August 6, 2018

Waltzing Through Vienna

by Rosemary

There are some things that simply must be done in Vienna. One is to visit the cafe at Hotel Sacher, where the famous dessert, Sachertorte, was created in 1832.

Black limousines are always lined up outside the hotel.

It's great with whipped cream.

The other thing we absolutely had to do was get dressed up and go to the opera.

Outside the opera house, Vienna has its own "walk of fame," dedicated to famous composers, conductors, musicians and opera singers.

Music and the people who make it are honored all over town. This gilded statue of Johann Strauss II (placed here in 1921) is one of the most photographed sights in the city park.

Literature is also remembered, with statues of many great writers throughout the city.

Like other German-occupied cities during World War II, Vienna was subjected to heavy bombing. Twenty percent of the houses were either completely destroyed or left uninhabitable, and thousands of people were homeless. Today, juxtaposed with the plain, hastily-constructed postwar housing, there are still many beautiful older buildings that survived.

There are modern buildings, too. The Haas House, a 1990 glass and concrete shopping structure designed by Hans Hollein, stands across the plaza from St. Stephen's cathedral, a Gothic church from the early 15th century.

St. Stephen's was undergoing a much-needed cleaning while we were there.

One of the church's many whimsical gargoyles.

Another church undergoing restoration was St. Charles Church (Karlskirche, dedicated in 1713). We were happily surprised to find that the construction elevator was available to tourists, for a rare opportunity to get a close look at the ceiling frescoes.

Outside, the church has two Roman-style columns wrapped with scenes from the life of the church's namesake, Charles Borromeo.

Inside, scaffolding supports the elevator that rises into the elliptical dome.

From the ground, this looks like a sculpture, but it is actually a painting.

From the top of the scaffold, it is possible to see details that are not clearly visible from the floor.

Near the Albertina Museum is a small plaza called the Monument Against War and Fascism, which recalls the years 1938-1945, when Austria was under Nazi rule. One of several sculptures here is "The Gates of Violence". Two large marble blocks are carved with images of war and horror. In front of the gate is a block of stone salvaged from the Mauthausen concentration camp, carved in the image of a Jew forced to scrub political slogans from the street. The monument was designed by Alfred Hrdlicka and dedicated in 1988.

The barbed wire seems to symbolize the figure's bondage, but it was actually added a few years after installation, to keep idiots from sitting on the statue.

The monument stands in contrast to the traditional sculptures and fountains that decorate the museum's exterior.

The Albertina Museum, once a royal residence, houses a collection of art from the Middle Ages through the 20th century.

Albrecht Dürer's "Hare" (1502) inspired some large, brightly colored figures that decorate the nearby streets.

"The Great Circus" by Marc Chagall (1970)

"Woman in a Green Hat" by Pablo Picasso (1947)

"Slender Bust on Plinth" (1954) by Alberto Giacometti

Another former royal residence is the Schönbrunn Palace, where the Habsburgs used to spend their summers. The main house has over 300 rooms. It is surrounded by over 460 acres of gardens, which contain fountains, sculptures, a maze, an orangerie, and the world's oldest operating zoo.

The "Roman Ruins" fountain.

The Habsburgs did everything big. In the center of town, near the huge imperial palace complex where the royals lived most of the year, is this huge monument to Empress Maria Theresa, surrounded by her generals and and the cultural leaders of the time.

We spent many hours walking around the city, viewing buildings, monuments, and scenery of all kinds. Vienna's traffic signals reminded us: Cross the street holding hands with the one you love.

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