Tag Archives: history

Wien Museum (Vienna Museum)

10 Jan

I went to the Wien Museum (formerly Museum der Stadt Wien) at Karlsplatz this afternoon. For some reason, I feel the need to justify this on a Thursday. My justification is this: at about noon I finished the preparation for my big meeting tomorrow, the preparation that shortened my Christmas vacation by three to five days, depending on how you count it. Now I’m making up part of one of those missing vacation days.

The incentives were also strong. The Museum will be closing for extensive renovation and expansion on 3 February 2019, and an exhibition I’ve been wanting to see ends this Sunday already. (I can’t go tomorrow–big meeting–and I hate going on weekends because there are so many people).

In fact there were two exhibitions I really wanted to see so I was there for the better part of two hours, until they closed. One is called “Fluchtspuren” (or “What Remains: Traces of Refugees”). The other is called “Die Erkämpfte Republik” (or “The Hard-Won Republic”) and shows photos and newsreels from the first year of the First Republic of Austria (one hundred years ago).

“Traces of Refugees” is small. It displays 15 telling, everyday objects–shorts lovingly sewn by a mother for her son out of sailcloth and with buttons scrounged from a soldier or the keys that are all that remain of a house that was destroyed when a whole village was burned to the ground in the Balkan Wars. All the objects are connected to refugees to Austria, mainly to Vienna, and mainly at the end of the First World War as the Austro-Hungarian Empire was disintegrating, during the Second World War, and during the Balkan Wars (which I remember as I was already living here then).

This exhibition was in conjunction with a small but wonderful exhibition about Lisa Jalowetz Aronson, who was a costume and scenery designer (as well as being a Jewish refugee in the Second World War). Among other things, she worked with her husband on Broadway, where she landed after being born in Prague, raised in Cologne, and educated in Vienna. The exhibition included a video interview with her done, I think, by her grandchildren. Quite something! She struck me as the epitome of resilience, laughing easily as she recounted hair-raising stories like how angry she was at her parents that they wouldn’t let her finish her art studies in Vienna (in 1938). “They probably saved my life but I was still furious,” she tells us.

“The Hard-Won Republic” was an important and effective reminder that this city, which is now so beautiful and rich, was cold and starving at the end of the First World War. Trees were being cut down in the Vienna Woods (my Vienna Woods!) to make sure people had something to heat with, and the Viennese traveled out of the city to glean the fields once the farmers had harvested what they wanted. People were literally starving to death and, of course, were terribly vulnerable to disease, particularly tuberculosis.

Beyond that, things that stuck out for me were the fact that Kaiser Karl, Franz Josef’s successor and emperor for only two years, didn’t understand why people wanted him to abdicate(!). (Seeing a photo of him getting off a plane at the airfield in Aspern with his wife and children reminded me that this is all recent enough–and I have been here long enough–to have seen Zita Hapsburg’s funeral in Vienna. Something to tell my grandchildren, if I had any.)

Other things: Within days after the end of the war, there were three security forces in Vienna, each allied with a different political platform. Anti-Semitism was as strong and, in some ways as subtle, as ever. Women were getting the vote. People were taking to the streets–a different group practically every day it seemed. And in 1924 there was a massive anti-war protest (“Nie wieder Krieg!” or “Never again war!”) in front of the City Hall.

If I’d had time, I could have gone to the “Gemma, Gemma” exhibition (“Gemma” is Viennese for “Let’s go” or “Let’s get going”) about the coming renovations and expansion. As it is, I took a brief moment on my way out to watch a video about it. It looks very promising. (And this from someone who hates change.)

An afternoon very well spent, if you ask me.

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The Heart of Central Europe

23 Dec

Even though Austria’s empire is long gone (ended 100 years ago this year), there are still reminders that Vienna was the glittering multicultural, multilingual heart of that empire. A few days ago, I saw two men nipping across a wide and busy street, dodging between cars. One of the drivers stopped to let them go in front of him, and one of the pedestrians waved and said “Danke!” Then he saw the Bratislava license plates and added “Ďakujem!”

Ice skating in Vienna

1 Dec

This interested me very much. I used to live near the Engelmann ice-skating rink, which is on top of a building. Apparently, it opened in 1909 and was the first open-air rink. Cool! 😉

http://unnuetzeswissen.eu/wien/erste-freiluftkunsteisbahn

Kristallnacht, 80 years on

9 Nov

As I went out with Maylo for our last trip around the block, I saw this:

I knew it was the anniversary of Kristallnacht because it, like Hiroshima day, is part of my personal calendar. When I saw the candles next to the commemorative plaque, I suddenly realized that Kristallnacht was 80 years ago tonight. May God help us all.

The Anschluss – 80 years on | ecbinvienna

12 Mar

10 years ago I wrote the text linked below. Reading it again, I am struck by how quickly we have moved to just such a situation historians and survivors warned about then. Let us remain active and keep lighting those candles, every day.

https://ecbinvienna.com/2013/03/13/the-anschluss-75-years-on/

Visitors

14 May

What a great thing it is to have visitors–nice visitors–in this case, a friend I hadn’t seen in 30 years and her husband. (Sadly they were just in Vienna for the day.) They bravely put themselves in my hands at 10:30 this morning in front of Stephansdom, after saying they wanted to see whatever I recommended.

We started with the climb up the 343 steps to the top of the South Tower of Stephansdom so that we could get the overview of the city. We had great weather for it, which, along with the fact that today is a holiday in Austria (Ascension), perhaps explains why there were so many people up there, some of them rather, shall we say, assertive. Nonetheless, we did get to see out of all the windows, in all directions, and I got to play the game of “Can I orient myself and tell them what is what”.

Then down to the ground again and around to the Graben. We didn’t stop to admire the Plague Pillar but did take note of it and made use of the Art Deco (Jugendstil) toilets under the Graben near St. Peter’s Church. Then up Kohlmarkt to Michaelerplatz where it started to sprinkle, which we considered a good excuse to duck into Café Griensteidl for coffee (and cake, in some cases).

When we came out again it had stopped raining. We marveled at the Roman ruins laid bare on Michaelerplatz and then took Herrengasse north away from the center, turning off to go down to the Freyung. After a quick detour to Am Hof (because of “The Third Man”) we headed out Schottengasse to Schottentor. I pointed out Palais Ephrussi because of our mutual Japanese connection, and because I’m pretty sure “The Hare with Amber Eyes” is a book this friend would appreciate.

There we turned into the Ringstraße (celebrating 150 years this year). We didn’t go in anywhere but admired in passing the University (650 years old this year), the Rathaus all decked out for the Life Ball, Café Landtmann, and the Burgtheater (where reference to Klaus Maria Brandauer was made). Then we came to the Parliament. We walked up the curved approach commenting on the Greek-style statuary and the mosaic on the wall at the top, and I realized I had never walked up there before. I usually simply go by in the tram and look out the window. It may not be all that high–certainly it’s not 343 steps up–but we still had a nice view of the Volksgarten and parts of the former Imperial Palace.

We continued along the Ring to the two museums, and I told the joke of how to tell which one is the Natural History Museum and which the Museum of Art History. Out of the depths of my memory I dredged up what I know about Maria Theresia so that my guests had a sense of who it was sitting between the two buildings looking regal. It’s amazing how easy it is to remember the more prurient details–Marie Antoinette was the youngest of Maria Theresia’s 16 children–and how vague I was on the important reforms, including educational reforms, she pushed through.

Deciding to take a slightly closer look at the former Imperial Palace (Hofburg), we crossed the Ring, went through the triumphal arch, studied the victorious, of course, military gentlemen on horseback (A. Ferkorn’s statues of Prince Eugen and Archduke Charles), pondered the fact that Hitler had stood on the balcony and made his first speech after Austria was annexed in 1938, and then walked through with a quick glance at the chapel where the Vienna Boys’ Choir sings.

Coming out at Michaelerplatz once again we turned right and headed south this time, with only a nod to the Spanish Riding School where you can see the Lipizzaners in their stalls, the National Library, the Augustiner Church, and the Albertina. By this time, those of us who hadn’t had cake earlier were feeling a bit peckish so we turned into the Burggarten and secured a table at the Palmenhaus, one of my favorite restaurants in Vienna even when, as was the case today, it’s a little too chilly to sit outside. (I simply can’t resist a restaurant that has a six-page menu of which one page covers the seasonal dishes they are offering and five pages cover the wines, all good and mostly Austrian.) After a lunch of white asparagus for two of us and Schnitzel for one of us, we continued on to the Ring where I left my visitors to go on to the Secession while I went home to walk the dog.

It strikes me that this was a pretty good tour of the city for five hours or so, and that it was rather special to do it this year with the two anniversaries (Ringstraße and University) and two big events (the Life Ball and the Eurovision Song Contest) happening in the next few days. A great way to spend a holiday.

A garage in Hernals

15 Sep

I’ve been meaning to take a photo of this for years. It is precisely the kind of building that is a perfect example of an earlier time and most likely to be torn down or converted into something else. In this case, although the building is much older, the fact that it is called a garage makes me think of the 1950s, when very few Viennese had cars and quite often they parked them in neighborhood garages, which were more like workshops than more modern parking garages. Mary Stewart describes just such a place in Marseilles in her wonderful romantic thriller Madam, Will You Talk?

garage on hernalser hauptstrasse_01

garage on hernalser hauptstrasse_03