Time in Vienna

Vienna is such a beautiful city.  I really tried to see and do as much as I could.  The day after my birthday I was up and out the door to go see the Lippizaner Stallions train.  These horses are the oldest breed in the world and were introduced to Austria during the Hapsburg empirer.  These horses are absolutely gorgeous.  The stables are right in the old section of Vienna, near the Hofburg Palace.  The performance area is inside the palace area and is lovely with the hanging chandeliers.

The training session was relaxing to watch as they were playing Viennese waltz music while the horses were practicing.  They are so elegant, strong and rugged.  Another interesting note, when they are born, they are a black and over 6 to 10 years, they gradually lighten in color going to grey and eventually, all white.

After watching the training for about an hour, I hopped the metro to go to Schonbrunn Palace (which means beautiful spring – as in water).  The metro in Vienna is extremely easy to use.  I was able to figure it out and didn’t get lost once using it.

Years ago, when I was in Vienna, I went to Schonbrunn but it was in December and the palace was closed for the winter.  Pete, Ike and I walked the park but there were no pretty flowers in the garden or water in the fountains. I remembered that we walked up a hill and looked down on the palace.  I really wanted to go back and do the tour and see the gardens in full bloom.  The tour was nice.  We had an audio recording to listen to as we went from room to room.  Schonbrunn was originally a hunting lodge.  At the end of the 17th century, Emperor Leopold I commissioned architect Bernhard Fischer von Erlach to build a palatial hunting lodge for the heir to the throne.  A half century later, under the care of Maria Theresa, this Rococo style palace, with its 1,441 rooms, became the summer palace for the Hapsburg family. 

As I said earlier, the tour was nice.  It gave an explanation of each room.  Photography was not allowed inside.  However, I have found some pictures on the internet that I can share with you.   The Great Gallery was extremely impressive.  The chandeliers hold 70 candles.  I think that it must have been so pretty having the crystals reflecting in the candlelight when they were entertaining.  President and Mrs. Kennedy were in this room in 1961 during his meeting with Russian Chairman Nikita Khrushchev.

Another room that I liked was the Porcelain Room.                                                                                          

It was a small room but very dainty in white and blue. The walls are decorated in what appears to be blue and white porcelain.  However, it is just carved wood painted to look like porcelain.  There are 213 framed ink drawings that are copies of the original drawings done by Emperor Franz Stephan and some of his children.  This room was used by Maria Theresa as her study and for card playing.   I liked the cozy and intimate feeling that you got being in this room after experiencing so much grandeur from the rest of the palace.  

In 1779, the grounds surrounding Schonbrunn became a park for the public.  Today, it consist of 435 acres and houses a zoo, palm house and lovely trails and flowers.  At the far end of the garden is the Gloriette House, built in 1775.  It was built to honor the soldiers who gave their lives for the empire.  This is the spot that Peter, Ike and I climbed to all those years ago.  It gives you a lovely view of the palace and the city of Vienna.  I walked up to Gloriette again and this time, I was able to enjoy a cup of coffee at the cafe that is housed in the Gloriette today.  

It was a lovely afternoon and I felt as though I did a good job exploring the palace and the beautiful gardens.  Around 4:00, I hopped the subway back to downtown Vienna and after grabbing some cottage cheese and bread for a quick snack, I headed on the tram towards the Belvedere Palace to see the Klimt exhibit.  Fortunately, on Wednesday nights, the art museum is open until 9:00 at night.  

This palace was built in the Baroque style in the 18th century as a summer residence (!) for Prince Eugene of Savoy, one of the most important generals of that time.  Today, it is considered one of the finest Baroque landmarks in the world and it houses a museum of Austrian art from the middle ages to current day.  One of the most impressive part of the collection is the art work of Austrian artist, Gustav Klimt.  This year, 2012, in celebration and honor of Klimt’s 150th birthday, they have had a year long exhibit of all of Klimt’s art that the Belveder owns.  It was a wonderful exhibit giving much background of the life of Klimt.

In 1892, the death of Klimt’s father and a brother caused severe emotional suffering to the artist and he began to experiment with different styles such as East Asian art, Impressionism and Symbolism.  In 1897, Klimt and other artist left the Kunsterhaus (art school) and founded the Secessionist Group.  Their art was influenced by Khnopff, Whistler and Rodin.  The photo of his Portrait of a Lady, gives you an idea of his style in 1897 at the age of 35.   

1898 Klimt ventured into painting landscapes which were inspired by Fernand Khnopff (to the right is a painting by Khnopff) and other impressionist.  He was inspired by the landscape around Lake Attersee in Salzkammergut, Austria where he spent many summers with the Flöge family.  Here he painted several beautiful landscape themed paintings.  Below is a picture painted by Klimt from the Lake Attersee area.

Probably one of Gustav Klimt’s most well know work of art is the one he did during his “Golden Period”, roughly from 1901 – 1908.  It is “The Kiss” and has been replicated on just about everything you can imagine….coffee mugs, umbrellas, t-shirts, posters….you get the idea.  I had seen The Kiss on a variety of occasions and thought it was nice but I wasn’t particularly moved by this painting.  However, seeing it in person is a whole different experience!!!  For one thing, it is large! It is about 6 ft by 6 ft.  The gold leafing that Klimt used on the painting and other paintings during his “Golden Period” makes the robe wrapped around the lovers just shimmer.  The colors of the flowers at their feet are vibrant.  It is an amazing painting, which I now LOVE!  

Sadly, on May 8, 1945 the SS or German army set fire to the Immendorf Castle. This is where major works of art, by Klimt, were being stored to protect them during the war.  There were 14 paintings of the artist from the Ledere Family collection and 3 paintings, known as the Faculty Paintings, that Klimt had painted for the ceiling of the University of Vienna.  The artist had worked on this series from 1900-1907 and when he presented them to the University, they came under attack as being pornographic and were never displayed. It is very unfortunate that we will never get to see these, most likely, amazing pieces of art.

I am so grateful that I was able to attend this exhibit celebrating Klimt’s 150th birthday. I learned much about the artist and have a much better appreciation for his art. 

My last day in Vienna was overcast with a few showers. I walked around taking pictures of the beautiful, stately buildings throughout the city.  At 2:00, I took a tour of the Opera House.  I was hoping to see an opera while in Vienna but the only one that was playing was the night before when I was at the Klimt exhibit.  I did see the very last part of it on the large screen which is erected outside of the Opera House as I was making my way back to the apartment last night.  It looked very amazing.  

I figured the next best thing to seeing an actual opera was taking a tour of this world famous building.  Thirty-five years ago, I had been inside to see Rudolph Nureyev and Cynthia Gregory perform Swan Lake.  I remember the performance as if I had seen it yesterday but I couldn’t remember much of the inside of the opera house!  Honestly, after being inside of the ornate opera house in Prague, Vienna was kind of a disappointment.  The auditorium was done in a very subdue classical style.  However, the various salons where cocktails and beverages are served before the opera and during intermission, were beautiful and decorated with many of the ceilings and walls painted with large murals. 
The Opera House Auditorium

One of the beautifully decorated salons. 
Our guide talked about the Vienna Opera Ball.  It is an annual event that takes place on the Thursday prior to Ash Wednesday.  All the seats in the auditorium are removed and a false floor is put in so the auditorium floor is level with the stage.  The attire for the evening is white tie and tails for the men and gowns for the women.  During this ball, they have a debutante procession.  I saw pictures it looked amazing.  Each young girl is dressed in a white gown, with a tiara of Swarovski crystals.  They are escorted by young men dressed in white ties and tails.  There are two rows of these young couples that walk out during the procession and then dance the Viennese Waltz.  It must be an impressive thing to watch….the sparkling of the tiaras in the soft light and the beautiful gowns flowing as the couples dance!  Something out of a fairy tale!
My time in Vienna was most memorable.  It was so wonderful to be able to revisit the city after 35 years and refresh my memory of the beautiful buildings.  So, onto Salzburg….”The hills are alive……”

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