Thursday, February 4, 2010

Computer problems

I have great hopes that the computer problems I have been struggling with for the past several months are almost behind me, and I can soon start blogging regularly again.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dressing up over a century ago

An exhibit of fashions from late 19th century Vienna just opened at the Wien Museum on Karlsplatz. Besides the ball gowns, and fancy walking clothes you'e expect, there are also displays of underwear, hats, fans, sporting clothes, children's clothes and a few working class items. Some of the exhibited pieces are really beautiful, but I won't put descriptions of the embroidery and lace here (see here). More interesting to non-stitchers are the explanations of how the corsets disrupted internal organs, and how shocking the first divided skirts and trousers for women were.

The exhibit is called 'Grosser Auftritt', and will be on display until November 1. There is an area on the first floor (upstairs) devoted to it, and extra items scattered about the 2nd floor. The general labels are mostly in both German and English, but the specifics for each piece are only German.

While you are there, have a look in some of the regular galleries. The Wien Museum houses interesting items from Vienna's history. They also have several other smaller locations, such as many musicians' homes, the clock museum, ... for short visits concentrating on a special interest. The Neidhart frescoes are a real treasure that too few people know about.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Donauinsel/ Neue Donau

Biking on the Donauinsel yesterday, it seemed impossible that it had been an empty artificial sand bar just 20 years ago. Built as part of Vienna's flood protection, it is now both a great place for human recreation, and a wildlife paradise. Some areas have older trees where they could use the old wetlands, but most places have been carefully forested with a mixture of the trees and bushes that are native to the area. It works - the woods do not look planted. Right now the acacias, roses, and elderbushes are all in bloom. The birds are singing their hearts out.

Whether you take public transportation (U1 and U6 both give good access, as well as several streetcar lines) or drive, the Donauinsel is the place to go for long (mostly level) walks, in-line skating, or biking. Bikes and other methods of transportation can be rented just off the Floridsdorf bridge (use the exit at the Donauinsel) or the Prater bridge (Exit Lobau, and it's just off to the right).

The island itself and the paths along the right bank of the Danube are interconnected by a series of pedestrian/bicycle bridges. You are never far from the next snack bar, and there are toilets set up fairly frequently. In some areas grilling is allowed, and on fine weekends these areas are full of international grill specialties, and a mixture of languages. There is a waterski lift that pulls the skiers and waterboarders around in a long oval. Lots of fun to watch. Or try out the adventure climbing area in Kaisermuhlen. There are playgrounds for the children, some with skateboard areas. You can even get wet if you like. I really did see some poeple very gingerly test the water yesterday. Near the Floridsdorfer bridge there are often skilled kite fliers.

Some parts of the Insel and right bank have been set aside as nudist beaches (FKK) , so if this would upset you, check the maps before you go.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


A friend was in the area, and we took him to Rust for dinner last night. How lovely it was sitting out in Rathausplatz listening to the clacking sounds of the storks! We really enjoyed the contrast to the busy atmosphere later in the season. If this weather keeps up make a point of a quiet day on Neusiedlersee now.

It looks like a very good season for storks, so take your cameras!

Arik Brauer at Dom Museum

The current exhibit at the Dom Museum is of the Biblically inspired works of Arik Brauer. If you aren't aquainted with the „Wiener Schule des Phantastischen Realismus", I can only recommend that you get to know their work, and Brauer is a good place to start. I find them fun to look at, and there is always more to get out of them. You could just look at pictures on the web, or in books, but that would be a shame. The real paintings are so much more!

Most of the pictures are readily recognizable by anyone with basic Biblical knowledge My friend and I checked the catalog for a few works that we hadn't recognized, and the quotes for those were all from the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon). There are only German titles, but if you bear that in mind, and that 'Job' is written 'Hiob' in German, you should be fine.

No question - the most impressive work in the show is 'Moses and the Burning Bush'. The fire glows so intensely that you begin to think that there is a light behind it. Luckily the picture is so positioned that you can see it through the doorways from a distance while walking back out of the exhibit.

While many of the pictures seem to just depict the Biblical scene, others speak to our times. 'Worship of the Golden Image' shows how we idolize technology (and the almighty CAR in particular). There is also a moving crucifixion scene: Hakenkreuzigung. 'Hakenkreuz' means swastika, and 'Kreuzigung' crucifixion.

I particularly enjoyed seeing how Brauer has used some of the Bruegel works in the KHM as basis for his interpretations. I wonder if you will see the ones I did. Brauer's works are in no sense copies of Breugel, but the very basis of their styles is related, and he obviously knows Bruegel well enough that he can incorporate elements of Bruegel's painting into his own without losing his own individuality.

Don't miss Brauer's personal collection of posters of his exhibits in the room at the top of the stairwell. There is a Seder depiction there that I covet.

I've got to go back. I have got to see it all again.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Spring in the Danube Wetlands

We went to the Schloss (Orth) Insel today for the first time this season. Next Sunday, April 19 is their Spring festival. The new thing there this year is a colony of ground squirrels. (German: Ziesel; Latin:Spermophilus) Their new home has been prepared with deep walls, and the animals are to be moved in next week. They should be interesting to watch this summer. (Visit the Schloss Insel on the web, too.)

On the way home we stopped in Mansdorf and bought asparagus. Closer to Vienna it doesn't seem to be ready, but they had both the white and the green out there.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Apricot blossoms in the Wachau

It's Spring! After the long winter, the sun is back and the flowers are coming out! Having heard that the apricot blossoms were out in the Wachau, Jerry and I decided to drive out to see them.

The Wachau is the section of the Danube between Melk and Krems. Unlike most of the Danube in Austria, the river actually flows freely here, passing between hills covered with vineyards and apricot trees, castles and churches. The most famous castle is the ruin of Duernstein where Richard the Lion-hearted was kept prisoner.

We prefer to visit the town of Spitz a bit further from Vienna. This is the church tower of Spitz with vineyards behind and apricot blossoms in front. We stopped there to take pictures and eat in one of the excellent restaurants. I bought some apricot kernel oil for salads.

The Wachau wines are well known, and if you want to get to know them better, May 1-2 is a good time to do it. During The Wachauer Weinfrühling over 100 Wachau vintners present their wines.

Of course, the classic way to see the Wachau is from the river. The Danube passenger ships start up again on Saturday, and the stretch Krems-Melk is spectacular. If you prefer to spend less time on the water, just take one of the many ferries across. This is the one at Spitz.

If you go to the Wachau on the 18th or 19th of April, be sure to stop at the ruin Aggstein for the medieval festival.

Jerry and I prefer the somewhat lighter wines of the Kamptal, and we were running out of some of our favourites, so we headed to Langenlois after lunch. At Ursinhaus we picked up some wines, and some apricot vinegar to go with the oil. Then we crossed the Danube to buy two rose plants in one of the nurseries around Tulln. A lovely day!