Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Vienna

We flew into Vienna a few days before Christmas, and through a complete fluke found ourselves in the best hotel we’ve ever stayed at.

images

It was about a minute or two on foot from Belvedere and about a mile and a half from the center. Nearby was a rink where we skated:

sk

Vienna has plazas and stately buildings.

800px-Statue_of_Archduke_Charles_of_Austria_on_the_Heldenplatz_(Heroes'_Square)

(Photographer: Jorge Lascar)

The Kunsthistorisches is one of the best art museums I have ever been to:

Brueghel Tower of BablePieter Bruegel the Elder’s The Tower of Babel

466px-Raffael_030Raphael’s Madonna of the Meadow

Arcimboldo,_Giuseppe_SummerGiuseppe Arcimboldo’s Summer

The Albertina is impressive:

Durer_Young_HareDürer’s The Young Hare

510px-Maler_und_KäuferPieter Bruegel the Elder’s The Painter and The Buyer

If you visit Prater, you will no doubt ride the Ferris Wheel made famous in The Third Man. We went on a gloomy day, and our cabin was decidedly rundown, but we still got a good view of the city. No zither music was heard.

In the Sala Terrena we heard a string quartet perform pieces by Mozart, Bach, and Haydn. The latter being a favorite, we made a pilgrimage on 3 separate occasions to his home but each time found it closed. Don’t let anyone tell you there aren’t disadvantages of traveling during the holidays.

800px-Haydn-Haus

A visit to Vienna would not be complete without seeing the Schönbrunn Palace. As palaces go, I invariably find the exterior more appealing than the interior. Enjoy the Christmas markets with their ornaments and knicknacks. Try the hot spiced wine.  While not to our liking, others seemed genuinely enamored by it.

800px-Schloss_Schönbrunn_Wintermarkt

(Photographer: David M. Cerna)

The food we had throughout our stay was good – schnitzel and sausages the basic fare. However, on New Year’s Eve we treated ourselves to a four-course dinner atop the Danube Tower, which while quite a walk from the underground stop did take us through a park with lamp posts that brought to mind Lucy’s first trip to Narnia.

Vienna is well known for its pastry shops. Although Café Sacher is probably the most famous, I would avoid it at all costs. It wasn’t that there was anything terribly wrong with what we had, but neither was it worth waiting in line for an hour only to be served by an overly stuffy waiter and afterwards be given a bill so inflated one could not help but wonder whether the hyperinflation of the 1920s had returned. My willingness to occasionally be drawn into tourist traps no doubt has its origin in the family vacations of my youth.

Please do visit others though as your sweet tooth will be thoroughly satisfied. On our last day, we stumbled upon one whose display window itself was a work of art.  We struggled to make ourselves understood (I’ve forgotten what little German I had.), and then sat in the company of two old women in furs and a man slowly sipping his coffee as he paged through his newspaper.

Vienna is a beautiful city, and is well-worth visiting, but it does have a darker side.  Scroll up to the third photo. It is Heidenplatz where the Anschluss took place. It is also the name of a play by Thomas Bernhard whose Wittengstein’s Nephew should be on everyone’s shelf.

Should you find yourself in Judenplatz, you will come across this:

Rachel_whitereadwien_holocaust_mahnmal_wien_judenplatz

(Photographer: Hans Peter Schaefer)

The inscriptions below the door reads:

Zum Gedenken an die mehr als 65 000 österreichischen Juden,
die in der Zeit von 1938 bis 1945 von den
Nationalsozialisten ermordet wurden.

זכר למעלה מ-65.000 יהודים אוסטריים
שנרצחו בשנים 1945-1938
.ע”י הפושעים הנציונלסוציאליסטיים ימ”ש

In commemoration of more than 65,000 Austrian Jews
who were killed by the Nazis between
1938 and 1945.

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15 thoughts on “Vienna

  1. Looks like a very nice visit, thank you for posting it. And spooky on the Anschluss information…I see that today marks the 75th anniversary of this annexation.

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    • I’ve been working on the post for a week or so and just happened to post it today – not realizing it was the date of the anniversary.

      Those cheering crowds are chilling. The German writer Carl Zuckmayer described that following the Anschluss Vienna had been “transformed into a nightmare painting of Hieronymus Bosch.”

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  2. I’ve only been to Vienna once, but as so often happens after reading your descriptions, I long to go back.

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  3. Great post – good balance between pics and text and ends on a book recommendation! One for the future though as I’ll be on Boswell’s life of Samuel Johnson for the forseeable future.

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  4. Great post and thoroughly enjoyed reading about your trip – from the high points, to the low’s, and of the dark reminders.

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  5. Thanks, Mary.

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  6. Wonderful post, Tom. Capturing both sides of Vienna, the elegance and artistry, and the darkness also within. I felt that ambivalence very strongly when I was there.
    And I love your sense of humor!

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  7. You captured Vienna and all it’s components. Nice post! Thanks for your continuing support of my art.

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  8. Thanks for visiting my blog and sharing your Vienna pics. I have visited that city and it is unforgettable. Did you have sacher torte? rlte

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  9. I enjoyed your visit, the artwork, and its stately structures. Thanks also for the structure that pays tribute to those who died during a dark time in our history. By remembering it, may we all strive to make sure this moment is never repeated.

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