After last night’s excess we still managed to get ourselves up and out at a reasonable time, for another day of museums and galleries. We headed to the Hofburg once again, this time to visit the Schatzkammer (treasury), and the Sisi museum and state apartments. After that we would head back to the Leopoldmuseum for another attempt.
At the Hofburg we first visited the treasury with its large collection of “secular and ecclesiastical” riches. As expected, in Viennese fashion, this comprised lots and lots and the best of the best, with a stunning collection of baubles, swords, sceptres, crowns, coronation mantles, and so on. Our audio-guide was comprehensive and informative, in other words, it took us a long time to make our way round! I did find the secular side more interesting, but the ecclesiastical one still managed to wow too, with a large number of elaborate reliquaries with bits of thorns, wood (cross), bone, nails. The very catholic Habsburgs seemed to have acquired the whole lot.
We emerged from the dimly lit treasury into the bright sunshine of the day and went to the café on the Michaelerplatz. Not receiving any service, we moved on to the nearby Starbucks, as we were getting rather fed up with the Austrian gruffness and hoping for a friendly “Hi!” from the Starbucks baristas, even if it was a little rehearsed. I told Ness they were friendly because that’s what I wanted to believe, but even here they were rather gruff, except for the Asian barista who did conjure up a smile.
Then we were ready to continue our sightseeing. Now it was the Hofburg proper that we went into, with three related but distinct collections. First we toured (with audio-guide) the “silver” collection, a group of rooms with the Habsburg silver, gold and porcelain table services. All in the grandest imperial fashion of course, another jaw-dropper, with room after room with the most elaborate, the most refined, the most elegant, the most over-the-top, but somehow still “tasteful” rather than “tacky”.
My tolerance levels for baubles had soon been reached but Ness took a little longer to complete the tour. On the next floor up was a museum devoted to the life of Empress Elizabeth, aka. Sisi, a figure of tragic and romantic fantasy. A real fairy tale princess who could not, at first, fit in with courtly life and expectations, who travelled extensively to escape, and who wrote poetry with the same goal, and who was murdered by an anarchist. After her death she went on to become a figure for the films. Anyway, her reputation and story became the stuff of movies. Romy Schneider was just one of the actresses who impersonated her story. The museum and narration were well done, with a narration of her life’s story on our audio-guide as we moved through a series of rooms with panels and things from her life.
This then led us into the third part of our visit to the Hofburg: the royal state apartments. These were a series of grand rooms, including Franz Joseph II’s private apartments. Though in exceptionally grand surroundings, he seemed to prefer the simple life, insofar as that was possible in this environment, and took his role as monarch not just as a licence to live splendidly and be a patron to the arts, but more as a hard-working administrator. Further along we also visited Sisi’s apartments. Hers were separate from her husband’s, and these were far more personal, rather than “working” rooms, with her liking for flowers and obsession with maintaining her figure. She had a private “gym”, which was unheard of, and there were other novelties such as a modern bathroom. All in all, yet another superb museum (and I’m not really doing the collections any justice).
The day had moved on quite swiftly and it was already well into the afternoon again by now. Time to head back to the Leopoldsmuseum. We stopped at a café in the Volksgarten, the “English style” park in the Heldenplatz, which felt a bit like Regent’s park, semi-formally laid out. A temple in the Roman style stood in the park. We walked on to the Leopoldsmuseum, where we first fortified our inner souls with focaccia sandwiches which we ate on the square. All the red blocks were unfortunately occupied so we sat on a bench along the side, people-watching. Artsy and young people made for far more interesting observation that the usual tourists, the latter all with their equipment, the camera “pose” adopted with hands held aloft with a little silver box, whereas the young Viennese seemed to be far more “insecure” (?) They were still trying to find a pose, still a little “undefined” and were trying to figure out what they were all about. Not exactly deep philosophical stuff, but it made for far more amusing viewing at any rate, as well as more aesthetic. Not necessarily beautiful or sexy, although there were many beautiful young women too, but simply less “uniform” compared to the groomed and well-dressed middle-aged and well-heeled gruff Austrians.
We headed into “the Leopold”, a very modern, bright, square open space, with square, cream-coloured large rooms, some normal size, others huge, like the atrium-sized room on the lower ground. The works of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt featured most prominently with two permanent exhibitions, and a variety of other artists made up the rest, such as Moser (?) After all the Viennese grandeur it was refreshing to have open space with little to entertain the eye, but even so we did come away thinking not very much of the collections. Schiele’s and Klimt’s art was certainly very interesting but the Leopold’s collections just seemed to scratch the surface and I suspect there are better collections elsewhere. On the lower ground was an exhibition on the female figure, covering the depiction of women in a wide variety of styles and themes.
After the art we went back to the same open-air wine bar on the square but limited our consumption to a glass (or two?) before heading to the Naschmarkt for dinner. We had gone here on our first visit to Vienna and this is, “arguably”, the best venue for good nosh in informal surroundings. The smell of fried fish prompted us to book a table for 15 minutes ahead at a popular place, and we head a drink at a different one while waiting, and then had our fish dinner. This didn’t live up to expectations but the surroundings were convivial and pleasant and the mood was just right. On the way back we had an ice cream and a disgusting Amaretto coffee for me, at Zanoni & Zanoni, and then a final quick drink at the cosy little bar, and then headed for bed, pooped. We still got the feeling there is so much more to see and do in Vienna (e.g. Schönbrunn, the parks, the Danube, etc.) but we already have a “proper” city break in mind, with a visit to a “proper” concert or opera, for a later date. Now it was time to move on to our final world trip country, back to “the east”, to “Czechia”, aka. “29”!