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August 14, 2022

I had long wanted to visit Vienna, Austria but not completely for the usual tourist reasons. The year was 2005 and my wife and I were living in Northern Italy. The trip by car wasn’t really that long so we decided to fulfill one of my lifelong dreams. We planned the trip for November 2, ironically the Day of the Dead, and set out for a hotel in Pressbaum, located on the outskirts of Vienna near the Vienna Woods.


We chose a route that took us from our home near Meran, Italy up the Brenner Pass, into Innsbruck and east to Pressbaum. The trip was delightful with many things to see and do along the way. We poked about a bit in Innsbruck because it is a city that we truly love. Once we got to Pressbaum, we settled in for the evening and planned our days in Vienna. By the way, if you wish to visit Vienna but want to stay out of the bustle of the city, Pressbaum is the perfect choice. Vienna is accessible from Pressbaum by train as well as car in just a few minutes.

Schönbrunn Palace

The top things we wanted to see as tourists were the Schönbrunn Palace, the Prater and of course Mozart’s grave. The palace was spectacular as I expected. But it was freezing cold and the normally beautiful gardens were devoid of life. We soaked up the history inside the palace and thoroughly loved the visit. If you visit Vienna, it is a must see. Strangely, the nearby McDonalds had curious advertisements on the outside of their building written in Japanese. I guess a Big Mac is a big deal for Japanese tourists. It definitely added to the charm as we are both super international.

Wiener Riesenrad

I had heard about the Prater (large public amusement park) from my father when I was a child and was thrilled to see it in person along with taking a ride on the famous Ferris Wheel, the Wiener Riesenrad. On April 7, 1766, Emperor Joseph II declared the Prater to be free for public enjoyment, and allowed the establishment of coffee-houses and cafés. Throughout this time, hunting continued to take place in the Prater, ending only in 1920. The Prater is now full of entertainment including a haunted house and the like. The Riesenrad is the main attraction however. The Ferris Wheel is composed of large cars and was completed in 1897. It is located at the entrance of the Prater in Vienna’s Second District (Leopoldstadt). The view of all of Vienna from atop this wheel is truly amazing. You can see all of Vienna and well beyond. You can even get married in one of the cars if you wish!

Mozart’s Grave

Finding Mozart’s grave proved to be easy. I must admit that I stood there in front of it for a very long time with tears in my eyes trying to picture his life and the music I knew so very well. I was overcome. St. Marx Cemetery is not Vienna’s largest but it is probably the most historic. Mozart’s grave is rather simple and it should be noted that it is actually just a monument; Mozart was buried in an unmarked grave. However, many music loving tourists and Viennese residents alike visit the monument daily. It is a pilgrimage of sorts. I was just another humble pilgrim that day but one who was most humbled to be in its presence. I swear I could actually hear Mozart’s Requiem in the cold marble as I touched it.


Number 9, Glasergasse

Remember that I mentioned that we were visiting Vienna not completely for the usual tourist reasons? Indeed, we had greater plans for exploring the city. My father Gene Rizzi went to music school at the Neues Wiener Konservatorium many decades ago and thus lived in the city’s Ninth District for several years. Although I knew my father lived in Vienna, I had only recently tracked down the exact address. We had to do a little driving, parking and walking to find the house. But at last, there it was: Number 9, Glasergasse in the Ninth District. My father had lived here so many years ago, both as a budding violin student and as Concert Master for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. I drew many a deep breath as I gazed at the building and tried to recall my father’s youth. The building had been owned by the mother of one of his musician friends, Fritz. The only memory of all of this I have is contained in a few old photographs. Here’s one of the violin trio my father played with in the early 1930’s. (L-R Gene Rizzi, Fritz and unknown)

I soaked up the local history, visited the nearby church where my father attended mass and walked many of the streets and alleys that my father surely walked some 75 years before. That was the real reason we had come to Vienna. I even brought some of those old family photos from the 1930’s and asked a couple of older locals what they knew about them. The answers were surprising and informative. I was definitely glad that German is my second language and that I was able to speak the Viennese dialect. I learned a lot.  As I had imagined that my father and his trio often played locally, I also perused several locales that featured such music decades ago. We covered a lot of ground. The whole trip really brought my father’s past as a young man and musician clearly into focus.

Then of course I recalled that Hitler shut down the famous music school my father attended along with most of Vienna’s music venues. The Golden Age of Music had come to an abrupt halt with the anschluss. Fortunately my father had seen Hitler speaking in Vienna shortly before his rise to power and had a premonition of things to come. He later recalled that he became certain just listening to this madman that it was time to leave Vienna. As my wife and I left the Ninth District, I stared at the old cold buildings and wondered what my father might have done if not for that upheaval so many years ago. Would he have stayed in his beloved Vienna? Perhaps, but then again I surely would not have been born.

PS – Ironically, I have been able to locate only one recording of my father’s music. I found it on YouTube a couple of years ago. It is a 1931 recording of the Vienna Maiden’s Waltz  by Carl Michael Ziehrer. That’s my father on first violin with his Stradivarius. Here’s the recording:

Top Photo: My father Gene Rizzi as a young Concert Master in Vienna. Trio by unknown photographer. All other photos copyright 2005 by Allen E. Rizzi and Rachel Rizzi.

Note: My newest book, Neues Wiener Konservatorium – Ein Blick Zuruck Aus Amerika, is available in both English and German editions. It is available on here:

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  1. How wonderful to retrace some of your Dad’s steps. I first visited Vienna in 1972, spending 6-weeks on a German language course during my school summer holiday. It was magical. I’ve never returned but feel the need to do so, soon.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Nemorino permalink

    Great that you found the house where your father used to live in Vienna. I had a similar experience last summer when I finally found the street in Bois-Colombes where my father lived when he was working in Paris from 1924 to 1928.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is so much we did not learn from our parents. Only the most patient of us have taken the time to go back in time to find our history.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. E’ stato meraviglioso trovare ricordi del passato di tuo padre!

    Liked by 1 person

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