Sunday, February 24, 2013

Second Impressions of Vienna

So, I did get some time to wander around in Vienna and see that there is a pretty big difference between Vienna and Prague. This is of course revolutionary information I'm sure.
There isn't quite as much graffiti. There is not a complete lack of graffiti, just not as much. It seems that the graffiti artists try to take at least a little more time with it as well.

And then there is of course the temporary graffiti afforded by a prolonged snowfall. The snow started falling Saturday evening during my visit and it was still going strong when I left Sunday evening. It made the city quite pretty. It also made the city quite cold, as did the wind. Prague is not as windy and so it doesn't feel as cold as Vienna despite the two cities being pretty close in temperature.

Vienna is a whole lot bigger than Prague. It is a lot more spread out and I think just generally a larger city as far as population is concerned. I'll have to check Wikipedia to be sure. Even though it is a larger city the public transportation is pretty easy to figure out and use effectively. I never had any moments where I was completely lost and had no clue how to get to where I wanted to go.

Another part of being bigger is that the monuments seem to be a lot bigger. Giant statues of people on horses and such dot the area around the city center. Like this statue of some guy outside the National Library.

Over on the right side of the photo is the Vienna City Hall. It's a pretty impressive building and the one behind the coolest skating rink I've ever seen that I talked about in my last post. Then there is this giant statue of another guy on a horse in front of the Albertina art museum.

While the statue of the guy on the horse is pretty impressive I was much more taken with the metal and glass domes behind it. I would love to have a flat with such an impressive architectural feature and you can even tell there is some sort of room about the lighted area of the dome on the left, cool.

I must say, there is a more diverse mix of architectural styles in Vienna than is Prague. That is not to say that there is no diversity in Prague, there is just more of it in Vienna. For example this old U-Bahn entrance.

There is also this thing called the Hundertwasser House, which is a block of flats designed by an artist. I stopped by but I wasn't very happy with the photos I took so I just stuck that link back there. It was interesting to see for sure and maybe when I go back I will get a tour of it. From the reading it doesn't look like a place I would want to live in, but it was still interesting to see. Here's hoping I get better photos next time.

Another pretty cool architectural discovery I made I found while wandering around. I saw these imposing towers and they led me to a park. I'm not really sure if they count as architectural features, but I'm going to say they do. Limited expertise be damned.

These are Flacktum or flack towers. Definitely not something you're going to see in the states, as far as I know. Sure there are old gun emplacements from WWII, mostly on the west coast and they are generally hard to find or recognize because they have been destroyed. The closest thing I remember to these is the canon emplacement on Compo Beach I use to play on as a child. I imagine, judging from the graffiti, that there is substantially more broken glass around these Flacktum than the guns at Compo. 
These give quite a different feeling than a Civil War battlefield or even the canons at Compo. These give a much more impending feeling of recency. I could even imagine, as I wandered through the desolate snow-covered park, this massive expanse of land protected from citizens by Nazi sentries to keep these towers safe as deadly weapons for protection against an allied bomber strike. It was morbid and peaceful at the same time. But all you had to do was turn around to see that this was a beautiful park now enjoyed by many.

I doubt very much that in 1940 whatever that a woman would be allowed to stop and read her book while she walked her baby through this park. 

The other buildings you can't miss in Vienna are the churches. They are pretty much every where. That is not to say that there isn't a church on every corner in Prague, there is. For the most part though, in Prague, the churches match the surrounding architecture and don't really stick out quite so much. You'd be hard pressed to find something like St. Rupert's Church in Prague. 

I was just walking along in a fairly modern part of the city, near Swedenplatz, and BOOM there was the oldest church in the city. You can see it sticks out from the surrounding buildings and some of the other buildings are really quite close. 

I was walking around another corner and stumbled upon St. Mary on the Strand

The other difference is that there is a pretty conscious effort to restore the churches. Granted most of them have some sort of insane fire in their history and have been in a constant state of construction for something like 800 years, but what I noticed what that they were doing a lot of work to clean them now. I suppose 800 years of soot and dirt adds up. Actually, I don't suppose it. I know it after seeing the difference between the cleaned parts of the churches and the parts the workers have yet to get to.

As you can see, the Votive Church looks pretty good all cleaned up. They still have work to do and it looks like this particular phase of the operation is brought to you by Mazda. I personally think it's pretty smart to sell space on the protective covering as a bilboard. I mean shoot, you're looking at the advertisement now. 

Some churches are a bit newer and don't need a thorough cleaning just yet, like St. Charles' Church.

Still, it is nice to imagine an army of Viennese craftsmen packing what I like to think are specialized electric tooth brushes attacking a church coated with nearly 1000 years of schmutz and making it look like new. Like they are doing to St. Stephen's Cathedral in the center of the city. 

You can still see some of the dirt that needs cleaning. You can also see all the carriages  they seemed like a popular way to get around. I imagine if you've seen the film Amadeus too many times you could really be into riding in one of these. If that is your bag, there are usually a few dozen lined up at Stephensplatz to accommodate you.

This is the only church I went inside, kind of. So I can't tell you if they have restored the "new church" smell also. I didn't even really go inside St. Stephen's I climbed the bell tower to check out the view. I'm a sucker for a good climb up a bell tower. And St. Stephen's didn't disappoint. It was of course achieved by marching up an incredibly small circular staircase for something like 300 feet, like every other ancient bell tower. There must have been a lot of dizzy priests.

At least this one had an alcove were people could pass each other. There was even a bell chamber you could stop in before going all the way to the top. The bell chamber was very handy for allowing annoying, drunken German-speaking teenagers to get far ahead of you.

There were even quite a few windows where you could check your progress on the march up. This one displays two things I finding more and more common. If there is something you can put a padlock on to profess your undying love to someone people will most likely do that. And the other thing, if you can toss some coin someplace people will do that too. You can even see some Czech Koruna in this photo. I spotted at least one 2Kc piece, which is essentially worthless in a place where they use the Euro.

But the view was worth the hike. This photo allows you to see the varied building styles in Stephensplatz.

So there you have it, other than my description of the Fool's Tower. I can't wait to get back and see some more of the city. It really is quite large. I also hope it is a bit warmer next time. 

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