Vienna : Vienese Whirl.

Vienna Travel Blog

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Traditional Vienese coffee and cake at the Hawelka Cafe ("Yummy!")

It’s been said before and it’ll be said again.  Often it’s when you stop looking at the map that you finally get to where you wanted to be going.  And so it is that I sit here at the Leopold Hewelka CafĂ© on Dorotheergaße, a venue and street that have evaded all my hardest map-gazing efforts until I gave up some hours ago and just turned a corner into it now.  So I sit here with an apparently very fine example of a true Viennese coffee and a portion of the traditional ‘house’ cake to relax and digest another fabulous day on the continent...hmm? "What did I get up to today?"

 

.

Some weirdo spoiling the view of the palace :)
..First a bum note, for last night was hard work!  Sharing a nice 4 bed dorm room with a pleasant enough English couple we all settled down to sleep about midnight and assuming that a fourth guest would not at this time be materialising we dumped all our baggage, clothes etc on the spare bed.  But NO, at god-knows-what-hour in the morning (about 3.00am I reckon) there is a knock upon the door.  And again.  I reassure the person that it’s open and they may enter, and so does enter an extremely attractive girl of Sino-American extraction.  She is pretty and apologetic.  I have blustered and stumbled out of bed by this point and am more than happy to assist this lovely lady in clearing all the sh*te from ‘her’ bed and getting things manageable for her at this ungodly hour, for which she is very appreciative.
The fabulous fountain and the Glorietta behind.
  She then proceeds to have a flippin’ noisy power-shower for the next 20 minutes straight (“Couldn’t have waited ’til morning’ love?”) and then snore like a
 like a?
 like a bad, bad thing the entire rest of the night!  How could one so fair sound so foul?!!  I am amazed and not quite sure how to describe this unexpected contrast of beauty and cacophony but strangely a sentence from the novel I am reading helps me to sum her up a day or two later; ‘A face like an angel, but snores like a buffalo.’*

 

Anyway, on with the day and yeah, yeah I KNOW you’re bored of hearing it but the weather yet again was faultless today setting the perfect blue backdrop to the beautiful buildings, churches and palaces of Vienna city centre.

View back towards the palace from atop The Glorietta.
  This being as it is I hop straight on the U-Bahn to start proceedings at the Schönbrunn palace, historical home and seat of the Austrian Hapsburg dynasty.

 

If you go here on a fine day, get your ticket right away but skip right on through the main palace building to begin with in favour of the gardens which to my eye are really the star of the show here, magnificent though the building and some of its interiors are.  Straight out the ‘backdoor’ the viewer is presented with a loooong sandy-gravelled walkway lined with a large flower-bed arrangement on either side, this path leading the eyes and the feet up towards a grandiose water feature and then the zig-zag pathway hillock that is topped by the Gloriette building.  The view back down to where you have just come from, back towards the Schönbrunn from the very top of the Glorietta is beautiful and a real moment of wonder on a day like today.

Water feature in the Schönbrunn Gardens.
  Stood in the sun, resting on a rail looking back towards Vienna with a breeze upon my face, this forms one of the true ‘perfect moments’ of my travels so far.  A moment of ‘soul calm’.  May there be many more!

 

A stroll around the further gardens (of which there are many, and a zoo, a maze, a labyrinth and many other points of interest within the grounds
some for an additional fee should you be inclined) and then I do the ‘Imperial Tour’ with a free audio guide around a good 26 rooms or so of the Schönbrunn itself taking in the history of the powerful Hapsburg matriarch Marie Theresa and her various progeny (the beautiful but latterly beheaded Marie Antoinette being one of them).  For a little more cash I think the full 40+ rooms can be accessed.

Schönbrunn rose garden (abstract)

 

Next up, a few of the many impressive churches and cathedrals that punctuate the city skyline.  First up the cupola-domed KarlsKirche built in 1713 specifically in response to the devastating effect of the second great plague to strike down Vienna‘s population.  It’s creation, in effect, a statement of hope and glory to the various patron saints (including one of plagues apparently?!) to look forward to a better future.  The church has an arresting façade indeed, but DO step inside this one at the moment because it is undergoing a long ongoing restoration program to its various structures and large amounts of impressive fresco paintings that adorn the entire interior of the walls and main cupola-dome.  To effect this work a large, semi-permanent ‘panorama viewing lift’ has been erected within the church and one is able to ascend to the heady heights of 35 metres + right into the cupola itself until you are eyeball to eyeball with these magnificent frescos.

Karlskirche.
  You can even continue to ascend some further temporary scaffold-stairs all the way through the dome ceiling into the ‘lantern’ cage at the very pinnacle of the church.  I have to say there’s something very dizzying, and unsettling about being in a plaster and stone dome of God’s house, with cherubs, and clouds and personifications of Virtues flying around your ears amidst the uncomfortable union of plaster and metal scaffolds that surround you.  The stairs up to the ‘lantern’ wobble quite noticeably and I got so scared climbing them that I swear I almost widdled myself on the way up
well, sort of.  I am plagued every shaking step of the way up by nightmarish visions of the seemingly fragile cats-cradle of scaffolding below me collapsing away to the bottom of the church and me left, suspended 35 metres up in ’God’s House’ desperately clutching to the tail feathers of the frescoed Holy Ghost (symbolically usually -as here - depicted as a dove) that adorns the ceiling thinking “I knew I should have been a better boy!“ There is an interesting, if slightly obscured panoramic view of the city from within the ‘lantern’ as a reward for your bravery.
Looking up into the cupola of the Karlskirche.

 

Again there is soooooooo much to see in this city that in effect much of it I can only give a cursory glance this time round.  And in a way there is SO much large, immaculate, incredible white stone and marble architecture in Vienna that (for me today anyway) it is almost TOO much.  I find myself later on today just wandering in a complete daze from one sight of magnificence to another but not really registering what they are, their names or histories at all.  Vienna, compared to say Prague where I have just come from seems a little 'snooty' almost.  It's above you.  Too grand for little ol' me and in a way it feels that it's heart does not beat for you, a little cold.  yOU Felt you loved Prague and Prague loved you back with it's warmer tone of wonders. (Patricia, I kinda dig your own feelings on this one).

Stephen and St.Stephensdom.
 

 

However the imposing, yet brightly-roofed Stephensdom cathedral sat at the city’s heart is wonderful, the Spanish Riding School, the mind-bogglingly large National Library of Austria, and various other huge, palatial constructs that come together to compose the Hofburg (I think that’s the correct title?) in the city centre all cannot fail to catch the eye. 

 

Another wing of this series of mega-culture, mega-size buildings is the Albertina art gallery.  Having overloaded on so many buildings of baroque, Romanesque, Grecian and flip-knows-what-else style magnificence today I decide to pay my 9,50 Euros to peruse the halls of the Albertina and slow things down for a few hours.

Stephensdom in the city centre.
  The highlight is a large, chronological exhibition of the works of Vincent Van Gogh.  The first in Vienna for 50 years apparently.  It needs no reminding what a genius this man was, all of his paintings and drawings pretty much done in the final 10 or so years of his short life before.  Struggling with fits, depression and mental anxiety he turned a gun upon his chest and shot himself in a cornfield in Auvers-sur-Oise dying of his wound a couple of days later,  July 27th 1890 aged 37. 

 

The reminder of this brings a tear or two to my tired yet awe-struck eyes.  Whilst a tenuous link indeed I realise that through the prism of some hard personal experiences, stood before a Van Gogh exhibition for the first time in many years, this tragic final act of his life and my responses to his works have greater meaning now.

Park statuary (detail)
   The inclination always is to wonder “why?” someone can commit such an act.  Why that decision?  Was it a wilful decision?  Why that day?  Why that way?  Walking through a (possibly) golden cornfield in Auvers such as he had painted with such vibrancy (and one assumes joy) on many occasions.  Yet still, despite the certain beauties that surround them; despite some loved ones all around them and despite the hopes for hope and a better, clearer future just around Life’s next corner the individual still must - it seems - raise the gun (literal or metaphorical) to their heart and pull the trigger anyway sometimes.  And the act is not to be understood by us, the one’s that are left behind with only admiration and memories  Maybe it was just one way for them to bring closure to an inexplicable, indescribable private pain that’s hurt for too long with too much constancy.
Bridge of the River Danube.
  The story ends either way.   The inevitable pain of the audience left wanting more and for whom the most important task that remains is to remember and to tend to the images, the many-layered, brightly coloured paintings of memories that live on in the infinitely-chambered gallery of the heart.  Van Gogh’s famous yellows and golds now shine so much brighter  for me for all that is and was wonderful and bright in life and the blues and mauves deepen a little darker, the contrast representing a more considered sense of loss.

 

Later on in the day I realise that I am yet to set eyes upon the Danube, so with the sun bowing out on the far side of the city, I hop on the U-Bahn one last time and stroll across the first bridge I come across to watch the silhouetted city with the orange glow of sunset glowering softly behind the city-buildings first and then further away the hill-ranges that I will be heading for tomorrow, my ticket to Innsbruck via Salzberg all ready to go, in my pocket.

Sunset boat down the Danube.
  Another perfect moment as I stare back over the Danube in the direction of where the Schönbrunn, and the Glorietta would be and where I stood and stared this way a little earlier today.

 

* ‘A Fine Balance’ - Rohinton Mistry

mabby says:
Haha nice one steve!
Posted on: Nov 04, 2009
keeweeset says:
Fingers crossed that you won't encounter one of those fair buffalos again! ;)
Posted on: Oct 09, 2008
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Traditional Vienese coffee and cak…
Traditional Vienese coffee and ca…
Some weirdo spoiling the view of t…
Some weirdo spoiling the view of …
The fabulous fountain and the Glor…
The fabulous fountain and the Glo…
View back towards the palace from …
View back towards the palace from…
Water feature in the Schönbrunn G…
Water feature in the Schönbrunn …
Schönbrunn rose garden (abstract)
Schönbrunn rose garden (abstract)
Karlskirche.
Karlskirche.
Looking up into the cupola of the …
Looking up into the cupola of the…
Stephen and St.Stephensdom.
Stephen and St.Stephensdom.
Stephensdom in the city centre.
Stephensdom in the city centre.
Park statuary (detail)
Park statuary (detail)
Bridge of the River Danube.
Bridge of the River Danube.
Sunset boat down the Danube.
Sunset boat down the Danube.
(Palatial) Muju [www.mujuworld.co.…
(Palatial) Muju [www.mujuworld.co…
Grand entrance to the Schöbrunn P…
Grand entrance to the Schöbrunn …
The Schönbrunn Palace.
The Schönbrunn Palace.
The Schönbrunn gardens viewed fro…
The Schönbrunn gardens viewed fr…
Statue upn the water fountain.
Statue upn the water fountain.
The Glorietta (and its reflection)
The Glorietta (and its reflection)
The Glorietta (detail)
The Glorietta (detail)
Romanesque statue on The Glorietta.
Romanesque statue on The Glorietta.
Glorietta Statuary (Detail: yep, g…
Glorietta Statuary (Detail: yep, …
The regal eagle statue (rear) atop…
The regal eagle statue (rear) ato…
Water feature in the Schönbrunn g…
Water feature in the Schönbrunn …
Part of the Schönbrunn rose garde…
Part of the Schönbrunn rose gard…
Schönbrunn Palace steps (abstract)
Schönbrunn Palace steps (abstract)
A ceiling within the Schönbrunn P…
A ceiling within the Schönbrunn …
A sneaked photo within The Schönb…
A sneaked photo within The Schön…
Ummm?.. some building or other in …
Ummm?.. some building or other in…
Some Native American Indians (I th…
Some Native American Indians (I t…
errr?... cant remember the name :(
errr?... can't remember the name :(
The Spanish Riding School  (not ac…
The Spanish Riding School (not a…
The stupendously large and impress…
The stupendously large and impres…
Statue to the great House of Hapsb…
Statue to the great House of Haps…
The scaffold and lift tower up int…
The scaffold and lift tower up in…
Closer (than comfortable) to the f…
Closer (than comfortable) to the …
The wobbling stairs up into the l…
The wobbling stairs up into the '…
View from within the Karlskirche …
View from within the Karlskirche …
Alter within the Karlskirche.
Alter within the Karlskirche.
The colourful roof decor of the St…
The colourful roof decor of the S…
The Hawelka Cafe, Dorotheegaße.
The Hawelka Cafe, Dorotheegaße.
Some church near the banks of the …
Some church near the banks of the…
Sunset behind Vienna, the Danube.
Sunset behind Vienna, the Danube.
Vienna
photo by: EmyG