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Vienna, VI

August 24, 2011

Sunday, August 21

Another short day, thank heaven. Tourism, I might say, is not for sissies, or at least not for boomers. Our consolation is that most museums offer a discount for those of us over 65.

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Sunday, so we went to mass again, this time at the Augustinerkirche, former site of the Hapsburg weddings and funerals. Now, they intersperse the service with music, sometimes, they say, orchestral. Today it was music for organ and flute, very well done.

Hot trip for travelers: you can pee at the Albertina without having to buy a ticket! Don’t abuse this valuable gift.

A cute statue at the front of the Naturhistorichesmuseum (Natural History Museum), across from the Kunsthistorichesmuseum, about which more later. We were on our way to the Museumsquartier, to see the Leopold Museum’s legendary collection of paintings and drawings by Egon Schiele.

…and there we are, or were. In the plaza separating the Leopold Museum and the Museum of Modern Art were many couches, of different design. On closer inspection, they proved to be from Ikea, with price tags attached. Art? Commerce? Art and Commerce? Quien sabe, and je ne sais quoi too. The real question is what induced oodles of otherwise-sane, respectably clad folks to take up sprawling residence on the couches in the full glare of a 90 degree sun. By the time we took a lunch break, the place was packed.

As anyone whose arm I’ve twisted will attest, I’m a very big fan of the work of Egon Schiele, and it’s always gratifying to see actual size paintings that have heretofore only existed in books. You can buy books which detail the contents of the Leopold collection, but nothing substitutes for the experience of seeing the real thing. The real thing is usually larger than I expected, and sometimes smaller, but always better than a page in a book. But to see only a fraction of these, as we did Sunday, is always frustrating.

Monday, August 22

Short day, blogwise. Long day chorewise, mostly doing laundry and catching up on the blog. Dirty socks wait for no man. In the evening, though, we went to the Rathaus daily culture movie, mentioned earlier somewhere. Above you see Leonard B conducting the Boston Symphony in a performance of the Liszt Faust Symphony. Place was packed. Sound, amazingly, was excellent.

Never heard this piece before, but just maybe worth checking out.

Back behind the rows of seats, in the park was much eating and drinking…

…including our own. ‘Night all.

Tuesday, August 23

The Kunsthistorischesmuseum has more than any reasonably considerate person could see in one day, and seeing it all could take over a week. Besides the paintings, they offer antiquities from Egypt, the near East, Greece, and Rome, as well as a huge coin collection and goldsmith works, clocks, etc.

Here’s a view pf the entrance hall. The offerings listed above notwithstanding, our sole interest was the paintings, divided roughly into northern Europe (Germany and the Netherlands) and southern Europe (Italy and Spain).

We decided to tackle the northern paintings first, since the museum was presenting a special
exhibition, “Das deutsche Portrait um 1500 – Durer, Cranach, Holbein”. Durer and Cranach were fairly well represented, Holbein less so. I had recently finished reading Wolf Hall, a fictionalization of the rise of Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII, and was hoping to see Holbein’s portraits of the court at that time, but only Jane Seymour was shown.

The rest of the collection was a mixture of disappointment and astonishment – the entire Breugel collection was absent, due I suppose to some maintenance schedule, but there was room after room of Rubens canvases, the biggest display of Rubens I’ve ever seen. There were also some very fine Van Dycks, and a number of paintings by minor masters, some of which would would reward further investigation.

Viennese Street Food

When we first visit a new city, there is so much strange that it’s easy to pass over the more commonplace institutions that characterize a city in favor of monuments, architecture, must-sees, and so on. A word, then, about two of the indigenous types of street food that are omnipresent on any major Viennese street. Above you see a wurstel, or sausage vendor, offering a variety of wursts and schnitzel, usually packaged as a sandwich, and…

…here’s a Kebap stand, specializing in what is called Turkish food, although much of it would be familiar to Angelenos as middle eastern fare: shwarma, kebabs, falafel. Both of these examples are relatively upscale, and most such are considerably more humble, but the offerings, in our experience, are invariably delicious. The kebap (kabob) stands, in the tradition of immigrants everywhere, have a tendency to branch out into other cuisines, and occasionally offer pizza and asian noodles along with their traditional menu.


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  1. Alyssa permalink

    I love it, I love it! You guys have seen soooo much art in Vienna! (And other places too…)

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