Monday, October 19, 2009

Vienna the Beautiful (Part Two in Vienna)

The train from Bratislava let us off right next to the Belvedere Palace. The acclaimed museum has a fantastic collection by Gustav Klimt and I was itching to see what it was all about. In college I visited Belvedere with some girlfriends - but as I recall we were too cheap to actually pay to get inside! Not that the grounds are anything to sneeze at.......but inside is some of the most seductively beautiful art. And it was worth every penny of that entry fee to lay eyes on Klimt's "The Kiss"...
Oh me. It makes me a little weak in the knees to see this painting - even now electronically. Doesn't it make you tingle to think about being kissed this way? In The Kiss, Klimt's woman is submissive, abandoning herself to her man in a fertile field and a vast universe. In a glow emanating from a radiance of desire, the body she presses against is a self-portrait of the artist himself. Go Gustav!But The Kiss was just one of an array of masterpieces we discovered in the Belvedere Palace. Klimt was a genius with his textures and his portrayal of women. Rick writes, "You can get caught up in his fascination with the beauty and danger he saw in women. To Klimt, all art was erotic art. He painted during the turn of the century, when Vienna was a splendid laboratory of hedonism. "
Connor frolicked in the gardens after we toured the museum. The detail and expanse of it all reminded me of Versailles. Connor especially loved the lion statues guarding the Belvedere palace. ROAR!

After a quick hotel pit stop for a nap, an apple and some email.......we headed back out to see some more distinctive Viennese art. Except this 'medium' was architecture. Very MODERN architecture. We walked to the KunstHausWien. The artist/architect of this funky complex, Hundertwasser, seemed to have quite a sense of humor with these homes!This complex of 50 apartments, subsidized by the government to provide affordable housing, was built in the 1980s as a breath of architectural fresh air in a city of boring, blocky apartment complexes.
We had to have Wiener Schnitzel in Vienna (Wien is the word for Vienna in German, hence the WIENer in schnitzel). We ate at the cute, cozy, candlelit cafe called Gigerl Stadtheuriger near St. Stephen's Cathedral. What a full day. And the view from our hotel room that night was spectacular!
Poignantly completed with fireworks. What for? Who knows and who cares!
We returned to Karlplatz, where we had earlier met Cousin Anna, and toured the stunning Charles Church (Karlskirche). The matching columns popped out. They were European while also being Egyptian, Indian and Arabic - a little bit of so many cultures spiraled into one.We met up with Kalisse - a friend of ours from college. She is a big time International Affairs Lawyer in Vienna. Though she was moving back to DC after 5 years working and living abroad the very next week. We were so happy to be a part of her farewell week in Austria.
Kalisse took us to Rochus for what had to be the best brunch in town! Great to have an insider show us the ropes. It was the most delicious breakfast I have had in a LOOONG time! I highly recommend the spot in a funky, fun neighborhood.
We left Kalisse and soaked in the sunny afternoon at Schonbrunn Palace. This place was the former summer residence of the infamous Hapsburgs. Pretty dandy digs for only one season of the year!
We were too chicken to tackle the mob of tourists inside the palace, so we decided to take the free route and hike the gardens up to the Gloriette, a purely decorative monument celebrating an obscure Austrian military victory and offering a fine city view.
It was a long trek up to the top, but Connor napped the entire time which helped. Oh, Connor, one day you will have to return to Vienna to see the view you missed while you were dreaming!
By the time we got back down to the bottom and rounded the front Connor was awake and ready to run and explore.She was like a princess on the grand staircase of this royal Schonbrunn Palace!Schonbrunn was a A+ spot to spend a lazy afternoon wandering. I was glad we decided for the cheaper and more rewarding walk outside versus the 20 euro ticket mindlessly admiring ritzy rooms.
Back in downtown Vienna we found the ornate City Hall. On summer nights Vienna sponsors a free film festival where opera and classical films are shown against this historic backdrop. There are 60 sponsored events each summer to promote culture. Officials know the City Hall Music Festival is mostly a "meat market" where young people come to hook up. But they believe many of these people will develop a little appreciation of classical music and high culture on the side.Lastly, we took the tram out to discover Vienna's Wine Gardens - called Heurigen in German. And we discovered this green, leafy place. It drew us right into the garden.
Where we had apple strudel and sturm wine. Sturm is lemony and fizzy and refreshing. Connor weaved around and about all the picnic tables.
I am calling this post "Vienna the Beautiful" because I thought Vienna was just gorgeous. I love the go, go, go of big cities, but usually I find them full of cement and urban gunk. Vienna is clean and musical and full of culture.

Click here for full album photos of our trip to Vienna and Bratislava!

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