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Central Europe - Budapest - Vienna - Prague

The Imperial Cities
by Andy Mathews
Our World Magazine - May 1997

DavidTours [DavidTravel] features specialized itineraries for gay men and lesbians to three of the important centers of the old Hapsburg Empire; Budapest, Vienna and Prague, incorporating interesting sights in their surrounding areas and distinctive events.

Budapest

With the fall of communism, Hungary's capital city on the Danube has once again become a center of cultural independence.  Tourists flock to the great buildings of the former Empire, the packed cafes and restaurants, and the music and art that made this city a center of society in the past.

Magnificent architecture embodied in the Parliament Buildings, Royal Palace, St. Stephen's Basilica and the Citadel attract visitors like magnets.  The Great Synagogue, recently restored, is the largest Jewish temple in Europe and includes a museum next door with brilliant exhibits dating back to the Middle Ages.

You'll visit famous coffeehouses like Gerbeaud, an elegant pastry shop and virtual city landmark.  Other interesting restaurants are Muzeum, a grand candlelit cafe crowned with mirrors and mosaics, popular for its delicious Hungarian cuisine, and Varkert, a magnificent casino with an exceptional dining room and sweeping views of the Danube.

The city bath houses with their thick, arched walls, hot mineral waters, dim lighting and steamy air entice you to experience the soothing natural spring waters as the locals have done for centuries.  Featuring alternating days for men and women, these spas evoke images of the celebrities who have partaken of this wonderful invention while often enjoying a discrete clandestine meeting.  There are 140 thermal springs gushing forth over 40 million liters of relaxing mineral water each day.

Budapest is culturally lively, the romantic home of Franz Liszt and Bela Bartok, intense Gypsy music, fiery paprika and colorful folklore.  A still affordable city, there are theaters, museums, atmospheric restaurants and a rapidly growing gay nightlife.

You'll experience the beauty and romance of the city and will meet members of the gay and lesbian community at receptions and parties. Nightlife includes popular recommended clubs such as the friendly Action Bar and Angel with a cafe atmosphere upstairs and dance club downstairs.

Vienna

Imposing Vienna, metropolis of the vast Austro-Hungarian Empire, center of society, home to kings and nobles, arbitrator of arts and music, and culinary capital, Vienna has authentic "atmosphere" impossible to disregard.

Magnificent comes to mind as you visit the Hofburg, home of the emperors until 1918; Stephansdom, the city's great Gothic cathedral; Schoenbrunn, the Versailles of Austria; the Neoclassical Parliament Building; the State Opera House; and other museums and historic properties.

Great musicians have been a part of the city's fabric from the beginning from Beethoven to Schonberg.  The Strausses entertained Viennese society under the monarchy, and their waltzes live on today at great balls and social events.  During May a very special event takes place which clients of this are fortunate to have access to and be part of.

Vienna's Life Ball draws Europe's society, jet-set crowd and "up-for-anything" gay community to a grand gala celebration of solidarity in the fight against the AIDS epidemic.  Haute couture artists produce a rich, dynamic and sexy fashion show to entertain the crowd.  In 1993 it was Thierry Mugler; in 1994 John Galliano; in 1995 Jean Paul Gaultier and in 1996 Paco Rabanne.

Life Ball 1996, raised approximately $550,000.  This one-night exciting and extravagant black tie and costume affair is enjoyed by 6,000 people.  Life ball is always sold out and tickets have been scalped for as much as $2,000 each!  Life Ball is an important and powerful show of support for the gay, lesbian and HIV communities.

Life Ball 1997, to be held in the imposing Rauthaus (City Hall), will kick off the Vienna Festival, a month long festival of concerts, dance and theater.  Over 400 television and print journalists from around the world will cover the star-studded evening.  The super fashion designer for the 1997 gala has yet to be announced.

The company books tables at the chic and gay-owned restaurant, The Motto, and Cafe Berg, serving excellent breakfast and lunch while boasting Vienna's first gay bookstore.  Alfi's Goldener Spiegel is a reasonably priced alternative famous for its wiener schnitzel.  Nightlife is vibrant in this city with stops at Heaven/U4 Disco, the baroque style Cafe Savoy and Mango Bar.  A spa/bathhouse, Kaiserbrundl, is worth seeing for its sheer size and ornate Moorish decor.

Prague

Visitors to the "Golden City" stroll across the Charles Bridge for breathtaking views of Mala Strana (Little Town), Prague Castle, St. Vitus and St. Nicholas Cathedrals, beyond the silhouettes of the statues of Baroque saints that decorate this pedestrian walk.

Prague in the 90's is being compared to the exciting Left Bank of Paris in the 1920's.  Now is the time to experience the cobblestone streets, ground breaking galleries, cafes filled with intellectuals, and be part of the pulsating cultural and social renaissance.

Tables are always booked at the universally-popular, gay-owned French restaurant, La Province.  Other popular choices include gay-owned favorite, Palffy Palac, Myslivna, Ambiente, and the Rodost Cafe for delicious vegetarian dishes.

And "Prague Spring" electrifies this exciting city with the world renowned classical festival held in May that attracts music lovers from everywhere.  Members of the international gay and lesbian community who appreciate a vibrant and eclectic social scene, plus music, art, architecture and history flood into the Czech republic's capital from May through August.

Moreover, during the summer season there has been a monthly gay boat party through the center of Prague on the Vtlava River.  It attracts the best of the Czech gay community yet few tourists know about it.  The boat trip information is, in fact, kept underground where only the "well connected" learn of it.

Nightlife constantly changes here.  Popular with tour groups are Gay L-Club, Torn's Bar, the new relaxing Stella, and the trendy cocktail bar/cafe, Erra, owned by a friend of David's.

And although these Imperial Cities are rich in culture, romance and activities, you will discover many hidden treasures in the countryside of Austria, Hungary and The Czech Republic.  Western Hungary is rich in history and beauty.  Especially interesting sites visited en route to Vienna, are the Pannonhalma Abbey, founded in 996; the magnificent Baroque Szechenyi Mansion in Nagycenk, where you enjoy a lovely meal; and the exquisite city of Sopron, partially enclosed by medieval walls built on Roman foundations where you wander among glorious Gothic and Baroque buildings.

In the Czech Republic, en route to Prague, is a small medieval city in the south of Bohemia that should not be missed.  Cesky Krumlov, through intensive restoration, displays an appearance almost unchanged since the 18th century.  Its richness reflects that this was the center of the largest noble estate in Bohemia.

Western Bohemia offers the Victorian-inspired architecture of the lovely spa cities of Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad) and Marianske Lazne (Marienbad).  These centers, famous for their curative hot springs, were once the playground of Central Europe's aristocrats and prominent sons, the annual haunts of Russia's Peter the Great, England's Edward VII, Goethe, Bismark, Brahms, Chopin, Tolstoy, and many others of the upper classes.  Extraordinary beauty and an aura of elegance thrive here.

DavidTours [DavidTravel] is dedicated to the premise that gay men and lesbian deserve the best, offering unique and luxurious tours to Central Europe.  Every detail is meticulously researched to assure quality and access to places and events not usually available to travelers.  Additionally, there is always plenty of free time for participants to explore on their own while arrangements are made for dinner parties and events with gay men and lesbians on each tour, creating an international environment.  They want each client to return home with the knowledge that this has been the best trip they have ever taken!

 

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