Vienna

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How I hate the category “Miscellaneous”! It’s that dark space under the rug of the disorganized mind where unruly items can be swept, made invisible, and thenceforth ignored.

But here I am, stuck with a miscellany of pictures that have nothing in common (besides for being in Vienna) and that I like too well to discard.

So please. Bear with me.

The angel in the woods

The angel in the woods

This golden angel seems a good place to start. She is not actually *in* the woods. But she certainly appears to be from this viewpoint. The sight struck me with a particular poignancy thanks to my friend L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright, whose latest book features a statue of an angel in the woods.

And while we’re on the subject of statues…

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All day long they’re singing, mmm, my work is so hard

Give me water, I'm thirsty... My work is so hard

Give me water, I’m thirsty… My work is so hard

Watching from the top of the dome

Watching from the top of the dome

We came upon what seemed like an unusually dreary neighborhood (well, maybe the dreary part was due to the weather) without much architectural interest. And yet, and yet…

An elegant overpass with its light pole

An elegant overpass with its light pole

Watch your step!

Watch your step!

This rapidly became our favorite bakery.

We walked blocks out of our way to visit this bakery a second time...

We walked blocks out of our way to visit this bakery a second time…

...and a third.

…and a third.

This looks like a good place to shop!

This looks like a good place to shop!

It doesn't look like anything ought to be able to grow in a corner this dark, but...

It doesn’t look like anything ought to be able to grow in a corner this dark, but…

Vienna is full of interesting upper-story pedestrian overpasses.

This one's on the third floor (second floor above the ground floor0

This one’s on the third floor (second floor above the ground floor)

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It has a wonderful Art Nouveau astrological…er, clock?

Finally, I really don’t know what to make of this, except that as a reader and writer of fantasy I like it a great deal!

The corner looks unfinished, except that it's much too deliberate.

The corner looks unfinished, except that it’s much too deliberate.

Let's see... a farsighted red cow reading strange runes while being shooed by a magical broom? Did I get that right?

Let’s see… a farsighted red cow reading strange runes while being shooed by a magical broom? Did I get that right?

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Why did I ever think there was just one list of “The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries”? I suppose any magazine, newspaper, or blogger might make one. There are the “most beautiful public libraries,” “the most exquisite libraries,” “the most spectacular libraries,” and many more. And are these lists all the same? Of course not!

So all I can say about the State Hall of the Austrian National Library is that whether or not it’s on any or all of those lists, it’s certainly on mine. (In this it joins the library at the Strahov Monastery in Prague, which I have described previously.) And I hope that in this post I can show you why.

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Two whole stories of antique books, marble columns, gorgeously painted high ceilings, plenty of natural light, and a nifty statue in the middle…What’s not to like?

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As I mentioned in the previous post, Dan and I had come to Wienzeile in order to see a couple of noteworthy Art Nouveau style houses on Linke Wienzeile. And they were lovely–if a bit difficult to photograph in their entirety due to the pesky market buildings at our back.  😉 (Anyone who read the previous post will know at once that we loved the market on Wienzeile.)

The two Art Nouveau houses by architect Otto Wagner at numbers 38 and 40 Linke Wienzeile are indeed beautiful. And just as lovely is the way they meet each other as well as the next building–with a great deal of mutual respect, a value in architecture that has been much neglected by many buildings in modern times.

Starting at number 38, we see…

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From the corner, it’s almost “just another gilded building.” You’d hardly notice the Art Nouveau elements. But moving along, the style becomes more evident.

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This building is joined to the one at number 40 by balconies and by a nearly continuous wrought-iron railing.

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I love the pattern of tiles on the facade of the building at number 38! And just look at the railings and the decorations on the insides of the balconies!

Now, you might be thinking that it’s no great wonder that these two buildings, different as they are in many obvious particulars, are joined together so harmoniously. They are, after all, by the same architect.

But look at how respectfully the house at number 38 uses its ornamented balconies ans wrought-iron railings to join with the Baroque building next door.

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From the Belvedere, we headed over to Linke Wienzeile, where our guidebook said we might find a couple of remarkable Art Nouveau houses.

Wienzeile itself looked like an interesting street on our map. It was shown as two (Linke, or Left, Wienzeile and Rechte, or Right, Wienzeile) roads that run closely parallel to each other, divided firmly block after long block by what might have been–what? A railroad track? A park?

Curiosity is said to have killed the cat. I don’t know about that, but it can certainly exhaust the tourist. We had to go see what it was.

And that is how after another mile an a half of walking, we emerged onto Rechte Wienzeile exactly at Roni’s Wine, Cheese, and Delicatessen shop. Just what we needed!

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After a pause for sampling wine and cheese, we headed down the middle area between Linke and Rechte Wienzeile and found… block after block after block of the most beautiful outdoor market!

I just love markets. I love the visual beauty of the merchandise. Herewith, some pictures that need no explanation.

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We visited Vienna’s Belvedere palace complex because we were on a mission–we’d promised my mother we’d go see Gustav Klimt‘s famous painting “The Kiss” while we were in Vienna.

And so we did.

Despite the threats posed by a day of dramatically changeable weather, we decided to walk from our hotel (the elegant Hotel Bristol, where we had a great view of the Opera Place from our room), a distance of over a mile. One the way we passed the photogenic St. Charles Church with its minarets reminiscent of Austria’s former enemy, the Turks.

St. Charles Church

We also passed the Russian war memorial, which expresses gratitude to the Russian army for liberating Austria from the Nazis. I found its large scale, grandiose, symmetrical formality so typical of totalitarian state design practices at odds with its poignancy, making the whole monument strangely moving. Perhaps the weather enhanced this effect.

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The Belvedere is a beautiful arrangement of two buildings and their gardens, sloping down a gentle hill facing north. The Upper Belvedere is the grander of the two buildings.

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Inside is a museum that contains a wonderful collection of Klimt paintings as well as works by many other artists. It was quite interesting seeing “The Kiss” in the context of Klimt’s historical progression as an artist–poised in a small number of years between his realism and his impressionism. I must add here that despite having seen (probably) hundreds of reproductions of “The Kiss” over the years, the original quite took my breath away. I always imagined “The Kiss” as a vertical work and not very large. In fact, it is a square painting almost six feet on a side. In other words, the figures in “The Kiss” are almost life size.

Beyond are the utterly gorgeous formal gardens sloping down toward the Lower Belvedere.

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There are enticing views of the side gardens from within the Lower Belvedere.

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I wanted to title this post by the name that appears over the doorway of the arcade, a narrow and delightful shopping passageway right through one of Vienna’s old-city buildings.

sm IMG_1855 until revocation of permitted passage

That would be the “Something-Complicated-in-German Passage.” I’m not very good at German, so I looked it up on Google Translate and discovered that this is the “Until Revoked Permitted Passage.”

Lovely! It’s a private way, and their lawyers don’t want to take the chance that through accepted use it might become a public passage. I need a sign like this for the private right-of-way across our property on Block Island! Except, of course, in English.

Thankfully, passage was not revoked on the day we were there, and so we were able to admire the elegant space and its wonderful detailing.

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We stopped inside one of the shops (Xocolat, a chocolate store) and it was pretty nice too…

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…and passed by a charming indoor-outdoor cafe.

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Finally, we arrived at the courtyard where we would laterr learn that Cafe Central also sometimes set up tables.

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Having ended the section on Prague with a lovely, historic cafe, I think it’s only appropriate to begin the section on Vienna with one. Continuity, and all that. So…

Welcome to the Cafe Central!

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This appears to be a place favored by its regular habitues. This gentleman, for example, probably hasn’t left his seat for months.

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In fact, Dan and I were seated at a table normally occupied by a regular. We had to assure the maitre d’ that we would be leaving well before 1pm (easy, since it was only 10am at the time).

The coffee was excellent–a quality we’d come to expect in this region–and the pastries were exquisite.

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And–what we loved as much as anything–the physical space was magnificent.

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It turned out that they also serve lunch in an intimate and charming courtyard that was part of the same building–at the very end of an arcade we’d walked the day before.

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More about this arcade in the next post…

 

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smIMG_1819They’re playing La Traviata tonight, and it’s a tearjerker. We’re smiling because it’s only intermission, and Violetta hasn’t started dying yet. She will, though, and it will take half an hour. Not bad for someone dying of consumption while singing at the top of her lungs. Seriously…the performances were ALL fantastic, really outstanding, especially the performer who played Violetta. It was a grand, an unforgettable experience.

 

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We interrupt this blog’s leisurely stroll down the streets of Prague to bring you a special–and timely–post about Tian Restaurant in Vienna, where we have just finished what might be our absolutely best dinner in the last quarter century. Or more. As they say on their Web site, and on the blackboard next to the kitchen, “Experience Taste.”

smIMG_1682The truth is, you have to experience taste because your eyes will not tell you what you are eating. All your eyes will tell you is that it is beautiful. And that–and yes, the experience of taste–are more than enough.

Oh. I should mention. This magnificent restaurant is entirely vegetarian.

We each ordered a three-course dinner, and there were so many amuse-bouches between courses that we honestly lost track of them all. And forgot to photograph many. But here’s what I have. The first amuse-bouche (which contains carrot, pickled pumpkin, and an unknown but delicious drink), followed by something else I can’t identify (but trust me, it was really good), and then the first appetizer course.

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smIMG_1657Tea of tomato with raspberry. This came with a blini and, er, something.

smIMG_1655The other appetizer…

smIMG_1658…was yellow (and green) beans with goat cheese and chantarelles. I didn’t order dessert but instead had a second appetizer…

smIMG_1661…zucchini blossom stuffed with, er, something, with various little vegetables and cepes mushrooms and a parsley <something> sauce that was out of this world. There followed one of many amuse-bouches of unknown but incredibly delicious substances beautifully presented.

smIMG_1662Our neighbors at the next table, meanwhile, were eating other unknown substances amusingly presented, which they swore were delicious.

smIMG_1666Next came what might have been the first part of the main course. Or possibly more amuses-bouches.

smIMG_1670The red radish-looking things were made from radishes but were soft, not crunchy. The green seemed to be part peas.

smIMG_1667This looked like corn, but was more like corn pudding. Now here are the main courses of the main courses.

smIMG_1671Artichokes and young corn with cabernet sauvignon jus. (Never have I seen a single piece of popcorn so enticingly presented!)

smIMG_1672Tetris of young kohlrabi with jasmine blossom.

And finally, that course you’ve all been waiting for: dessert:

smIMG_1674Coeur de Guanaja chacolate with strawberry and yoghurt.

Oh, this meal makes me dizzy just thinking about it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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