Monday, August 18, 2008

Wien, Day Two

Having totally exhausted myself during yesterday's Museum Madness, I decided to take today much slower.  That plan has turned out extraordinarily well so far.

I started the day at the Saint Stephen's Cathedral, another stylistically Gothic cathedral.  The roof in particular was quite fantastic.  It is tiled in yellow, green, red, and black, very geometric, mainly linear horizontal patterns.  It felt quite German/Austrian to me.

Large swaths of the exterior were undergoing a restoration campaign.  Stupid conservators/restorers, always partially covering things with tarps, making them clean and happy!

Cathedral interior.  Today's Cathedral Candle went to the only possible shrine; Mary and Baby Jesus.

I enjoy the juxtaposition of these two buildings.

I sat outside at a small cafe near the Cathedral for some time, reading from The Lives of the Caesars.  I ordered a caffe amaretto, and to my immense surprise I received an espresso and a shot of amaretto.  I guess Starbucks et al have really messed up my view of coffees: I was expecting some sort of milky sugary frothy confection and what I got was exactly opposite of that.  I poured the amaretto into the espresso.  Perhaps this was correct, perhaps not.  All I know is that I was drinking neither of them individually.

Busy center of the city.  Apparently the gilt-topped sculpture is called the Pestsaule.

Vienna is home to some great music.  The downside is that men and women dressed as Beethoven wander the streets, accosting passers-by and promoting nightly concerts.  They each carry a large booklet with the evening's program as well as a map to show you where it will be held.  The faux-Beethovens, I assume, are part of the performing ensemble, as they use first-person plural pronouns.  But, I suppose when it comes down to it, I'd rather be accosted by a man in a powdered wig, white britches, and a damask tailcoat promoting Mozart than any other type of person.

(A portion of) the Hofburg Palace.

Inner courtyard.

Entrance to several small museums, the Kaiserappartements, Sisi Museum, and Silberkammer.

I really wanted to see the Kaiserappartements, the Imperial living apartments, but doing so required passing through both the Sisi Museum and the Silberkammer.  The Silberkammer is the term for the Imperial Silver Collection.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy decorative arts, but I've seen my temporary fill of ceramics and silver at Winterthur.  (I also tend to prefer our 'simpler' American styles than their extremely ornate European counteparts; this holds trun especially for furniture).

Turns out that Sisi is the nickname of Elisabeth of Bavaria, a 19th century Empress of Austria-Hungary.  The interweb informs me that Sisi has become quite the cult figure, which explains why the Sisi Museum was somewhat kitschy and absolute jam-packed with visitors.  

Sisi herself was totally miserable as the Empress, hating the royal court and not being at all fond of her husband Franz Joseph.  She spent most of her time traveling around Europe and the Mediterranean, writing dramatic melancholy poetry, wearing black gowns, and being anorexic.  She was dramatically assassinated in 1898 in Geneva, Switzerland, by a crazy man who literally woke up one day and decided to kill the first royal person he passed - she was stabbed in the heart with a sharpened file.

Heading up towards the Imperial apartments.  Finally!

Leaving the Hofburg, the posters outside the Austrian National Library advertising the Papyrusmuseum caught my eye.  (Photos not by me, clearly).

One of Reading Rooms, where (sadly) I did not go.

I quite enjoyed the Papyrusmuseum.  It was very quiet (somewhat obviously).  They had a number of papyrus scrolls ranging from Egyptian to Greek to early Christian and a good amount of early parchment documents as well.

Papyrus is made from internal stems of the papyrus plant, a marsh-loving plant.  The papyrus stalks are peeled and the insides split into long flat pieces.  Two layers of these internal slices are laid perpendicular to each other and then they are pounded together to mesh their fibers and create a sheet of something which can be written upon.  Papyrus is 'woody'.  It often falls under the jurisdiction of paper conservators, though within the realm of paper conservation there tend to be specialists who work with papyrus and parchment, as neither of those materials are, in fact, paper and they have requirements and treatment protocols very different than paper objects.

Papyri often have to be unrolled, a delicate and nerve-racking process.  I've seen a video of a conservator from the British Library unrolling a papyrus and it was stressful having to sit and watch it, even knowing beforehand that the treatment was successful.

On to Paris tonight, via another night train.  Maybe internet in Paris, maybe not.  We shall see.


Ynn said...

Frank and I are our lunch of wursts at the sidewalk cafe by the Pestsaule, known to our guide as the "Plague Monument". And loved the roof of St. Stephens. Original destroyed by fire during WWII, but painstakingly rebuilt by the people of Vienna exactly as before. Our guide referred to SiSi
as the "Princess Diana" of her time. Also explained the the Mozart costumed musicians are actually music students from all over Europe who play and perform these Mozart concerts as a way to earn money for the next year's school tuition back in where-ever-they came from. Work in their field and good experience as well. He said that most of these offerings are actually pretty good.

Mum said...

That's the way your Dad likes his coffee amaretto best. If he has any specialty coffee he like the real liquor to flavor it.