Yesterday the sun rose at about 6:50am. I rose at 4:04 to catch a bus to Vienna. A local high school group was going on a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts and Madame Tussauds wax museum. They had extra seats on the bus and sold them to people in the community. Emese (works at the ICS) is friends with the art history teacher and she asked Meredith and I if we wanted to go. The one-day trip only cost about $30 US. Of course we both said yes!
The bus was completely full, and the trip took about 5 hours, but it was a nice bus with those fancy seats – what are they called? – coach seats or something? So it was pretty comfortable. As we rode along, the landscape we passed reminded me a lot of North Dakota, particularly the section of I-94 between Valley City and Bismarck. Flatish, with some low hills, lots of sky, and not very many trees. It was very pretty.
We got to Vienna around 10, and the three of us split off from the student group. We decided to spend the morning together and then split up individually in the afternoon. First we went to St. Stephen’s cathedral. I was amazed as we walked through the city at all of the beautiful, ornate architecture. I took lots of pictures, to the point where I had to switch batteries on my camera halfway through looking at St. Stephen’s! (This was only about an hour into the day.)
St. Stephen’s is really astounding. I can’t imagine how it was built without any heavy machinery or cranes. In discussing it on the bus ride, I mentioned The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett), saying something like, “Oh, one of my favorite books is about building cathedrals in the Dark Ages. It’s called The Pillars of the Earth.” Emese said that she’d read a good one about cathedrals too, called The Cathedral. Then she mentioned the author’s name, which I hadn’t done. We realized it was the same book, in English and Hungarian! Pretty funny! I guess I have noticed quite a few popular titles in the windows of bookstores around Kecskemet, like George RR Martin‘s Ice and Fire series and Harry Potter.
But anyway, it was fun to see a really old cathedral. This is the first time I’ve seen one, unless you count Norwegian stavkirke, which are also beautiful but are made of wood and not stone. I was horribly disappointed at how commerical the cathedral has become, though. Emese said it was a lot different than the last time she was here. There was a shop inside the church. You also had to pay if you wanted to go into the catacombs or walk down the middle, right-hand side, or along the front of the church. So, pretty much the only part that was free was a long narrow strip along the left-hand wall of the church. I don’t know, there’s something about paying to go into a church that really bothers me. Just because it’s beautiful, and popular, doesn’t mean you should charge people for it. A free will donation to help with maintenance, sure. But literally stretching a gate with a big old lock on it across the back of the church seems like a bit much.
Regardless, I enjoyed the parts I did have access to. Then we decided to go looking for the famous Ankeruhr (Anchor Clock). After consulting two different maps and asking three different people for directions, we finally found it. It was worth the effort 🙂
Next, we had coffee and cake. I had hot chocolate, sachertorte (chocolate cake with apricot filling), and a ham and cheese croissant. It set me back about $18 US. A little pricier than what I’m used to in Hungary, where I can find really good cake for 80 cents! But it was delicious, and I was super hungry, so it was worth every penny. After eating, we decided to split up. I wanted to go to the Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art and Meredith and Emese wanted to go to the Museum of Natural History. We decided to meet up at 4:45 at a specific U station, to ride to Madame Tassaud’s together to catch the bus at 5:15. Off we went!
I found the MAK with no problems, although I did have some trouble figuring out how to lock my backpack into a locker. The monitor had to come help me. I felt really stupid. But there were no instructions of any kind, in any language! Turned out that you had to put 2E into a slot on the back of the door, then shut it, then turn the key. Simple, but only once you know what to do!
The museum has a ton of great work. It was interesting to see the porcelain made by Austrian companies and compare it to what I’ve seen of the Herend (Hungarian) porcelain. In my opinion, the Herend is superior, if for no other reason than the quality of the painting on the surfaces.
My favorite pieces I saw in the entire place are two marquetry panels. They’re both designed by Januarius Zick and executed by David Roentgen, in 1779. I took one look at them and thought, “Those can’t be marquetry, because if they are, they’re totally sick.” (In the best way possible, of course.) And they are. Marquetry and totally sick. They look like paintings done in wood. The planes of people’s faces are shaded with differently colored pieces and the folds and draping of fabric are shown with multiple, tiny slivers of wood. And they’re huge! They’re about 10′ by 10′ each. The imagery of the entire panel looks three dimensional. I tried to find a picture online to link to, but I haven’t had any luck. The titles of the panels are, “The Roman women’s struggle for peace with the Sabines,” and “The Magnanimity of Scipio.” If you find them somewhere, please let me know! Cameras aren’t allowed in the MAK, or I’d just have taken my own pictures. [UPDATE: Terry was able to find a picture of the second panel. Please click his link in the comments to see it! Thanks, Terry!]
Here’s what the guide says about the panels: “In 1778 Prince Karl Alexander of Lorraine commissioned David Roentgen, for a sum of 1,000 Luisdor (13,650 florins), to make two marquetry panels for the audience chamber in his Brussels palace. They decorated the walls of the chamber as so-called “tapisserie de bois”; additional embellishments were the overdoors on the theme of the “Cardinal Virtues”. The panels arrived in Brussels on 23 May 1799 after a 10-days’ journey from Neuwied via Bonn, Cologne, Julich, Verviers and Liege.”
There’s a separate room built into the center of the space where the panels hang. It contains a recreation of the “Porcelain Room” from the Palais Dubsky in Brno. I’ve read about porcelain rooms before, but I’ve never seen one in person, so it was interesting to look at that. I love porcelain, but I can’t say I’d want a room like that in my house. Gaudy, gaudy, gaudy! Back then it was all the rage, though! At that time, porcelain was referred to as “white gold,” and it was valued as such.
After the museum, I walked to the station where I was supposed to meet Meredith and Emese. I couldn’t find them, so at 5:00 (our agreed upon time to leave if we didn’t meet up), I bought a ticket and hopped on the underground to Madame Tussaud’s. I found the bus with no problems and was there right on time. Meredith and Emese were no where to be found, however. Finally, the art history teacher came on the bus. She looked at me in surprise. “Oh! You’re here! Emese is waiting for you at the station!” She’d received a phone call from Emese, and they all thought I was lost. Apparently we were all confused as to what we were going to do if we didn’t find each other at 4:45. I thought we’d agreed to just meet at the bus, and the other two thought we were supposed to meet at the exit underground station. I feel bad that I didn’t understand where I was supposed to be. I think Emese was pretty worried.
At any rate, we’re all quite safe and sound, and that’s what really matters!
Tomorrow, loading another kiln!