The Vienna Waltz

The Schonbrunn Fountain
The Schonbrunn Fountain

Well, with us, it is not so much of a waltz as a slow amble, but whatever we’ve been on our feet a lot over the last two days. However that’s been the norm for much of our holiday so we are very much used to it.

Having avoided cathedrals and palaces for a couple of days yesterday we managed one of each and we walked through the grounds of a second palace. Schonbrunn palace was the summer home of the Habsburg family and Emperor Frans Joseph’s palace before WW1. The fact that the household numbered fifteen hundred suggests that it might be quite large and it certainly is. It’s construction was intended to match the magnificence of Versailles, and there are similarities, but although it may not be quite quite as grand it is really awesome with very extensive grounds, lovely formal gardens and the house has around 1400 rooms. We bought the cheapest tour tickets which allowed us access to twenty five of those rooms focussing on the state rooms used by Franz Joseph and his wife Elizabeth known as Sisi. Sisi has almost mythical status in Austria, she was apparently a beauty and, sadly was assassinated while still comparatively young. The most impressive room we visited was the grand gallery a long hall with large windows on one side and matching mirrors on the other, decorated in white with bulk gilding.

My sketch from near the Gloriette
My sketch from near the Gloriette

After our tour we walked, and rested in the gardens, climbing the hill to the Gloriette, a building with several arches which face the palace from the top of the hill about a kilometre away. There are grand fountains, the largest of which has a waterfall about fifty metres long with horses and riders rising from the water.

Later we visited Stephens Dom cathedral in the centre of the city which rates with the most beautiful we’ve seen, took a tram ride around the towns inner ring (road), walked through the grounds of the Hofburg palace and managed a sketch near the home of the Spanish Riding School.

Over the course of our holiday we seem to have been pursued by a couple of artists. I posted a photo of Tracey Emin’s infamous bed from the Tate Britain and we had run into some of her drawings somewhere else. In Cesky Krumlov I’d read that famous Austrian artist Egon Schiele had lived there briefly before being kicked out by townsfolk outraged that he’d been paying young girls to pose as nude models for him. Today they came together during our visit to the Leopoldo Museum. Schiele, a very talented artist, was obsessed with the erotic and must have been very controversial in the early twentieth century. Nonetheless his drawings are extraordinarily evocative and his larger paintings very powerful. Tracey Emin was very much inspired by Schiele and much of her recent work on show is even more sexually explicit. I wonder whether the motive of both artists was/is to shock.

Our visit to the Leopoldo Museum was primarily to see some of Gustav Klimpt’s work and I enjoyed his early work and the two or three of his works in the style for which he is best known, but the quantity and possibly quality of Schiele’s work on show overpowered it.

Paulette on the Giant Ferris Wheel
Paulette on the Giant Ferris Wheel

After a walk to the Rathaus (gothic town hall) we decided to catch a train to see the famous giant Ferris wheel which was built in the 1890’s and when we got there we found a vast modern funfair. The giant wheel was a forerunner of the London Eye and although perhaps only half the diameter still offered great views over the city. Paulette surprised me, and herself, by coming with me on the wheel and although she did not look down seemed to enjoy the ride. We had a great time strolling around the funfair which had everything from sideshows to dodgem cars. We were most fascinated by the extreme rides such as the chair o plane which rose up a 100 metre tower as it span.

One thought on “The Vienna Waltz

  1. Gosh Paulette, your photo takes me back a fair few years – like 1970!

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