Wednesday, July 4, 2012

For the Glory of God and Man

We started our third day in Vienna with a leisurely tour of the city's cathedral.

Like most European cathedrals, St. Stephan's has a piecemeal past, being started in the Romanesque period on the foundation of an earlier church that was in turn built on the foundations of a Roman temple. The cathedral wasn't finished until the 15th C., but neither time, nor mankind has been kind to this structure (WWII damage) and yet, through sheer human will it does still stand, and magnificently.

Today the structure is not only restored to its former glory, but it is in the process of being cleaned and with the facade already sparkling, it's easy to see how beautiful the whole building will be when finished. Note the unusual colorful roof tiles.

The inside of the building is equally fascinating and we spent the rest of Tuesday morning walking around the cathedral exploring.

The North Tower (above)--never finished due to the diversion of city funds from the cathedral to the defense of the city against the increasing Ottoman threat. (Note the dirt of vehicle exhaust clinging to the building. When the cleaning is done all of that will be gone and it will look like the front.)

Detail of Gothic tracery on North Tower.

Detail of gorgoyles on east end.

Inside of nave looking towards high altar.

It's a forest of brownish grey columns surrounded near their tops with over life-size statues of saints. The roof in here reaches about 100 feet or over, we estimated.

After the cathedral we headed to the legendary Viennese caffe Demel, for a caffeine and sugar injection before tackling the Hapsburg's summer hunting "lodge," Schönbrunn Palace, 15 minutes away on the city's immaculately clean subway.

This palace (calling it what it is!) was meant to rival Versailles in size. I have yet to see Versailles, which is a later stop in our sojourn, but we were both impressed with this "pile of bricks" and its carefully manicured, enormous public gardens. We took a tour of the inside of the palace, seeing only 40 of its original 1440 rooms! We learned from our thoroughly enjoyable tour completed by a self-paced audio guide that Mozart played his first concert here at age 6 and Kennedy and Khrushchev met here in 1961. The palace was redecorated and enlarged in the 18th C. and again in the late 19th C. All was surprisingly tasteful compared to other enormous (Windsor comes to mind) palatial homes of recent or living monarchs I've toured.

The front (needs a bit of a yard, I say!). 

The back (top) and a view from the back of the palace towards the Gloriette, a triumphal monument from the 18th C. commemorating a Hapsburg victory. Note the beautiful formally planted green spaces in the foreground. This pattern is achieved by small boxwood hedges and controlled plantings of flowering annuals. From the palace proper it looks spectacular, as gardens like this are always meant to be seen from the "privileged point of view" of the private rooms of the palace itself, but alas no photos were permitted.

Wisteria on a wire frame creating nature's barrel vault and a gorgeous variation in green as sun and shadow played off the leaves.

Detail from one of the enclosed personal gardens close to the palace. As a gardener with formalist tendencies this place was just incredible to behold. The hedges that made outdoor "rooms" were awe-inspiring and I immediately wanted to plant three sides of our backyard with these yews!

Looking forward to fall planting already!

We finished the day in equally dramatic style--we had drinks and a delicious dinner at Do&Co. Their sleek Oynx Bar has a 220+ degree view of the cathedral plaza and we watched a dazzling electrical storm roll into town during the 3 hours we sat in the bar, and restaurant directly above. The two photos below were taken in the bar from Dave's viewpoint (of the cathedral roof) and mine, respectively. What a place!

1 comment:

  1. Wow--you've seen some amazing things! I love the connection between that pristinely cut piece of chocolate cake and all those pristine gardens...