Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

An American Back in Bavaria / Part # 8 / Vienna / City Center Tour


GAPP Exchange Journal 2014
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Part # 8 / Vienna - City Center Tour

The Plague Column on Graben Street
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We continued on our way down the wide pedestrian street, admiring the urban landscape and storefronts displaying the highest quality luxury goods from around the world.  Soon we came upon a large marble sculpture, accented with gold, which seemed somewhat out of place in the middle of the street.  The Pestsäule, also known as the Plague Column, is a monument of the Holy Trinity to honor the people of Vienna who perished in the last great plague to infect the city in 1679.  The Hapsburg ruler Leopold I vowed to return to the city if and when the plague ever dissipated and erect a mercy column to commemorate the dead.  The monument was constructed as promised and later went through many changes, revisions, and additions to become one of the most recognized monuments in Austria and beyond.  In 1693, the Plague Column was dedicated in its final form in the High Baroque style.  The column depicts the Holy Trinity with nine angles atop a cloud base with Leopold I kneeling in prayer at its base.  It was really beautiful and humbling to think what it represented.  It was just another reminder of how old the city was to have a monument dedicated to the victims of the Black Death.  The solemn marker provided a stark contrast to the wealth and rich luxury that abounded around it in the form of materialistic goods of excess.

Eissalon Schwedenplatz / Italian Gelato
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After a time, we broke off in different directions to explore on our own.  I joined my fellow chaperones in a quest for the best ice-cream in the city.  We left the historic district and entered into a more modern section, known as the Old University Quarter.  Despite the areas name, the buildings were much taller and seemed to suggest corporate Vienna's business district.  We found the famous "ice" stand known as Eissalon Schwedenplatz, where abundant flavors of Italian style gelato were colorfully displayed in overflowing containers within the expansive glass case. The stand was busy but the line moved quickly and soon I was faced with the dilemma of choosing from a complex rainbow of inviting flavors.  We made our choice and continued our stroll along the Danube Canal Donaukanal, which flows through the center of Vienna.  The canal was once a branch river of the Danube but had been converted into a canal long ago.  The sides of the canal were confined by high walls of concrete, which were decorated with colorful graffiti.  I know some would argue graffiti is a form of art but I will admit, I'm not convinced and not a fan.  The day was hot and we found a spot shaded by an overhead bridge.  We sat down on the edge of the retaining wall with our legs dangling over the side to watch the flow of the canal below.  It was a great spot to enjoy our rich ice-cream treats that really lived up to the hype.

The Danube Canal of Vienna
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We sat and watched the activity on the canal, enjoying a light breeze that seemed to follow the flow of the canal and was confined to the water by the tall buildings on both sides.  A few low boats eased by and passed beneath the arch of the bridge overhead.  It was a great way to take it all in and this was one of those spots where I could have sat all day to enjoy the picturesque setting in the shade of the afternoon sun.  However, only having an overnight stay in the city, there was so much to see and do before it would be time to leave Europe's center of art, music, and culture.  As a result, we left the sanctuary of the Danube Canal to seek out more sites of interest and headed back to the historic district to explore further.  Along the way we were able to direct our attention to previous passed over places of interest including Saint Peter's Church, which is somewhat hidden in the center of Vienna.  The Church is topped with a large dome with a fresco-covered ceiling.  The interior decor is very ornate, complex, and full of gold accented statues in the Baroque style.  A service was taking place during our drop by visit, so we did not stay long, and only viewed the interior from the rear of the sanctuary.  The church could be the oldest in the city, although no evidence of the original structure remains.  As with many churches, new structures were built to replace older versions with the passing of time.  The large oval interior space was very impressive and brightly colored despite the dim lighting. The dozens of churches I have visited in Bavaria and Austria are unique and beautiful in their own individual way.               

The Vienna State Opera House / Side Wing
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The star attraction in Vienna is all things Mozart, which centers around the musical concerts within the famous Vienna State Opera House.  As you walk the streets you see salesmen dressed to resemble the composer himself in an effort to sell tickets to the latest scheduled concert.  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was one of the most gifted composers in history, creating more than 600 works in his short 35-year lifespan.  Mozart moved to the capital of Vienna, where he had creative success but struggled financially at times.  As a result, he traveled about the content in search of sponsorship but eventually settled back in Vienna, where the final decade of his life proved to be his most productive.  His work and style greatly influenced many other composers including Ludwig van Beethoven, who also called Vienna home.  The Vienna State Opera House was first opened in 1869 and became the main stage for the nation's top musicians, singers, opera, and ballet performers. The iconic structure was badly damaged by fire during an allied bombing run during the conclusion of World War II in 1945.  The decision was made to restore the building back to its original stature, rather than raze the building and construct a new structure on the same site.  After a decade of work, the Vienna State Opera House reopened to share the splendor of the arts again with the world in the fall of 1955.

Pedestrian Streets of Vienna
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Now off on my own, I continued to explore the city and found a souvenir stand that didn't say Gucci or Rolex, so I bought a pin for five Euros to represent Vienna in my collection of hat pins of all the places I have visited both at home and abroad.  The buildings were all so ornate but also unique in architectural design, often contrasting one another to express their individuality. Yet, despite their independence, somehow they appeared as an interconnected string, expressing the uniformity of Vienna.  I really enjoyed the wide pedestrian streets that enabled me to take it all in and capture photographs without worrying about vehicular interference, running me over!  The absence of automobiles added to the historic feel of the city, plus the lack of noise and congestion were a welcome perk.  I was looking for something to eat and found an Italian Bistro called Vapiano close to our hotel.  It was like a pasta bar where you place your order and stand at the counter as the chef prepares an individual fresh portion, right in front of you.  It was interesting to see the meal prepared from sauce in a skillet to pasta in a pot, while you watched.  It was all done in about seven minutes and I was really hungry with all the walking I had done so far today.  Don't tell my wife, but it was some of the very best pasta I had ever eaten.  The rich meat sauce and subtle seasoning combined with the freshly made linguini was absolutely delicious.  If we had stayed another day, I would have definitely returned for a replay.  I will keep my eye out for Vapiano in other cities as I believe it was a might have been a franchised chain.  Unfortunately, I haven't come across any other restaurants since and the amazing taste was lost in Vienna.

Signage Advertising Vapiano
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I continued through the now familiar streets near our hotel and sat down to rest and just take in the sights for a few minutes from a retaining wall along Mariahilfer Strauss.  Again I admired the delicate towering trees above, providing light shade over the movement of life below its ornate branches of leaves of light green.  The slightest breeze set the tiny leaves in a flutter, resembling a dance to the rhythm of nature.  In stark contrast was the urban landscape that contained them and their roots.  In addition to the McDonald's restaurant our kids had dined in earlier, there were a few other signs of American commercialism present in the form of a few Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks tucked in corners throughout the city.  After a time, I continued on my way and managed to find my way back to our hotel and took refuge for a short time in my tiny hotel room.  I opened the window with a view of the sky above and took a brief rest in my bed to digest all I had seen and experienced so far this day.  Within a short time, we would regroup in the lobby downstairs to explore the city once again in the evening light of the setting sun.

 The Plague Column / Detail
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FOR ADDITIONAL PHOTOS
 PLEASE SEE MY VIENNA COLLECTION
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrjmartin/collections/72157649592186357/

SOURCE
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Site Facts, Figures, and History
Source / Vienna by Lina Schnorr
Published by Harald Bohm - 2014




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