the river, beautiful green landscapes circle around the city. As we sail past the park the old shipyards and industrial units come into view. On the horizon, I can see the smoke coming from the steel factories. As the boat moves smoothly near the small islands, industrial buildings and cargo ships merge with open-air galleries. The huge graffiti paint 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. This short boat trip was a very interesting educational experience to get a glimpse of nature and industry combining within the city.
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 circled dough made of flour, unsalted butter and egg. I covered the dough with jam and then rolled pieces of the same dough to make several strips dusted with confectioner’s sugar. I put a matrix of thin strips on the top of the jam to form a crisscross design. I brushed the pastry lightly with egg yolks and added sliced almonds for decoration before it was put into the oven. It was a fun experience to make my own cake supervised by Leo. The Linzer Torte, a traditional cake in Austria is the sweetest gift to take home.
My third day in Linz began with a visit to Höhenrausch 2015 in OK Platz, a centre for contemporary art. It is set up in the city centre and is built over the rooftops of the city’s buildings linking a 60-meter tower to the Ursuline church bell tower. Art exhibits are displayed in hallways and stairwells. In 2015, the Centre focuses on birds as a means of communicating between heaven and earth to explore artistic curiosity and fantasy. Here the complex theme of birds has been used as a tool to project dreams and illusions. On the roof, the cages were dedicated to various bird species, which were transferred from various zoos in Austria.
After experiencing the exhibition, I climbed 120 steps to the top of the 60-metre wooden tower to get a 360-degree panoramic overview of Linz. I was told that, on a clear day, I could even see the Alps.
Visiting the Brucknerhaus on the Danube waterfront completed my last evening in Linz. We had dinner with the artistic director, Mr. Frey at Anklang Restaurant before joining other guests to listen to the Vienna Philharmonic 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. I certainly want to return.
View more images of Linz by Reza Amirinia.