Friday, April 4, 2008

Final Viennese Thoughts


TRAVEL BY TRAIN: The four hour train trip from Prague to Vienna, only the second train I’ve ever ridden, was very relaxing and took me through some very beautiful Czech and Austrian country side villages. It was much less of a stressful than flying and with the lead time needed to check-in at an airport, probably just as fast. The cost of the train trip was only $30!

VIENNA: Once I arrived in Vienna, I proceeded to get lost, in part due to poor preparation on my part and in part due to the German language which I do not understand at all!

After drifting and not rowing for about 30 minutes, I finally found my quaint hotel, the Pension Hargita. I got a very pleasant and basic room with breakfast cooked and served in the Hargita family kitchen. All was good until I got into the shower in the morning. Not only was there no hot water, the cold water that did come out was THE coldest water I’ve ever bathed in! When I went down to breakfast I asked old Grand Ma Hargita about the problem and her simple answer was “Kaput!” Her answer struck me as so funny that I couldn’t get mad.

If Prague was all about intimacy and romance, then Vienna counters with chocolate and pastries! I could do nothing in Prague but I am kicking ass and taking names later in Vienna! This is because the weather here was alternately cold, breezy and drizzling. What else could I do but go indoors into cafes or pastry shops to stay warm and dry? The best two were easily the Sacher Café behind the Opera building, try their rich but dry Sachertorte. Why dry? Because the richness of their whipped cream brings the chocolate back to robust life! My other favorite was Demel where they boast with pride that their desserts are “K. u. K.”, i.e., good enough for the Konig und Kaiser (the king and emperor who were really the same person).

Well actually I did have two other choices, churches and museums. Of course I took full advantage of both. Vienna is a large, sprawling city with an old core filled with the opulence of the Hapsburg Dynasty that ruled for over 600 years until the end of World War I.

The museums here are home to the some of the most opulent pieces of art, jewelry, statues and architecture you could ever see! Vienna’s poor weather took me to take in the Kaisergruft (housing the crypt of 150 Hapsburg rulers and family members). Next it was the Hofburg Palace (the winter home of the Hapsburgs) including the Imperial Apartments, the Treasury, the Palace Garden and the morning workout of the Lipizzaner Stallions at the Spanish Riding School (just for you Laurie).

Actually, my first anal moment of the day was waking up early enough to get to the Schonbrunn Palace, the Hapsburg’s Summer Palace, to buy the day’s first ticket! The payoff was that I didn’t see another museum visitor until I ran into a small Asian tour of about 10 people in room 36 of the 40 rooms the Grand Tour ticket allowed me to visit. Visit Europe in the spring! The Schonbrunn is huge with 1,441 rooms! Today almost 300 civil servants rent many of the remaining rooms

My final stop was to the Kunsthistorisches Museum. I’ve been to major museums in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, London, Rome and Athens but this one might be my favorite. The ornate building itself is about half of the fun. Although every major European artist from the last 1,000 were on display, I came away with two favorite, both from the 1500’s, Pieter Bruegel and Giuseppe Arcimboldo. If you don’t know their work, Google their names, you may enjoy them too.

The only drawback of all this museum visiting was that pictures were strictly VERBOTEN in many exhibits while only non-flash pictures were allowed in others with the usual varying degrees of results. It did force me to buy some small books and postcards to help me recall the better exhibits I saw.

To conclude this great BYE week road trip, I enjoyed visiting two cities, Prague and Vienna, which were much different than the cities I’ve visited in Italy. Mentally it was a good break from the 11 weeks of football practice in Catania. Physically I am little tired from all the walking. Thank God for the Vienna Undergound system which saved me even more miles of strolling!

Now it’s time to go back to Catania to prepare for the VERY difficult task of playing the 2008 IFL favorites and defending 2007 Italian Champion Bergamo Lions in their stadium in one week. They defeated the Parma Panthers last Saturday in a rematch of last year’s Championship game and had a BYE this week as well.

The Schonbrunn Palace, Summer Home of the Hapsburg Dynasty

It is said that this is the only European palace that can rival Versailles.

A porcelain heater in the Schonbrunn Palace

The deal is that the royal family did not want to be bothered by either servants stoking the fire or the smoke from the fire so the walls have space inside big enough to allow servants to take of the fire and never enter or be seen by anyone. 

The Kunsthistorisches Museum

The only thing that rivals the artwork in this museum is the building itself!

Just in case you were wondering what the well dressed Emperor was wearing about 100 years ago.

See what I mean?

RANDOM THOUGHT: After seeing all this art the last two days, I started to wonder. Much of he art I’ve seen is chock full of symbolism.

Now I know that in the statues of famous soldiers on horseback the symbolic rule is that if the horse has all four legs on the ground then the rider died of something other than battle wounds. If the horse has one leg in the air then the rider died due to battle wounds. Finally, if the horse has two legs in he air then the rider died on the battle field.

With this in mind, I started to wonder what symbolism 16th century painters used in deciding how their female subjects would be dressed? What did having only a single breast exposed mean? Did showing the right breast mean one thing and the left one something entirely different? What does it mean if BOTH breasts are showing? What if she was painted completely naked? What if she was fully clothed? What does it all mean? I’ve seen so much art in Vienna that my head is spinning over these delicate but extremely important issues. Inquiring minds want to know! Can one of you answer these burning questions?

You have to have a mantel to match your jewels don't you?

And every Emperor needs a basic portable wash basin to cleanse his hands from time to time.

You have to show some style when you die too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks again for the video of Prague! We both loved it! Hooray for Disney music!