Another day, another gorgeous palace to explore … and little tribute to Prince, RIP.
The Lonely Planet guide says that if you’re going to visit any place in Vienna, it should be Belvedere. With its combination of beautiful views (Belvedere – beautiful view), gardens galore, and the Upper and Lower parts of the art museums, it’s hard not to love this place.
The morning was industrial grey and chilly the last half day I’d spend in Vienna, but the plan was that I checked out of my hotel, put my bag into a luggage locker at the Hauptbahnhof station, and took the metro one stop over to Belvedere.
I approached Belvedere from Schwarzenbergplatz and was nearly toppled by strong winds blowing the fountain waters into me. I found Lower Belvedere first, going in to view the variety of masterpieces – including the gorgeous Marble Room – from Medieval art to Eastern European modernism and cubism and a few Klimts here and there. There were toy models, and some art I’m still puzzling over.
Lesson to be learned – don’t be the one person the guard sees taking a picture. I hadn’t seen a sign for no photography, and two others near me had been taking pictures. I figured, it must be okay then. Some places were an absolute no, some places had no photography in only a few rooms, and some places were all like, hells yes. Well, Belvedere is a “no”, and I got the chew out and nobody else. I’m not a tattler – as a teacher, I frown on that stuff – but really, I guess I should be James Bond next time.
Most impressive was the clear view from the Lower building in the Marble Room toward Upper Belvedere. The clouds cleared, spilling metallic sunshine onto the grounds.
From Lower Belvedere, it is a slight incline through the garden toward Upper Belvedere. Now, the twisted, sharp thorns of the dead roses in the garden were just beginning to waken from their winter nap, and the green appeared almost neon against the otherwise brown landscape and evergreen shrubberies. Ah, shrubbery. I can’t think of a shrubby without immediately recalling the sketch from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Upper Belvedere is where the more familiar art pieces are held ransom in a palace built by a man who was probably compensating for something. The historical guide didn’t describe Prince Eugene very favorably, I must say, but he was good at military maneuvers and fighting in wars. Quite an impressive history there. The lower building was built first, and, as if that wasn’t fancy enough, the upper building was soon to follow. Of course, Upper Belvedere dwarfs its older sibling in size and grandiosity.
An audio guide for a few Euros is definitely a good choice, but BYOB – Bring Your Own earBuds. If you don’t, craning your neck to hear the guide is a pain, as is cramming it to your ear in the busier galleries. This should be a rule for any place you plan to visit with an audio guide.
Of course, I want to see Klimt’s The Kiss, the piece d’resistance of the museum. However, there are other very worthy artists to check out – including the über-popular Impressionists Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, and a few others. Hearing the stories behind some of the paintings is intriguing – it breaks up the monotonous plodding between canvases, reading only the little signs.
It’s hard to miss The Kiss, as there will be crowds around it. I found a seat in the same room with other Klimt masterpieces and listened. Really, The Kiss may be his most famous painting, but the stories behind the others are equally fascinating.
You can’t take pictures of the painting, and the guides make sure you know it, too. In a room off to the side, you can take a selfie with a large poster-sized fake painting of The Kiss, if you’re really lacking in selfie photographs in Vienna.
I have to admit – I was loathe to leave Vienna, especially after seeing the splendiferous palaces, gloriously iced cakes, awe-inspiring churches, and listening to the clop-clop of hooves on the cobblestones. While service in restaurants can be a bit brusque and uninviting a times, Viennese food was something not to be missed. I found trying out even my crappy German was better than nothing. It’s a city where just four days can’t even scratch the surface. I want more.
As I bought my ticket for Bratislava at Hauptbahnhof, it was a bittersweet good-bye to a city whose streets I had just started to love.