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Vienna, Thursday 23rd June

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Nowhere to sit

Sylvia denies this, but I believe in German that you can make up a sport name by adding “laufen” onto the end of it. Schilaufen is skiing, FKKlaufen is doing stuff outside in the nude (I’ve seen the sign on a chairlift going into the mountains), Mannlaufen is riding your husband (more than one interpretation there) and so on.

So the verb to describe tubby fat guys dressed like an extra from an Olivia Newton-John film-clip, loaded to the gunwales with a bat-utility belt of miniature water bottles, headband, expensive running gear and electronic equipment taking their bellies for a bounce is “lardlaufen”. You see a bit of that here.

We weren’t pretending to jog today, we were walking and walking. (Rubbernecklaufen?) It was a particularly seredipitious approach. The only real objective was to get to Karlsplatz, a central station where Sylvia believes she saw a particular shop somewhere in the vicinity. And find that shop. Now if that isn’t the sort of challenge you can set for St Serendipitious, you haven’t been reading this blog.

There is a tram that runs around the circle of Vienna. Like Melbourne’s tourist tram, this circumnavigates the city on the Gurtel. The Gurtel is a wide thoroughfare built on the space previously taken up by the city walls.

Sisi memorial near Hofburg

Except, we got off halfway round…the top end has some lovely buildings, and we decided to get off and walk. Or meander, getting offtrack and wandering through the gardens around the Hofburg.

When I talked about Schonbrun being the royal home in Vienna, I should have said “summer home”. The Hofburg in the city is where they lived the rest of the time.

Nowadays it contains a few museums as well as fair bit of the government offices. But we have never seen the Sisi Museum, so in we went.

Sisi was the unhappy, wayward and clinically depressed wife of the last “proper” emperor, Franz Josef. A country girl, she hated the Viennese court and extracted herself from court life, travelling relentlessly. Franz Josef did his best but was a chap with not much imagination and a bit boring.

She was beautiful, obsessed with her looks, health and fitness, fancied herself as a poet. She was assassinated pointlessly before she had time to grow old and fade, and then got marked up into a marketing showpiece.

While all the tourism guff about Sisi glamourizes her, the museum was quite matter-of-fact about her odd behavior. It didn’t shirk from making it clear it was a lot to do with her own mental health rather than support the peculiar view she formed of her circumstances. It also documented how the legend grew. There have been a few maudlin life-story movies made, and people think they are the true story.

Included in the entry fee was a crockery tour. It is called the Silver Museum, but it is really rooms and rooms full of the royal household’s crockery, silver and gold plates. It’s a bit overwhelming, but you couldn’t complain they didn’t show you enough stuff.

I won’t go on about it. One example: There were a couple of hundred desert bowls, each one individually hand-painted. Very beautiful, each one unique. The quality of the art was the sort of thing you’d see as a 3 x 6 metre oil painting, but instead done in ceramics in the flat of a bowl.

Hercules interviews the welfare recipient

We also got a tour of the Hofburg palace. Sisi’s rooms, with her personal gym and a Vienna innovation, a bath. Franz Josef’s rooms and his legendary workdesk. He was a dunderhead workaholic, getting up at 3.30am and working all day, on paperwork, reading and signing everything. Good-hearted chap, but perhaps a ceo of an organization with 56 million members could have used his time more effectively.

So by the time we staggered out of that it was way past lunchtime.

Pig’s haunch, check. Schnitzel, check. No better place for goulasch than the Goulasch Museum.

Last time I was there I had a dish which consisted of horse-flesh goulash served with a fried egg. Not as nice as it sounds. This time I went for a Hungarian (ie extra paprika) pork goulash…served with a pickle, a pickled chili, and a type of gnocchi called nudeln. Sylvia had beef goulasch with spinach nudeln.

From there we wandered around again, revisiting a café called Hawelka. The feature of this place is that it hasn’t changed for the last 50 years, and the waiters are “characters”…that is, not always well behaved. Scruffy, dirty floorboards, shabby. But a Viennese essential. From there we wandered again, getting befuddled by the curving streets. On the way we discovered two separate churches that we had not previously visited. One is not even listed in the tourist guide….there are a lot of churches, after all, but even this neglected church was better than anything we have architecturally in Australia. Churchwise, of course.

Hundertwasser madness...or genius. One or the other.

Time to get serious, the afternoon was getting on. We got back on the Gurtel tourist tram, determined to make it to Karlsplatz. Except it wasn’t the tourist tram…it travelled off in a straight line rather than following the Gurtel curve. The penny was dropping that we had run off the rails when I also realized we were near Hundertwasser Haus.

If you ever do a tiling job at home and it isn’t very good, don’t apologise for the wonky angles of the tiles, the raised edges and broken bits. Just say you were attempting a homage to Hundertwasser.

Hunderstwasser is still claimed by Austria, although he did run away in the end and lived and died in New Zealand. He was perhaps mad, but combined his artistic style and personal beliefs into some stunning architecturally frenzied buildings. If you like Gaudi you would be interested in Hundertwasser. Last time I was here I saw his model for a village that integrated country living with city-volume populations. So beautiful I almost cried. It never got off the ground, sadly, but he did get some of the ideas out and about into finished buildings.

In Vienna, apart from the power station, there is an apartment block he designed, attracting hundreds of devotees, and nearby the museum of his art.

From there we walked a bit, jumped a few trains and finally found Karlsplatz. I know…it’s like saying you spent all day in Melbourne looking for, say, the city square.

Karlsplatz is actually named after the church Karlskirke, but the station joins at least three train lines via a massive underground train station.  So when I say we wandered around Karlsplatz looking for this (possibly non-existent) shop, we were covering a very big area.

We didn’t find it. By 6.00 it was getting oddly dark, then the long-predicted rain started. On the way home it hammered down, and we got drenched walking home from the bus station. Sylvia nearly stepped on a fist-sized frog hopping along the footpath.

It’s been hot for days, the change is a welcome relief. I’m sure the frogs agreed.

Written by wurstofvienna2011

June 23, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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