More Cool Stuff in Vienna

The Kunsthaus, Hundertwasser Museum, Vienna

After almost a week in Vienna, I’ve barely scratched the surface, even as a normal tourist. I realized this yesterday on a walking tour with Hannes, whose knowledge and humor focused on Austrian history. Here’s the very short version of my main take-aways….The modern Austrian republic was created in 1918 with the fall of the powerful Austro-Hungarian Empire lead by the Hapsburg dynasty. Twenty years later, Hitler was welcomed to Vienna by a cheering crowd of 200,000 Austrians — none of whom could remember attending the event by 1945. For its role in World War II, Austria had to promise that it wouldn’t join any military alliances. These days, the only war here is between Cafe Sacher and the Demel Bakery over which one of them invented the Sachertorte.

Vienna’s most important church, St. Stephen’s. The tile work on the roof displays the Hapsburg coat of arms.
Unfortunately, Vienna’s famous Lipizzaners of the Spanish Riding School aren’t performing this month. Fortunately, Hannes took us to the stables and a couple of the stallions were standing by to charm us.

I’ve continued my art binge in the past few days. I think one of my favorite museums ever is the Kunsthaus Museum of Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The museum is delightful and obviously loved. It’s in the house Hundertwasser built for himself, playful and full of surprising detail. Hundertwasser, who left us in 2020, was an environmentalist, pacifist, poet, and humanitarian. His art is bold and joyous. This is typical of his paintings.

Although he’s most famous for his paintings, Hundertwasser designed many buildings, including one I saw today almost by accident — Vienna’s municipal waste incineration plant!

For something a little tamer, the Belvedere Palace, originally the home of Prince Eugene of the Hapsburg family, is now a national museum. It exhibits 800 years of art, including a modest collection of Viennese modernist and avant guard paintings.

The museum’s most famous painting is “The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt. I think of this painting as Vienna’s Frida Kahlo. It seems to be featured on every mug and tote bag in the city. It is truly spectacular in its singular message of love and tenderness.

There is lots more to see and do before I leave on Tuesday. But I’ll take Hannes’ advice to avoid the usual tourist ritual of spending $23 on a piece of Sachertorte at Cafe Sacher. “Too dry — the best thing about it is the whipped cream.”

15 comments

  1. Once again you have created a fascinating read and I love the pictures especially The Kiss! What an adventure!

  2. Loving these travel vignettes Kim! Looks like your solo adventure travel bug is still alive and well! See you soon! Jody

  3. Great post with great pictures! You have found joy in Vienna… something that mostly eluded me the times I was there. I found the city a bit too grand and imperial for my tastes and the people I met invariably seemed “stuffy” with a sense of superiority that was annoying. It was the only city I have ever visited where I felt that way.

    My highlights were the Belvedere Palace and Klimt, some ridiculously overpriced but delicious meals, watching the Lipizzaners of the Spanish Riding School perform (tragic you didn’t get to see that!) and the Clock Museum displaying the history of clocks from earliest times (sundials, water clocks, etc.) to modern days in a fabulous tall ancient circular tower in which you ascended a circular walkway (sorta’ like the Guggenheim) starting with the sundials. That’s where I found the twin of my antique Dutch “Stoelklok” which I first recognized there ten minutes before I saw it by its distinctive gong!

    Kudos to your guide for insightful comments on history, although I would argue a bit over the negative characterization of Cafe Sacher Torte’s offerings.

    I hope you get an opportunity to see the surrounding countryside. Austria has some of the most beautiful landscapes in world

    1. Great overview of your experience!. I wonder whether the stuffy thing is generational. Because of my dining and lodging choices, most of the people I come into contact with are under the age of 40. They are always light and friendly. That age group is much more open than ours, and doesn’t have memories of “the good old days” or feel protective of regional traditions or hierarchies.

    1. Yes! You motivated me to do some research. The Hapsburgs originally bred the horses in what is today Slovenia. The horses were originally bred from Spanish Andalusians and Arabs, thus the name, the Spanish Riding School. And now the Spanish Riding School — of Lipizzaner horses — is in Vienna. Those horses are truly international.

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