05 August 2019

Vienna, revisited

Our trip is a circuit, starting and finishing in Vienna. We book into the same apartments, so coming back feels a bit like coming home. Because we now know the shortest route, we walk from the station with our luggage, and walk there again on the day we leave, stopping at the local Cafe Goldegg on the way each time, for an iced coffee when we arrive, and a last breakfast when we are leaving. We enjoy being back in an apartment with a proper kitchen, so we can make our own breakfast, and even cook and eat in on our first night.

Compared with our first week in Vienna, our last week is quite leisurely, with one activity each day rather than cramming in several, and no evening outings. We visit the Leopold Museum, which we missed first time round, and revisit the Secession and the Albertina. The Secession is disappointing. We haven't realised that the only permanent exhibition is the Beethoven frieze by Klimt. It is the only part open when we go in our first week, but when we return there are three exhibitions in progress, all of which leave us very underwhelmed. One is a strange installation of wire sculptures which includes a film of whale watching, which makes me realise how much I’m missing the sea. Seven weeks in landlocked countries. We have another look at the Klimt frieze to get something for our money before we leave.

In contrast the Albertina is well worth our second visit. We see a special exhibition of paintings by Nitsch. It’s a big improvement on the Secession exhibitions but still a bit self indulgent. We also look at a Sean Scully exhibition which we like better. We are hoping to see the Durer drawings which we know are there somewhere, but it turns out that they are in the State Rooms, and these are closed for a wedding. We find out that they are supposed to be opening at 4:30, so we go for a walk, have a hot chocolate instead of our usual icecream because it's raining, then return. There's still time to kill so we decide to have another look at the Batliner collection exhibition which we saw in June. We're pleased we did so because it has been considerably expanded. When we've revisited the old and enjoyed the newly exhibited works we head down to the Prunksaal, but it's still full of wedding. 10 minutes, the man on the door tells us, but it's more like 20 before they wheel the last load of bottles and glasses out and we can go in. They are probably the nicest of the many Prunksaals we've been in, a bit more restrained and tasteful (later period). And the collection of drawings is wonderful even though the ones on display are only facsimiles.

We have one day where we go in different directions. Peter returns to the Technical Museum, while I go for a final walk around the Innere Stadt, trying one more time to get a grip on the geography. For me, Vienna is like the Looking-glass garden, you keep finding yourself at the Ring when you're trying to get to the centre, and at the centre when you're trying to go somewhere else. I spend some time on a church crawl, and luck into an organ concert in one of the churches, but that's our only musical experience for the week.

A highlight of our last week is a trip by U-bahn to Gasometer. Four identical, huge and ornate brick circular structures were left in 1985 when Vienna stopped using town gas. The gasometer innards were all removed, leaving just the outer structures. In 2001, the four buildings were converted into a complex of residential areas, shops, a college and a concert hall, with links to newer buildings. We survey it from outside and in, all fascinating.

We make two out-of-town excursions. We use our last railpass journey to travel by train to Melk, where we go to the Abbey, a very over-the-top baroque building. The tourist information centre says that you need three hours for Abbey and gardens, but we’ve seen a lot of palaces, churches and gardens by now, and manage to see everything there is to see in a couple of hours. From Melk we catch a ferry down the Danube to Krems. We are amongst the first to board and get a pick of the seats on the top deck, in the open but under an awning. Eventually we share our 4-seat table with a couple from Munich who are even older than us, and we manage a conversation in a mixture of German and English. It's a beautiful boat trip with cliffs, castles perched on crags, and miles of terraced vineyards. It gets a bit warm, but there are cool drinks available from a bar, waitress service. I do like the fruit-flavoured soda drinks – not too sweet here. From Krems we catch a local train back to Vienna, arriving at the Franzjosephbahnhof, which is conveniently on our D tram route, so it's easy to get back to our side of town.

We spend our last day in Vienna making a day trip to the mountains which overlook the city. Once again, the D tram takes us to Nussdorf, the jumping off point for the 38A bus which goes up the mountain. The 38A climbs up through posh houses to Grinzing, then through vineyards and woods to Cobenzl, where there is a big carpark and a view. We go on to Kahlenberg, another carpark, souvenir stalls, restaurant and a view. You can certainly see that Vienna is BIG, but the haze and the distance make it hard to pick out landmarks, except for the obvious like the Danube. After a disappointing lunch in an over-priced restaurant, we find our way to the wanderweg that goes to Leopoldsberg. This is a pleasant wooded walk across a saddle between the two hills. Along the way is a public park full of climbing things attached to trees, various ways of getting up, then airwalks and flying foxes between trees. Participants rent the appropriate gear to clip on to things. Each climb has a notice specifying degree of difficulty, length of time and height. The park is full of kids and young parents having a great time. We watch climbers for a while before going on to Leopoldsberg. Here it's cool and quiet, and the view seems better, perhaps it's a bit closer and there seems to be less haze. You can also see upriver towards Krems. After enjoying the view for a while we return on the bus, this time seated with a much better look at the interesting views than we had on the way up.

We have our last meal in Vienna at the local Greek restaurant called Art Corner, as they’ve always been so friendly and the food is good. Because it is our last night we have a beer to start and then red wine. When we tell the owner that it is our last night, he insists on giving us an ouzo each. While we are sipping, we hear someone singing Happy Birthday, with violin accompaniment. It is the waiter’s birthday, wife and family are there with cake. When we wish him a happy birthday we are invited to join in a glass of champagne, really mixing our drinks. But it’s fun to have a bit of celebration on our last night, and it's only a two minute stagger to the apartment. Packing is deferred until morning.

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