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Eric: Vienna: The City That Endures
Vienna
The City That Endures
By Nancy & Eric Anderson
Photography by Authors

sked what makes her city special, Eva Draxler, a spokesperson for the Vienna Tourist Board (www.wien.info) replies, "We're known as the city world-wide with the best quality of living." She may have a bias, of course, but she's quoting the annual global survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting that compares cities to create profiles for international companies.

Ms. Draxler and Mercer may be right. Many of the streets in the inner city are pedestrian-only and residents and tourists walk them with abandon in a freedom seldom experienced in the land of the automobile, the United States. People sitting outside the cafés drinking their coffee seem in no hurry which is true for the waiters as well. Café owners are not in a rush to turn their tables over. Traditionally you can take forever when you sit in one of Vienna's celebrated cafés: read your paper, read theirs, do your crossword puzzle, write a letter or just plain sit and vegetate. And if it seems a bit high to pay 3 Euros (€3) for a small coffee it may be more the result of the persistent weakness of the US dollar. What Europe wants for its € you can usually get in the States for a $ and sometimes even for 50 cents.

Otto Ernest Wiesenthal, is the owner of the Hotel Alstadt at Kirchengasse 41. It's in District 7 where prices are less, his especially so. He defends Vienna's prices. "There are 16 major cities in Europe," he says, " more expensive to live in than ours. Look at London, look even at little Bratislava; they are all more costly than Vienna." And, one could say, a lot of those other cities are not half as interesting as Vienna.

So what would interest visitors in this city, Austria's capital? What might be a Top Five things to do that would be memorable in the former capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire?

First: Experience the City of Wine and Dine

"Tourists see us as the home of wiener schnitzel, frankfurters and potato dumplings, "says a native sitting beside us on Austrian Airways as we circle to land, "But we've had immigrants coming for almost 700 years to serve in the Imperial City of the Habsburgs and it shows in the variety of our restaurant menus."

He nods and sits back contentedly in his seat and adds, "We are the only city in the world with a style of cuisine named after it: Viennese!"

"What about Peking Duck?" we say.

"That's a menu item not a cuisine," he replies and returns to getting ready for landing.

the Demel patisserie in Vienna

Actually wine making in Vienna goes back farther than the Habsburgs. It started with the Romans and Vienna remains the only capital city in the world with significant wine production within its city limits. Vienna also created the celebrated sachertorte, a chocolate concoction first served in 1832. The delicacy's history is so important it brought a lawsuit between the Hotel Sacher and the patisserie Demel as to who has the right to the term "Original Sachertorte," The issue was resolved in 1965 in favor of the hotel. We sampled both. The Demel was relatively less expensive but a bit dry; the hotel version came with cream and was preferred. Neither would win an American State Fair pie competition.

Second: Enjoy the Capital of Music

It's said that at any time of day or night in Vienna, someone, somewhere is playing Mozart's music. His statue, one of seven of classical musicians standing in the city, is the most photographed memorial in Vienna. The stark apartment he rented is a popular visit for tourists but it lacks any of his furniture and doesn't compare as an attraction with the house where he was born in Salzburg. But Vienna is a city of music that lives. Its reputation even brought Beethoven. Here he knew he would have an audience. He is buried in the Central Cemetery.

a concert at the Musikverein opera house in Vienna

This city of 1.7 million people supports four opera houses. It has 50 different musical events every day and the Musikverein, the Golden Hall, presents an almost unbelievable 600 concerts every season. On our recent visit the Mozart Orchestra played Vienna favorites from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik to the Overture to the Marriage of Figaro. Arias were sung by the soprano Lydia Rathkolb and baritone Christian Rudik. It was fun in this, at times, formal city to see the camaraderie and lightheartedness of the orchestra and how well it responded to its conductor Ewald Donhoffer.

Third: Embrace the History of the Imperial City

Most European capitals readily demonstrate their antiquity but Vienna is special. The more than 640 years' history of the Habsburgs and the trajectory of the Austro-Hungarian Empire are not subjects traditionally taught in US schools yet American tourists keep bumping against those topics in other countries from Serbia to Switzerland. Well, this is the center of the story.

the MuseumsQuartier

It's tempting for those with limited time to hurry through the Winter and Summer Palaces of the Habsburgs, visit perhaps one church then think they've "done" Vienna and indeed the palaces and museums surely epitomize the city. There is, of course, more. The former stables of the Habsburgs is now a vast complex called the MQ for MuseumsQuartier and any one of the museums could occupy a half day. In addition, Sigmund Freud lived at Bergasse 19 from 1891 to 1938 and his house is now a museum. And the café where he had his daily coffee, the Café Landtmann, is still there because this is a city that endures.

Fourth: Walk the Ancient Streets

Thirty percent of Vienna was destroyed in the Second World War yet much of the new architecture blends harmoniously with the older buildings. Vienna claims 60 percent of the city is green space but the most interesting area for visitors to walk through is that around St. Stephan's Cathedral. A fire in 1258 destroyed a basilica founded on this site in the 12th century. The Gothic cathedral that arose in its place was damaged during an Ottoman siege in 1683 then subsequently bombarded by the Russians and even the Germans as they retreated from the city in 1945. The restoration was completed in 1948 - although we've always found some repair work going on every time we've come to Vienna. Most guided walks either start or end at St. Stephan's.

Some of those streets of the inner city are more than 400 years old. Don't forget to look up. A few blocks north east of the cathedral, for example, lies Schönlaterngasse (the street of the nice street lamp). A replica of the lantern is there, the original's in a museum. At Number 7 high on the wall of a former bakery, a plaque and a concrete figure that for all the world looks like a rooster identifies the basilikenhaus. Here in the Middle Ages a deadly monster, the basilisk, was thought to dwell, a creature whose breath and glance were fatal. Indeed occupants of this house had died probably due to methane gas escaping from the 13th century well. In the legends of this street a baker went back into the building with a mirror and killed the hated thing by showing it its own reflection.

That may be a myth but what is not fiction are the gouging charges of some of the restaurants there. The Zum Basilisken restaurant at Number 5 charged us €2.70 for one bottle of water, €2.70 for two rolls, €2.20 for two pats of butter and €1.20 for, as the waiter said, "use of cutlery." And that €8.80 total comes to US$12.60 before you even reach for the menu. We are familiar with the French concept of le couvert, the charge for a place setting, but were disappointed seeing it in our beloved Vienna.

the Donner Fountain

To benefit from any walking tour you should buy a good guide book that also has a walking map. Such guides will take you to the 1693 Plague Column; the narrow (30 foot-wide) but tall-steepled church Maria am Gestade; and the Hoher Markt, Vienna's oldest marketplace and public site for hangings. The market also has the famous Ankeruhr clock that was featured in Orson Welles' movie The Third Man. Don't miss the former Greek section of the inner city, the Griechengasse or the 1737 Donner Fountain whose undraped Goddess of Providence so offended the Empress Maria Theresa. A half mile to the south by the Karlplatz rises the massive 1727 Church of St. Charles. The church's beautiful frescoes are being restored and stairs and elevators are provided to let visitors ascend to what seems the very heavens themselves. From this height they can gaze over this majestic city in all directions even to the North as if seeking the magic of The Blue Danube.

Fifth: Cruise the Danube Itself

Strauss got the melody right but not the color. The Danube is more green brown but its mystique haunts any visit to Vienna. The rivers played a vital role in the trading histories of cities and the Danube's convenience had a large role in the growth of the Habsburg Empire. Many one-day Danube cruises are available in Vienna but nothing beats a longer cruise that would take you deep into the legends of Austria and Central Europe. Uniworld's 361 foot-long River Countess, for example, sails either east ending in Bucharest or west and north to Amsterdam (www.uniworld.com). The first part of the latter cruise takes passengers through the tranquil Wachau Valley, perhaps the prettiest part of Austria.

Danube River cruise

The captain of the River Countess, Jord Zwaal, a young Dutchman who now lives in Bavaria introduces himself to his 134 passengers the first night and declares, "My family has sailed on rivers for many generations so I am keeping up its traditions." Zwaal is fiercely proud of his crew of 38 - his new family. Literally! He has recently married Julie, his hotel manager and passengers bask in their warmth.

He waves his hand at the scenery passing by on the Danube. "This is like a movie opening outside your cabin," he says. If so it must be a comedy because everyone on board is smiling. Well-run cruises have that effect on people.

Tell Eric what you think of his article.
In the meantime, here are some of the feedback we have already received:


Hey Eric and Nancy! As a fellow Traveling Boy journalist, and as a confirmed WW2 aficionado, just wanted you to know how much I loved your story on Arnhem. Really great stuff, and truly brilliant riveting writing.

I’ve been there twice and covered it on my KNX radio show when I was on LA radio, and your story and evocative photos brought back a ton of wonderful and poignant memories. This could have been an amazingly brilliant military operation – as you both know – that might well have ended the War in Europe maybe a year earlier. However, allied misreading -- and in my view disregarding certain aspects of the situation in Holland -- plus the fact that they dropped the paras over 3 days and not in one huge assault at night (and not in the day as they did) doomed the mission to failure.

Your clever words and great photos brought all this graphically to life, and it should be required reading for anyone interested in any aspect of WW2, and certainly should be read by today’s teenagers. Again Bravo and well done!!!!

John Clayton
Travel with A Difference

We just couldn't leave your website before saying that we genuinely enjoyed the high quality information you offer for your visitors... Would be back frequently to check up on new stuff you post!

Raanana

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What a fantastic write-up!

I could almost copy and paste most of your narrative verbatim as it reflects our fantastic experience with Fantasy Cruises almost to a tee. It was truly one of the greatest vacations my girlfriend and I have ever experienced.

Cheers!
Mike Richard, Editor, Vagabondish.com

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One of my dreams is to go to Alaska by way of cruise. This article very much intensifies the longing for that dream to come to fruition. I simply cannot wait much longer. And I will never again be able to think of a waterfall without picturing myself "nosing up" to it. Thank you for this intriguing, virtual journey.

Sandra Mines, Seattle, WA

Thank you for writing, Sandra. Alaska really is a wondrous place. Re "Nosing up" to a waterfall: we have a different article up at Physician's Money Digest on the same cruise (Small Ship Cruising: Alaska by the Back Door). The third last set of images there shows a crew member filling a jug of ice water from a waterfall while standing in the bow of the ship! Best wishes. Get there! To Alaska one day.

Eric & Nancy

Loved your photos from Alaska! Because I am the Director of Sales & Marketing for Westmark Hotels, I am up in AK and the Yukon quite often to visit our hotels and staff! But your pictures were so enjoyable-love to see the "real" Alaskans!

Heidi Howeiler, Seattle, WA

Hi Ms. Howeiler, That was kind of you to write and yes, you do see real people in Alaska, don't you? Alaskans always remind us off rural Texans or Australians in the isolated Red Centre of their country: hard working, sensible, rolled-up-sleeves people with no affectations. We love your Westmark hotels and we take our hats off to the person who started your company, Chuck West. What a great guy!

Eric & Nancy

Enjoyed your realistic and practical comments on Provence. Always wanted to go there ever since reading Peter Mayle's 2 books on Provence. But the two times I went to France, time was always short, so we spent our days in Paris. And now you say, it is losing its unique charm to tourism. (Sigh). It's always a choice between sharing beauty, and keeping it hidden. The world lurches on. Thanks for your thoughts.

Dette, Iligan City, Philippines

Hi Dette, (Would love to see all your waterfalls), Thank you for writing. Provence is busy in the tourist season but it hasn't lost all its charm or the quirkiness Mayle talks about in his book Provence A to Z. It's still a place to visit. Appreciate hearing from you. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

What a great article, especially regarding Louis XIV. I was not aware there was a contemporary account of his execution. It was fascinating. Thank you!

Celtic fan, Nashua, MA

Dear Celtic fan, Thanks for writing. I didn't know about the account of his execution either till I stumbled upon it. Sad to think that the French revolutionaries thought they could be both judge and jury. We are lucky to have a more elegant system today. Thanks for writing.

Eric & Nancy

Nancy and Eric,

Enjoyed reading your article on Santa Fe, NM. I was in AZ travel nursing in 2008 and 2009 and made it to Santa Fe. Took a lot of pics and really loved walking around the old town while I was there. Hope to be able to take the wife there in the future.

Brett Eidson, Soso, MS

Hi dude! Nice to see your site. It's beautiful. My congratulations.

New York

Hi New York, Thank you for writing. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

Hi www.travelingboy.com! Your web-site is very interesting and I want to tell www.travelingboy.com G'night.

New York

Dear New York,

Thank you for writing. Glad you find the site interesting. We are here for you. Keep visiting.

Eric & Nancy

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This is all genuine. I will return to scan.

Keflavik

Hi Keflavik, Thank you for writing. We are happy you will return.

Eric & Nancy

Good article.

On Behalf Of Diane, Port Ludlow, WA

Thanks for writing from Port Ludlow. We hear that's a beautiful place. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

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When I was hurt in a boat accident my life would be changed totally. I really don't post much but thanks for the good times I have here. Love this place. Long time lurker, thought I would say hello!

Miami

Dear Miami, Thanks for writing. It's nice to hear from you. Hope you are getting better. Glad you get some good times at Traveling boy. Good luck.

Eric & Nancy

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Dear friends,

My name is Adelina. I am a 22 years girl from Italy. I was looking for a free translation software and I found one. Program's name is Babel Fish and it supports 75 languages. I installed it but I could not understand how to use it. I am not a computer expert. Can someone help me please on how to run this.The link is here :http://access.im/3/babelfish. I thank you very much for your help.

Adelina, Celaya

Adelina, I didn't want to download it but I saw examples online. It seemed easy. You select the page you want translated, copy it and paste it into the box. You then click on the button to translate. You may have to do one page at a time. You can also use Google to translate a page; that's what I do because I don't want to load too much software.

Eric & Nancy

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Amiable brief and this mail helped me a lot in my college assignment. Thanks you seeking your information.

WordPress Themes, Gray Mountain

We are glad to have been of help. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

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What's up everyone? Great forum. Lots of lovely people. Just what I need. Hopefully this is just what i'm looking for. Looks like I have a lot to read.

Spanish John, Benidrom

Encouraging to get your feedback. Glad to hear from you. Thank you for writing.

Eric & Nancy

Nice dispatch (http://www.travelingboy.com/travel-eric.html) - and this enter helped me a lot in my college assignement. Thank you as your information.

Gray Mountain

Hi Gray Mountain,

Thank you for your comment. Your email reminds us all at TravelingBoy how important it is to be accurate in what we write. Good luck with your studies and have a great life.

Eric & Nancy

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Hello people, I just signed up on this splendid community forum and wanted to say hey there! Have a wonderful day!

Jacksonville

Hi Jacksonville, We are pleased to hear from new readers at TravelingBoy. Your feedback encourages us all to do better. Thank you for writing.

Eric & Nancy

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What a fascinating bit of Russian history you wrote about! How sad to learn that 100,000 churches were reduced to create skating rinks and such during the revolution, after seeing the photo of the interior of a magnificent church filled with art! War is so devastating on so many levels! The art of their culture is so beautiful as is shown in the image of the painted box! Thank you,

Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

Dear Yoka,

Thank you for writing. Nancy is originally Lutheran and Eric is a dour Scot, more used to the frequently cold and often cheerless churches of his native land so we were both overwhelmed to see the beauty of Russian churches. It was kind of you to write, Yoka.

Thank you,
Eric & Nancy

Interesting observations.... Very informative and thought provoking. Questions.... What would be the best way to get from Moscow Airport DME to boat dock? taxi? prearranged limo? prepaid Viking Tours transfer? Any idea on cost and travel time for taxi or limo or Viking Cruise pickup from airport to boat? We shall be flying to Moscow on our own. Do you happen to have an address for the river boat dock that Viking Cruises uses in Moscow? I would be nice to Google map the situation. Thanks,

Robert Hopwood, Ottawa, Canada

Hi Bob,

Excuse the delay; we were on a trip. I do understand your question and will try and get you an answer. The Viking river dock in Moscow was for us in the north part of the city but once we were on the boat it was an easy ten minute walk to the Metro station that had us downtown within 30 minutes. I'm a lot more relaxed at the end of a trip than at the beginning and therefore I always feel taking the cruise-line sponsored trip from the airport to the dock makes sense: What starts right usually ends right.

Eric & Nancy Anderson

Hi Bob,

I’m back with more information. The river port’s address is Northern River Boat Station Leningradsky Prospekt, Khimki. If you Google that you will see it is about 15 minutes’ walk from two Metro stations. http://www.aptouring.com.au/files/documents/17/29022_Moscow2.pdf .

I spoke to Nancy at customer relations at Viking Cruises at the new LNR Warner Center in 5700 Canoga Avenue, Woodland Hills, Calif.

She was very helpful and advises you to take the Viking transportation service. She is biased, of course, but she’s right. Moscow DME airport is 40 miles away on the opposite side of the city, at least two hours driving time. The airport has no Metro station; you’d have to take the Aeroexpress train to Paveletsky station then change to the Metro and go to Rechnoy Vokzal station then take a cab to the port. A cab all the way from DME would cost at least 2000 rubles (more than $70). That’s less than the $60 each that Viking would charge…but…I think you’d be ill-advised to do it on your own. Why start the trip where the potential to screw up is so likely? Moscow taxi drivers are as dishonest as most tourist city cab drivers and probably yours won’t speak English. I think the address in Russian is

BUT...

I strongly discourage you from economizing on this and doing it on your own. Buy the transfer and save money somewhere else.

We have other Viking Volga web articles up at http://travelingboy.com/archive-travel-eric-russia.html and at http://www.ericandersonsworld.com/story.php?id=6LvDg.

Good luck. Great show Canada’s putting on for the Olympics!

Eric & Nancy Anderson

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Reseller Hosting, London

Hi, Is it Britni Freeman?

Thank you, we think... We suspect your comments are valid. In fact we think all of us writing for TravelingBoy are starting to get into the swing of things and do a better job -- and your encouragement spurs us to do even better. Thank you for writing. Have a good 2010,

Eric & Nancy Anderson

Dear Nancy and Eric

Thank you so much for the wonderful article on statues in Europe. Statues are my favorite art form and your descriptions were delightful to read - knowledge and fun together. I do still wonder about that foot in Rome...

Peggy - Pasadena, CA

Hi Peggy,

Thank you for writing. We appreciate your comments. We used to be critical of people who can't identify the persons on statues in foreign cities -- until one day a tourist stopped us in our own San Diego and asked us, in vain, for details on a statue we'd never noticed before! We wonder about that Roman foot too. If Eric had stood any closer he'd be in his typical foot-in-mouth position.

Eric & Nancy Anderson

I live in Santa Fe and see and delight in it every day, but your writing makes it sparkle even more. How nice to see Santa Fe through your eyes. Great photos!

Cynthia Whitney-Ward - Santa Fe, NM

Dear Dr. Anderson:

I have followed your writing career for as long as I can remember, and I think the thing I enjoy the most about your travel writing is the sense of joy and discovery that leads the reader to anticipate ever corner you turn in your travels.What a delightful traveling companion you are, and I know have always been, with that wonderfully eternally youthful joie de vivre...I wonder:do you feel that East, West, home is best? And where IS that place you have never been, but want to go most of all,yet? Bring we, your devoted readers ever along!

CAT -- San Diego (Scrips Ranch), CA

Dear CAT,

Thank for taking the time to write to TravelingBoy.com. You are very kind. We don't know that travel writers make the best companions; we suspect they may be obsessed with getting the best photograph or may monopolize the guide with questions so that others don't get to ask what interests them. What place is best? Well, it may be fun to sit in a rickshaw in Beijing or try to master the Metro in Moscow, but -- as you imply -- it is good to get home after trips.

Home is as comfortable as a pair of old shoes and home for many of us fortunately contains family.

We've never been to Easter Island and may have missed the boat (no pun intended) there. The island is losing its innocence; we've seen that happen at Machu Picchu or, closer to home, at Lake Powell in Arizona. So maybe the best travel advice is: Go when you are fit and healthy, before rising prices make a destination inaccessible -- and before hordes of tourists ruin any destination's mystique.

With best Holiday Wishes from Traveling Boy,

Eric & Nancy Anderson

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What a fantastic primer on New York City. I think you have really captured its essence with this exciting overview of its offerings. Well done!

Gillian Abramson - New York

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You describe a city on wheels - er, wings - and an absolutely perfect way to travel. SHOWERS & FLOWERS! Amazing! I love that your passion for all-things-aviation comes through in this story about an almost unbelievable airplane. Thanks for breaking the news in such an engaging way!

Richard Frisbie - Saugerties, New York

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Enjoyed your blog on Romania. Noticed you called Bucharest "The Paris of the East." I wonder, is there any city not called "The Paris of something." I've read San Francisco is 'the Paris of the West,' Buenos Aires 'The Paris of South America,' and even Tromso, Norway 'The Paris of the Arctic.'

Terry Cowan - Fresno

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Hi Terry,

Thanks for writing to TravelingBoy. And thanks for educating me; I didn't know that about Tromso, didn't even know there was a Tromso. I heard Bangkok called the Venice of the East when I was there and, in two weeks, I'm heading for the Venice of the North, St. Petersburg, Russia.

It does become a bit silly, doesn't it? But we are originally an immigrant nation that was Eurocentric. Maybe it gave our forefathers confidence even courage when they took old names, old ideas to the New World with them. I know I feel nostalgic if I drive around Ontario, Canada and see all the British place names.

I appreciate your email. Thank you for writing.

Eric

Eric -

Enjoyed your article on Madrid. I noticed that you find it superior to Rome. Most of the Spanish folks that I meet seem to prefer Barcelona. How would you rate that city?

Samuel K
Seattle

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Hi Samuel,

We loved Barcelona although driving around the city was surprisingly complicated as our maps were inadequate. The cathedral had scaffolding around it so I couldn't get the pictures I wanted but we found the architecture fascinating and the Picasso museum rewarding. We were anxious to get on the road to Costa Brava and didn't have more than a couple of days in Barcelona.

Thanks for writing.
Eric


Great article on Madrid. I've heard there is a rivalry between the people of Madrid and Barcelona. In which city are the people friendlier? How about for hipness? I noticed you were Scottish. I felt a similar thing in Scotland, with a Glasgow v. Edinburgh vibe.

Gary
Santa Monica

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Thank you for writing to TravelingBoy, Gary. We found Barcelona friendlier.

Maybe that's because it's not the capital and it's not so busy either. Maybe it's because the Gaudi architectural influence is pervasive and -- to both its citizens and tourists -- comforting. Maybe it's because Barcelona is the gateway to the work of artist Salvatore Dali, and his spirit catches us. (I don't know much about art but I've seen a lot of Dali's work enough to think he never took himself too seriously and often painted tongue in cheek. Maybe fun people spring for fun places?) Hipness? Madrid is more formal and dressy but Barcelona, I believe, is more hip maybe, again, because it's more fun.

Your points about Scotland are valid. It's more than a joke. The Glaswegians are more down to earth. I think we see it here in the belief that if you had a flat tire in Middle America passers-by would be more inclined to stop and help than perhaps New Englanders.

- Eric

Dear Eric,

I liked the article. As I read it, I was wondering how you as a physician were influenced by Hippocrates. What influence did this historical figure have on the practice of medicine beyond the obvious 'oath.' Why is Hippocrates considered to be such a paragon of medicine? DWA - San Pedro, CA

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Dear David,

Thank you for writing to Travelingboy.com.

Hippocrates is revered because he believed his duty was to the individual patient, not to the community at large. This is a very important premise. The Romans, whose empire followed that of the Greeks, achieved much in health matters by emphasizing clean drinking water and personal hygiene, and created great national works like aquaducts and public baths but wealthy Romans apparently preferred Greek doctors as their personal physicians.

Hippocrates is also respected because he brought intellectual thought to diagnosis. He taught his students to use their five senses in assessing patients and was openly critical of the junk science of his day as practiced by the priest-physicians who preyed on the fear and ignorance of the ill persons who came to them.

It is true that not all medical chools today require graduating doctors to take the Hippocratic Oath but most conscientious physicians base their lifetime commitment to the practice of medicine on the life and teachings of that one man.

Or so I think. Perhaps if we knew more about our heroes they would seem less heroic. But in Hippocrates' case he did leave a record of his thoughts and some of his principles are today as strong as ever.

Thank you for writing, it is appreciated.

Eric


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