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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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!