Monthly Archives: December 2014

Vienna — Random Notes

  • On the way to Vienna, I had a layover in the Brussels airport, beginning ~7 AM.  Since I had three hours to kill, I wandered around the terminal, past the dining areas where people were enjoying their morning beer with breakfast.   I was back in Europe!
  • A lot of the signs in Vienna’s public places were in German, English, and…Russian.   This surprised me, until I remembered that Austria, a Western democracy, had been officially neutral during the Cold War.  (You won’t find much Russian signage in countries like Hungary and the Czech Republic and Poland, which were actually occupied by the late, unlamented USSR.)
  • Dogs are allowed almost anywhere, including restaurants,
  • The standard young male haircut is full on the top and v short on the sides, sort of like Cristiano Ronaldo’s current cut, but (usually) w/o the highlights.  It’s not a new look—I’ve seen variations of this in the US since at least last summer—but In Vienna, it was ubiquitous.

Cristiano Ronaldo, with This Week’s Haircut.

  • Austrians are neat.  I saw people accidentally drop waste paper, then stop and pick it up.  At the Christmas Markets, the outdoor tables all had ashtrays, so the cigarette butts wouldn’t be discarded on the ground.  Recycling bins are everywhere, and are used.
  • A shameful confession:  I can’t tell Baroque from Rococo.
  • The Vienna train and tram system is easy to navigate and magnificently efficient, much more so than Washington’s public transit.
  • The German word for butterfly is “Schmetterling.”   Butterfly sounds better.

Schmetterling Haus

  • Many German-speaking visitors flagrantly violated the “No Photography” warnings at various sites.  I was painfully law-abiding, which explains why so many of the Vienna pictures on this blog come from the web, instead of from my camera.  Warning to Millennials:  This is what happens to radicals and anarchists and liberationists when they get older.  Yep, even you.
  • Vienna in late November and early December is wet, cold, and…magnificent.
  • Biggest regret:  During the entire time I was Austria, I didn’t see a single kangaroo.

Famous Hats of Vienna

I sometimes get a souvenir cap from the cities I visit.  At first, I wasn’t sure which of these would be best:


It retrospect, it should have been obvious:   The clear winner is the only one with built-in earmuffs.


Kunsthistorisches Museum III — Bruegel

The paintings of Peter Paul Rubens that I love the most are massive and “operatic,”  depicting tremendous events from history and mythology.   My favourite paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder capture the small details of everyday life.

About 45 paintings have been authenticated as Bruegel’s work.  Kunsthistorisches Museum possesses a third of them, giving it the largest Bruegel collection in the world.  I spent close to an hour in the Bruegel gallery, finding something new in each picture every time I looked at it.

Here are some of the paintings in the museum’s collection:

x  Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_Children’s_Games_-_Google_Art_Project

Children’s Games

My long-time favourite.  This is the first Bruegel painting that hooked me.   I used it as my computer wallpaper for months.

x1280px-Pieter_Bruegel the_Elder_-_Hunters _in_the_Snow_(Winter) _Google_Art_Project

Hunters in the Snow

x  Carnaval  Carême_Pieter_Brueghel_l'Ancien

The Fight Between Carnival and Lent

x Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Tower_of_Babel_(Vienna)_-_Google_Art_Project

The Tower of Babel

xxxx 1280px-Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_Peasant_Wedding_-_Google_Art_Project

Peasant Wedding

Kunsthistorisches Museum II — Rubens

“Stendhal syndrome…is a psychosomatic disorder that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to an experience of great personal significance, particularly viewing art.”

I experienced this once.  It was in the Louvre, in a huge gallery filled w/the works of  Peter Paul Rubens.  I was…transported.

I knew before I went to Vienna that two of my favourite  artists were well-represented at the Kunsthistorisches Museum.   Rubens  was one of them.

the-four-continents s

The Four Continents

xx  Rubens  - St Ignatius-the-miracle-of-saint-ignatius-loyola

The Miracles of Saint Ignatius Loyola

Peter Paul Rubens Philemon and Baucis

Philemon and Baucis

Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_The_Feast_of_Venus_-_ s

The Feast of Venus


Miracles of Saint Francis Xavier

Kunsthistorisches Museum I

My plan was to spend my last full day in Vienna at Kunsthistorisches Museum — the Art History Museum.  I knew from the start that a day would not be enough.

A year would not be enough.

That meant I had to prioritize ruthlessly, limiting myself to the Picture Gallery, which offers European art, and skipping the antiquities collections during this visit.   My first stop was the museum’s temporary Velázquez exhibition.

There was another, much smaller temporary exhibition that I’d been looking forward to:  “Arcimboldo:  Rediscovered” included two of Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s “composite heads,” privately owned and shown to the public for the first time in their history.

The paintings turned out to be lesser works, but I’ve always been fascinated by Arcimboldo.   The National Gallery in Washington had a wonderful Arcimboldo show a few years ago that I probably visited a half dozen times.

K arch

Then it was on to a slow walk through the dozens of rooms that make up the Picture Gallery.  It was overwhelming.  Kunsthistorisches Museum has a magnificent collection.

Albrecht_Dürer_003 x

Albrecht Dürer’s “Adoration of the Trinity”


Leonhard Beck’s “Saint George”

Charles Dickens’ Internet Search History

The Toast, a relatively new art/literature/culture/humour site, is one of the freshest, funniest sites I’ve found this year.  Now, it’s about to make literary history.

The Toast has just published a stunning piece of investigative journalism by British writer Dale Shaw.  Shaw, after years of research, has been managed to unearth Charles Dickens’ Internet Search History.

Here’s a sample of what he found:


You can read the entire search history here.