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Vienna says empire--that must be why Americans love it so much. Only a people raised on democracy could embrace an imperial city so uncritically, and with so much longing.

Vienna is a city under glass. The people still address each other by titles long abolished, kissing hands, loving food and beauty, ignoring time. It is a city of dreams--dreams that become yours as you sip champagne from long-stemmed glasses at the opera, or gorge yourself in pastry shops once frequented by Mozart and Freud.

Vienna today is an imperial city without an empire. The blue Danube is gray. Linzer tortes are nothing to write home about. It's fitting that Vienna is a baroque city because baroque is the art of the fa├žade, the perfect stage set for fantasy. But if Vienna is only a dream, let's dream on.

To get to Vienna, look into any of the following for trips ranging from budget to deluxe; Paul Laifer Tours (www.laifertours.com), KD River Cruises, (www.rivercruises.com), Sophisticated Traveler (www.s-traveler.com), Grand Circle Travel (www.gct.com) and Austrian Airlines (www.austrianair.com).