Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Vienna - Fogs and Kisses

Saturday 2nd January was our final day in Vienna.  Although Vienna has so much to offer it's unlikely that we will be back.  Not because we didn't enjoyed the city; not because we run out of interesting things to see.  No - it's just that there are so many other cities we've not yet visited.  We packed our bags and left them in the "baggage room" of our hotel for collection later.  We were travelling north to Berlin on the night train which left late in the evening.

The sun had been shining brightly on the previous day, but on this morning thick fog was hanging over the rooftops and engulfing the spire of the cathedral.  There would not be many fine views on this day!  So that explains a part of the title.  Read on to find out about the "kisses".
Vienna's Cathedral in the fog.

Where's the spire?  No views today.

Many old buildings have very decorative front windows and facades.

Was this the same street we had walked along in bright sunshine?

The Staatsoper building
From the Opera Ring (the section of the great Ring Strasse around Vienna running past the Opera building) we caught a train for the short distance to the Belvedere which is a very significant 18th century palace now an art gallery.  There are actually two sizeable buildings comprising this "palace".  The Upper and Lower Belvedere buildings are set in a carefully planned baroque garden which was vaguely visible to us through the fog.  "Belvedere" means "beautiful view".  This considerable palace complex was built by Prince Eugene of Savoy following his triumphs in a series of wars against the Ottoman Empire, and also in the "Wars of the Spanish Succession".  He was recognised as the "saviour of Austria" - from the French on one side, and the Ottomans on the other.  Vast as it seems, this was only his summer retreat as his main residence, the winter palace (Stadtpalais), was in central Vienna, and he had palaces elsewhere.
Prince Eugene left no heirs and the Belvedere passed from one relative to another until it became a Royal Gallery and reception area, and eventually passed to the Austrian State as one of its Art Galleries.

The end of one "wing" of the Upper Belvedere.

Gallery Poster - what the buildings would look like on a sunny day.

Poster for one of the temporary exhibitions in the Lower Belvedere.
It includes works of Klimt.  There's a clue for the "Fogs and Kisses" riddle.
The Upper Belvedere is a beautiful building with a fine collection of paintings and other art works by Austrian and other artists.  It has the largest collection of works by Gustav Klimt in the world.  Photography is only permitted in the entrance hall and some lobbies, and not within the display areas which are patrolled by guards on the lookout for those attempting a quick shot or two.
The entrance which looks across a large garden to the Lower Belvedere.
Ornate ceiling (but quite restrained by contemporary standards).
One of the most famous of the Klimt paintings, "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer", is no longer their.  The 2014-5 film "Woman in Gold" tells the story of Maria Altmann to claim the painting looted from her family home by the Nazis after the annexation of Austria in 1938.  Ms Altmann won the lengthy case and the painting passed to her care but it was quickly sold (reportedly for more than $US135 million).  What is probably the best known work by Klimt is still there and it is an amazingly beautiful work.  As it can't be photographed the museum curators have set up a copy in a "selfie station" just outside the secure gallery where the original hangs.  Any ideas for "kisses" yet"
Ok, here it is.  The answer to the riddle in the title.  Just inside the guarded doorway is the gallery's most famous work by Gustav Klimt - "Kiss" or "Lovers' Kiss" of 1908/1909.  It's a truly stunning work which has been reproduced in a great variety of (often inappropriate and tacky) forms.

"Selfie station" for "The Kiss"
The simple glossy reproduction just can't convey the
beauty of the original with its surface of gold foil.

Someone once said "I can't define true art but I know it when I see it"
Sorry, but when I saw this collection of flashing "lighthouse" lamps
in this beautiful hall I could only think that it was an expensive way
to obscure the beauty of that wonderfully decorated hall.

The ceiling without the obstruction of the lamps.

The beautiful reception hall in Upper Belvedere.
Highly decorated picture frame.

The Emperor (Franz Josef I) looks down
 at patrons of the gallery's coffee shop.
In mid-winter there wasn't a lot to see in the renowned formal
garden between the Upper and the Lower Belvedere buildings
In the Lower Belvedere some of the magnificent Baroque state rooms are displayed largely unchanged from their original state.  Other areas are dedicated to smaller and temporary exhibitions.

Aspects of the "Gold Cabinet" which was a small "sale de conversation" with walls covered in silk painted with branches and birds.  This was later redesigned into a gold "cabinet" (or mirror cabinet).  It is unusual and stunning.

Elaborate decorations on the walls of this unusual room

The Marble Gallery contained three statues of women recovered
from Herculeum (the port of buried Pompei).  The walls
are covered with trophies recalling the Prince's victories.

The stucco relief ceiling shows Prince Eugene
 being honoured with heavenly awards.

Leaving through the "garden gate".  Upper Belvedere in the distance.

One of Vienna's modern tram fleet.
There was time and opportunity to visit one more church before leaving Vienna.  This was the Michaelkirche (St Michael's Church) - I make an effort to visit churches bearing my name of that of my sons (Michael and David).  We've never seen a church bearing Judy's name.
The church dates from about 1220 to 1240 and over its 800 year existence has been subjected to many modifications and refits.  It is now a mixture of late Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque.
St Michael's Church, Vienna, beside the Hofburg
The elaborate altar of St Michael's

Ceiling details in St Michael's Church, Vienna

Baroque decorations around the organ pipes and gallery

We are now back at the Hofburg, almost where we began our tour of Vienna.  There are the giants clubbing their foes beside the entrance gateway.  We had an hour and a half to tour the collection of Imperial jewels, the "Empress Sisi" collection, and many of the decorated rooms of the palace before the building shut.  Sorry, no pictures inside - or perhaps that's a relief!

A traditional "fiaker" horse-drawn carriage entering the Hofburg.
That's "our Vienna" in a nutshell.  Well a pretty big nutshell.  After the tour of the Palace we had a light dinner, collected our bags from the hotel and caught the underground train to the central railway station where we enjoyed refreshments in the peace and quiet of the "club room" for 1st class passengers. 
Our train to left at 10:40 pm and travelled via Bratislava, Prague and Dresden to Berlin.  We had travelled from Venice to Vienna in a sleeper train so we didn't expect much space, but we got even less than we imagined.  It was rather cramped.

The corridor in the 1st class sleeper carriage on the Euro-Night Express.

Sleeper compartment for the night journey from Vienna to Berlin.
Next "chapter" - Berlin.

Paul & Judy
January 2016

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