Thursday, May 21, 2015

Vienna Day 3: Belvedere, Karlskirche, Furniture, and More

My third day in Vienna was a grey and sometimes rainy one but what a better excuse to spend a lot of time in some of the Austrian capital's most glorious museums?!
First off was the Belvedere, a palace complex consisting of the Upper and Lower Belvedere plus an orangery and the stables. The palace complex was built for Prince Eugen of Savoy as a summer residence. (Above is the Upper Belvedere.)
I might not be *that* noticeable on the pictures due to the overall grey-ness but Belvedere is gorgeous! Both palaces are now owned by the Austrian state and house art museums. Now, I can tell you that I'm not the most avid art museum visitor as I often find myself overwhelmed by the sheer number of artwork but I really enjoyed these. The Upper Belvedere gives a great selection of art from many different times. On the ground floor you have Medieval Art as well as Expressionism and the Interwar Period; on the first floor there is one entitled "Vienna 1900" which centres around paintings by Gustav Klimt and the other one is entitled "Baroque and early 19th century". On the second floor there is "Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Biedermeier" and "Realism and Impressionism".
Though maybe even greater than the artworks was the architecture. Sadly many of the rooms have changed their appearance since the times of Prince Eugen but the Marble Hall above hasn't. Stunning, non?!
The Marble Hall also offers great views over the Baroque garden of Belvedere as well as the whole of Vienna.
And then, after about three hours, it was time to wave goodbye to the Upper Belvedere...
...and say 'hi' to the Lower Belvedere located on the opposite side of the garden. At the Lower Belvedere as well as the orangery, there was another more exhibition entitled "Europe in Vienna" centring around the Congress of Vienna 200 years ago.
Not really part of the exhibition itself but quite impressive, the Golden Room. (And yes, that picture is crappy but I only ever take pictures with my phone while I'm in a museum as I like to concentrate on what is actually shown instead of my camera.) I also visited the palace stables which featured a medieval treasury.
Then I wandered around, saw the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas (above), the Salesianerinnenkirche, the Polish church, a mosque, the Anglican church, loads of embassies and more.
I also ran into (not literally) a rather monumental memorial giving "Eternal Hail to the heroes of the Red Army who fell in battle against the German fascist invaders for the freedom and Independence of the peoples of Europe."
Just behind it is the Palais Schwarzenberg, whose forecourt has been turned into a parking space.
After a little more wandering, I arrived at the Karlskirche, widely considered to be the most outstanding Baroque church in Vienna. And it even had a little major curiosity...
...an elavator! That's right, an elevator in a church. There are currently renovation works going on and to make them a bit more interesting for all the visitors, you are able to go to the very top of the church on the scaffolds. The first about 40 metres with an elevator and then another 20 by foot.
It's a super interesting experience to get up close what you usually only see from afar. It's amazing how many details there are on the wall paintings that you usually only see from about 60 metres below.
It was both the first time I rode an elevator in a church and the first time I got so close to any ceiling paintings. If you happen to have the chance, do the same: It's super amazing!
It was a bit creepy at times as it was rather shaky inbetween. Additionally, you had to walk the last about 20 metres up the stairs and there was a sign saying that no more than 10 people were allowed at a time. However, you had no chance whatsoever to see how many people were already making their way up there...
...though as my friend expressed it, "If this whole thing comes crashing down, we won't have any problems whatsoever anymore." And at least we would have died in a church. As I can still write and publish this post, you will know that nothing crashed (yet).
Next up was the Hofmobiliendepot or Imperial Furniture Collection. It contains about everything the Habsburgs ever owned...
...from commodes, mirrors and dresses...
...to imperial thrones.
Though in the end it's probably just the world's fanciest furniture storage. But still, extremely enjoyable! (FYI, the whole imperial furniture collection came into the ownership of the Austrian state after the end of the monarchy. Some of it is still in use at the official residences of the president et al but the rest? They simply put it in storage and later decided to show some of it to the public.)
Nearby is also one of Vienna's not so pretty sights: A flak tower built by the Nazis during the 1940's to defend the city against Allied air raids. Today adorned by the anti-war-slogan "Smashed to pieces (in the still of the night)".
Also closeby is the Church of Mariahilf, another of Vienna's Baroque churches (which also gave its name to the whole district, Mariahilf).
Not too far away is the Spittelberg neighbourhoo with its small pedestrian-only lanes and lots of nice restaurants. (Well, I went to only one but the others at least looked nice.)
And to round off the day and continuing our recurring theme of noble homes in the past few days: The Palais Trautson...
...and the Palais Auersperg - a hotel now, I believe.
A little more to round of the day: The parliament of the Federal Republic of Austria...
...and then there was this happening: Exactly, it's Eurovision Song Contest time, the whole of Vienna has gone Conchita - she even gives life advice during underground rides - and there is a public festival in front of the town hall.

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