Saturday, May 30, 2009

Day 17: More Wien

We got a late start today. I stayed up until 3am skyping with Ron. Lauren was busy getting 12 hours of sleep. She sleeps very well – so I wasn’t worried about going to bed late because I knew she wouldn’t be waking me up early. We didn’t leave our hotel room until about 13:30. The first thing we did was figure out how we were going to make it to the airport tomorrow. Tomorrow evening we fly to Brussels, Belgium, followed by a train trip to Bruges.

My sister had recommended a couple of “must do’s” for Vienna. Visit the Liechtenstein Museum and go to the Sacher Torte Hotel and have a Sacher Torte. The Liechtenstein museum was not nearby. Thankfully, Lauren’s navigational skills were not rusty and so she quickly had the underground train, followed by tram figured out. We arrived at the museum in plenty of time to enjoy it without rushing. This museum houses parts of the most important private art collection in the world. This is the collection of Prince Hans-Adam II von und zu Liechtenstein. This museum opened in 2004 in the restored Liechtenstein summer palace. During WWII the treasures that had been collected by this family for generations were “removed to safety and stored in depositories”. They were finally put on display again when the museum opened. The museum has many works of art by Peter Paul Rubens. One of them is just called “The Head”. It was one of many that Rubens painted. He would paint the heads of local people quickly. He then used this collection for faces when he painted large format paintings with lots of people in them. The particular head we saw today has been found in many of his paintings.

This is a picture of us in the Sala Terrena with a 17th (or maybe 18th) century golden carriage. This was the only place we were allowed to take photographs.

We enjoyed both the permanent collection and a special exhibit called “Structure and Ornament”. It was about picture frames. We learned about the history and classification of frames. Frames used to be custom made to complement the work of art they housed. They were handmade – and often carved from wood. I believe they laid out three major types of frames, Tabernacle, Cassata and Tondo frames. I recognized the distinct tabernacle type frames first. They have been seen in most of the altars or private devotion Christian paintings we have seen. They were meant to be a reflection or façade of a temple or church and so they have a distinct architectural appearance. This specific design was meant to protect the spiritual content it housed. Understanding this for the first time has made me appreciate some of the art I have seen even more.

The Palace was intimate as palaces go and really was a beautiful place to house the collection. The frescoes on every ceiling were works of art. The ceiling frescoes in both entry stairwells were believed to have been lost a couple hundred years ago when they were painted over. During the restoration period o f the palace in 2001-2003 the frescoes were discovered underneath the paint and were restored to their original splendor. As beautiful as the ceilings were – I couldn’t help imagining a conversation I might have had with Ron if he were Prince Liechtenstein and I the Princess. We would probably be on the terrace discussing painting the ceilings. I would suggest that perhaps it really wasn’t necessary to paint every single ceiling in the palace. I think I would suggest that it would be nice to have a few ceilings that were done differently. I would have liked to change it up a little more. But then . . . I’m not really a princess, so I don’t get a say in it.

After the museum we returned to the heart of the city (after picking up Austrian mints for Colby at a gourmet grocery store). From there we got on a tram that was supposed to run a ring around the city. Rick Steves ‘ had recommended taking this tram as a way to see all the major architectural sights of the city. He suggested we sit in the front of the tram and with his book read about each site and then watch for it out the window. There were not seats in the front of the tram, but we did this for several blocks from where we were. The book said we wouldn’t see anything for a few blocks. We patiently waited as the scener y changed. It was apparent to Lauren that we were going further and further away from the center of the city. I was oblivious to where we really were as I just looked out the window studying everything I saw. We ended up having to get off the tram at the end of the line on the outskirts of Vienna. We had to cross the street and wait for another tram to take us back in. This time . . . we hopped into the front seat and laughed out loud that if we had front seats from the start perhaps we wouldn’t have lost our way. If you are using the Rick Steve’s Eastern Europe book on your trip to Vienna– please mark in the margin of page 833 - that tram #2 does not run in a circle. First bad mark for Rick Steves.

Here we are at the front of the tram! Relieved to be back on the right track again.

Rick earned a second bad mark today . . .. a recommended dining spot. The Rosenberger Market . . . .let’s just leave it at “it was awful”. You wouldn’t have liked the pictures of our dinner either. Make sure you cross that recommendation off in your guidebook too.

We chased our terrible dinner with a Sacher Tort, which is basically a piece of chocolate cake covered in hard chocolate. Lauren really wanted milk with her cake just as she did at her wedding. They did serve milk . . . but unfortunately it was whole milk . . so she chose hot chocolate instead. She asked me “What does the rest of the world each with their cake if it isn’t a nice glass of milk?” I had a delicious fruit herbal tea with my torte. The fruit was a blend of strawberry, chamomile, mint etc. Very rich red color. I have never had a tea that red in color, it was almost the color of kool-aid. Very good tasting – and it didn’t need any sugar or citrus, it was perfect.

We plan to go the Kunsthistorisches Museum tomorrow. We will see their permanent exhibit and I believe they also have a special exhibit we will take in. It is about interior spaces. Something I like to think about.
After this post, the next post will be from Belgium.

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