Friday, 9 October 2009

Vienna or bust

I've been wanting to visit Vienna at least since my arrival in Germany last year —particularly after trying to learn the Viennese Waltz in my ballroom dancing class—but could never convince anyone to come along. Thanks largely to an invitation from Bernhard Pieber, I finally made the trip.
And I've been busy: as well as trying to take in Viennese culture and some of the sights, I also presented an introduction to Seaside at mobilkom austria and had the chance to meet some local Smalltalk and Seaside developers over dinner and beer. It seems to take the arrival of a foreigner to prompt the locals to get together (no surprise: the same is true in my home town!).
Vienna is much as I imagined: a real "European" city with beautiful old architecture everywhere you look. A visit to the Kunsthistorisches Museum would have been worth it just to see the building itself, but I was also struck by a couple of sculptures and by several paintings by Pieter Bruegel and Lucas I. van Valckenborch. It's interesting that I liked both artists since it turns out that van Valckenborch studied under Bruegel and Bruegel's Tower of Babel, which was displayed in the museum, was the model for van Valckenborch's version, which hangs in the Louvre.
First thing one morning, I walked to the Spanish Riding School to watch the exercises of the Lipizzaner Stallions. I thought Lipizzans were all grays but apparently that is simply the dominant and selected gene and it is tradition to keep at least one bay at the school at all times. The horses and their riders are impressively controlled and the Winter Riding School itself is astounding too: is there anywhere else in the world where you can ride a horse on a bed of sawdust, surrounded by two levels of marble balconies and lit by enormous chandeliers?

We saw a big band concert at a local jazz club and got standing-room tickets to a sold-out orchestral performance with Lang Lang (郎朗) on the piano and Zubin Mehta conducting. I would have gladly paid the extra for a seat if one was available, but these €6 standing tickets are a wonderful idea to make the symphony more accessible. The only disappointment was the sound in the concert hall, which seemed somewhat flat, probably due to our location under the balcony.

Schloss Schönbrunn (the former imperial palace) is also worth a visit. The expansive gardens are enjoyed in the mornings by walkers and runners and, despite the tourist hoards, the Gloriette perched on its hilltop behind the palace, creates a striking image. The palace museum was interesting too: among other things, I discovered that Marie Antoinette was Austrian (she, like most of her 10 sisters, were married to foreign royalty for political reasons).

Like I said, I've been busy.

3 comments:

Stephan Eggermont said...

Then I guess you'll have to go back for the ball season? The palace is a nice place for a party, though with a few thousand people around even the largests dance floors get crowded.

Julian Fitzell said...

Oh gosh, I'd love to. It sounds like you've been? I need a few more lessons before I'd dare hit a dance floor at a ball... beyond just figuring out the turn, I need to learn how to navigate around moving and stationary objects! :)

CyNoSure said...

Hi Julian,

Nice to read about your discoverings in Vienna. I see you visited schonbrunn as well. Have you also visited Prater yet? It's a large festival site with permanent attractions. http://www.wien.info/de/sightseeing/prater for more info.

Have fun and keep posting on Vienna, I have visited it only once, but it sounds like I need to go there again and sniff in more culture.

And don't worry about that Walz, once you've got the taste of the rythm and the footwork, the rest is a breeze :)