Weekend in Vienna

Athena's fountain

I booked a weekend in Vienna before the summer. I had been toying with the idea of a visit there and when I found low-cost flights on offer I thought the bargain shouldn’t be missed. After the summer holiday, it definitely helped to still have plans to look forward to. It cured the fear to be missing out on too much going on elsewhere at a time when no major trip was in the offing. Besides, a foreign destination was even more enticing. Somehow, I need an international dimension to add spice to my life.

When the weekend approached I realised it was falling in a rather busy period, but never mind – it were only two days and I would be happily distracted from my daily worries. I booked a hostel and borrowed a city guide in order to find my bearings around Vienna’s vast cultural offer.


The weather on Saturday was glorious: a perfectly clear Autumn day made Vienna’s monumental architecture shine to unusual splendour. I set out early for a DIY sightseeing tour. My previous visit to Vienna dated to when I was 16, so I needed a brush-up for my memories. I couldn’t but start from revising the general layout of the city before giving myself up to more specific goals.


In front of the Parliament the white marble of Athena’s fountain dazzled me not only because of the morning sun that it reflected, but also because of its perfect proportions and aesthetic beauty. With this marvellous sculptural group as a starting point, I couldn’t expect anything less from the rest of the Ringerstrasse

After seeing the principal landmarks and strolling in the central streets, I followed the trail of Jugendstil and Secessionist art. There are indeed outstanding architectural as well as pictorial examples in Vienna, which was the cradle of the latter avant-garde movement. This originated in a capital city whose set-up remained largely classical because in the XIX century the Habsburg commissioned the stately buildings that were to give a facelift to their headquarters and celebrate with pomp and ceremony the glory of an already crumbling empire. In reaction to the prevailing conventional artistic language, the Secessionist artists called for a break from trite traditional art and inaugurated new trends.

When I stood in front of Karlsplatz underground station and later the Wienzeilenhäuser by Otto Wagner I was simply lost in admiration. There were certainly many more gems to be ferreted out of this city if only I could follow the trails of my treasure map, but sadly the day was already turning to an end.

The Wienzeilenhäuser by Otto Wagner In the morning, as I strolled around the Hofburg, I had stopped at a booth advertising the white night of museums, which was taking place all over the country that very night. A combined ticket gave access to unlimited attractions for the duration of the event, i.e. from 6 pm until 1 am. After the long tiring walking and cycling day, I hesitated whether I should do it. but in the end my brave self had the upper hand, and after only half an hour’s break I was on a second mission at the Belvedere Palaces with interesting exhibitions of paintings. Here again I found early XIX century art and notably Gustav Klimt’s painting.

His best-known piece, the Kiss, was on show too, but paradoxically I had seen it enough in the shop windows to feel authentic first-time emotion. It is a real shame that the greatest masterpieces, such as Michelagelo’s fingers, Mantegna’s angels or Raffaello’s putti, should be reproduced on tea mugs, carrier bags, posters and what not. A ban should be imposed on vilifying art in this shameful manner. A fine should be given to whoever sells and buys such goods, if the fact of possessing these horror items were not enough to degrade the owner as irremediably “common”.

In the lower Belvedere the fine collection of travel landscapes painted on the route of the Orient was good to lift my spirits to higher ground. If I was looking for more travel suggestions, I certainly found many, but Vienna had already fulfilled my appetite. For the time being, at least.