Thursday, June 3, 2010

There is old and then there is very old

A group of intrepid explorers (namely 7 YSSPers) took to the streets of Schwedenplatz (the Jewish district) for a lively day of sightseeing. Vienna is old and pretty. Apparently Franz Joseph, the emporer, liked pretty things and made sure that all roads leading out of Vienna looked pretty for when he drive by. (The fountain is a memorial for the Black Plague)

Starting at Stephensplatz we managed to catch the Corpus Christi celebrations at noon outside St Stephen's Cathedral (We circled back later). We're not quite sure what the celebration is about but the parade was huge and filled with various religious figures.

Moving on we wandered the streets until we happened upon a truly bizarre clock set between 2 buildings. I can't seem to find anything on it in the guidebooks but I'm going to carry on looking, there is sure to be a story.

We also found a Greek Orthodox Church sandwiched between a pub and a government building. The inside of the church is truly breathtaking with scenes painted on all the walls and ceilings. There was also this grand chandelier (seems like a theme in Vienna), very sparkly. It reminds me of the church hidden in the suburbs in Istanbul with the gold leaf mosaic ceilings. Unfortunately my photos are terrible because I wasn't allowed to use the flash.

There is a famous local painter/environmentalist Friedensreich Hundertwasser in Vienna and his work is part of the cityscape. He designed the power plant and an apartment complex that are bizarre. I can't think of a better description. He felt that "straight lines are godless" and you can quite clearly see it in his designs. He also believed in tree inhabitants as well as human. I've posted 2 pictures, one of the front and one of the side. There are no straight lines, lots of foliage and the ground in uneven to "stimulate the brain". After the decidedly avant-garde we went back to the norm, the St Stephen's Cathedral.

The cathedral is huge with a 450 foot south tower (the ran out of money to finish the north tower). The roof is 200 feet high and sharply pitched. It is covered in ceramic tiles into patterns. The one has the 2 eagles, one looking west, the other east, to Hungary and (I think Germany). This is supposedly the national emblem for Austria (Not confirmed). The interior has soaring pillars with intricate detailing (including frogs and mice and dogs).

We never had time but there is a tour of the catacombs and a walk up the south tower (all 343 steps) when the weather clears.

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