Sunday, August 24, 2014

Museum Day - Understanding more of Austria, the Vienna State Opera and Jazz Up Late!

With another warm inviting day before us and some more detailed knowledge of this city under our belt we thought some culture was called for so off to the museum quarter!!

The main, older city is well defined by the Ringstrasse - an hexagonal wide boulevarde that was built towards the end of the 19th Century (as indeed was most of what we can see as lots has been destroyed over the years by conflicts) - and the Museum Quarter is on one arm of this, quite close to everything else. The scale of these buildings is incredible as many of them were once Hapsburg palaces and they are simply overwhelming. There are a couple of new structures connected to the old palace stables (which are huge in themselves) and we were headed for one of these the Leopold Museum which is essentially one man's collection of art (bequeathed to the city) from the beginning of 1900 through to the sixties. His focus was on the early part of the 20th Century and the influential "Secession" movement (we had been fortunate to stumble across some of this in 2011 at the NGV when they held "Vienna: Art and Design" in 2011 ... we had really liked it, never thinking we would see more of the same here in its place of origin!). The large number of works by Schiele, Klimt and the exquisite household items from the Wiener Werkstatte, and insight into Otto Wagner and others were truly worth the visit. As with other countries, Austria is reflecting on the anniversary of the beginning of WW1, and there were several exhibits, both contemporary and historical, reflecting on this from an artistic perspective. We were humbled to realise that there was so much more to WW1 than our antipodean focus on the Western Front - the suffering over this way was was also horrific in scale and degree. Combined with the the resulting destruction of the cities, the breakup of their empire, the Depression of the 1930's and the rise of Fascism made for one hell of a difficult period in which to live. It was certainly quite wonderful to be able to spend some time comprehending some of this.

The museum, of course, took longer than we anticipated and we needed watering and feeding to sustain us and had a brief respite in the courtyard area watching small battery-operated boats in a fountain and the Viennese enjoying a sunny day - it is truly a lovely city! Rain was looming so were paid lip service to some of the other daunting buildings as we headed home for a shower before the evening's entertainment. You would have to live here for quite a while to even come close to all these places!

It rained very heavily, and for several hours, but thankfully were were safely home showering and resting and the rain had eased to a drizzle by the time we headed out to the "Staatsoper" (the State Opera Theatre) for a "Tourist Concert". The State Opera is closed for the summer and the Vienna Phil is in Salzburg for the festival so there isn't much on at the moment. We succumbed to the incessant invitations by the period dressed "Mozart lookalikes" who hawk these concerts at every venue. We were actually quite happy to go because it gave us a look inside the famous building and Gillian assured us that "the music won't be bad!". Mick is pretty sure that every tune is on the CD "Classics for Dad" set that he received for Father's Day some years ago but that didn't lessen the enthusiasm of the audience. It was very enjoyable with a soprano, an excellent tenor and a 30 strong choir who gave us the Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" (don't quite know where that fitted into the Mozart and Strauss concert but who cares - it's a good tune!!!)

After the show we enjoyed coffee and torte at "Cafe Sacher" - one of "the" places to be seen (we must tell Sue and Ross 
that we have found somewhere to have coffee after the STC shows!) - it was delightful! A last stroll along the near deserted tourist strip (the rain had scattered them); a final sigh at the beauty of the floodlit cathedral and a diversion to "Jazzland" 
- "a Viennese institution" ... Lonely Planet - for some after-midnight swinging in a cavern that may well have been a bomb shelter in one of the wars. Home late but well satisfied and pleasantly weary!! Vale Vienna!!

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