Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Final Countdown

We have two weeks left in Vienna now; three in Austria. At this point in the trip, we start thinking about tying up loose ends, and buying a year's supply of Luise Handlmeier mustard. Rob and I have both panicked, thinking about packing up all of our stuff into suitcases. We're tired of wearing the same clothes. We're sunburned and footsore and we have scratches, bruises and mosquito bites. But there are still things we haven't seen, and some we have never seen before, despite three summers here. So we made a list and we had fourteen items on it: one a day. We're checking them off, especially trying to get things done without the kids (since the kids couldn't care less about these).
[click to enlarge] The Leopold museum was at the top of our list. This is my favorite museum in all of Vienna (and not just because I'm a Shumway and it's air-conditioned, though that didn't hurt!). It came from the personal collection of an optometrist and his wife who began collecting in the 1950's. It was Dr. Leopold's mission to make Viennese artists better known. Rob and I are just amazed at the breadth of the collection and the amazing eye he (they?) had. One of the pictures above is my absolute favorite painting in Vienna. There is a bag of Haribo in it for the first person who can figure out which one it is. In fact, Rob got a photography permit as a professor so he could take a picture of this for me because they don't have postcards and posters of everything for sale in the gift shop they way they do in the US. This is the interior of the MAK, the museum for applied art in a gorgeous neo-renaissance building. They keep all of the Wiener Werkstatte things here, as well as some furniture, glass, a Frankfurt kitchen, the study for Klimt's dining room mosaic in Brussels, textiles and rugs and other installations. There is a room with handmade lace, some of it hundreds of years old. One piece told the story of Adam and Eve, being placed in the Garden of Eden, being tempted and eating the fruit, and then an angel guarding the tree and the couple being thrown out. I think Zina should try a reproduction of it!
I am still a Kolomon Moser fan; he just had the eye for great design. The museum was, however, too hot for anything but reptiles and cacti. Rob and I could only last two hours and there was lots more to see. Several items on our list are foods. Here we are outside the Hotel Sacher before eating Sachertorte there to celebrate Curtis' birthday. I'd never been before. The setting was lovely and the sachertorte was divine; you should eat the real thing to understand why chocolate and apricot are a perfect marriage.
We also needed some Eierschwammerl (chanterelles) since they are in season and all over the place here (and where can I find them at home? I don't know). Tuesday we found a little restaurant featuring them on the menu. Rob had chanterelle gulasch and I had roasted chanterelles on a green salad. Really fantastic. We agreed that the Austrians are right, putting hot items on a green salad, and we should do it more at home.
Finally, we both needed to eat some more Mohr im Hemd. We'd had it at a pizza place and it was great, but then we also ate it at the Glacisbeisl and the Griechenbeisl. Today we had it at the Gulaschmuseum which does not pull any punches with its desserts. We split a salad for lunch and the server thought that wouldn't be enough for us, but we assured him that we were there for the dessert and we weren't sharing that! We were right. Their mohr im hemd could have been a soup course with all of the chocolate sauce it came in. A moist chocolate cake, two piles of schlagobers and all in a beautiful warm chocolate sauce sprinkled with nuts: heaven on a plate.
We've also been visiting some composers. We started with Schubert, since his birth house is in our neighborhood. He was born in one of the best apartments in the building, and all I can say is: teeny. Then when he was four his father found a better house down around the corner. After the birth house we walked down there and it has been turned into a garage (see the bottom left corner in the collage). It reminded me of a movie where John Cusack goes back for his high school reunion and finds out that his childhood home has been turned into a Unimart (like a 7-11). He calls Alan Arkin, his therapist, and says "Dr. Oatman, so it's true you can never go home. But I guess you can shop there."
The Schubert garage says it's "fast and safe".
I don't know where I got this, but I was under the misapprehension that Schubert was a poor, woebegone boy who had died young and starving and had written all those beautiful melodies because of unrequited love. Um, wrong. He was a nearsighted frat boy. He had lots of friends who were "Schubertiners" and they would put on plays or hold salons called "Schubertiads" and the man Schubert was also fast, but not safe, and died of syphilis at 31. Nevertheless his impromptus are the best therapy ever when you're trying a difficult recipe in the kitchen.

This is the Pasqualati house where Beethoven wrote the 5th symphony, parts of Fidelio, Fur Elise and other pieces. He managed to stay here several years and unlike Schubert's birth house, the apartment seems large and light and nice. Unfortunately there is not much to see. The best part of it, his portrait, is on loan to Haydn's house and we'd already seen it in Eisenstadt. He has other houses out in the 19th district which might be more interesting, but I'd skip this one from now on. It does, however, have something interesting in the staircase below:
This is supposedly the smallest door in Vienna. Because of the staircase, this is as tall as the door could be. Rob tells me that there is a normal-sized apartment behind this door, but I can't imagine the typical ten-foot ceilings. Can you?

This is the Freyung Passage, by the Palais Ferstel and it is one of the most beautiful walkways in Europe, I think.
And finally, we've done some churches. This is Maria am Gestade (Maria on the banks), which is the church of the fishermen. I still can't figure out how this works, but earlier (like 13th century) this church was on the banks of the Danube. Now it's high and dry and nowhere near the water. At one point the emperor was going to tear it down, and the people of Vienna banded together and begged him not to, so he left it. It was also used as a stable and storehouse during the time of Napoleon.
We also went to the Schottenkirche (the Scottish church) which is beautiful and baroque.
We're marking off the items, working through the list. So we have fewer regrets when we go home, and so we know what we want to see when we come back again. It is amazing just how much there is to do here. We will still have only made a dent after 9 1/2 months here, total.


Zina said...

Unless I'm gifted with a few extra lifetimes, I think my lacemaking is going to be confined to hand-tatted edgings I can do on long drives. I'm glad there are still a few women out there keeping the art of lacemaking alive--and I suspect most of them don't have five children. I'd love to see the lace there, though. Dean has a conference in Vienna in October and I've been musing over whether if I came along I'd be able to see much while he's in meetings, with a baby in a stroller and my not speaking any German. (And with a general proclivity, these days, to stay inside with a book rather than venture into the wild.) Hmmm.

mary ann said...

Yes! You should definitely do it! Even if you only saw one thing a day (Schatzkammer, Kunsthauswien, Schonbrunn for example)and went out with Dean in the evening, it would be a very memorable trip. Vienna is a great place for walking around, too. If you just have Hazel and a stroller, you'll be set. And in case of bad weather, there are museums enough to keep a roof over your head for eight hours a day. Not to mention the cafes . . .