It turned out to be a good idea that we had kept the museum visits for day 3 – because for once, the CNN weather reports were right and Saturday turned out to be a rainy and rather dull day.
Our first stop was at the Wien Flea Market – the biggest flea market in Europe. It is huge and has a lot of good deals IF you know how to look for good bargains and are good at valuating antiques. There are old paintings, silverware, glasswares, CDs, clothes – practically any sundry you can think of. The second half of the Flea Markt is actually a food and vegetables markt – probably not especially useful for non-residents, except that the pizzas and doners that they sell here seems much much bigger than what you would find elsewhere.
From the fleamarkt, we headed to the Kunsthistorische Museum (KMH) at Musieum Quarter. Well, I dont think it is comparable to Louvre, in terms of its collection, as I had been told before. But in terms of beauty of the building, it is a marvel. It is one of the rare museums in Europe that is not a converted palace, but was built with the express intention of making it into a museum. The interiors are lavish and beautiful. In terms of its collection, the picture gallery has collections from Flemish, Dutch and German painters on one side and Spanish, French and Italians on the other. There is also a good collection of Egyptian and Roman antiques and an excellent coin collection. The audio guides come free, so remember to pick them up at the counter before you proceed – even if you are not into listening to the minute details of each painting, the audio guide is useful because some of the paintings have only German titles and the audio guide could give you the English version.
MUMOK and Leopold Museums
From the Historische Museum, we proceeded to the nearby Museum of modern art – MUMOK. The building gives you the space-age impression. I somehow didn’t like it – it was grey, glassy and impersonal. If this is the future and the KMH was my past, boy! I would go with the past anytime. Getting past the initial dislike of the building, there is a good collection of modern art – good as in it covers a few floors. I must not comment on modern art – coz frankly I am no fan. It doesn’t impress me in the best of its form. Suffice to say this one wasnt impressive enough to overcome my default indifference. But for some modern art affiniado, this might be interesting. There were a couple of pieces, including Picasso’s famous work Fermande as well a Derain’s sculpture of a Cowering Man that caught my fancy, but that was pretty much it. After that we headed out to Leopold Museum, which is not as modern as the MUMOK. An exceptional work that you should look out for here is ‘Life and Death’ by Klimt. It is an amazing representation of the opposites of life and death, in the typical Gustav style of linearity. Its one of those paintings that you can sit and stare for a very long time – not surprisingly, the benches in front of it are never free.
After an entire day spent in museums, both of us were exhausted and spent a fair amount of time in the German and apparently Austrian too – hobby of people watching. The Museum Quartier has a very bohemian feel to it and has several new-age “seats” where you can just sit and watch the world go by. There were a group of amateur sky boarders, who kept falling down while trying to pratise their devillish jumps, which kept us entertained.
After three wonderful days spent in Vienna, we headed back home on Sunday. Vienna is overall an excellent place – almost like Paris, in its imperial feel, yet down-to-earth and non-snobbish in a way that makes one feel comfortable and at ease- it could be just that French is so alien to me, while I can get by in German, thats made me feel slightly more at home here. Whatever it may be, Vienna will always be a special place – with its beautiful gardens, exquisite museums, imperial buildings, lively street performances and splendid coffee and cakes.