Thursday, 13 September 2012

Klimt up a staircase in Wien

My collection of flags of countries visited on this trip :-)

Vienna is so close to Bratislava it seemed silly not to visit it too.
Usually on a city break you tend to have an ‘in a bubble’ experience – all you see of the world outside the touristy bit is at the airport and on the shuttle bus or train to the centre based hotel. Driving across the country to get there gives a different perspective. 
My first impression of Vienna was that it is a big noisy traffic blighted city and that it does not nestle in mountains as I had expected – maybe I had mixed it up with somewhere like Geneva. 

I quickly withdrew from trying to drive in the city and left my van in a campsite by the river Donau/Danube and then cycled into town on mainly excellent although, at times, confusing cycle tracks. 

Schweizertor 16th baroque Swiss gate - Alte burg castle
The issue with Vienna for me is that it lacks subtlety – the buildings are just too big to take in and there are so many big pieces of ‘Art’. Other tourists were frantically taking pictures with their cameras, phones and iPads. I found that the wide angle on my camera just was not wide enough. However, cycling around the centre there were moments of wonder and awe. And I do like the way the modern city and the historic buildings are mingled together.

Best of all were:
       1. The freytag & berndt book and mapshop with a large Alpine section containing hundreds of different maps from all over Europe – for example,  they had more Discoverer/Discovery maps of Ireland than I have ever seen in any Irish bookshop. There was a serious temptation of spending a year’s pension on maps, that I had to fight.

           2. A room full of  paintings by the brilliant Pieter Bruegel the Elder in the Kunsthistorisches Museum – including  the astonishing Hunter in the Snow. There were works of other lesser artists (like Durer or Rubens) and occasionally there was something that looked familiar from constant reproduction, like Rembrandt’s self portrait or Vermeer’s Artist studio. Arcimboldo's portraits of heads are fun. Unfortunately, like many other galleries there were just too many of those paintings of Christ being breastfed, semi-naked depictions of Greek myths and those endless portraits of so-called nobles. Certainly not enough landscapes, for my taste.

3. Ah but, and  I reveal my ignorance here, I was not aware that in the same museum/gallery were those paintings by Gustav Klimt that are reproduced everywhere and are there literally to decorate the landing wall at the top of the stairs. The museum have put in a platform so that you can go up there, as the sign said ‘at your own risk’ and look at the paintings close up. However, the platform does spoil the view of them as intended by the artist and the architect. A case of ‘went up a staircase and came down slightly disappointed that I could not view the summit from below’.

So, churches can be useful - as a hoarding site.
Anti-war sculpture, Albertinaplatz

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