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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Culture Vultures in Vienna on 9/3 & 4!

Left Salzburg at 9ish on 9/3 for the 2 1/2 hour train ride to Vienna and walked to our fantastic hostel located just a few minutes from Westbahnhof (one of several train stations in Vienna); it took us a while longer though as we got turned around and mixed up altogether!

Westbahnof (West Train Station)

 Again, we were so fortunate arriving early and being able to check in fairly quickly without having to wait until the official check in time. Spent some time deciding what we’d do over the course of the next 6 days in Vienna, knowing we wanted to spend part of that time on day tripsout in the countryside to Melk, cruising on the Danube if possible and also spending a day in Bratislava. Finally decided that we’d be ‘culture vultures’ for a bit and off we traipsed down one of Vienna’s main and ugliest streets, Mariahilferstrasse, to the center of the city. We dearly hoped that the city would be far more attractive than that street and, phew, it certainly is a beautiful city.

Albertina Museum: One of the largest print rooms in the whole world with 65,000 drawings and approximately 1 million old masters’ prints. Fully 2 floors were closed in preparation for an upcoming exhibition of Miro’s work but I was lucky enough to see some incredible paintings by Chagall, Picasso, Monet, etc. I often wonder how many paintings these and other world class artists of their stature painted in their lifetimes as it seems like we’ve been lucky enough to have seen so many of their paintings in museums all over the world.

I was bound and determined to take a photo of whatever sculpture was on top of the Albertina; above is what I saw!

Below: some of the very few marvelous paintings I saw at the Albertina Museum.
Chagall's 'Sleeping Woman with Flowers'
Picasso's 'Pots and Lemon'
Monet's 'View of Vetheuil'
Cezanne's farm in Normandy
Gustav Klimpt's 'Nymph'
Monet's 'Water Lily Pond'
Scupture by Giacometti called 'Slender Bust on a Plinth'

St. Stephan’s Cathedral: A basilica built on the site of a Romanesque sanctuary, this cathedral was founded in the 12th C. in what was, even in the Middle Ages, the town center. The 106m long (352 ft) cathedral is inextricably entwined with Viennese and Austrian history; mourners attended Mozart’s ‘pauper funeral’ here in 1791 and Napoleon posted his farewell edict on the door in 1805. The needelike spire in the south tower dominates the city’s skyline. The cathedral is massive and, as you might imagine, attracts throngs and throngs of tourists. We didn’t find it to be a place of peace and serenity but were frankly rather overwhelmed by the commercialization of it all. Tickets had to be bought to visit each part of the cathedral, i.e. for the tour, climbing the towers, viewing the catacombs, etc, etc, and one had to pay a pretty significant chunk of change to see it all (about $25 each, as I recall). I understand how incredibly expensive it must be to maintain a cathedral of this size but only being able to purchase the tickets inside from vendors was off putting for me at least.

Cleaning the accumulated grime and soot from the exterior.

What a wonderful idea knowing when your intentions would be prayed over.
St. Stephan's Square, one of probably 50 or more squares in the city.

Hofburg Palace

MuseumsQuartier (known as MQ): One of the world’s largest cultural complexes but with its spacious recreational and relaxing spaces, interior courtyards, cafes and shops, it’s an oasis of culture and recreation in the middle of the city. The entire complex is indeed breathtaking but it was very frustrating that there was no uniform age for seniors throughout the MQ and combined tickets were available at the Leopold for it and the mind blowing Art History Museum but not the other way around which of course was where we had gone first. Would love to know who’s responsible for making decisions like that that only irk tourists. Sorry about my rant! 

mumok, aka the Modern Art Museum

Don't those blue lounging chairs look comfy?
Detail above the door in the previous photo.

Kunthistoriches Museum (Museum of Art History): Across from the Hofburg Palace is a huge building housing many of the truly fabulous art collections gathered by the Habsburgs as they added new territories to their empire. One highlight is the fine collection of ancient Egyptian and Greek art; others are many works by the great European masters. We spent well more than 2 hours here (for us, a comparatively long time in a museum before we get ‘museumed’ out). We thought the museum was so great, I wish we could have bought a year long pass and had the luxury to savor the masterpieces with the time they so richly deserved. We’ve been to a lot of  world class art museums and, for me, this was one of the best.

I was bound and determined to take a photo of whatever sculpture was on top; below is what I saw. oops!

Really enjoyed seeing all these papyrus (i for plural?)

This was on the floor, not on the ceiling, this time!

Try to imagine room after room in the Egyptain Wing covered with ceilings equally stunning like the one above. Hard to know where to look, on the floor, on the walls and on the ceilings without missing something beautiful to behold.

Titled 'A Young Woman'
Titled 'A Woman', i.e much older. I could resonate with this one!
Backgammon anyone? Steven and I used to play a lot 30 or so years ago but haven't played at all since then. This set came from circa 1575.
Have now seen a number of these gloriously winged altarpieces; this one was from Germany circa 1540 and has more pictures in it than anyy other contemporary artwork. It was commisioned for a Protestant church before the Reformation categorically denied all images in churches.

This is just ONE of the panels!
Liked this one of us I took at the museum.

Now perhaps you get a sense of what I meant of feeling overwhelmed even spending a few hours in this magnificent museum when there was room after room just like this, with each containing masterpieces by top European painters one always reads about.
Painted by Lorenzo Lotto and titled 'A Goldsmith in 3 Views;' it's an unusual depiction of a man with his head turned in 3 different directions. Again, I had never seen anything like this before and was fascinated by it. Surely other artists have also done the same type of painting. Ivy, would you know?
Titled 'The Procession of Calvary'
This was the only artist we saw in the museum; looked to me she was faithfully recreating the original. I wonder how long it'll take or took her to completeher copy.
Leopold Museum: The focus is on masterpieces by Austrian painter Egon Schiele, and a few by one of my favorite artists, Gustav Klimpt. The collection of nearly 6,000 works of art, including the world’s largest Schiele collection, was assembled beginning in the 1950’s by Prof. Rudolf Leopold and his wife and is housed in a limestone structure which opened in 2001. Unfortunately I couldn't take any pictures inside here to show you any of Schiele's works. After spending so much wonderful time in the Kunsthisoriches Museum, visiting the Leopold came in a distant second.

Could not understand WHY the sign from the '84 Olympics was on the side of the Leopold Museum.
Klimpt's 'Death and Life'