Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, Poland, with Wawel Castle at right

Click on title to view the photo in large format. There’s a good reason that locals call the church atop Wawel Hill simply Wawel Cathedral. It’s complete name is the Royal Archcathedral Basilica of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus, a considerable mouthful for casual conversation. However, the shortened name in no way diminishes its magnificence. It’s Gothic base is topped by three towers: the gold-domed Sigismund’s Tower, the Clock Tower, and the Silver Bell Tower. Since the 14th century, Wawel Cathedral has been the main burial site for Polish monarchs. The tombs of King Sigismund II Augustus, his wife, and children are housed in Sigismund’s Tower. Read More

Saint Mary's Basilica and Main Square in Krakow, Poland

Click on the title to view photo in large format. The Main Square in Krakow, Poland, is one of the largest medieval town squares in Europe. Three large buildings dominate its central open space: St. Mary’s Basilica, with its soaring Gothic towers (shown in the photo); the historic Cloth Hall; and the Town Hall Tower. The entire square is surrounded by historic townhouses. During the spring, summer, and fall, the Main Square hosts all manner of festivals and performances. But nighttime Read More

Salzburg had been recommended to me as the second most interesting city in Austria, after Vienna. I’d planned to stop there for a few days, but several hours of searching for accommodations turned up nothing that was affordable. I gave up and bypassed the city entirely. A few days later, after thoroughly exploring all the wonderfully weird things to do in Vienna, I surfed over to my favorite tour aggregator, Get Your Guide. To my surprise, they offered a day trip from Vienna to Salzburg, which included stops at two of Austria’s pretty lakes.

The next morning I dashed through pouring rain and squeezed into the tour van with a New York Russian family. Four hours later, having survived a trip that involved more hydroplaning than driving, we finally arrived in Salzburg. The skies were grey and overcast, but at least the rain had stopped.

My Get Your Guide day trip from Vienna to Salzburg began at Mirabellgarten, perhaps most famous for the tree-lined boulevard at right, which was used in the film Sound of Music

My Get Your Guide day trip from Vienna to Salzburg began at Mirabellgarten, perhaps most famous for the tree-lined boulevard at right, which was used in the film Sound of Music

Our tour guide was a delightful Polish immigrant who spoke fluent English, Russian, and German. We began our discovery at Mirabelle Gardens in the new town area of the city. The park seemed vaguely familiar, and I soon learned why. Portions of the movie, The Sound of Music, had been filmed on the tree-lined pathway that borders the flower beds. Read More

Original Mozartkugel at Furst Cafe in Salzburg, Austria

Click on title to view photo in large format. Salzburg, Austria, is best known for its historic old town, castles, and age-old churches. But for my money, the real reason to visit this historic city is to taste one of the world’s most delicious candies, the original Mozartkugel at Furst Cafe. This small, round ball was developed in 1890 by Paul Fürst, who came from a long line of confectioners. After lengthy testing he came up with the perfect recipe: a center of pistachio marzipan, wrapped in praline nougat, dipped in dark chocolate.

The Mozartkugel was such a hit that competitors began copying it. Furst was soon battling in court with the likes of Mirabell, Reber, and Nestlé to protect the name. Today there are many imitations, but Furst Cafe is the only manufacturer who has the right to Read More

Lipizzaner Horses in Vienna, Austria at the Spanish Riding School

Click on title to view photo in large format. These handsome Lipizzaner Horses in Vienna are descendants of the breed that was initially developed in the 16th century with the support of the Royal Hapsburg family. Lipizzaners were bred for a long life and a muscular build. As a result, they excel in performing jumps and other “in-the-air” feats practiced in classical dressage. Lipizzaner horses can have coats in an array of colors, however, the Royal family bred them to be predominantly grey in color. Because of this, they are often described as white horses, but this is a misnomer. White horses are born with pale skin and a white hair coat. Lipizzaners are born with black skin and a darker coat – usually bay or black. Their coats lighten with age, gradually turning light gray. Read More

My first visit to Vienna was indecently short. During my Grand European Tour with Viking River Cruises last year, I spent a day getting to know the city. Following a walking tour of the most important sites, I met up with the ship’s chef for a gastronomic discovery of the Naschmarkt, the city’s 16th-century fresh market. At the Sacher Hotel, I gobbled down a slice of the hotel’s famous Sacher Torte before rushing off to a Mozart and Strauss concert performed by a Viennese orchestra. It left me yearning for more, and I vowed to return to Vienna as soon as possible.

The Naschmarkt has more than 100 kiosks, vendors, and shops that sell gourmet foods

The Naschmarkt has more than 100 kiosks, vendors, and shops that sell gourmet foods

I kept that promise recently, as Vienna was a convenient stop on my way to the Baltic States. My first stop was back at the Naschmarkt, where I sampled my way through more than 100 food stalls. With my hunger sated, I strolled past the Imperial Apartments, museums, Royal Stables, Opera House, and scores of ornate palaces. My reaction, surprisingly, was disappointment. Spending only one day in Vienna had seemed positively sinful, but Viking had done such a good job that I’d already seen most of the major sites. At the end of my first day, I was…bored. Read More