|Opulent neo-Gothic and neo-Baroque buildings line the boulevard ringing downtown - the "Ringstrasse", a former city wall - while the imposing spire of Gothic St. Stephen's Cathedral towers over the central city. Three stunning palaces grace various sections of the city; the Vienna Woods, inspiration for Strauss' waltzes, cradle the northwest edge. Vienna's historical roots run deep, as deep as the Danube River.|
First settled by Celts around 800 BC, then conquered by the Romans, the country fell under a succession of rulers. In Roman times Vienna (Vindobona) was a military camp and the Danube was the border to "Germania". In 996 the first deed containing the name Austria (Ostarrichi); was recorded, and this year the country celebrates its 1000th anniversary.
And as the Habsburg ruled also in Spain, which largely expanded to South America, the Habsburg could say:
Shortly before the Habsburg era crumbled with the country's defeat in World War I, the Austro-Hungarian Empire stretched north into what are now Poland and the Czech Republic, east to the Ukraine and Romania, and south to Bosnia, Croatia and Italy. But the vestiges of that great empire still can be seen today - in the buildings that decorate the strreet corners and in the people who populate the town.
The main Habsburg palace, Hofburg, remains one of the most important buildings in the inner city (downtown). Its earliest sections were constructed in the 1200s, and successive rulers added their own touches. Over the years the Hofburg ("royal castle") developed into a sprawling complex of more than 2600 rooms.
Emperors and their entourage, just like everybody else, needed appropriate living quarters. Since they had enough ready money at their disposal and the most famous architects at their command, it is not surprising that one stumbles upon architectural masterpieces wherever one turns in Vienna.
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