Friday, 12 October 2012

Fin de siecle Vienna

The Opera House

We first visited Vienna in 1997 and were completely bowled over. Now we are making a family visit and we decided to re-do a walk that we did then which is still vivid in our memories: fin de siècle Vienna.

The walk begins at the Opera House. It is located on the inner Ringstrasse built in the mid 19th century on the line of the old city walls and was one of the first buildings to be constructed in this massive, and controversial, urban renewal programme. We crossed the ring, known at this point as the Opernring, walked along a bit and turned left to reach the Fine Arts Academy.

It was also part of the Ringstrasse and was built by the Danish architect Theophil Hansen in 1872-1876 in an Italian Renaissance style. We enjoyed the terracotta panels - which are also to be seen on English buildings of the same period.

Just round the corner you come on one of Vienna's greatest buildings: the Vienna Secession building of 1898 by Joseph Olbrich. It was originally the exhibition hall of a group of artists, of whom Klimt was the most famous, who rebelled against the conservatism of the Austrian Academy.  Klimt in fact resigned from the Secession a few years later, citing artistic differences.

Although normally regarded as one of the first modern buildings, it is to the present-day eye still remarkably and beautifully decorated. On the side this rather geometrical-looking panel suddenly, when you get the angle right, reveals itself to be a trio of owls. It is credited to Koloman Moser.

We now walked back along Friedrichstrasse to take a subway passage to Karlsplatz.  Here are the famous Wagner Pavilions (1898). The architect Otto Wagner was appointed design head for the new Stadtbahn, or metropolitan railway, now the metro, and the two fantastic art nouveau pavilions which stand facing each other, were the entrances to the Karlsplatz station.

One is now a bar, but the other has recently (well since 1997) been turned into a museum to Wagner.

It is small but extremely interesting and the interior is as beautifully decorated as the exterior.

Nearby is the magnificent Karlskirche - St Charles's Church.  It dates from the early 18th century.

We walked on past the Technical University and admired the extraordinary facade of the modern extension which houses the library.

We then turned left into Operngasse and right to bring us to the Naschmarkt - a very well established street market. We carried on along the same line to see reach one of Vienna's finest old coffee houses - Cafe Sperl - where we paused for the classic combination of a glass of wine and a slice of sacher torte.

From here we looped round to rejoin the market. As you round the corner into Linke Wienzeile you see two extraordinary houses by Wagner, a fantastic culmination to the walk.

The first, with its exuberant gold decoration seems to be called the Medaillon House (1900), while the second with its floral motifs is known as the Majolika House (also 1900).

The point where they meet is especially striking, with the contrasting green balconies at the end of the Majolica House and the overlooking statue of the Medaillon.

From: Vienna walks by J Sydney Jones (Boxtree, 1994).

Distance: 2.5 miles.

Conditions: grey, obviously.

Rating: Five stars. A small number of absolute gems, and a few other random treats for good measure.

No comments: