August 1-3 First impressions of Vienna.
Vienna is very much an Imperial city. I spent my last two weeks in Berlin which, though a big city, feels much smaller. That is due, I think, almost entirely to the architecture. As a city can be somewhat intimidating for a California kid who had grown up without seeing imperial grandeur. Berlin, because of its history, lacks grandeur. The center of Vienna is the epitome of urban Grandeur. The buildings are ornate and imposing, perhaps on the verge of oppressive. To the tired young traveler it is daunting.
Our tour with Dr. O was excellent. Being shown around by someone knowledgeable is always wonderful and it was nice to get an overview of Vienna. I think I was only able to retain about a third of what she said. We were a very tired group but even through an exhausted haze I think everyone would agree that Vienna is beautiful. The view of Vienna from Kahlenberg is wonderful but I wasn’t able to picture where the Turks were. I’ll have to look at a tactical map again. One of my favorite points on the tour was the Hundertwasser building. I love Hundertwasser architecture. I wish someone would take some of his designs and build them in Davis and Berkeley.
I saw a Hundertwasser building for the first time when I was in Darmstadt in 2006 and absolutely fell in love. The Hunderwasser tower in Darmstadt is quite different to the Hudertwasser building in Vienna because it was constructed in a less densely populated area. It spirals up from the ground with a garden running all the way up the roof. I highly recommend seeing for anyone who is in Darmstadt for any reason. I like Hundertwasser’s idea that straight lines are bad. One of the things that I like about Hundertwasser buildings is that they age well. They will be beautiful and strange even as they decay and the colors fade. The same can’t be said for most modern architecture. That is what I dislike about most modern architecture. It doesn’t age gracefully. It just gets uglier with age.
I went to a concert designed for August tourists. The quality could have been questionable but I was surprised at how good it was, but of course this is Vienna. My mother asked me if there were any women playing. There almost none. Apparently the Vienna Phillharmonic, until very recently did not allow women, a fact which, understandably, makes female musicians furious. They played Mozart favorites like “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” and “Là ci darem la mano”. The man singing “Là ci darem la mano” was a tenor but that was really my only problem with the evening. Don Giovanni is not a tenor.
As I was getting a drink at intermission, an American was furious that, because she didn’t have her ticket with her pre-ordered drink, the girl at the bar was going to make her pay. She was saying, very loud “Do you think I would be down here in this crowd if I hadn’t paid?”
I thought the staff were being extremely reasonable. If you don’t have something indicating that you have already paid, then you will have to pay at the bar. She apparently believed that she was somehow entitled to her drinks. She then refused to go back upstairs and get her ticket and wouldn’t leave the bar. Perhaps she was used to taking advantage of the American philosophy that the customer is always right. In Europe, that is not the case. Service doesn’t work like that. The very tired looking manager told he would send a staff member up to the hall to get her ticket and see the order. Later, as she was standing with her drink I heard her say to her friend, “Unbelievable.”
I thought so too, but for a different reason.
Vienna is, in my opinion, the classical music capital of the world. There is such a long history of great music played and composed in Vienna. This is largely because many of the Hapsburgs were music lovers. Christoph Willibald Gluck was Marie Antoinette’s personal music teacher when she was growing up in Austria. Mozart and Beethoven both came to Vienna because it was a musical capital. Johann Strauss II wrote his famous waltzes here.
The Vienna Philharmonic is one of the most highly regarded symphony orchestras in the world. Strangely, it was not until 1997 that women were allowed to become full members of the Vienna Philharmonic. Women had played with them before, but none had become full members. The first woman to be given full member status was a harpist who had been playing with them for twenty six years. An article in The Independent said that she was also paid less, as she was not a full member, and kept out of photographs. The article also quoted a string player as saying “three women are already too many. By the time we have 20 per cent, the orchestra will be ruined.” This was in 2003. There are currently only three women with full membership status, though a female concertmaster was appointed for the first time in 2008 and there are a number of women, and to be fair, men, whose status seems to be pending. The Wiener Philharmoniker website says that they are confirmed members of the orchestra but “do not yet belong to the association of the Vienna Philharmonic.”
This whole tangent was sparked by my mother asking me about the approximate male to female ratio of the Vienna Philharmonic. She is a flautist and said she said that within my lifetime, both the Berlin Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic voted not to allow women.
August 4 Heeresgeschichtliche Museum.
The Heeresgeschichtliche Museum is fantastic. I am not really one for military history, but this was one building absolutely stuffed full of fascinating and historically significant artifacts. Dr. O. told us it was amazing and she was absolutely right.
Prince Eugene of Savoy’s clothes were very interesting to see. Of course we have all heard that he was small and slight with a hunched back, but I didn’t realize how small. His coat looked as though it were made for a child. I can see why people scoffed at the idea of him having a military carrier. Well, he certainly proved them all wrong.
It was interesting to see the Turkish Bows. They are not very big, but were a huge advantage for the Turks. They were much more accurate than the European muskets. Musket technology was still in its infancy from what I gathered. There was a video of a man loading and firing an early musket. The whole process took at least five minutes. The tactic that we are so snarky about now, that of lining up in rows to fire actually made a lot of sense when muskets were the main weapon. They take forever to load and when you fire it isn’t entirely certain the powder will actually ignite and even when it does, it might hit the soldier to the right or left of the man you were aiming at. It was important that there be a row in front and a row behind. The men in the back could reload without being completely vulnerable.
One of the most interesting paintings there was commemorative painting, completed in 1689 of the 1683Battle of Vienna and defeat of the Turks. It is large, chaotic depiction of the battle. It shows the heroic, calm looking Austrian and Polish troops riding in and vanquishing the Turks. The Turks are depicted as bizarre, animal-like caricatures. It is a perfect example of in war, the people and particularly the soldiers of the opposing side are dehumanized. It is much easier to hate and fight against an enemy if that enemy does not seem human. Of course this painting was painted several years after the battle itself, but it was no doubt fresh in everyone’s mind.
The most amazing thing in the whole museum, something which very nearly induced squeals, was the Car. Possible the most famous and important car in history. The that Franz Ferdinand and his wife were shot it. The audio guide was extremely helpful at that point, because I wouldn’t have known where to look for damage. There is damage on the back of the car from an earlier assassination attempt that day, and the hole in the car where the bullet that hit Duchess Sophie went through. There is also the blood soaked uniform of Franz Ferdinand. The blood is still clearly visible all over the uniform. This is all very grim and of course represents a sad event in history, but it is such an important even. The event that sparked the First World War is sad on its own terms but what is sadder is what it led to, the loss of a generation of young men for absolutely no reason.
The Museum then has a wonderful collection of uniforms from all periods of Austrian history as well as all different parts of the Empire. Military uniforms are interesting because they are designed to bolster the authority, not only of the wearer, but of country that the military represents. My favorite uniform was a Hungarian guard (I think) which was red with knee high yellow boots, a plumed helmet and then, a leopard skin worn over one shoulder like a cape. Wearing a leopard skin is quite a status symbol. Hercules had his lion skin, members of the Royal Guard have leopard skin.
August 5 Peterskirche
To start, I found the full body saints. That was bizarre. I’m used seeing relics, but this was the first full, mostly skeletal body (with a face), posed lounging on its side fully dressed.
Peterskirche is a quintessentially baroque Church. Gilding, painting, relics. It epitomizes the Counter-Reformation. It is quite a contrast to the Protestant churches many Americans are used to. Viennese Counter-Reformation is particularly strong. This makes sense as they are right in the area where Luther and Lutheranism wrecked so much havoc. According to Parsons, four fifths of all Viennese were protestant in the 1560s. Didn’t the Peace of Augsburg require the population to be Catholic? Of course, the Church had a counter attack and sent in the Jesuits who had controlled the institutions of higher education in Vienna. That I find fascinating as now, Austria is a very Catholic country. Clearly, the Counter-Reformation was successful.
I also went to the Evangelische Kirche on Dorotheergasse. There is quite a marked difference. As one would expect of a protestant church, it is simple and fairly small. They have a simple alter, no alter paintings and very little decoration. The ceiling is painted in blue and with baroque imitation of three dimensional stucco flowers, but there are absolutely no references to Christ and no reference to saints. It epitomizes the simplicity of Protestantism. No frills, none of the opulence that the Protestants came to object to, but it is still very beautiful. It was never really clear to me what Martin Luther himself thought of the opulence of churches. I have always assumed that he would be against it because he would feel that it is not for the sake of God’s glory but for that of the Church and the clergy, but I don’t know that. Is that the case or was that more of a Calvinist thing?
To some extent I think that Protestants were wrong strip their churches of images. True, Catholic Churches are chock full of images of saints in ecstasy, saints in anguish, the crucifixion, the passion etc, and that can seem excessive, but for peasants who really have no other place to see art, Church was something awe-inspiring. Even I, a person of the 21st century, familiar with art and music, am inspired by a kind of religious awe when I step into a beautiful church. I am not a religious person, but the artists and architects from long ago were successful.
Similarly, the music of the Catholic church is, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful in the world and again, incites religious feelings in me, an agnostic 21st century girl. I cannot even imagine what it must have been like to be a peasant and to walk into a church with stained glass windows, high ceilings and beautiful art all around; then to hear celestially beautiful music. A beautiful mass causes me to get goosebumps. That is how could they help but believe that this is the House of God?
Side note: According to the Opus Dei website, the connection between Opus Dei and Karlskirche is that the Priests of Karlskirche are members of Opus Dei. Or I think that’s what it said. The website is in German.
August 6 Klosterneuburg
I was right to be excited about Klosterneuburg. This was my first time in a working Catholic Monestary. I’ve been to a lot of ruins but nothing that is still in operation. Very exciting. It wasn’t really clear to me why there were so many American Canons but what really surprised me was the fact that there are two Norwegian Canons. Norway is a Lutheran country. One of the most exciting portions of the tour was the Verdun Alter Piece. That has to be one of the most beautiful examples of Medieval art. Not just enamel but art in general and I say this as someone who is enamored of medieval art and aesthetics. That said, I don’t know much about it. The canons were so kind to take us behind the glass and allow us to see it up close. The progression in the skill level of the artist is visible so that the last panels are far more detailed than first. I also thought the symbolic parallel of the life of Christ with old testament figures was interesting. Nicholas of Verdun is interesting for a number of reasons but what I find interesting is that he signed his work like an artist. Perhaps he even saw himself as something of an artist before that was really a concept and yet he is working in a Romanesque medium. He is not even borderline Renaissance. Verdun displays not only incredible skill, but also a sense of humor. His depiction of Jonah and the whale is actually quite funny. The whale looks like a monster and Jonah is being shoved naked into its mouth. That is, incidentally, my favorite panel.
We asked Father Bruno at dinner about the priesthood. He didn’t really tell us what led him to join, but I got the impression that he was always a very devout, even as a teenager. He said when he was a student overseas his host family was very surprised that someone his age would go to church without being forced by parents.
August 8 Die Fledermaus
I thought the singers were generally very good. The standard for musicians in Vienna is very high, so I would not have expected anything less. There was no “weakest link” in the cast. That said, I did not like the staging. I liked the way the theater boxes had been extended around the back of the stage, but I don’t think that setting the whole thing in a theater really worked. They could have set the whole thing in the Wild West and it would have worked better. It just didn’t make sense. I realize the whole thing is a farce, but even a farce should have a setting that suits the story.
Some people I talked to were disappointed that the staging was all in modern dress. I agree that it would have been fun to see everyone in bustles and petticoats, but I didn’t have a problem with the modern dress. What I found odd though, was the underwear. Seeing underwear doesn’t bother me in the slightest and I understood at the beginning that they were playing strip-musical chairs and that people taking off their clothes is an indication of a wild party, but I thought it was largely unnecessary.
Die Fledermaus is an Operetta which is, essentially, Opera Lite. There is singing and the standard of singing should be fairly high but there is speaking and the plots tend to be absurd. In the English speaking world and example of operetta would be Gilbert and Sullivan, although the music is quite different to Strauss. The line get’s rather fuzzy and there is an element of snobbery to it. Before Operetta there was the genre of “Singspiel”. There is spoken dialogue in between arias rather than recitative. Also, the language is German rather than Italian. Many Singspiel are conserdered Operas although a distinction would have been make in their own time. Several of Mozart’s operas are Singspiel, most famously Die Zauberflöte.
The bottom line is, I enjoyed Die Fledermaus and I thought the singers did a good job but the staging was a bit weird. I say that as someone who has seen some bizarre Opera productions. Die Fledermaus is fun, it’s goofy, and it is highly enjoyable, but it isn’t Don Giovanni.
August 9th Thoughts on St Stephen’s Cathedral or Stephansdom
I personally have always loved gothic churches and St. Stephens is a wonderful example of a Gothic Chruch. That said, I do not actually know much about them at all. As expected, Dr. O’s tour was excellent. It was wonderful to have someone pointing out the progression in the building from early to late Gothic. My favorite thing about Gothic architecture is the sculpture and the representation of people and animals. I have always been delighted by the swaying figures, oval faces, and sometimes comical faces of the stone figures. The painted statues gave me an idea of what, perhaps the figures of the Yorkminster Chapter house would have looked like, had the Victorians not stripped them of the paint.
What intrigued me most, was the face of Anton Pilgram. I have found the medieval mason to be a fascinating figure. As with most medieval artists/artisans (there was no distinction made at the time), there is usually little, if any information available about the life of a medieval mason, though Gothic churches such as York Minster are filled with depictions of them holding the tools of their trade. Anton Pilgrim, though very much a Gothic sculptor, signs his work. In this way he is perhaps something of a transitional figure from Medieval to Early Modern, as artisans become artists.
I am still often fuzzy on what the difference between an artist and an artisan is. I think of an artisan as a skilled craftsman; someone who works with his or her hands but does do see their work as something representative of themselves, the Artisan. It is a trade, a craft, but not art according to the artisan himself. An artisan tends to make items of use rather than items that are purely decorative, although this may not always be the case. In my mind, the defining factor of the Artisan is that they don’t consider themselves to be artists.
I didn’t realize that churches were sometimes built in order to lure a bishop. I had always assumed that a cathedral was simply considered important enough to spend large amounts of time and money building, that a bishop would want his seat to be grand. In the case of Stephansdom, it was build, almost as an advertisement to potential bishops. I had also never heard of the gothic “S” curve but when I think about it most gothic statues are standing in that odd position. For statues of Saints it gives an ethereal quality, but I saw a wooden statue of a Merchant (?) in Berlin who was also standing in what slightly resembles a gothic S-curve.
It also occurred to me as Dr. O was telling us about the attributes of saints, that Hindu gods also have attributes that they are recognized by. I’m sure they are unrelated, but that was a parallel that sprang into my head.
August 10 Five Items I would steal from the Kunsthistorisches Museum
1) Raphael’s Madonna on the Meadow. I love the contrasting red and blue of her clothes, I love the golden hair, and I love the Raphael face and tender hands, the strawberries in the foreground and the poppies behind. This Madonna is represented as a mother rather than a queen. This is possibly my favorite Raphael.
2) Vermeer’s Artist in his Studio. This is such a beautiful example of Vermeer’s use of light and of the quiet scenes he painted. At the top of his canvas you can see the wreath of feathers on the ladies head beginning to take shape.
3) Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s Peasant wedding. There is just so much life in this painting. There is so much to see and so much life in the characters. The ambiguity of the nobleman in black as well as the question of the groom is enticing as well as the extra foot, the dog under the table, the man with a spoon tucked into his hat and the little boy licking his fingers with a peacock feather in his hat.
4) Joseph Duplessis’ portrait of Gluck at the harpsichord. It feels like more than a portrait. It seems to capture some personality. It is a portrait of an elderly musician, sitting at his instrument in an intimate setting, wearing his banyan robe. I find it charming.
5) Antonio Canova’s Statue of Theseus and Centaur. I love this statue mainly because of the way Theseus’knee is sinking into the centaur’s stomach. And the fact that it was made for Napoleon.
If I could count the entire Brueghel room as one painting I would take that, but the wedding feast is my favorite Breughel.
August 11 Haydn and Eisenstadt
Joseph Haydn is an extremely important figure in the development of music but as the Kapellmeister to the Esterhazy family, he was something of a musical servant. That said, he was a servant with a lot of freedom. His music became extremely popular.
Why Hayden’s music today isn’t nearly as popular as that of Mozart, but he was a pioneer of the string quartet and is dubbed the “father of the symphony”.
Seeing the Haydn organ was and tomb was extremely exciting. The organ was smaller that I was expecting, having recently seen the large baroque organ of Klosterneuburg. I think the one and only thing I absorbed from that tour was the fact that the organ pitch can be changed from Baroque to modern. What I would like to know, is whether the modern tuning is the supposedly international 440hz? I’ve read that Vienna tends to tune higher.
Interesting article about pitch: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,903087,00.html
I have to admit that I found the Stations of the Cross incredibly creepy. The Stations of the Cross are a good example of the different sensibility of a Catholic country. The counter-reformation left Austria with extremely graphic, emotional depictions of the life of Christ and the Saints. The church provided dramatic images with the potential to move someone on a very visceral level. I can see that to move from station to station and see a nearly life-size depiction of the Passion would be deeply moving to some.
When we were getting snacks in Eisenstadt, an elderly lady walked up to Sheena and started talking to her. Sheena doesn’t speak German but I can speak a little so the lady and I chatted a bit. She asked us how long we were in Eisenstadt and told us that the bakery where we were buying our snacks was a favorite local spot. After being in Vienna I was surprised to be approached by another human being who isn’t a tourist. It was a good feeling.
August 12 Hiking!
The alpine hike was one of the highlights of my trip. I love the mountains. I think I and nearly everyone else in the group was absolutely in awe of the beauty of the Alps. Even the heavy rain coming in was beautiful. The mist and clouds in the mountains, the fragrant grass, and the beautiful views blew me away as they do every time I go to the mountains. What I am not used to is men hiking in Lederhosen and loden capes. I assume that that had died out. Apparently, however, it is still done. If I thought I could get away with hiking in a dirndl I absolutely would, but that would be a bit ridiculous. Maybe a loden cape though? Probably not. Oh well.
My two favorite things about Austrian culture that I have observed are the appreciation for music (something that is always important to me) and the hiking. They have hiking all figured out. I loved not having to tote my food around in a giant pack. I loved being able to buy hearty soup at the loges. What an excellent idea! When you’ve been out hiking and you still have two thirds of your hike left, hot food is a godsend.
We stopped at two different hiking lodges. At the first I had a delicious bowl of soup and some subpar apfelstrudel. This lodge was much smaller than the Hapsburghaus, the final destination of our hike. The Hapsburghaus has giant stove with a rack above it for people to dry their wet coats. I was enchanted by this idea, but then I always like wooden stoves. We ate some delicious cake and had coffee/tea before heading back. On the way back, Zac, Dian, Ben and I got a little bit lost on the way back, but nothing too bad.
In spite of the discomfort of my bed and resulting lack of sleep I would happily have stayed in the Alps for the whole week.
The Alpine trails and huts are maintained by hiking clubs. Apparently the first club was actually a group of upper-class British men who enjoyed hiking on the Swiss, German, Austrian, and Italian alps. The largest Alipine club is currently the Deutscher Alpenverein whith around 815,000 members. The Alps we were hiking in (the Rax range) have Alpine Huts and trails maintained by the Österreichischer Alpenverein.
August 14-16 Weekend in Prague
The weekend began with the four hour train ride to Prague. I realized during the four hour train ride that I am addicted to my iPod. I didn’t bring it because I figured I wouldn’t have any need for it during a busy weekend and didn’t want it to get stolen. I realized during the train ride, that it would have been a good idea to bring it. On the train ride I was relentlessly harassed by a middle-aged Frenchman and it would have been nice to plug in the headphones and look out the window. Oh well. I suppose that’s one of the hazards of traveling alone. Once in Prague Carmen and Richard met me at the train station, so I didn’t have to find the hostel by myself.
Prague castle is huge. It is like its own city on the hill overlooking Prague. The best part of the castle is the state rooms and most importantly, the window where the Defenestration of Prague occurred. There is an obelisk of sorts below the window to show where the two men fell. That is probably the single most important window in history. What other windows have played such a major role in world events? I have to say, I’m amazed the two men didn’t die. I know there was a garbage heap below them, but that is a very long drop.
We also went in a music shop with old violins and cellos and chatted to the owner. He told us if we ever come back he’ll play the violin for us. I thought that was very sweet.
August 17 Kunsthistorisches Museum Solo (almost) and
Today Carmen and I went to the Mozart House and the Kunsthistorisches Museum. We were following signs to the Textile Museum, but couldn’t find it in the guidebook and realized we were only one stop away from the Mozart house.
Though the Mozart House is a museum dedicated to Mozart, they have a lot of photocopies of original documents and prints of famous pictures. That said, they did a decent job with what they had and I actually learned a bit about Mozart. I learned that he earned a lot of money, largely through giving concerts, but that his gambling meant that he was always in debt. I knew he had financial problems, but I didn’t know that he was earning 9,000 florins a year. They explained in the audio tour that that any family earning 9,000 florins a year should have been very affluent, and yet the Mozarts were always short on cash. They explained that private gambling debts were considered debts of honour and had to be payed within a day or two. As a result Mozart often borrowed money from others.
What made me perhaps overly excited was a quote from DaPonte saying that he channeled Dante as he was writing the libretto for Don Giovanni. This excited me because the final scene of Don Giovanni has a very “Inferno” feel to it. Don Giovanni, dragged into the firey pit of hell. Possibly with live pyrotechnics and a giant angel of death, depending on the production. The Don himself, sinking into hell or being carried or dragged down by demons or the Statue of the Commendatore.
At the Kunsthistorisches Museum I went to the Talking Heads exhibition. I thought they did a wonderful job organizing this exhibition. They had examples of all kinds of portraiture: Sculpture, painting, miniature, even coins. They then divided the images into categories such as children, elderly, portraits of power, couples etc. The portraits of power were interesting because they had an example of the bust of a roman general (I stupidly forgot to write down the names) and the bust of a Hapsburg ruler depicted as a Roman general/Cesar.
I also went back to look at the Breugel again. I love Breugel paintings. I love the slightly rusty colors and the peasants at work, at festivals, even the often disturbing undertones. As Dr. O. pointed out, the Children’s Games has a lot of unpleasant things going on doesn’t shy away from the fact that children can be very cruel. I was trying to compile my list of paintings I would like to steal but there are simply too many.
I would probably skip out on Rubens. He was a great artist and his is representative of the Counter-Reformation, but I wouldn’t want that in my home. I think the best example of Counter-Reformation painting has to be “Miracle of St Ignatius of Loyola”. This painting has everything one would expect: St. Ignatius curing people with a halo of light around his head and cherubs floating above, the green tinged mad man and woman being exhorsized, and the demons causing this madness floating away from the scene.
The Contrast between the Dutch protestant painters and the Flemish Counter-Reformation panters could not be more striking. The Dutch paintings are solemn portraits of wealthy merchants or perhaps the famous genre paintings of domestic life. The portraits used muted color and the figures wear black and white. Usually there is a black background. In the domestic scenes, there is sometimes an explosion of life and activity, a tavern scene perhaps, or a household out of control, or they are quiet, peaceful scenes of someone going about their business. Some subjects do chores, sweep, prepare food, or even fall asleep in a chair, while others show people at leisure playing instruments, singing or just having a conversation at a table. These paintings make wonderful used of light streaming through windows.
By far the oddest thing to happen today was running into my Davis friend Margaux on the U-Bahn. She had been playing violin in Eisenstadt at the Haydn Festival and was on her way to Munich. I saw her through the window, shrieked, ran out of my car and into hers where we chatted about her trip.
August 18 Belvedere.
I am not a huge fan of Klimt. I don’t dislike Klimt, but wouldn’t go out of my way to see his work. What Dr. O said about “The Kiss” was very interesting. I can see what she means about the woman looking somewhat uninterested. I think it is ambitious and probably diliberatly so. Klimt loved a certain type of woman. He loved the mysterious woman, the femme fatale. Perhaps the whole point of “The Kiss” is to show a mysterious woman. No one, including the man, really knows what she is thinking. Does she love him? Is she bored? Who knows. Not us, perhaps not even Klimt. The story of the girl bursting into tears and saying “Dr. O, you’ve ruined it” is very funny. Of course if that were my favorite painting and I had loved the sensuality and romance of the painting then I would probably find the inkling of indifference in the woman upsetting too. Personally, I think the ambiguity makes the painting more interesting.
I actually like the Biedermeier. I have a strong inner Biedermeier. I realize it was far from a rosy time and that people were being spied on, but something about domestic scenes and scenes of romanticized country idyll really appeal to me. Domestic life throughout history is something that find endlessly fascinating. Dr. O said that the Biedermeier period is, in some ways like the 1950s in that domestic life became idealized and a myth of the perfect family life developed.
Some people found the Biedermeier paintings creepy. I don’t see that at all. I can see why someone might find them insipid, but not creepy.
After the tour, Kathryn and I walked through the gardens. The gardens are quintessentially Baroque. The French garden is gravel and flowers placed in very specific patterns and geometrical shapes. The entire garden is perfectly manicured. This style of garden mimics the decorative style of the Baroque. I think of the décor of the Baroque as curly, symmetrical, and grand. This is the garden exactly. There is logic and order to the garden. It is a style from the time of enlightenment. Of course, with the Rococo came the English garden, but Prince Eugene was not a man of the Rococo, he was a man of the Baroque.
August 19 Schönbrunn
Today I made it to Schönbrunn and I am so glad I went. I was a bit irritated by the way the tour was organized but my initial irritation vanished as soon as I entered the palace. I love the aesthetics of the Rococo. Unfortunately they do not allow photos inside the palace. I have seen so much Baroque in Vienna that I was almost surprised at the relative simplicity of the Rococo. The Rococo was less grand than the Baroque. It is more subtle in its gilding and feels more intimate. It is characterized by bright and pastel colors. There is still guilding but less than in the baroque. I like the big windows facing the gardens and the frilliness of the décor. It doesn’t yet have the stuffiness and clutter of the 19th century. The rococo aesthetic has a comfortable, airy grandeur.
I learned something of the eccentricities of Franz Joseph. He stuck to a rigid schedule and insisted upon waking up at some ungodly hour. I don’t remember exactly what it was, I believe it was before 4 am. The servant in charge of waking him up would stay up all night drinking schnapps and was sometimes too drunk to properly stand and had to lean on the Emperor for support.
The nineteenth century rooms are all decorated in red damask with white furniture and accented with gold. The use of gold is more tasteful in my eye than that of the Baroque. That is my opinion of course and I must admit to rather enjoying the gaudiness of the Baroque.
After the tour Kathryn and I went walked around in the gardens. In the gardens we found the fake ruins. They are so wonderfully Rococo/Neoclassical. People of the later 18th century were enamored of the past, the picturesque and the idyllic so what did they do? They made their own picturesque and idyllic scenes. Take for example the little Hamlet on the grounds of Versailles. It is a completely fake village, but looked like an idyllic Norman hamlet. At Schönbrunn they built their own Roman Ruins. This seems to me to be the beginning of Romanticism.
August 20 Imperial Crypt and Treasury
The Tomb of Maria Teresia and Francis Stephen is a perfect example of Imperial Oppulence with a purpose. The tomb depicts a great imperial couple. Their tomb is the biggest tomb in the crypt and displays the two of them above everything else in the crypt. Unfortunatly, most of my pictures of the tomb are all blurry.
I thought it was interesting that people still leave flowers for Emperor Franz Joseph.
The treasury was a magpie’s dream come true. I learned that the Royal Family usually bequeathed their personal jewelry collection to the treasury. However, when the monarchy was deposed, the family took their personal jewels with them to Switzerland.
The most exciting piece in the treasury has to be the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire. What a crown. To think that it has been worn for so many years is phenomenal. And what a crown!
My favorite item in the whole treasury, though, is the “Unicorn” horn.
August 21 Bike ride
What a good idea. I’m so glad I went on the Danube bike ride. How much more beautiful can things get? The Danube, the hill, wine country, idyllic villages, castle ruins, Heurigen, and finally Melk. I’ve been down the Rhine and this reminded me of that somewhat, but I wasn’t biking so it was a completely different experience. There are a lot of similarities between the two. Both have a lot of wine grape cultivation, both have castles, and both are what Napa Valley tries to be. Napa wineries have to build their own castles though.
I had no idea we would be riding right by the Dürnstein, castle where Richard Lionheart was held, waiting for his family (mother) to pay his ransom. Apparently Richard Lionheart had offended Duke Leopold V of Austria during the Third Crusade. Leopold also suspected some intrigue on Richard’s part but was excommunicated for imprisoning a fellow Crusader. The whole thing is rather odd.
I have discovered the joys of white wine on this trip. I had always assumed that I didn’t like wine because I’d only ever had red, but I very much like the white wine served in the Heuriger. I also liked the cheese/herb thing, the name of which I cannot remember. I could have eaten that with a spoon. I would then have died of heart attack on the spot. I did not, however, like the rendered goose fat. The taste isn’t anything to write home about and the texture is unpleasant. It is slimy, gritty, and crunchy all at the same time. It was fun to try. My German grandmother likes it but she also likes headcheese. I guess it’s all about what you grow up with. I grew up with pesco-vegetarians.
August 22 Weekend and Jewish Museum
After the bike ride, this weekend wasn’t particularly eventful. I returned bikes and did some cleaning up in the apartment.
The most interesting thing for me at the Jewish museum was the exhibit on the life and work of Ernst Toch whom I had never heard of. I find film scoring and composition in general very interesting, perhaps because my I simply cannot understand creating a melody or piece of music. Though I am a musical person and love performing and listening to beautiful music, my mind just isn’t wired for composition.
He was an example of the Austrian Jew. He was an integrated and even brilliant member of Viennese society. He was contributing to music, a very Viennese persuit, and yet he was forced to flee after the Anschluss. Ernst Toch went to Paris, then London, then New York and ended up in Los Angeles making his living writing film scores.
The Jewish museum suffers from too many artifacts. They display them, oddly, I think in a storage setting. The put everything in a giant case, almost completely out of context. For me, the loose significance without explanation.
August 23 Leopold Museum.
I liked the Leopold museum in spite of not being a huge fan of expressionist art. Though, as Dr. O said, Schiele was a remarkable draughtsman, I don’t particularly like his art. I know very little about art and maybe if I understood more I would like it better, but for me as a layperson, I don’t look at Schiele and think “I would love to have that hanging in my living room. The only means I have of judging fine art is, do I find this image pleasing. From what I understand, expressionism is not about being pleasing. It is about expressing the intense emotion of the artist or subject (?). I find Schiele somewhat unsettling to look at. The subject matter is often upsetting and the colors rather unappealing. I am a person who loves the colors popular in the 18th century. Perhaps the cheerfulness of the bright colors and pastels appeal to me. I also must admit to having a Biedermeier side. I love things that are tidy, domestic, and pretty even if that means an excess of frills and that hardly describes the expressionists. What I did like was a lot of the furniture of the Vienna workshop. I did not expect to like it particularly, but was surprised. It seems very modern, but in a way that I find appealing.
I find a lot, though not all, of the Art Nouveau architecture and design very beautiful. I am not sure exactly why and I am far less interesting in the fine arts of the Art Nouveau. It reminds me of the Arts and Crafts movement in California around the turn of the century. I don’t know much about it but there are a lot of examples of craftsman style houses in the neighborhood where I grew up and they are generally elegantly simple with beautiful wooden beams and large windows to let in light.
On a side note, in a fit of immaturity, I bought and ice tray that freezes the ice in the shape of dentures. I have not been that exited about a frivolous purchase in a long time. Shame on me.
August 24 Mauthausen
I have very mixed feelings about Mauthausen. It was an emotionally taxing day, but I feel, an important one. It is easy to become detached when reading statistics about genocide. I don’t know about others, but I find that I cannot comprehend the magnitude of events just be viewing data.
Memorialization: I have not been to Auschwitz, but from what I understand, it is something of a money maker, and that seems a bit disgusting. At the same time, to simply let nature reclaim the concentration camps is to forget. For me, intact camps provide a visceral reminder of what humans are capable of. I think it is important to have those reminders. We as humans must learn from the past.
I think Ruth Klüger is correct in saying that all memorialization is political, but I don’t think that renders it invalid. I certainly find the personal memorials of family members to be the most meaningful. Those are not political in my mind. That is a family’s way of mourning. This is something that haunts Ruth Klüger: the inability to mourn her father. A phenomenon that I find both fascinating and deeply disturbing is that of the bystander effect. I feel that some memorial is necessary for the mourning process. For a family member, one has tomb, or sprinkles ashes in sign of closure.
I think it is important for people to visit concentration camps. We have all read about the holocaust, perhaps even shed a tear at the stories, but I thought I would be able to emotionally distance myself and look at the site the way I would a battlefield. Something about being there, however, really cut through the mental armor I had tried to create. I don’t want to overstate the way I felt however. I felt bad, but obviously no sadness on my part can be comparable to the suffering of the people inside the camp. That said, being there induced a very visceral response and I think a visceral reminder of the past is important.
I do not have a problem with them charging admission as long asi it remains a non-profit system. I see sad irony in reparing the infrastructure on some level it seems wrong, but I also don’t think all the camps should simply be allowed to decay because, as previously stated, to decay is to forget. At the same time I can understand how, to some people, a decay and reclaiming by nature could be a rebirth. A way of not dwelling on horrible things and a fresh start without atrocity. I don’t feel this way, but I can understand the sentiment.
I am also not sure how I feel about them closing the gas chamber. I did not like being in the gas chamber, but I do feel that it is important that it be open to the public. That said, they perhaps feel that it is in some way wrong to refurbish a gas chamber and make it shiny and new for public viewing. That feels wrong as well.
August 26 The UN
The UN trip was a very worthwhile one. If I were an IR person I would apply for an intership on the spot. I think the UN is a very interesting organization. Much as people complain about it’s being ineffective, I think it serves a purpose. At the very least it provides a us with excellent statistics and data about the state of the world.
Questions about human trafficing.
1) Where are the main hubs of human trafficing?
2) What happens to people trafficed to the US?
*What kind of work are they made to do?
*Where are they from originally?
*How do the traffickers get people into the country in the first place?
3) What is the fate of those trafficked?
4) How often do people escape?
5) How common is it for poor parents to sell their children?
6) What are the main countries of origin?
7)What are the estimates for the number of people trafficed per year?
8 ) What are the backgrounds of those trafficked?
9) What are the financial gains for the traffickers?
10) What is the ratio of men to women trafficked?
11) How common is trafficking of children as opposed to adults?
August 25 Bratislava
Bratislava was a fun little afternoon trip. I was worried that in going I would miss The Third Man but I went anyway. I’m think I made the right choice. I’ll probably never go to Slovakia again and it was interesting to see another European Capitol.
Bratislava is like Prague in miniature. It even has a smaller scale castle on a hill overlooking the city. It has a lot of similar architecture but it isn’t as well maintained outside of the city center. The main train station is very small as is the old town. Even the embassies we walked by were small compared to those I’ve seen in other countries. I almost forgot I was in a capitol city.
It suppose it makes sense that Bratislava isn’t as grand as many other capitols. After all, Slovakia only became its own country in 1993. I think the decade of the 1990s will, in the future, be one of the most studied periods in history. I was too young to notice at the time, but the end of the cold war and subsequent events were a truly momentous period.
Walking from the train station, the infrastructure looked very shabby. I’ve noticed that often seems to be the case in former communist countries. Because of the run-down infrastructure and the surprisingly low prices even in the most touristy areas, I assumed that Slovakia must not be as affluent as the Czech Republic. When I looked into it Slovakia is doing very well. Not as well as the Czech Republic in terms of GDP, but quite well. It rates extremely highly on the HDI.
I am constantly amazed at the relatively little security I see in Europe. In Austria, you can practically walk up to the President’s office in the Hofburg. In Slovakia the Presidential Palace has the same kind of security gate that one might see around a private mansion in the States.
The shabbiness completely vanishes in the Old Town. Everything is beautiful, old, and stuccoed. It is small but beautiful. There is a market square, streets full of shops, and a few grand buildings.
We went up to the castle which is much smaller than Prague Castle (but then, what isn’t) which had what I can only refer to as a suicide gate. There was a little exhibition of reliquaries and other liturgical instruments.
When we ate dinner I was amazed at how much less food cost. Even in touristy areas where things tend to be more expensive, good gelato was only fifty cents. I think that gelato is cheap in Austria (one of the few things), but 50 cents?
August 29 Dogs
I am a dog person. If I didn’t live in an apartment and had a yard I would have a dog. In the future I see myself not as a crazy cat woman but as a crazy dog woman. My family’s dog is an 88 pound mutt who loves everyone. He wants to greet everyone. Even the mailman.
Dogs in Vienna are entirely different. They do not greet strangers. They do not wag their tails when a stranger talks to them. They do not act friendly. Even friendly dogs obediently stick by their masters. This bothers me. I like to be acknowledged by dogs.
The average dog in Vienna is extremely well behaved. The wait at street corners, they don’t jump, and they don’t bark. Strange as this seems to me, it is probably a necessity for dogs in urban areas. Most of these owners probably do not have yards.
Dogs are allowed on public transit, albeit with muzzles. This is something I wish could be done in the US. It would make having a dog much easier if you could just put a muzzle on the dog and take it anywhere. I didn’t notice whether or not dogs were allowed in restaurants. I didn’t really see any and that might be a health code violation, but I’ve heard that French restaurants used to allow dogs.
I noticed the different behavior of dogs when I was in Berlin taking a language class. Dogs there are similarly well behaved and also do not
I would be curious to know if dogs are trained differently in suburban and rural areas. Are they more friendly? Do they bark? Do they greet people?
I also wonder, if I were to bring my giant, exuberant dog to Vienna, would people assume I was an irresponsible owner who had not properly trained her dog?
August 30 Getting Lost
My getting lost turned out to be a hugely enjoyable little trip. It really made me wish that I could stay in Vienna longer and get lost more often. I actually ended up getting lost somewhere near the Naschmarkt. I was walking along a street and saw a sign for Papagenogasse. I turned around on the spot and walked down. At the end of the street there was a little statue of the Bird Man himself with a little cage. I walked around the back of the theater without any idea where I was going and ran into Café Sperl. It was cold looked like it was about to rain so I went it. At Café Sperl I found my favorite coffee house. I stepped in and saw exactly what I have always imagined a Vienna coffee house to look like. Wooden half-paneling along the walls, pool tables on one side, table full of newspapers on sticks, upholstery that has seen better days and lots of people writing, chatting and reading the paper.
As it was cold I ordered a Milchkaffee and a bowl of soup. I have fallen in love with Austrian soup. It was a bit of a weird combination, but not a bad one. As I sat down, men in suits came in for their lunch break. I whipped out my pretentious little black notebook and started writing notes to myself.
I want to remember this place and I certainly want to come back. At the table next to me was a man with his two children. They were waiting for the father’s friend who showed up a minute or two later. The two men talked and the children happily drank their hot chocolate and icecream. At one point the little boy made sure his father and friend were watching and downed the entire packet of sugar. Belly laughs erupted from the little boy and girl and the father friend and I had a moment where we all looked at each other and laughed. It was a wonderful wordless exchanged and a reminder that children are the same, wherever you go.
The month is already over. I feel like I just arrived but also like I’ve been here for a while. Beautiful as Vienna is it took me a little while to warm up to it, but now I’m sad to leave. I want to stay for Opera season and go completely bankrupt buying opera and symphony tickets. That I think are really worth paying a bit more for to get quality: good seats at the opera and nice clothes that will last. Obiously I can’t afford the opera tickets so I will for years be the determined person with will stand for three to four hours in order to go to the opera. Because of the overhang of the balcony the quality of the sound is noticeably reduced, but it is still worth it to see the live performance. Sam and I were saying on the subway that it’s a shame for the music crowd that this is festival season when we are in one of the music capitols of the world.
The Austrians do an number of things very well.
1) Cake and coffee. I am more of a tea person but I enjoyed the coffee here and the cake is to die for. I like that Sachertorte isn’t as sweet as an American chocolate cake. My favorite Torte, though, is the Pandatorte. I’m not sure why it has that name. Perhaps because it has contrasting checkers of dark and light? When learning German, a lot of American kids are taught that “Kuchen” is the word for cake. That isn’t wrong, but I got the impression in Vienna that Kuchen applies more to coffeecake types of cake whereas Torte is a more fancy, decadent cake. I could be completely wrong about that.
2) Hiking. The alps are among the most beautiful places in the world and a joy to hike but the fact that there are huts where one can eat, rest, even sleep is one of the best developments of hiking that I have ever encountered. I come from a hiking family and am used to schlepping food up hills. The hot soup at strategic locations really made my day. Hiking in the alps is something I’ll absolutely be doing again. Probably several times.
3) Scenic bike paths. The weekend ride along the Danube was a huge highlight of my trip. I love scenic places and I love bike trips. As much as I complained about being saddle sore and tired at the end of the day, I had a wonderful time. Cycling from scenic town to scenic town through the wine country? I doesn’t get much better than that.
I can easily get along in a place where the national pastimes are hiking and cycling.
4) Grandeur. Vienna is the sort of city where one is so bombarded with beauty and grandeur that it becomes impossible to maintain a sense of awe. At some point it becomes one goes into a mode of “oh look it’s something beautiful. Yawn.” Vienna is far and away the grandest city I’ve been to and I have to say I love the grandeur, intimidating as it initially is.
5) Music. This is probably the most important in my mind. To say I love music would be a huge understatement and to say that Vienna is a musical city is also an understatement. Vienna is THE musical city. Someday I hope to come to Vienna during Opera season. Fingers crossed.