This week has definitely been one of the most exciting ones filled with several interesting activities. On a late Monday afternoon after a day full of work we have all met for a Kaffeklatsch in Café Braunerhof for a cup of coffee to discuss the past weeks and plan ahead for Thanksgiving. The Café was an interesting place with a specific atmosphere. Maybe due to the fact that the famous Thomas Bernhard used to spend all his days sitting here, and where a memorable picture of him still hangs on one of the walls of the Café. After dividing all our duties for Thanksgiving and sharing fair amounts of latest gossip J we dispersed back to our houses through the chilly streets of Vienna.
Tuesday started with a lecture by Frau Rosenauer during our art history class during which we continued our discussions about Otto Wagner and started talking about Adolf Loos and Joseph Hoffman and their fascinating works. (image on the right side of Otto Wagner’s Majolica Haus)
On Wednesday we attended another art history class continuing our discussion on the great architects and designers of Vienna. This followed by a Literature class were we closely examined one of the works of Arthur Schnitzler entitled “Der Traumnovelle” known in English as the “The Dream Story”. A work we were to see on Saturday in Josefstädter Theater. After the literature class we all went to prepare ourselves for shopping for the Thanksgiving Dinner.
Thursday morning was filled therefore with preparations and cooking. Some people from our group, who managed to wake up early managed to also see the practice of the Lipizzaner horses before engaging in kitchen activities. At 7pm we all met in the Kirche Maria Namen for the Thanksgiving dinner. We ate, laughed and enjoyed the many foods we have prepared for the night. At the end we also introduced ourselves to the families and have thanked each other for taking the time to enjoy this day as a group and making it a nice experience.
The next day (Friday) we all met in front of the Stephansdom and departed to the UNO city where we took a guided tour and discovered the role and responsibilities of the United Nations. This was then followed by a ride on the Wiener Reisenrad, which is in place in Vienna since 1897. Not much could be seen due to the bad weather but the ride was enjoyable nevertheless since we had chocolates left over from Thanksgiving that we quickly dealt withJ. Then the group split in two. One half of the group decided to go to the Zentralfriedhof, while the other went to Schönbrunn Palace to enjoy the palace’s beautiful interior and it’s still beautiful gardens.
On Saturday evening we all attended the “Der Traumnovelle” performance at the Josefstädter Theater which was very interesting in its interpretation. After that we quickly sneaked into one of the Cafes, which was still open and enjoyed a warm drink while discussing our stories of the week and the play itself. While returning through the city to our houses we could enjoy the cities various Christmas decorations that have been put up slowly during the week and now were illuminating brightly, setting all of us in a cheerful, Christmas mood…
The fourth week in Vienna was pretty wonderful but nonetheless tiring. Sunday began like every Sunday with my host family – a large delicious breakfast, complete with homemade pastries and bread, along with long relaxed conversation. It was a few days before St. Leopold Day, one that commemorates the patron saint of Vienna and all of Austria, and Uwe and Maria (my host parents) wanted to take Neni and I to a nearby church where Leopold’s skull is on display for the church patrons to visit and pray to. We drove to Klosterneuburg, just past some small mountains past Vienna. Despite this frigid weather, Sunday was beautiful, with clear blue skies and constant sunshine. The festival had rows and rows of tents, their vendors selling homemade cheeses, honey products, desserts, meats, along with some traditional fair food – like langos, large fried pieces of dough covered in butter and garlic – and hot fresh donuts. Neni and I rode a couple of the rides, one which swung us up in the air so that you could see for miles (or should I say kilometers) into the distance, seeing the mountains, and the fall colors of the trees. We also visited the Klosterneuburg church itself to see the festival’s namesake: Leopold’s head. It was adorned in a large ostentatious crown, complete with more jewels than my life is worth. Covering the face was a similarly decorated piece of red velvet, so that the only visible part of Leopold’s skull was his forehead.
Classes followed the same routine, but this week rather than going home for an obligatory nap, I visited the nearby Albertina museum with Summer in the chunk of time between politics and literature. The Albertina is a classic art-lover’s dream – it holds some of the most significant and extensive collections of drawings and “old master prints” in the world. The main galleries house more modern work by Picasso, Monet, Ernst, Matisse, along with an massive and thorough featured Magritte exhibit. Magritte’s surrealist style is now one of my favorites – he uses very refined brushstrokes and definite images and lines, but the context and juxtaposition is where the surrealist aspect comes from.
Tuesday night we went to the world-famous Vienna State Opera, with tickets to see L’Elisir d’Amore. The plot itself is essentially a romantic comedy: boy loves girl, but girl plays hard to get, until a fake love potion is thrown into the mix and chaos reigns. The opera house itself was beautiful, gilded with gold and white interiors and red velvet seats and opera boxes. Despite the lack of leg room (sitting in the nosebleed section, after all), it was a very magical experience.
On Saturday we saw a German adaptation by Friedrich Schiller of Picard’s The Parsite (Der Parasit auf Deutsch). It was a more modern version, and had almost no sets with the exception of a very tall white foldable wall with several various sized doors, the passage through which signified the start and end of each individual scene. The actors were amazing, particularly the Parasite himself, and once again, we got a glimpse of the glorious architecture Vienna has to offer in the interior of the famous Burgtheater. It was altogether a lovely end to an eventful week.
Our third week in Vienna was full, but lots of fun. On Monday night, we went to a small theater with our literature professor and saw the play “Entfernung” done in a very modern style. It was somewhat confusing because what happened on stage did not always match up with the dialogue, but it was still an enjoyable experience. The next morning, we went on one of many excursions with Frau Doktor Rosenhauer, wandering around the city looking at architecture and artwork, and generally freezing in the frigid weather. This time, we were fortunate enough to go inside a museum for a large portion, seeing all sorts of old clothing and jewels and other royal treasures. Wednesday evening, we went to a talk given by Wolfgang about teaching German in the U.S.
On Friday, we went on a group excursion to Stift Melk, a monastery about an hour or two outside the city. Wolfgang had a cold, so Max had to lead the excursion. The monastery was beautiful and really large, and at one point, we were able to look out on the surrounding area, and the view was amazing, given that we were up on a large hill. After the monastery, we went on a hike through the forest that lay across the river, and everyone really enjoyed the opportunity to be out in nature after spending so long in the city. In the end, we all agreed that it had been the best excursion yet!
Well, as you can tell we haven’t updated the blog in a while. We have been busy getting settled into our new routines in Vienna, which includes three courses all taught in German: Art History, Politics of the European Union and Literature. We will be posting pictures and catching up on our time here over the next few days. Here is Sydney’s take on the first week:
Hello all! First week in Vienna? Can pretty much be summed up as gorgeous. We all had arrived after our individual vacations and I think we were ready to start the next phase of the program. We were ready to explore a new city and meet new people! The first day for me went pretty well, and it struck me how everything the city seemed to look like a piece of art. There are plenty of statues and beautiful buildings for one to wander around Vienna and gaze at.
We started off right away with classes, and I think it was a little weird for all of us to have class together again on a daily basis. However, I think we were all satisfied with how the classes would be and the times they would meet (no school on Fridays!). The first week was filled with adjusting to the new schedule and attempting to find a routine! And of course, learning how to navigate a new public transportation system. I think my favorite moment of the first week was taking a small city tour and viewing the Hofburg for the first time.
Overall I think we all had a good start to the city. I myself am ready to buckle down and make the last weeks here count! Seems like our time here will go pretty quickly and before we know it we will be home. I am excited to see what else Vienna has to offer!