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Vienna, Saturday 25th June

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Any old shop in Vienna

Oh dear, whatever we were going to do in Vienna, the chance has now passed. Last day. Tomorrow we leave around 9.00am for the airport.

I forgot to mention… the day I got the tv working, the very second news item was about Arnold Schwarzenegger visiting Austria. They love him. Saturation coverage on every channel and newspaper, with Arnold saying he loved Mozart, schnitzel, kaiserschmarm, (a pancake/omelette dish) and so on. And that he loved Austria so much, “I’ll be back”. The next day the big news story was Arnold riding a bike. The next day, a bit further in, was the news story that Arnold’s upcoming divorce would clean him out.

I suspect the Austrians would be disappointed if they realised he was probably just playing his lawyer’s game regarding his divorce.

Today we visited the Natural History Museum. Not really my cup of tea, I found, but Sylvia enjoyed it. She was excited that we found a fish-spotter’s book for Mediterranean species. The best thing we’ve seen so far was a minimalist guide, in Croatian. This is extensive and in German, so she can cope with that. Flicking through it over coffee, it has most of the critters we photographed.

Natural History Museum, Vienna

The Natural History Museum is an old-school one, lots of stuffed things posed in glass cases and jars. That’s under-rating it…because they started collecting so long ago they have quite a few specimens of extinct critters, and one of the most extensive collections in the world, so it is not to be sniffed at. (The building was completed in the 1880’s, but some of the collections were acquired 100+ years before that.)

Not much on Australia though. That I saw…we didn’t try and see everything, and skipped the large animals, but no Australian snakes, for example, or a Blue Ringed Octopus in the extensive octopus/cuttlefish display.

But a fantastic pre-history collection. I read the clunky “Cave of the Bear Clan”just recently, so the flints, clothes and tools were interesting to me.

The two stand-out exhibits were the Venus of Willendorf, and a family crypt.

Venus of Willendorf

The Venus is a tiny (11cm) figurine. When it was discovered it was then the earliest humanistic figurine. The dating varies from 25,000 BC to 20,000 BC. There’s now older figures since discovered, (some also at this museum) but the Venus has its own fan club from being the leader of the pack.

Nowadays it’s a bit controversial, as the fact it was even called “Venus” implies it is a model for a beauty standard. Lots of use of the word “patrimonial” in the discussion.

Like a piece of jewelry, it is displayed in a glass cabinet in a darkened room. Hypnotic.

Co-incidentally, Sylvia has a hat just like the one Venus is wearing.

The other knockout was an excavated grave of an entire family group of three adults and four children that had been buried together. No sign of injury, the theory was they had been poisoned and that some of them were still alive when buried by the positions of the skeletal remains. Intriguing, tragic….

They had a small presentation area set aside for scientists of the day to deliver their expositions. No Powerpoint then, but they were set up for slideshows, with a small stage and wooden pews. The windows were darkened, mostly black, with images of microscopic creatures etched. Interestingly, the Museum’s designers had borrowed from the church look-and-feel, and the windows were just like stained glass windows…only scientific.

Worship of science

As mentioned, the museum is the mirror twin of the old art gallery I visited yesterday. This one isn’t quite as lushly decorated, but there’s no cause for complaint. It’s still impressive.

The art gallery features in the foyer staircase and dome the 8 key sponsors who built the initial collection. Mostly Habsburgs, of course. The natural History Museum features in its foyer the 8 key scientists of the day. Oddly Darwin isn’t there. It occurred to me that he came AFTER the museum was built, but I checked and he published 30 years before. I guess it was still too early for the significance of his work to be understood.

We met up beforehand with Clara at Café Hawelka for coffee. Clara who is a Brazilian from Portugal, but lived in Spain prior to Austria was in my German classes three years ago and is still living in Vienna, now studying.

The last thing on the food list which we hadn’t done was a familiar item. Its near enough to what we call a souvlaki, the Turks in Austria call kebap. There’s a kebap stall on every second corner, alternating with the sausage stall. We had a kebap sitting on a park bench. The Austrian ones are nicer, but I can’t say why…the bread is softer, but that’s just part of it.

A last stroll through Vienna, and a beer or two and dinner at Café Pruckel. A very Viennese day.

Written by wurstofvienna2011

June 25, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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