Haus des Meeres Aquarium Vienna
The „Haus des Meeres" („House of the Sea") is a museum and aquarium that shows more than 3,500 animals on 2,500 square metres of exhibition space. It is among Vienna′s most popular attractions, but mostly due to domestic visitors (especially with children). For international visitors of Vienna, there are exactly two reasons why one would want to go there:
1.) You are a biologist (like me) or for some other reason particularly interested in marine life - or you come from somewhere with no aquariums and no sea (that would be somewhere in Siberia, but probably nowhere else in the World). 2.) You want to experience something cool indoors on a rainy day and see a WWII air missile tower from inside as well as a stunning view over the city of Vienna.
As you can anticipate from point 2, the "House of the Sea" is actually not a house, but a "Nazi Concrete Tower of the Sea". Over the course of WWII, the Nazi defenders of Vienna built several of these massive, massive chunks of concrete and steel from where they could launch missiles and open fire on attacking planes of the allies.
Trace Fish, Reptiles & Nazis
After the end of the war, there were several attempts to get rid of these incredibly ugly grey things, but they proved to be so big and solid that they could not be demolished without destroying surrounding buildings or investing a fortune for destructing them piece by piece. Thus, they are still in place, but most of them are fortunately semi-well hidden in courtyards.
You can see them from church towers, the Donauturm or other points where you are "above" the city. The "Haus dem Meeres" tower is in the park of the former Palais Esterhazy, the Viennese summer residence of the unbelievably rich Hungerian noblemen. The Palais itself is now mostly destructed or used privately.
The "Haus des Meeres" shows crocodiles and other reptiles, all sorts of exotic amphibians and tropical fish. Corals are a big deal and so is the collection of Mediterranean animals and plants - the Mediterranean is Austria′s ex-sea, and so the scientific ties with research stations in Croatia and Slovenia are still unharmed by history
Marine Traditions in a Landlocked Country
The biology classes of the Universities in Innsbruck, Salzburg, Graz and Vienna still run courses on marine biology by the Mediterranean coast and the community of Austrian marine biologists is much more active than one would imagine with a landlocked, Alpine country.
Whether this is useful and a good investment of research grants is a different question. On the roof of the "Haus des Meeres" tower (which has several floors inside), there is a platform that was opened only in 2007. From here you can appreciate how close you are to the Ringstraße and the first district with St. Stephan′s Cathedral marking its centre. The outer façade of the tower is used as a climbing wall.
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