Saturday, November 28, 2015

Vienna: Belevedere Palace, noble residence now houses fine art

A short tram ride brought us to the Belvedere Palace, on what used to be the outskirts of Vienna. It was built by Prince Eugene of Savoy as his summer residence, and actually consists of two palaces, Upper and Lower Belvedere, with a stunning baroque garden in between. Today it houses Austrian art from the Middle Ages to the present day, along with the world's largest collection of Klimt paintings.

Inside was very busy, mostly on account of a large group of Italian students. Their diminutive teachers herded them around with lots of calls of, "Ragazzi, ragazzi." We started in a huge room with a domed ceiling where there was some modern art. My favourite was a video installation featuring a psychedelic frog who would move a little and wink at you. We had to leave Klimt until the students moved on. Much of the palace contains Imperial collections gathered over the years. I found a lot of the paintings difficult to view as there was so much light coming through the massive windows.

One of my favourite rooms had a collection of busts arranged in a large circle. Each bust showed a grotesque grimace. It is thought that the artist perhaps had a tick condition.

Finally we saw the Klimt collection with the golden paintings "The Kiss" and "Judith" as the highlights of the 24 works – portraits, landscapes, and allegorical scenes. Klimt contributed considerably to the international avant-garde’s breakthrough in Vienna. The collection was quite lovely.

We walked down through the baroque Palace gardens filled with sculptures and fountains to the Lower Belvedere where we saw Austrian art from the 1960s.

Our tour complete, we jumped on a tram but after a few stops began to wonder if we were going in the right direction. We got out at the next step, which happened to be near a metro station, and we were soon back at St. Stephen's square enjoying lunch in a very nice Italian restaurant. I had spinach with a  special poached "Tuscan" egg. At first I was a bit sceptical, but the egg was really nicely done with some egg foam as well. I was just happy to sit down; wearing new shoes while exploring a new city can be a bit painful.

Revived once again, we window-shopped along the pedestrian shopping area. There are lots of really interesting, different shops in Vienna. If truth be told we were really too tired to try anything on.

After another relaxing afternoon tea and another small plate dinner we enjoyed going to the movies and seeing Spectre, the new James Bond movie, in English. This was a perfect way to finish our time in Vienna, a place we would like to return to.

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