(2002) The first part of this trip was to be about snow tubing in the Alps, since I had recently published my book, The Guide to Innertubing, which included both river and snow tubing locations around the world. I even got a video-camera for the occasion. The second part was to be spent in Vienna. The second thing I should mention is that airfare to Vienna is quite expensive, so I found a good rate to London and booked Ryanair to Salzburg.
I had Suckao – a dark rich thick chocolate drink served in special containers that have little built-in tea candle warming units & a long stainless steel straw/spoon. Marie had chocolate Ecuador (with orange) & a chocolate brioche – the best! A near-religious experience. Fantastic review written by the Chocolate Lady. Click here.
Back down from Cloud 9, we continued our exploration of Harrods. The Egyptian rooms and escalators were great, but difficult to photograph. Another favorite was the horse fashion & equipment complete with saddles, tack, full-sized horse mannequin, and chatty salesgirl.
We found our way through Chelsea on the way back to Victoria. Oops, no Art yet.
Ryanair flies out of Stansted Airport, east of the city. We found the experience challenging, but we got airborne. On the approach to SALZBURG airport our seatmate pointed out Oberndorf where “Silent Night, Holy Night” was written on Christmas Eve, 1818.
As we headed our rental car west to Bregenz, one thing was immediately evident: there was no snow on the ground and not much more anywhere else. This changed everything, for obvious reasons; so in order for this post to be about our adventures in Art and not in the snow-less Swiss countryside, I will skip to the artistic highlights leading up to Vienna.
Chocolate was introduced to Austria when the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI relocated from Madrid to Vienna in 1711. Vienna became famous for its hot chocolate, so rich and thick that it was served with glasses of chilled water to balance out the experience.
We had the first (after Max Brenner's) of many hot chocolates in Austria, watching ice skaters in SALZBURG. Not as thick as the Spanish . Not as sweet as American. A sophisticated mélange which includes heavy cream and sometimes an egg yolk.
Salzburg was a work of Art in itself, with its Baroque architecture and alpine setting. We began in Mirabell Gardens (1689), on the west side of the Salzach River where Maria (Julie Andrews) and the children danced and sang Doe A Deer around the Pegasus statue. No foliage to speak of, but a fine crop of Dwarf statues.
|Unicorn in Sound of Music|
When the museum was founded, it did not own a single work of art; all the exhibits were on loan. By the time it was closed in 1938 (presumably due to impending war), they had acquired thirty Artworks. After reopening in 1952, the Residenzgalerie focused on acquiring European paintings from 16th to 19th centuries. Among our favorites were a Rubens’ Satyr, a Rembrandt sketch, and this Brueghel:
There was still a little time to walk through the Christmas market before Mass at the Dom (where Mozart was christened). We had previously been to the Christmas markets in Zurich, but the spectacle of the sale of traditional holiday treats and gifts, amid the social atmosphere of public drinking was something to behold.
The altar, in the Cathedral, was not quite buried in unadorned balsam trees. On one side, a large Advent wreath was suspended by three purple ribbons. Clouds of incense rose and the church bells chimed.
I should mention that we got the Salzburgcard and stopped in a few places we might not usually, such as the Carolino Augusteum-Haupthaus, the city museum with Roman & Celtic artifacts, and the Carolino Augustem–Speizeugmuseum, which had “100 teddy bears” as well as other games and toys. Then we took a bus (free w/card) through the mountain (literally) to the Stiegel’s Brauwelt, and had a beer at the brewery. They say Mozart drank Stiegel beer.
While we had our share of wurst at the markets, we enjoyed dinner that night at Stiftskeller St. Peter (since 806). We made our reservation, then took the funicular up to the Schloss Monchsberg for a look at the city lights and then back down for our meal. The décor was Mephistopheles meets Faust; a warren of rooms. I got lost just coming back from the herren room. Wonderful food was accompanied by a young woman playing fiddle and a young man on the accordion.
|All drawings by Marie Hammer|
Consecrated in 1147 with expansion continuing until 1511, this Gothic and Romanesque cathedral was saved from destruction at the hands of the retreating German army by Captain Gerhard Klinkicht who disregarded orders to do so. However, when the Russians invaded, plunderers set fire to nearby shops which spread, and did some damage to the cathedral. The roof is delightful with 230,000 colorfully glazed tiles forming patterns including the Habsburg double-eagle.
Lines of horses & carriages stood next to the church, as did a cadre of street performers with various schtick, and young people in period costume selling tickets to performances of Mozart or Strauss.
Going back down Bakerstrasse, Marie managed to buy a necklace from a lady who said she would be closing that night for two full weeks, so she had to decide right then.
Christmas Eve day: Not a lot open, so we spent the time walking around Wien. We did find one place open, MAK – Museum of Applied Arts at the University of Applied Arts. (The "K" is for "kunst" which means "Art.") The college atmosphere made the visit fun, but I can’t tell you what we saw.
We skirted around the First District occasionally going out beyond the Ringstrasse before heading to the center of things – The Graben. An elegant pedestrian mall, it was the most fun for people watching. Both the Lions and Kiwanis clubs were selling mugs of hot Weihnachtspunsch there, which is either mulled wine (like the German “Glühwein”) or a combination of tea, spices, sugar, rum and brandy. It definitely made the cold temperatures more tolerable.
Even in the cold, street entertainment was of a high caliber. Click here to see video of a balalaika trio from Ukraine or click here to see a puppeteer interact with his audience. Here's another violinist not on the street.
Eventually it was time to go St. Stephansplatz and we found that there was already a long line to get into the Dom for Midnight Mass. A concert of brass band music was promised, but did not materialize, and the doors did not open until 11:30, so when we were finally let in, there was a huge crush of people. The proceedings weren’t all that artistic, so I will leave out the details.
Hot chocolate the next day at the Mozart Café at Albertinaplatz across the street from the StaatOpera. Christmas Day Mass at St. Augustiniankirche was a special experience. Located on Josephplatz, next to the Habsburg’s winter palace, it was originally built in the 14th century by Duke Frederick the Handsome. The church is lovely; simple & elegant, yet was the site of many Imperial weddings including that of Archduchess Marie Louise in 1810 to Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, and future Empress Maria Theresa to Duke Francis of Lorraine.
We had lunch at the chic Café Demel where the hot chocolate was the best since Max Brenner’s. Good warm chicken, house club sandwich. Marie got a jellied salmon creation. The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the city, off the Graben; to the Am Hof, Freyung and the Ferstal Palace.
The day after Christmas is also a holiday in Vienna, but a few of the museums were open, so we hit the big one first: Kunsthistorisches Museum.
This was the Habsburgs' collection and contains nothing later than 1892. The Vienna tourism people put it on a par with the Prado and Louvre. They charged 9€ admission, plus 50 cents for coat check and 50 cents for a simple map. The Rubens’ were not so good (some were damaged), nor was the Rembrandt. There was a Vermeer, but no Botticelli. A couple of Lukas Cranach the Elder, however. There was a sprinkling of Van Dyke, Van Eyck, & Dürer. The highlight came after completing just over half of the wing when I was resting on a bench. There was no art of interest, but a passionate couple caught my eye. He was balding & chubby, she was younger with dyed red hair. While they were standing there looking up at the bloody religious art, he had his hands all over her derriere; rubbing and occasionally patting. Then they kissed loudly in front of a picture of Jesus dying, entertaining the roomful of people.
|The Princesses Sibylla, Emilia and Sidonia von Sachsen by Lukas Cranach the Elder|
|Judith by Cranach|
The other wing had Italians (Titian, Tintoretto, Raphael, Bellini) and a special exhibit of artifacts made from gems, stones & crystals. There was quite a bit of stone picture work from Florence. Downstairs was a large number of sarcophagi from Egypt. Greek & Roman galleries were closed but there was a special exhibit of Polish Art.
There appeared to be no work by female artists. The most interesting Art, in my opinion, was around the top of the grand staircase. One side featured frescoes by Gustav Klimt. The opposite side was done by his brother Ernst. I tried to shoot video, but it was too dark.
Friday morning we got in line for the Lipizzaner Stallions’ final morning practice with music at the Spanish Riding School. Inside, the lobby quickly filled and when they finally opened the door leading outside in order to climb to the second floor for entrance to the galleries, there was, again, a great crush of people ready to leap or lurch in whichever direction they saw an open door. Young and old. Denim or dead animals. We were able to get seats in the front row a bit beyond the center point. Everyone crowded around. By 10:30, four or five horses & riders walked and trotted around the ring. Occasionally, one would display a dance step, or back the horse up a step or two, or even ride in a diagonal. But not often. They changed horses & music every now and then. Having seen the Lipizzaners do their show elsewhere, it wasn’t much to watch. The idea that they were practicing inside, under massive crystal chandeliers, in front of huge portraits and an audience ensconced in elegant boxes, however, was a treat. Click here for some video.
|painting by Julius von Blaas|
We then proceeded to the Dorotheum. This old antique auction house has been called “a pawn shop for the Habsburgs.” Rooms of furniture, stamps, coins, jewelry, Art Deco/Nouveau, even stuffed animals, all tagged with what we supposed were starting bids. We didn’t bid on anything.
Had lunch down the street at Trzesniewski, where you choose from an assortment of small open-faced sandwiches. Many with egg, tuna, salmon, pickle, herring, etc. With our large & small beer we sat at a small table Marie had commandeered. (There were only three in the whole place. Most stand at narrow ledges around the small establishment).
Then over to the Gemaldegaleri at der Akademie der bildenden Kunste (Academy of Fine Arts). It was snowing so the Schillerplatz out in front, even with the nearby construction, looked magical. The Academy building is itself impressive, but you have to hunt for the gallery. There were no signs, but we found it on the top floor. It’s an Arts school after all. Klimt went here.
Walked through the Hotel Sacher, admiring the photos of famous faces on the walls near the restrooms. Bought chocolates at Altman & Kuhne on the Graben, and had coffee and chocolate at the Café Lehman. There was no “strudel to die for” but there were a couple of other nice treats. In addition to a raspberry torte, we had a chestnut cream, which was supposed to be traditional Wien. As always, the cafés are the best for people watching. There were, inevitably a few tables with two fashionable, well-dressed ladies. Usually wearing dead animals. The one Marie was drawing took out her cigarette holder.
Began the next day at Karlskirche, perhaps the most interesting church in Vienna. The two front columns imitate Trajan’s and Hercules’ columns. And as we approached, the top of the church was lost in the snowy mist. Inside there was much restoration.
Heavenly Choir from Beethovenfries
Lederer, like so many other Jews, was dispossessed in 1938 and the frieze was taken by the State. After the war, official ownership was returned to the family in Switzerland, but since an export ban had been placed on it, the Lederers were forced to sell the frieze to the State.
The overall length is 112 feet and around 7 feet high. It was done with casein paint, gold paint, black and color chalk, graphite, plaster, and various appliqué materials (e.g. mirror, mother-of-pearl, curtain rings, etc.)
They were having a special exhibition of Klimt landscapes, which included works by Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Winslow Homer and the rest. In the adjoining rooms there was more Klimt and the Impressionists. Upstairs were rooms of Classical & Romantic Art, and the basement had even more Impressionists.
We had dinner at the Goulash Museum that evening, where I had pork goulash with sauerkraut & boiled potatoes. Marie had potato goulash w/smoked sausage. Plus warm fresh rolls and more good beer.
“Our real illiteracy is our inability to create.”
“To paint is a religious activity.”
“If we do not honor the past, we lose our futures. If we destroy our roots, we cannot grow.”
“Only if you love the tree like yourself you will survive.”
“The straight line is godless.”
“The horizontal belongs to nature, the vertical belongs to man.”
It was by then too dark to get a good look at the Hundertwasser-designed public housing project a few blocks away. But it was still an amazing sight to see this living artwork with fantastic decoration everywhere you look from the lobbies to the roofs where trees were planted.
Back in the center of town, we enjoyed the decorations at the Rathaus (Click here for video), and stopped at the Café Landtmann. I had an orange punch with white wine and rum.
Eager to see everything designed by Otto Wagner, we schlepped down Linke Wienzeile for the Majolica House (1898-99) and Medallion Building. Later we found the Hotel Imperial and bought a torte.
|detail on above|
Click here for video of Wagner's Post Office Savings Bank (1904-6) on Ringstrasse.
|Engel Apotheke on Bognergasse by Wagner|
On the way we saw Hundertwasser’s Fernwarmewerk Spittelau (heating/incineration plant) and continued on to Grinzberg. They say the area has changed little since Beethoven lived nearby. It simply became surrounded by the sprawling Vienna. It must have been a tourist trap during Beethoven’s time too, but we couldn’t find anything to take a picture of.
|Hundertwasser's Fernwarmewerk Spittelau|
We ditched the car and got to the Rathausplatz by 2:30, which is when there were to be members of the Vienna Ballet helping us with our waltz step. At 3:00 a recording of the Beautiful Blue Danube began playing, and people just started waltzing.
We passed by the country music stage (which featured line-dancing) in order to get to Freyung and the children’s stage that was to have clowns and circus stuff. What we got was a cover band doing Sex Bomb. The kids seemed to love it.
But then Circus Chaos (pronounced “cows”) was up next. Kids juggling, riding unicycles, and striving to use other apparati. No clowns. See video here.
We went to the apartment and watched bizarre New Year’s Eve television while our neighbors periodically set off firecrackers or some other explosive.
Click here for one last bit of Viennese Art covering up a construction site.
New Year’s Day. On the way to Salzburg, we stopped in LINZ to have a Linzer torte at the Café Glockenspiel, where they originated. We thought there would be little else to see there, but when we walked down a deserted shopping street, we heard the sound of a band. We trotted over and saw columns of men in Tirolean dress, with short wooden rifles on their shoulders. There was a band up ahead at the City Hall where there were ceremonies and declarations. More songs. I should mention that I didn’t carry the video camera, unfortunately. There was a demonstration of synchronized rope whipping by several men of various ages. Women and girls in traditional dress with gold headwear were also there, but we couldn’t determine their role. The whip cracking went on for a while. But the snow continued to fall and we had to catch our plane to LONDON.
Got on line at 8:45 the next morning for tickets that night to Breath of Life starring Dame Judy Dench and Dame Maggie Smith at the Royal Theatre at Haymarket, at 8:45 am. We were about 6th in line. The first person was there at 6:00. The second at 8:00. No one got behind us for almost an hour. We were able to get separate tickets in rows A & H.
Then we walked to the British Museum and saw everything, including a special exhibit by Anthony Gormley which was comprised of small terracotta “creatures.” At first I thought it inappropriate that they had placed some of them in various display cases around the museum with other artifacts, promoting the show. But when I saw the room filled with the little things, I was sold. He got a school to do the work. It was called Field for the British Isles and consisted of 40,000 figures made by students at a community school in St. Helen’s on Merseyside.
|Assyrian relief showing early tubers inflating the skins of goats as a means of flotation.|
|Anthony Gormley's Field for the British Isles|
We went out separate ways the next morning. Me back to Stansted Airfield to retrieve a sweater removed during inspection, while Marie visited the Clipper ship Cutty Sark on the Thames, and the figurehead exhibit inside. We met later at the Somerset House/Courtauld Gallery.
|Cranach's Adam and Eve|
We walked over the Thames on the Millennium Bridge, to see the Tate Modern on the other side. While over there we also visited the Bankside Gallery of the Royal Watercolor Artists. The days were still very short, so we headed south to our B&B.
Began our day with a visit to the Portobello Market at NOTTING HILL, northwest of the city. Lots of tourists to see the many shops & booths selling mostly antiques. If it wasn’t so cold, I might have enjoyed the people watching more. And if the sidewalks were not so crowded. You spent most of your time watching your step.
Tubed north to Hampstead and still had a brisk half-hour walk to Kenwood House. Among the paintings hanging in the old house were a few gems, including a Vermeer, Rembrandt, Botticeli, Gainsborough, John Sargent, Hans Memling, and Joshua Reynolds. There was also a painting I liked by Angelica Kauffmann (1741-1807) entitled The Disarming of Cupid. The house/museum was quite nice, especially the Orangerie facing out across the lawns to a pond in the distance.
And so closes this adventure.