Day 7 – Travel
Finally had to leave Budapest—took the early afternoon train to Vienna which took 4+ hours, arrived at hotel, checked out the Naschmarkt, and had a pint of Vienna dark ale with a proper Wiener Schnitzel for dinner. (A Wiener Schnitzel being breaded veal cutlets—shout out to Jeanne Dielman—and not the American hot dog chain, of course.)
Day 8 – Vienna, Austria
I spent my first full day in Vienna doing three things: walking (a lot), going to museums (also, a lot), and drinking mulled wine (yes, a lot). I’m pretty sure I tried over 13 varieties/flavors of mulled wine—they’re great for keeping you warm and slightly drunk. Of the many museums, the standouts were mumok (Vienna’s MoMA) and the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Art History).
I might have to rethink spending hours and hours at museums when traveling though. Because while it’s great seeing art that I would never see anywhere else, opportunity costs feel higher when you’re in a new place for a finite time.
Day 9 – Vienna, Austria
This is the day that made my 2.5 day stop in Vienna worth it.
The Belvedere Palace itself is an astounding physical place. It consists of the Upper and Lower palaces with a massive garden you walk through to get from one to the other. But the collection of art within the palace museum walls… I don’t know what to say. Just seeing the names Claude Monet and Gustav Klimt next to each other made me lightheaded. More than any other single piece of art, however, the reason I came here was to see Klimt’s The Kiss (Lovers). Before seeing it in person (I’ve previously seen it in art history textbooks and on every freaking type of souvenir in every store in Vienna), I had to prepare myself.
I got the floor plans for the Upper and Lower Belvedere museums, and planned my route so I would end up in the room that housed The Kiss last. The anticipation was killing me. I probably rushed the other pieces but I didn’t care.
When I was done with the penultimate room, I took a deep breath and walked into the main Gustav Klimt gallery. It was like seeing the face of god.
I stood there, stunned, for over 20 minutes.
I wasn’t ready for the bigness of the canvas and how it enveloped my field of view. I wasn’t ready for the beauty of the textures and how the light reflected off the gilded layers of gold. You don’t see any of this in textbooks, online, or in other representations of it. You can’t.
René Magritte’s The Treachery of Images never felt more true than in this moment. This is the pipe. The rest, n’est pas.
(Cue: Gustav Klimt laughing at how cheesy I’m being about all of this and also thinking that this painting, too, is a representation of whatever beautiful idea or memory was in his head when he created The Kiss.)
After I came back down to Earth, I tried to sneak a photo of the painting. “Sneak” because no photography was allowed. I almost got caught, but managed to capture a moment this silhouetted girl was having with the two Lovers. (She’s totally third wheeling.)
Odds and Ends
- Vienna, overall, was pretty underwhelming as a city. I will admit (as mentioned above) that I probably spent too much time at museums. I also had a bad cold—though nine hours of sleeping in my hotel room with the heater blasting and 30 minutes of hot showering aside, I did manage to drag myself throughout the day with little sign of sickness. Maybe it was so cold outside that I didn’t notice.
- It was about 4 °C and I was still sick, but I had the most delicious ice cream (one scoop strawberry, one scoop hazelnut) in front of St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
- I almost sneezed on a Monet painting.
The Polaroid above was taken of the slate gray exterior of mumok in MuseumQuartier, as a part of my ongoing series.