Vienna - part 1

Trip Start Apr 21, 2009
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Trip End May 02, 2009


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Flag of Austria  , Vienna,
Monday, April 27, 2009

It took us about 3 hours to get from Prague to Vienna...maybe a little bit more, but we kept ourselves busy planning our stay in Vienna, so - the time flew fast...








my dear angel was in Vienna once many-many years ago, and for me it was the first visit...before taking this trip we both planned to read Carl Schorske's "Fin-de-siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture"...







somebody compared reading this book to riding a time machine to Vienna at the turn of the 20th century - with its cultural and intellectual movements and the birth of modernism...I thought it would be great to get this "foundation"  - it would make the trip more interesting...but unfortunately there is never enough time, and I managed to read only a few chapters (most chapters are self-contained though)...the book is still very high on my reading list, and maybe it's even better to read it after experiencing Vienna "in person"...


the very name "Vienna" had always been full of various associations in my mind...

one obvious association is music...


Mozart, Schubert, Strauss, Beethoven, Brahms...just to imagine all the composers who lived and worked in Vienna, who walked the streets of this city...















and one of the best and busiest opera houses in the world - The Wiener Staatsoper ...Gustav Mahler, Igor Stravinsky, Herbert von Karajan conducted there...Maria Callas, Placido Domingo, Montserrat Caballe, Luciano Pavarotti (just to name a few!!!) sang from its stage...can you tell yet that I looove opera? :)   - I get all excited just writing about it!...







and to many of you who shrug your shoulders now: it's an acquired taste, you know...and I am so glad that I've "acquired" it - I don't want to imagine myself being deprived of this pleasure...










 



tickets to Vienna Opera House can be expensive (it's one of the best in the world - what can you expect?)...but!...if you are on a budget or if the regular tickets are sold out (which happens fast) - you could get a standing place right before the performance (they sell out fast, too, but at least one can try)...just as it has to be - nobody should be deprived of the pleasure of opera!...










and speaking of the pleasure of opera - Anna Netrebko sings there often since she lives in Vienna now...to Europeans "Anna Netrebko" is a very familiar name...she is as popular as a rock star, and her cd's consistently top the charts...












to me Anna Netrebko seems to be the only modern day singer that truly fits the definition of the word "diva" ...she has rich, beautiful voice...she is strikingly beautiful herself...she is a good actress and knows how to spice up the performance...she brings eroticism to opera...from what I hear - she has unforgettable personality, full of joie de vivre...she is Russian - which to many translates into "exotic" (European newspapers often gush about her "mysterious Russian soul" and "sexy accent")...she is relatively young (barely 40, if that) and very fashion conscious...and have I mentioned her rich beautiful voice? (I know I have, but I want to make a point!!!)...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Netrebko




 




I haven't listened to her live, but this is one of the pleasures I am looking forward to in the future...

speaking of pleasures... another pleasure that for many people associates with Vienna is Viennese cafés...they are almost institutions in itself, each has its unique atmosphere about it...we happened to stop at a few...









Café Sacher - that serves the Original Sacher Torte invented in 1832 by an Austrian confectioner Franz Sacher...the recipe of it is kept secret, and even though there are many places that make and serve "Sacher Torte", the "Original Sacher Torte" is made only here...






my palate is not as sophisticated yet as to distinguish "original" from "not original" (although I am working on it - at the expense of extra pounds even!), but we made a point anyway to try the "original" one...it's rather dry (or maybe "dense" is a better word?) chocolate cake with apricot jam in the middle...it's not bad (I am yet to find a desert that tastes bad to me!), but it's not something I would die for...








if I had to choose between the Original Sacher Torte and Viennese apple strudel that I tasted at Café Central  -  I would probably take the apple strudel...it was the best apple strudel I had in my life (I wonder now - was it really that good? or - have I been very deprived of apple strudels in my life?)...

















speaking of Café Central...it is full of tourists now, but after it opened in 1860s it had become one of the centers of Viennese intellectual and literary scene and seen a number of famous people...some of them were regulars there - Leon Trotsky, for example...it's busy and crowded now, but it's definitely worth a stop for a glimpse of history and a cup of coffee...oh, and don't forget that apple strudel! :)







another café that is pleasant to stop by for a cup of coffee is Café Demel (or simply Der Demel, as it is called there)...it is also a chocolate shop full of various mouth-watering delights...







and while sipping your coffee you can also watch the process of making chocolates and pastries - there is a glass wall separating the inside of the café from the working area that allows you to do that...



















and in the basement of the café there is a museum that shows several Demel creations made of marzipan...the whole museum consists of one not particularly large room filled with various life-size creations of animals, people and what not - all made of marzipan...we both looove marzipans, so - we just had to visit this little museum!...its location is not clearly marked, but the waitress directed us to it...the walls were covered with autographs of many famous visitors, but at the time we happened to be the only two people there...
















some of these marzipan creations are pretty amazing...it happened that earlier that day we went to see one of Gustav Klimt's most famous works - the Beethoven Frieze - in the Secession building, so it was fun to see the "interpretation" of it made of marzipan...




















speaking of Gustav Klimt...his name is also so strongly associated in my mind with Vienna...Klimt is one of my favorite painters - I can't get enough of the sensuality, vibrant shimmering colors, eroticism of his works...













and actually his famous "Kiss" was one of the first things we saw in Vienna...the train station we arrived to from Prague was within walking distance of the Belvedere Palace...so we decided to leave our luggage at the station and go straight to the Belvedere...the Palace houses an extensive permanent art collection as well as temporary exhibitions, and we happened to catch 2 of them - "The Power of Ornament" and Alfons Mucha's exhibition...





 















Alfons Mucha - Czech painter and decorative artist - has a lot of his works and even the whole museum in Prague...unfortunately we didn't have time to visit the museum there, so it was kind of funny that Alfons Mucha still "caught up with us" in Vienna...








another image that many of us associate with Vienna is the image of the white Lipizzaner stallions of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna...the Spanish Riding School (named after Spanish horses that eventually made up the Lipizzan breed) is the oldest riding and classical dressage school in the world - it dates back to the 16th century...





























it used to train horses for military actions, but now it also offers public performances...it is not very easy to get to see the performance - it happens only during certain months of the year, certain days of the week...and the tickets (if you want the good seat) are quite expensive...but if you have a chance - you definitely should go see it!...we loved the performance!...















Vienna is a pleasant city to walk in...there are horses and carriages on the streets - just like in Prague - that would take you around in you prefer not to walk...it's too corny for my taste, but I like seeing horses on the streets...it makes the city feel warmer...























and speaking of "warmer" - we both feel warmer if somewhere we happen to spot our "secret symbol" - two rabbits together...you might've seen them in some of my previous blogs if you got  to read them...the meaning behind this symbol is private, but even if it wasn't - it would be too difficult to explain...so - the "official story" is that we both are born in years that correspond to the Chinese Year of Rabbit  ...well, the two rabbits we spotted in Vienna were replicas of Dürer's hare - it is Vienna, after all! (Young Hare, 1502, Watercolour and bodycolour - it is in Vienna (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albertina,_Vienna).














and I want to mention one curious thing: lavatories in Vienna...I never ever thought that I would write about lavatories in a blog, but here we go...

my first surprise came when - after too much Viennese coffee - I stopped at the so-called Opera Toilet (right next to the Opera Theater, in the underground passage)...having deposited 50 cents (like any pleasure in the world - using a lavatory has its price tag attached in Vienna) I got slightly startled by a sudden burst of music - Strauss' waltz, no less...






then the little gate opened and I waltzed into a room resembling a theater foyer...there were benches upholstered with red velvet...there were candles... the stalls were called "loges"...quite bizarre...











but back to our toilets :)  ...if you happen to be on Graben street (not too far from the Demel Café) - do make a quick toilet stop at classy lavatories designed by famous architect Adolf Loos in early 1900s ...the interior with its beautifully crafted mahogany wood is very typical of the Modernist style...who could've thought - one can enjoy fine architecture even at the lavatories...ah, only in Vienna!












I wonder if it's just me or there is some "toilet fixation" in Vienna...like - "let other places envy our toilets!"..."toilet envy" so to speak...it sounds quite Freudean! ...

no wonder - the father of psychoanalytic school of psychology lived and worked in Vienna...I personally do not hold psychology in high regard (so sue me - I am a "hard science" gal! ), but the influence of his theories and ideas is undeniable ...






they are significant even despite the opinion that Freud came up with his theories while under heavy influence of cocaine...how true the opinion is I do not know, but it is a well known fact that Freud was a big proponent of cocaine use as a panacea for many disorders (he even wrote a paper "On Coca" describing what he considered its benefits) and a heavy user of it as well...


there is Freud museum in Vienna, but we didn't go there...nothing against Freud - it's just that our selfish Id demanded to have pleasures elsewhere, and our realistic Ego agreed that time was too limited :)





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