Baden bei Wien


With several unspent flight-cancellation vouchers from the last two years, it was time to take a few days' mid-October summer holiday. A couple of these flights-not-taken had been to Vienna, so 'somewhere restful near Vienna' was a good start. One of my lockdown projects had been to read the wonderful but rather lengthy Beethoven biography by Jan Caeyers, in whch it was explained that when Beethoven needed some R&R he often visited Baden bei Wien, maybe 40km away from the capital. Why not follow in his footsteps ?


It was a good call. Baden lies in the Wienerwald, which I had always imagined as a domestic wood or two in which the Viennese strolled about. In fact it's extensively hilly, dramatic and heavily tree-d, and our walks were often challenging and exciting (though beautifully signposted.) I began to admire Beethoven for yet more things, his stamina and sense of direction. And for his sensible instincts about the health benefits of fresh air and green views. Baden itself is, as its name says, also a spa, another draw for Beethoven, and we often smelled the sulphur which is locally compared with the odour of poached eggs.


There is a Beethoven House in town, and though I am often suspicious about these heritage-y recreations, this is a really good one, the house in which L van B rented first floor rooms for the summers of 1821-23; and therefore wrote sections of the Ninth Symphony within. The basement has a nifty interactive room where you can compare your own hearing with Beethoven's as it declined, and realise how extremely poor his actually was. It was though a generally cheering experience to spend time in a beautiful area which the great man loved to visit. We particularly loved the town's one tram service which runs directly from the main square to the Vienna State Opera, every 15 minutes until about midnight, even at weekends. Now, that's what I call opera outreach.

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JUDITH WEIR

Composer