In my efforts to play catch up with this blogging lark, I ask you gentle reader to step back in time with me, back by over three months to the 26th of May, when life didn’t include commuting or paperwork or deadlines. Ah, those were the days…
I had left Prague after a whirlwind visit, still aglow from my encounter with the treasures of Mucha and his contemporaries. Art Nouveau held me in rapture and I was clamouring for Klimt. For those not of an artistic persuasion, this is an Austrian painter and not something you’d find on Urban Dictionary describing a hard-to-find part of the female anatomy.
I’ve been a huge fan of Gustav Klimt ever since I first clapped eyes on “The Kiss”. The painting hangs in the Belvedere Gallery in Vienna and is something Austria is rather proud of. It’s also something I had high on my list of art to see, so I booked a ticket to this magnificent city during my tour of Europe earlier this year
I’d imagined Vienna to be a regal city of grand proportions. The sort of place where operas were written and opulent balls were held. I wanted to find more art nouveau (there was a bonkers building designed by Klimt and his cronies called The Secession amongst the plethora of Jugenstil architecture in this city) and perhaps see some of the old haunts of one of my favourite composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I also had in mind Viennese biscuits and coffee, because my brain seems perpetually wired up to seek out cake and hot beverages.
As ever, the trip was made memorable and marvellous by the presence of a couchsurfer host. In the case of Vienna, my kind and considerate guide was a Buddhist named Karl who was keen to show me the sights of his home city. I instantly identified his apartment at the address he gave me from the riot of luxuriant foliage spilling from his windows on one of the uppermost floors. His profile described him as someone who’d typically have a small rainforest in his flat, keen on gardening and yoga and arty things. His apartment was so wonderfully quirky and creative, decorated with objects he had sculpted from upcycled materials.
We instantly clicked and had lots of stories to tell each other, as well as a shared sense of humour; after exploring the famous landmarks of Vienna by day, we spent the evenings cracking up over The Graham Norton Show and old sketches from British comedies.
My initial tour of Vienna was through the museum quarter and into the area around the royal palace; we passed the museum of natural history, wandered into the gardens of Heldenplatz and through the buildings of Hofburg Palace before strolling through the winding streets of the city centre. The architecture of Vienna is truly grand and something I will remember fondly for a long time.
My second day in the city was spent visiting Schönbrunn Palace walking through its ridiculously vast gardens. The topiary, fountains and flowerbeds were a welcome visual break from the urban landscapes I had been touring through that month. Exploring cities is a fun pastime but my heart is where the green things grow, even if it’s manicured lawns and geometric gardens.
After the obligatory coffee and cheesecake in the tearooms of Café Gloriette we meandered down through the forested parkland to the nearest metro and boarded a train bound for the food stalls of the Naschmarkt. Apparently the market has 16th century origins and still boasts a huge selection of colourful and fragrant food. It was a feast for the senses!
After strolling among the stalls, we saw more of the Art Nouveau decoration I had been seeking in Vienna, as well as the famous Secession building where Klimt’s famous frieze can be viewed in the basement. If you visit Vienna, don’t miss this amazing combination of architecture, interior design and spiritual vision. The restored building is wonderfully unique.
On our meanderings around this city, we also paid a visit to the national postal savings bank, or “österreichische postsparkasse”; Don’t be fooled by its mundane-sounding name. The interior and exterior of this building is another marvel in this grand city and definitely worth a visit if you love Jugenstil.
Vienna was one of my favourite places in Europe, with its magnificent architecture and beautiful art, grand boulevards and lush green parks, food from a rich mix of cultures and indulgent café culture, there really was something lavish and luxurious about the whole place. It is definitely a city I would return to, not least because I made a new friend in Karl there. His hospitality and generosity were much appreciated, as was his marvellous historical and gastronomical knowledge.
I feel like this post has taken a turn for the somewhat serious, but I guess this is an adjective that certainly suits this Austrian city. It is a very sober and somewhat taciturn place, perfect for contemplation and inward searching. I’m sure there is a vibrant nightlife there, with bars full of raucous Austrians glugging beer, but my visit was memorable for being a peaceful, calm and soulful experience.