Monday, June 1, 2009

Day 18: Last Day In Wien and Travel to Belgium

First, a side note. For those of you who aren't "registered users" and have wanted to comment on the blog, the setting has now been changed so that you can comment "anonymously,". Lauren didn't realize this setting wss turned off until now. If you do comment anonymously - could you type your name at the end of the post so we know who you are (unless of course you really prefer to be anonymous). Sorry to those of you who have tried it in frustration!

This morning we checked out of our Hotel in Vienna. We left our bags at the hotel front desk so we could spend the afternoon at the Kunsthistorisches Museum. That is Kunst (“koohnst”) for short. This museum was opened in 1891. The building itself is museum worthy. Just when you thought a building interior could not be more opulent . . . you encounter another European country needing a place to store their treasures and needing something that can enable them to continue playing the game of one-upsmanship with the other european powers. For this museum they spared no expense and pulled out all the stops! The entry of this museum has a dome in it – through which you can look through to see another dome. The walls and ceilings are lavishly decorated in hard surfaces such as marble or granite, wood carvings, paintings etc. I can imagine what the blueprints for this building must have been like. I’m not referring to the structural pages –because that is beyond my comprehension. I am referring to the finish pages; the pages which demonstrate what the walls and floors and ceilings are to be covered with. The blueprints which detail the materials the balusters and handrail are to be made of. The pages which show the placement of the Hapsburg stone lions on the end of the banisters. There must have been hundreds of pages of architectural detail. The walls were covered in hard surfaces – not just at chair rail height – but all the way to the ceiling. I’m guessing the ceilings don’t end at the 20’ point – but much higher. The ceilings were frescoed. The frescoes were then framed by the most detailed crown molding. Every transition of space was embellished. Every area of architectural interest was turned into a focal point. There were niches where unexpected things like ivory busts were placed high above doorways. The use of color from the black granite door surrounds to the pink stone stair balustrades was so artistic. The mixture of the natural marbles or granites was amazing. This place was incredible. The planning of the finish work alone must have taken years. My limited experience in decorating interiors tells me this was a monumental accomplishment. As I have designed spaces I focus on a particular feeling I want the space to evoke upon completion. Then, every item that goes into that space is analyzed so that it will contribute to the overall feel desired. This takes effort, talent and an aesthetic sense. I can’t really see the finished product in my mind, I can’t just imagine pieces of it all put together. This place was so complex that I cannot imagine anyone could have envisioned it without completely committing it to paper first. The aesthetic sense of the architect who designed the interior of the Kunst was well developed. I would like to know much, much more about the history of this building. I find it phenomenal that something demonstrating this much wealth was built as late as 1891 and when the Austrian empire was virtually bankrupt. I paid 10 Euros entry fee into this museum and 7.50 euros for Lauren. I got my money’s worth just looking at the museum before I ever walked into a picture gallery. The pictures we took can never begin to show the splendor of this place – but here goes. The museum website is

Let's play a game of Where's Kristy. Can you find her in the picture shown above?

The picture collection contained over 8,000 paintings. You don’t have to be an art expert or a student of art to recognize the masters on display. They have main works by Rubens, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Titian, Raphael, Tintoretto, Veronese, Caravaggio, Velazquez and Durer. We have spent a couple of hours in the Italian, Spanish and French galleries before I looked at my wristwatch. I couldn’t believe the time had flown. We had only an hour left before we needed to migrate to the airport and we hadn’t even started in the Northern Galleries. We breezed through them, grateful that we would get a more in depth look in Amsterdam at the best works of these artists. We also found Pinocchio's death mask - here it is.

Our cuisine today was not worth writing about. It has been more difficult to find good food here. We do not like the regional fare – goulash, wiener schnitzel, bratwurst etc. It’s too rich and too heavy.

We flew to Brussels in the early evening, and have taken an express train from the airport to the Brussels train station. We then transferred to the train we are on now which is headed for Brugge. Catching this train was crazy. When we arrived at the station – we looked for our departure train info on the bulletin board. They have a series of bulletin boards with the train schedule written on them. We found the correct train and platform#. We arrived at platform#15. The train would be there in a few minutes according to the schedule. The electronic arrival board for the platform was blank. Usually it will display the train arriving in a couple of minutes. Lauren was on her toes and told me she’d be back in a minute. She went down the escalator to the underground terminal and looked at the electronic departure screen there. She discovered that our train had actually been transferred to platform 19. We tried to rush to the new platform – but had to get down stairs across and then back up to that platform - with luggage. We didn’t make it. We were frustrated that this platform change had not been published on the board where the train was expected to be. We went back down to the terminal and checked the electronic departure screen for the next train, it displayed a departure time 25 minutes later leaving from platform 15. So we headed back to our original platform. We felt pretty good when the platform board showed the train was coming at a certain time and other people were gathering waiting for the train. We waited around 20 minutes when Lauren noticed that the electronic platform sign had gone blank again. She ran back down to check the electronic departure terminal and sure enough the train had changed to platform 19, So . . . helter-skelter we repeated the same process we had just done and caught the train. It was added proof to me of Lauren’s ability to navigate. Everyone at the old platform had to hustle to the next one to make the train . . . but Lauren was the leader of the pack. Once we arrive in Bruges about 11pm we will take a cab straight to our hotel.

Since we are arriving after 10pm we had to have a code to get in to our hotel. We forgot to get the code ahead of time and weren’t sure how to handle it as we don’t have a cell phone. So we used our technological resources as best we could to solve the problem. We had wireless internet access at the Vienna airport. We wrote Ron and email telling him we needed his help and asked him to call the hotel in Belgium to get the code. We then navigated to Verizonwireless .com and sent Ron a text message to his cell phone that we needed his help and to check his email. We instructed him to email us the code once he got it. We thought this was pretty resourceful. It did have one flaw – in that it relied on us being able to access the internet in the Brussels airport. We could not access it there – but we did find pay phones , something we have not found in Europe yet. I was able to make a collect phone call to Ron and he gave us the information we needed. Thanks Ron for rescuing us!

When we arrived in Bruges we were starving. So we walked to the Main Square (not far from our hotel) and started our trip out with some delicious Belgian Waffles with Strawberries! They were pretty good and we can't wait to have more! (no pictures - we forgot the camera for this little late-night excursion)

1 comment:

  1. I totally know who to come to when EVER I plan a trip to Europe. Glad you ladies are having so much fun!