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Written on: Monday November 2nd, 2009

A journal entry from: Austria and Germany 2009

So my day in Vienna actually had its start with a day at Birch Bay this past summer. Gilles brought out a group of buddies to enjoy a day at the lake which that time included a young Austrian, Michael Pfeifer. He was visiting Edmonton because he'd met one of these guys in Belgium in 2008 while they were both studying at the University of Liege. Michael graciously offered to show me around Vienna when I mentioned to him that I had a trip planned to Austria at the end of Oct. The opportunity to see Vienna through the eyes of a charming 25 year old was an invitation that I couldn't resist. A few emails and we were set to meet in front of the Opera House at around 11 am on Monday the 2nd of Nov.

I took a pleasant 45 min. bus trip into Vienna arriving early just after 10 am. It gave me the time to visit a tourist information center and possibly come up with some ideas of what I might want to see as a priority. While I was getting my bearings I was approached a couple of times by some tour guides offering either a guided tour of the Opera House, the city and especially some help in purchasing concert tickets for a classical concert that evening. I must say that not having had too many opportunities to hear Strauss and Mozart played by a live orchestra I was intrigued with the idea of attending my first concert in Vienna of all places! I promised myself that if Mike was able to accompany me that would become a priority for the day.

Vienna of course is Austria's primary city with a population of some 1.7 million people out of the 8 million inhabitants of Austria. Founded around 500 BC it was orginally a Celtic community.
With it's more than 100 museums and status as a world capital of music it is certainly easy for fine art lovers to enjoy this wonderful city. With only a day we focused on one museum, the Albertina Museum and did a wonderful walking tour of many of the important sites of the city.

The Albertina Museum is the former residence of some of the Habsburgs the royal family of the emperors of Austria. Many of the rooms are open for public viewing and of course one is always struck by the beauty and the opulence of these rooms. I admired the inlaid floors, the height of the ceilings, some of the beautiful fireplaces and an absolutely amazing clock. The clock showed not only the second, minute and hour of the day but the day of the week, month of the year and the lunar phase; and I thought those features were relatively new to digital clocks and watches! Beautiful elaborate pot style stoves had me fascinated as well trying to figure out how they would have been vented in those days. Surely the smoke had to go somewhere? I later read that the House of Habsburg died away largely because of the inbreeding as the royal family kept marrying other royal family members and that created a lot of genetic problems.

The current art exhibition at this museum was focused on the impressionists and how their style of art work developed. Impressionism was a 19th century art movement that began as a loose asso. of Paris based artists. There were works from Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Frederic Bazille, Paul Cezanne as well as a few others. What I enjoyed most was the educational aspect they took of explaining the development of paint with additional colours as well as paint in tubes which allowed these artists to work "en plein air" and develop their unique brush strokes and move away from previous studio only paintings. To prove how these original photos were in fact done outside they had taken all sorts of x rays of the original oil paintings and then showed where there were grains of sand under the paint or a small piece of a seed pod or the clips used to hold the art board into the carrying case. A large poster board depicted the development of paint colors from antiquity into the 20th century something I'd never really considered, how many shades of certain colours did artists have to work with? Technology had probably restricted previous artists of past centuries but it was very interesting to learn more about these wonderful artists and the beautiful works they left for us to enjoy!

Lunch then consisted of a delightful bowl of a typical austrian vegetable and noodle soup and then we moved over to the C.H. Demel & Sohne coffee house for some "sucher torte" a chocolate cake. This chocolate manufacturer has been around long enough that it served chocolate and cakes to the emperors family. One could certainly see their long tradition of being a coffee house and the bakery and cafe were teeming with people. You can actually watch their bakery at work and the cake decorators were already busy at work creating some New Years good luck pigs out of icing and chocolate christmas trees. The tradition that pigs bring good luck -- especially at the New Year -- is apparently Teutonic in origin; it certainly did not originate in Jewish or Arabic cultures where pig flesh was a forbidden food. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the image of a white pig (almost never a spotted, belted, or brown breed) is used as a lucky charm in Germany, Austria, England, and Ireland, as well as among Anglo-Americans. Ich habe schwein Gehabt which means I have had pig meant that you were in fact fortunate. The tradition would have come from hard times and if you were able to provide your family with pig meat you were certainly fortunate! Always interesting to see where and why our various good luck charms come into being.

During our walk we saw the St. Stephen's cathedral, the Parliament Buildings, The Prime Minister and the Presidents offices, the Museum Quartier, and got a general feel for the amazing treasures the city has with all of these beautiful buildings. While at the Museum Quartier we were trying to decide if we should visit another museum when I mentioned to Mike that I'd read that Vienna has the only funeral museum in the world.. I was quite intrigued but by the time we looked into it, it was already closed... a stop for the next visit I guess... or if someone else is coming this way, perhaps you'd like to stop in and tell me about it! We stopped by the University of Wien as Mike and I were talking about the current situation with a student protest with regards to the overall university crowding and the costs associated. A beautiful campus the university was founded in the late 1800's. It will be interesting to see how and when this student protest will get resolved.

Mike's favourite castle was the Belvedere Castle so we also took a city tram over there. It was built for Prince Eugen, if I remember right it was started when he was 5 and he passed away in his 70's before it was totally completed. Belvedere means "beautiful view"and it was beautiful still in the fall so I can imagine the gardens must be stunning in the summer time.

During our couple of rides on their above ground transit system I was struck by how narrow their electrical inner city transit trains are and yet it made sense looking at how narrow the streets were in the first place. One of my favourite signs that I saw and took a picture of was near a park that was obviously used a lot by the locals to walk their dogs. The sign in the dogs mouth basically said please don't forget a bag to pick up my shit! A fun picture to talk about a serious subject, keeping their parks clean!

We did see the Lipizzaner horses' stables but unfortunately their performances didn't concide with my visit. By then I decided we needed to try some Austrian beer. Our first stop was at a Mexican restaurant where we enjoyed a beer and some nutchos. Mike realized that we should have probably headed to a typical Austrian bar so we moved over to the Centimeter Haus a half block away where we enjoyed yet another beer and yes eventually more food with Mike's friend Peppo.

Finally it was time to head to the Mozart and Strauss concert at the Kursalon Wien. It was a wonderful treat to hear these classical pieces in such a beautiful building. The nine piece orchestra played about a dozen pieces including the waltz On the beautiful Blue Danube by J. Strauss. A couple of opera singers and a pair of ballet dancers interpreted some of the pieces so we enjoyed a glimpse of the Sound of Vienna. Johann Strauss himself had apparently played in the same room that we were in so it certainly was a great way to appreciate his beautiful compositions. In 2009, the music world around the globe has commemorated the 200th anniversary of the death of the composer Joseph Haydn(1732-1809) so a few of his pieces were included in the program. Mike and I both wondered if in 200 years current artists will be celebrated in the same way.

So it my mind we had a perfect day! One beautiful museum, 4 different food and drink stops, a beautiful stroll on a misty grey day in a fascinating city which ended in a concert of timeless music. Let me not forget the wonderful company! Thanks Michael for such a memorable day!

I'm working on getting some pictures up on a travel blog... so if I'm successful I'll let you know!

In the meantime I'm off later today to meet up with another new friend Antonia in Inzell to visit Salzburg tommorrow. Time to pack my suitcase and spend the rest of the morning seeing how I can be of some help in the household here.

I've enjoyed a wonderful 4 and half days in this area of Baden and Vienna. Baby Algieri is making signs that it's getting ready to make it's arrival so definitely time to leave this wonderful family focus on getting their home and lives completely ready for this addition. With much thanks for such splendid memories and wishing you, Bettina, Franco, and Maximillian all an amazing safe arrival of this newest Algieri!

with love from Baden,