Since I posted my three-part Warsaw epic, I’ve gotten a few hundred hits on those posts. Turns out some Polish forum about skyscrapers or building construction (???) linked to some of my pictures in their posts, and they seem to get a lot of traffic. Odd!
Anyway, I decided to finish up my trip from the weekend of the 28-30th before I go on. So on that Sunday, after I’d boarded the (teeny) plane that flew me out of Warsaw (not a bit too soon), I had a layover in Vienna from about 12-5pm. (Actually, it ended up being more like 6, but I didn’t know that, so I was stressed about my return journey the whole time.) I say “two hours” because I tried to get back by four, and it took about 35-40 minutes of time on the S-Bahn to get downtown, so I had somewhere around 2, 2.5 hours actually in the city.
Here it is, the Danube!
Every building in Vienna looks like this.
That’s only slight exaggeration. There’s a bit more variety in style, of course, but really it just felt older and bigger than Munich. I’m not sure how their old-building-survival-during-WWII compares to Munich, but anyway. It was also a fairly dark day, and like Munich it is almost DEAD (except for tourists) on Sundays, so my general impression was of an empty and kind of dingy Old World city. I should go back in warmer weather and see if that was a complete fluke. But I do think Munich has a newer, shinier feel to it.
Vienna is in reality much older than Munich. Continuously inhabited since the Celts built a town here in 500BC, Vienna (or Vindobona) was a military outpost on the frontier of the Roman Empire, which went to the Danube and the Rhine in the east. Marcus Aurelius (probably) died here. Awesome.
I was also excited to go to Vienna because I have a little monarchy-crush on the Habsburgs and the Holy Roman Empire, but I didn’t get to see much of that this time, so I’ll definitely have to go back and track down all that.
Anyway, if you are ever in Vienna for only two hours, you really can’t see that much! I went straight to St Stephen’s Dom, my first HUGE Gothic church, and also, incidentally, my first HUGE tourist church:
You can just barely see the tympanum inside the outer arch of the door — when they dug the foundation for one of the towers in 1441, they uncovered the thighbone of a mastodon, and hung it here above the door, which they called the Giant’s Door. Why? Why not? They had no idea what that crap was. Might as well hang it up.
I loved the western facade! This is the oldest part of the church. The towers were made with rubble from old Roman buildings.
It’s almost too tall to take pictures of!
St Francis stamping on a Turk. This Baroque (18th c.) statue is built on top of the pulpit where St John Capistrano preached a crusade in 1454. This was the year after Constantinople had fallen to the Ottoman Turks, the symbolic endpoint of the middle ages, and Rome and Vienna were also threatened. John Capistrano, a famous preacher, was ordered to gather troops to defend the cities under siege, and at age 70 he did, even leading his own contingent into battle.
Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemani while his disciples sleep…
Okay, now let’s go inside!
It was really hard to get pictures, because it was so dark, tall, and crowded. But I have a few that turned out okay. Here’s the nave, which was corded off, which annoyed me.
The medieval pulpit — these are the stairs leading you up to..
The main part, featuring the traditional Four Latin Doctors of the Church (Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great). You can usually always pick out Jerome right away, because for whatever reason he’s depicted in a cardinal’s hat. So he’s the one on the far right.
There’s not much I like as much as rib vaults.
On the left, Moses with the Ten Commandments. On the right, Mary and Jesus. Above, I don’t know. A priest holding a book and a chalice?
These people are praying in front of the Sacrament and the Maria Pötsch icon. It was nice to see the church attracting a pilgrim crowd and not just the hordes of regular tourists who were packed into the other aisle like this:
Really, you couldn’t even walk around, and spending much time there was not comfortable. So after I’d gotten my pictures I left…
And consulting my map, I found St Ruprecht, the oldest church in Vienna. Here is a nice Art Nouveau mural opposite the church.
I was SO THRILLED to see this church, with its Romanesque tower and double-windows. I really hoped to go in, but it was locked. But it wasn’t like it’s been restored – it was extended and rebuilt in the middle ages and has a Baroque interior, so. Nothing I haven’t seen before. But I love St Rupert (see: Salzburg, coming soon) and this church was (probably) founded in 740 by two missionaries he sent here. It was the heart of the medieval city, with the main market and the Berghof nearby.
Here’s something cool: the two big stones in the wall are stones salvaged from Roman ruins, turned around backwards so you can’t read the Latin inscriptions or carvings.
I love when you can see the layers in the walls.
Here is Ruprecht himself.
I almost didn’t see this bit of Roman remains as I was hurrying along getting lost. These are stones from the baths in the Roman city. I touched them!!
Bum bum BUMMM. St Peter’s. It is obviously Baroque, but there was a Gothic version here, and Romanesque (founded, according to legend, by Charlemagne), and perhaps an even earlier one, based on archaeological findings in the foundation, that might even be older than St Ruprecht. This one was built in the early 18th century and modeled on St Peter’s in Rome. It is quite small so inside they had to get creative.
This is an incredible church. The compact arrangement of all the different structural elements and the colors and the lighting and the DOME:
It was impossible for me to get a really good closeup, so here is a big picture of it, conveniently provided in the back of the church:
The high altar, with a painting of Peter and John healing the crippled man.
And above it, the coolest vault you have ever seen, with a fake dome painted on it. This is Baroque illusionistic ceiling painting, and it is so cool.
Aaand here we have Josemarie Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei. This church (I found out later) is used by Opus Dei priests. He preached the universal path to holiness — ie. that holiness was possible, indeed required, for ordinary Christians in their everyday work life. So the painting on his side altar is of the Holy Family, probably in part because he’s named after both Joseph and Mary, and because they are a vision of Christian family life and labor.
I started to head back to the S-Bahn station, but not before I saw an Asian dude dressed up as a clown and doing tricks in front of the Plague Column.
I got back in time, barely avoiding taking the train in the wrong direction, and nervous the whole time because I hadn’t bought a ticket (I had money for either a ticket back to the airport in Vienna or a ticket home from the airport in Munich, and the Munich trip was longer). But it was all okay.
As we took off, the sun was setting.
So I took literally a million pictures of the sun setting over the Alps.
Then the moon came out.
OKAY THAT’S IT! I’m finished with Warsaw and Vienna. Next, should I complete the vacation week by posting Stuttgart and Neuschwanstein, or backtrack first to post Freising? I don’t know.