Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Birthday in Vienna

This post was nearly going to be titled "Birthday in Brno," as I've been wanting to take a day trip there for some time. However, with Terezia's Pilates class in the morning, and the 1.5 hour train ride, we wouldn't have gotten there until about noon, and I'd prefer to go on a day when we can get an earlier start. So, at the last minute, we decided Brno's bizarre landscape of dramatic neo-gothic spires coupled with a nuclear cooling tower will have to wait, and we instead went to Vienna to celebrate my 37 years of being alive.

As always, Vienna proved to be a nice excursion. This time we walked through the old town using only the narrow, picturesque side streets (avoiding the crowded, mall-like Karntner Strasse), and caught a tram over to the Landstrasse district, primarily to see the Hundertwasser House and museum, but also to just check out the general area, which we hadn't set foot in before. We didn't go inside the museum, but seeing the exterior of that, and the even more impressive apartment building a few blocks away, was worth the trek.

Hundertwasser had a bit of a hippie-ish and unorthodox approach to architecture, and these buildings display an endearingly erratic and whimsical quality, featuring asymmetrical shapes, random patchworks of bold colors, lines that are anything but straight, and windows of all different shapes and sizes. There's something slightly Gaudi-esque about its unpredictable curves and brilliant colors. Hundertwasser also loved to integrate nature into his designs, hence the trees sprouting from rooftop gardens, and small alcoves in the facades from which vines of ivy dangle elegantly. Even the cobbled square in front of the building is an ankle-spraining obstacle course of deliberately random humps and divots; a natural take on an urban concept.

After that, we sauntered back through the old town,

and made our way to the quaint Spitelberg area, where we found a cheap, tasty lunch menu at one of the myriad restaurants there. Next we took a detour through two record stores in the area, Moses and Sing Sing, both of which have quite a lot of vinyl, and overall decent selections (I sure miss Amoeba, though), but nothing I had to buy right then and there.

In keeping with our goal to visit a different museum with every trip to Vienna, we thought we'd check out the Albertina gallery. Part of the incomprehensibly sprawling Habsburg palace complex, the Albertina focuses on art from Impression through to about mid-20th century modern. They've currently got a sizable Impressionist exhibition, featuring some wonderful Monets (including one from his waterlily series, as well as some deeply atmospheric renderings of the Thames river in London), as well as some gorgeous paintings by Degas from his "women stepping out of the bath and drying themselves" series (did this guy have a fetish for this, or what?). We also got to see some nice Toulouse-Lautrecs and Manets, among dozens of others from the Impressionist crowd.

There was another exhibit called Monet to Picasso, which literally takes you from Impressionism through Cubism and beyond. It's laid out to show the links betweens the movements, and how one gradually evolved into the other. It was particularly telling to see how closely the flowers in some of Chagall's works on display mirrored those in much earlier works by Monet. But the exhibition featured a pretty vast assortment of modern works from artists I love, such as Bracques, El Lissitsky, Kandinsky, Modigliani, and dozens of others. Definitely worth the 11 euro entry fee.

We took what has become an obligatory stroll through the Naschmarkt, since Bratislava really doesn't have anything that can compare to it. It's always nice to peruse the colorful stands of fresh produce, and take in the exotic smells of Indian and Thai spices that permeate the air. I bought some medjool dates (really crazy and bizarre that I have to travel one hour into a different country to find these - but when you're addicted to them like I am...).

So, a nice and exhausting day! Hopefully we'll make it to Brno soon enough.

(Click here to see photos of recent trips to Vienna).

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