“This is the walking song, a song in which to walk…”

Okay, somewhere, nick cave is grinding his teeth at my perversion of a good song. 

Having gotten that out of the way, I can report a glorious sunny day in Vienna, doing nothing but walking miles and miles all day, with a couple subway rides in there. As a consequence, this post has no observations on humanity, art, or the price of tea in Simla. 

When I left my hotel, I set out towards the southwest, but I zigzagged a bit. After a while, I ended up near St. Ruprecht’s church on a street named after Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. Somehow, I managed four years of Latin without learning that he died in Vienna?


The jury is out whether this is the city’s first church,  but it sure wasn’t built yesterday, that’s for sure 

Moving south, I found a post office before beating east. I was seeking , and found, the Hunnertwasser House near the canal. 


After discovering I couldn’t go inside, I zigzagged north and east until I reached the Prater, at which point I realized I was starving, and scarfed down a kasekraner and a soda. Without those, I figured, I’d never reach the Danube. 

At that point, still thinking I could make it to the aqua-terra, housed in an old flak tower from WW11, I hopped the Ubahn to donauinsel, a stop atop a bridge over an island in the Danube. Got all that?


Glamorous, it ain’t. But the views over the river as one emerges from the train into the bridge are something else:


And there are swans. I never knew swans plied their way down the Danube!


Like elected officials, they look noble and glossy until they open their beaks and give voice to their needs. But I digress.

I walked back over the bridge and found a church whose name I have yet to find, but it sits at Mexicoplatz:


From there through a few more blocks through neighborhoods to the Prater, which is where I realized I was getting dehydrated and needed to return to my hotel  for refreshment. 

I wanted to see “the Third Man,” showing in English at a local theater, but an involuntary nap nixed that idea.  Since it only shows on Tuesdays and Fridays, I won’t catch that chance again. 

Nor will I get to see this production at the theater up the street from my hotel:


Well, you can’t have everything. So far, what I’ve seen on this trip is pretty amazing as it is. Not complaining. 

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Late Night Dinner in Vienna

So I opted for a late night meal. A stroll around the neighborhood of my hotel revealed that this city might be more similar to DC than Berlin where night dining is concerned. I could be wrong, but what matters is that I found Il Tempo. 

A classic Italian restaurant, il tempo had high ceilings, generous helpings, and a waiter happy to let me eat in peace. I opted for spaghetti with garlic and oil; they added dried chili pepper , brined olives and cherry tomatoes. I loved the olives and red chilies — they went well with the garlic and oil. The spaghetti was perfectly al dente, and neither too large nor too small a portion.


My only problem lay in eating gracefully to eat in polite company.  If that’s your worse problem on Independence Day?

You clearly need dessert. I clearly needed dessert. There was a strudel. Didn’t seem Italian enough. There was something else I didn’t quite hear. And then there was…


Tiramisu. 

I generally tend to avoid tiramisu because some tend to have uncooked rum. The emphasis in this case was on the cream between layers of lady fingers. And what a fine smooth cream feeling it was. 

Yeah, I should get some sleep tonight.  

No museums today!

When I woke up, I promised myself that I would not darken the door of a single museum. Not one. No learning, no art, no pedagogy, no history, no curatorial texts. 

Today, I resolved, would just be about fun and nothing else. I began this effort by sleeping a little bit late and having a huge breakfast (bacon, eggs, croissant, a slice of Appelstrudel, and juice), then went upstairs to my room and finished the book I started the other day. 

Then — well after noon, I walked to the Rathaus Ubahn station and rode the U1 line to Praterstern. Here, just across the street from the Ubahn station, was one of the main reasons I came to Vienna:


The riesenrad, featured in Carole Reed’s adaptation of Graham Greene’s post-war thriller, The Third Man.  I could tell you I couldn’t wait to board this piece of film legend, but the Prater has a couple other things I love. Things I had to try:


I think the park has five respectable roller coasters (and about four kiddie coasters that held no appeal for me). I rode three, and the one you see above enjoys the distinction of being one of only two where I had second thoughts at the top of the first ascent. 

But it was a blast, as was an indoor ride that you had to navigate a maze in the dark to reach, then in a completely blacked out space, you careen hither and yon, your only illumination being erratically flashed strobes and lasers. 

I know, it sounds nightmarish, but I had a lot of fun riding that one, too. The third one was a little more standard, but it was a good one to begin  my visit with; it revved my heart rate up so the indoor coaster with the lasers didn’t come as a coronary event for me.

After riding the coaster depicted above, I walked around the entire park before I made a beeline for the riesenrad. There was nary a wait for that one, but there was an anteroom with panoramas and captions about the history of the Ferris wheel and its place in Vienna’s narrative. 

The very minute realized I was reading something Historical, I stepped away and queued up at the gate outside unti the operator opened the next gondola. 


Some fifteen minutes later, I stepped onto terra firma again and took the Ubahn to stephensplatz and strolled through the old city, making sure never to stop more than the two minutes it took  to buy a kasekraner and a soda to eat. 

Then, more walking. Lots more walking. Lots of of impulsive pictures of things (mostly building facades) that caught my attention. One thing I was not expecting:


So far, I’ve found  Vienna chock full of these anomalies. Finding and capturing little marvels without stopping to become the authority on each one has made today feel like the holiday it should be. 

Mumok

Let’s just say that out loud, shall we? 

MUMOK

There. Wasn’t that fun? An abbreviation of MUseum MOderner Kunst, Mumok sits in The Museum Quarter and exhibits challenging works that ask the visitor to reexamine the role of art in society, in one’s life, and over time. 

A current exhibit, Painting 2.0, tirelessly examines how the Internet, Social Media, and technology at large have transformed our understanding not only of painting as a medium, but also audience; surface; and representation. Actually, the exhibit has the admirable effect of causing me to wonder where artists go from here. 

When representation and abstraction are no longer binaries opposed and the idea of shocking images (be they erotic, violent, politically charged or morbid) no longer elicits a thrill or (much) outrage, what’s next for the artist? For the critic? For the collectors? Or just consumers of art like myself? What do we want/need?

How do you conceive of a next step when folks like pollock, Stella, Rauschenberg, or Warhol took things to a plateau and the Internet doubled down on the programmatic challenges (who is the audience? How important is the medium? How important is the material, when you can reconstitute it in pixels?)

I found Painting 2.0 an excellent stab at the directions artists can take next — have taken already — and what are the stakes. But I didn’t glean insight about me, or about art as it is becoming. I don’t fault the curators of this exhibit for this failure on my part — they did their job, and the artists did theirs — admirably so. 

What struck me most emotionally was a collection below street level which traces the founders’ efforts not only to collect and display,  but also to promote artists and movement they might not have personally liked. Also worth noting was the tireless effort of the founders to bring artists who’d fled the nazis back to Vienna, particularly Oskar Kokoshka. 

These drives to promote unknown bro dynamic artists and honor those already influential struck me as admirable, and made me happy that I had worked my way through the entire museum

The Leopold Museum

If you love the work of Egon Schiele and you want to see as much as possible in one place, the collection Rudolf Leopold started and maintained looms large.  I’ve loved his work for years, and wanted to get some perspective on his creative development. To that end, the Leopold Museum’s current exhibition, SELF-ABANDONMENT AND SELF-ASSERTION, met my needs perfectly.

I don’t think I’d ever grasped the extent to which he embraced Klimt early in his career, but that made his evolutionary growth seem much more dramatic. I will qualify that by stating the evolution struck me as more creative than emotional — letters attributed to him struck me as precious and petulant.

Just as we can never know how he could have grown as an artist, had he lived past the age of 28, we are left wondering what he’d have introduced to his work, had he  accepted a paid opportunity a patron had arranged for him to visit Paris. 

My thoughts on his maturity aside, this exhibit’s sheer quantity of schiele’s work reinforced my sadness that he died so very young. To survive World War I, and die months later seems like a cruel joke.

Shifting gears somewhat, I want to touch on a couple other artists I’d either never studied or heard of before. I’d seen a few of Oskar Kokoshka’s paintings, and I love his saturated colors and intensity, but somehow, I’d never been exposed to the Anton Kolig  or Richard Gerstl (the latter having died in 1918, along with Schiele and Klimt –what a deadly year for art!)

Also, I somehow had missed out on the Wiener Workstatte until today. How was I unaware of that atelier? The artists who comprised it had a wonderful eye for reconciling form and function. In particular, Josef Hoffman’s souvenir from the Concordia Ball caught my eye:


I was equally struck by an armoire by Kolo Moser precisely because it was so elegant, but nonetheless practical:


I could go on about Moser at some length — his paintings also stirred me. But I’d rather do some research before I say something stupid and ignorant. 

Seccession

Art Nouveau has long been a favorite era of mine, and I find the Viennese idiom particularly delightful. I had to see the building the practitioners established as a space for their shows, and I wasn’t disappointed. I’d seen pictures, but they were lacking details like the plant tendrils on the sides of the building…


…or the turtles supporting the giant planters on the front steps:


The real magic, of course, is the building taken as a whole, but what I think a lot of people come to see is Klimt’s frieze in the basement. Known as the Beethoven Kiss, it winds around three of four walls high in a simple, softly illuminated room.


I’ve excerpted a section I particularly loved for its fluid grace and luminosity, but really, the whole thing needs to be seen at once, as a whole, and not on a computer monitor, tablet, or phone. 

In other words, get off your ass and see it for yourself. It’s worth the airfare, the Jetlag, and everything else. Just go. 

First meal in Austria 

My first meal in Austria will surprise you readers.  It was a total impulse choice and I’m glad I chose it, even if it wasn’t my favorite food this trip. 

After getting checked into the lovely and comfortable Mercure-Joseph near the Rathouse, I headed down to check out the Seccession building. The role of the art nouveau movement in Eastern European culture ranks high on the list of reasons I chose Vienna as one of my destinations, so the Seccession’s proximity to my hotel felt like a command performance for me. 

As I strolled down Getreidmarkt, I realized I felt lightheaded, and none of  my memories of trying to see too much on an empty stomach turned out well. I saw a restaurant named Saigon and I made a bee-line for it. 

The duck-filled spring rolls I ordered as a starter — there were two — proved so succulent and tasty that is eaten them both before I thought to take a picture. 

My main dish, billed as “pork Vietnamese Style,” tasted close to fantastic. The pickled carrots and steamed rice  went well with the chunks of pork in a thick, aromatic caramel sauce spiked with green onions, cilantro, soy sauce, and nam pla. 


A bit of research tells me that what I ate cleaves closely to Thit Kho and the use of pork belly ensures the tenderness and richness of taste I enjoyed.

The only thing I did not enjoy was the hard-boiled eggs that belong in this dish. It strikes me as more of a texture thing than taste because I *LIKE* hard boiled eggs, and enjoy them alone, in the occasional salad, or in doro wat. 

I haven’t been able to figure out what was done to add an off-putting consistency to the eggs, but I choked it down in the name of responsible food exploration. I think the restaurant did it right, and it just wasn’t to my taste.

But I’m glad I chose this place — the service and prices were good, as were the portion sizes and presentation. Upon reading a couple food blogs, I think I was supposed to mash up the eggs before I started, not leave them intact. 

Live and learn, right?