Sunday, February 26, 2012


Once upon a time there was a Princess named Agnes (not to be confused with the adorable little girl named Agnes in Despicable Me). She was to be married to the love of her life, Margrave Leopold III. Agnes had a beautiful wedding veil, her favorite of all her veils, in fact. Sadly, a huge gust of wind came and stole her veil away far into the woods. Leopold, being the amazing, dashing man he is, vowed that he would find her veil and build a monastery in that very spot.

Years went by and the veil was nowhere to be found.

One day, while traveling through the woods, a pillar of light pierced through the trees. As Leopold approached the light, he found Agnes' veil, resting upon an elderberry bush, untorn and still in its perfect form. Up above in the light, he saw the Virgin Mary, looking down as though she had lovingly been watching after the veil the entire time.

Leopold fulfilled his promise. There in that very spot lies the Stift Klosterneuburg.

Originally, the church was a Romanesque basilica. It suffered a lot of damage from wars and sieges and was therefore updated in several different styles from the Gothic to the Baroque. In fact, the interior is entirely Baroque now.

I had to add the shots of the organ. There are organs everywhere in Vienna and they are all fascinating and beautiful.

Klosterneuburg also had a wonderful treasury with lots of cool stuff. As you could probably imagine, there was a ton of gold and precious gems and stones.

 This was carved from one solid piece of ivory. There are over a 150 characters in there!

Beautiful crown. I was wondering what I would look like wearing it, then I stopped wondering and knew I'd look awesome.

The crowned jewel of the Klosterneuberg Monastery is the Verdun Altar. 

This was created (or finished, I should say) in 1181 by Nicholas of Verdun. It is an amazing work in gold and enamel. Now this is what is really cool. It is set up as a typology. Each row moves chronologically through the Bible. The top and bottom rows are from the Old Testament and the middle is the New Testament, which basically just follows the life of Christ. Each of the stories in the columns are related to each other and create parallelisms. 

This altar was not originally in this triptych form that it is in now. It used to surround the altar in the church. Tragedy struck and the church burst into flames. At the last minute, this alter was saved, taken apart piece by piece. The problem with this is that no one knew what order they were supposed to go in. Luckily, they were able to figure it out based on the typology. It is still originally how it was when it was first made. There have been no touch-ups and no modern modifications made to it. The only thing that has changed is its setting. It was magnificent to behold from only a few feet away.

Believe it, or not, I actually have proof that I was here at this monastery. The Monastery overlooks a little suburb of Vienna.

Of course, I didn't go alone. I brought along a few of my homies. 

And yes, they are just as awesome as they look.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Rathaus

What is the best thing about Vienna during the Wintertime? I would like to submit my answer for voting. Hands down, it is ice skating at the Rathaus. Reasons? I have plenty of them.

First, there is the backdrop.

Who wouldn't want to skate in front of the City Hall (Rathaus)? I mean, just take a second and look at this building. Now, imagine skating in a rink in front of it, as well as skating through paths through the park that sits in front. Best thing ever? I think so.

Here is one of the two large rinks to skate in.

Amazing, right? Now you just have to imagine the pink, purple, blue and whatever other colored light falling on you as you are soothed by the best in European Techno (mm ts mm ts mm ts mm ts...). The "ice"ing on the cake. Here's what you should look like in your mind by now.

To get away from the pink techno soup, you just find an exit and make your way down a beautiful, scenic path through the park.

A quick interesting story about the Rathaus. Remember the Stephansdom? Well, there is a building code in Vienna that no building can be taller than the south tower of Stephansdom. Well, the architect of the Rathaus, Friedrich von Schmidt, submitted plans for his neo-Gothic City Hall and the center tower was just a little taller than the sound tower of St. Stephan's Cathedral. They were rejected and he was forced to shorten the middle tower to just below the limit. When the Rathaus was nearing completion, he stuck a spired capstone atop the center tower which made it taller than it was allowed to be. Take that building code. Thought you might like that little history lesson.

Hope you had fun ice skating! I know I did.

Monday, February 20, 2012


In the afternoon, after church and delicious tacos for lunch, my host family took us out to do some geocaching. I, personally, have never heard of this before. Apparently, people hide certain objects, obtain GPS coordinates for the object and then post them online for people to go and find. Pretty cool. My roommate Teancum was telling me of some clever ones back in Utah. Who knew?

This geocache was right near my host family's place. Everyone got bundled up and headed out.

"Let's go find this geocache thing. I'm ready."

All bundled up, ready for the cold. So cute.

Great way to stay dry. Also a great way to hang up the rain cover. :)

After some searching, we found the geocache underneath one of the benches. Inside was all sorts of little things that people had placed in there from little cards to small figurines and even a lanyard. It also includes a little notepad where you could write your name and the date that you found it. Pretty cool stuff!

The geocache itself. We found it! 

After we found that, we went up and down the streets that literally run through the Vienna woods. It was absolutely gorgeous and I loved it so much. We were even shown this amazingly cool house.

This would be an awesome house to live in. I would sit up in my towers everyday.

The kids were starting to get a little restless, so we headed on home. To top everything off, we had some delicious hot chocolate with whipped cream to warm us back up again.

Mmmm...... So good.

The cutest baby in all of Vienna. No question about that! 

The after geocaching game. He successfully made all the bricks stand on one point. What a smart kid.

It was the perfect way to spend a sunday afternoon.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Wiener Philharmoniker

It begins with a slow introduction, very calm and subdued. Then a wave of an arpeggio comes sweeping by, shortly followed by another. Suddenly, many more waves come flying in, colliding together and sweeping me away into a wonderful sea of harmony taking me far beyond my emotional threshold. For the next few minutes, I was being tossed from wave to wave, each one so gentle and pure. The experience was unlike anything I had experienced in music.

This is a well as I can describe what happened to me while listening to the Vienna Philharmonic's rehearsal of Wagner's Der Ring ohne Worte (The Ring Without Words). I was captivated for the next hour and fifteen or so minutes, never realizing that time was even passing by. In the simplest terms, it changed my life. Above was just one taste of many amazing things that I experienced in my two hours there. It was incredible.

This afternoon, I attended their performance of Sibelius' Symphony no. 7, Symphony no. 5 and Symphony no. 1, in that order. It was, of course, amazing! This group has such amazing musicianship and perfect mastery over their instruments. The music they create is out of this world!

I don't know what else to say. Really, I have tons to say but I have no idea how to put it into words.

I had a taste of heaven.

I want more.

After the Sibelius concert

Friday, February 17, 2012

Back to Klimt

Our Fine Arts class went to another museum today, which also features a lot of Klimt. It is the Leopold Museum. Something interesting about this museum is that all of the art was collected and bought by one man. His name is Rudolf Leopold and this museum, which has only been open for 10 years, showcases all of the art that he collected. The total number of pieces of art that he collected is well over 5,000! That's absolutely amazing!

There is a lot of talk going around about Klimt this year because it is the 150 year anniversary of his birth. He is a huge deal here in Vienna. Anyway, I have some images to show you of some of his works that were in the museum.

This painting is titled Death and Life. It's interesting how he titled it in that order, death first and life following after. Death is just patiently waiting to take his next victim. There is nothing that life can do because eventually it must face death. I think that's part of why I think that death seems so patient. He is in no hurry to make people pass his way. He knows that we all will eventually head his direction. There is so much to say about this painting. One interesting fact about this painting is that Klimt redid and added some things 5 years after he originally finished the painting. Below is an image of what it looked like before he changed it. Quite a striking contrast. 

I love it when I am able to get up close to a painting the see the small details of an artist, especially when it is not behind glass. Paintings from a distance look so smooth and well blended, but when approached up close, there is so much more character and personality given to the work. 

Also, what we perceive as one solid color is usually the mixture of many colors. Where Klimt has signed his name looks like yellow from a distance, but in the picture below, we can see yellow, pink, and even some green and gray. So, so, so cool.

Klimt also did a lot of landscape and nature scenes. I think it is very impressionistic, almost Monet-esque.

Aufziehendes Gewitter (Die große Pappel II)
Approaching Thunderstorm (The Large Poplar II)

Wiese mit Obstbäumen
Meadows and Trees


Klimt also painted beautiful portraits.

Klimt was asked to decorate a ceiling in the University of Vienna with images representing Medicine, Philosophy and Jurisprudence. Klimt never did paint these on the ceilings. His versions that he presented were rejected by the school for being too "radical" and "pornographic." These paintings were moved to Schloss Immendorf in lower Austria during World War II to be protected from German SS forces. Schloss Immendorf was set on fire as German SS forces were retreating, fearing that these paintings might fall into enemy's hands, namely the Russians. All that remains from these paintings are a few photographs and sketches. (edited June 5, 2015. Thank you anonymous comment for the correct information)

This is Klimt's depiction of Philosophy. I'm guessing that because Aristotle and Plato weren't prancing hand in hand across a sky full of life's questions was why it was rejected.

Here is Klimt's depiction of Medicine. No images of genius doctors saving lives here. There is depiction of death, which is probably the last thing any medical doctor or student wants to think about. They usually try to avoid that at all costs. There seems to be lots of pain and anguish going on as well. From my experiences, this is pretty accurate. I mean, every time I'm at the doctor's office or hospital, there is a lot of pain and crying, so, I've got your back, Klimt. I see where you are coming from. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Upper Belvedere

For our Fine Arts class, we went and visited the Belvedere Museum. Just to throw it out there, this is the museum, currently, with the largest Gustav Klimt collection in the world. So, after our German classes, we headed for the stassenbahn.

What a bunch of obedient children. Maybe if we're lucky, we won't end up at the Belvedere, but rather in the middle of a protest...

Well dang, it looks like we made it to the right place. Maybe next time.

This is the front of the Belvedere Palace. It has a huge and magnificent reflecting pond, which is currently frozen. This is what people first saw when approaching the palace. This was the summer residence of the great military strategist Eugene of Savoy. This is the man that finally defeated the pesky Turks who were constantly invading and plundering in Vienna. An interesting thing about this Eugene is that he was a very small man, in fact, he was barely over five feet tall. He was not great of stature and he also had poor health most of his life. This just goes to show that careful, wise and clever planning wins over pure brute strength and force. That sort of reminds me of this.

This is the view from the back of the palace. Belvedere means beautiful view. It looks over all of Vienna. Down below is the Lower Belvedere. This is where Eugene resided. He just had the upper section for guests and parties, which he would normally slip out quite early to get away from everybody. For being such a war genius, he was quite humble and quiet about all of his amazing achievements. Pretty cool.

Now, on to the amazing art exhibit. Unfortunately, they do not allow any pictures inside the palace (Sorry Kristin. This would have been particularly interesting to you). If you want to see the paintings yourself, you're going to have to come all the way to Vienna to do it.

The Klimt paintings were very, very beautiful. His famous The Kiss hangs in this exhibit and it is something to behold. It is actually not as big as I thought it was going to be, but it was still magnificent. The contrast between the actually painting and the gold leaf is surprisingly pleasing to the eye. I have seen plenty of pictures floating around and they simply do not do this painting justice. It has a kind of glow to it especially with the different ways that the light hits the gold and silver. 

Klimt's father was a Goldsmith and his sons started out by taking up the trade of their father. This is part of the reason that Klimt started using gold and silver leaf in his paintings. 

The painting that I was most interested in was actually one of his unfinished works that is titled The Bride. It was amazing to see his creative process in action. Half of the painting is finished, a quarter of it is just sketches and another quarter is in progress. It was really interesting to see that he had actually painted his figures first in the nude and then he would paint over them as if he were dressing them. Now, I have no idea whether he did this for all of his paintings or if this was him trying something new.

During this painting, Klimt suffered a stroke and was rushed to the hospital. Because they were in such a rush to get him to the hospital, his studio was not locked up and this painting was stolen. Before they could find it and get it back, Klimt had died of a brain hemorrhage. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Photo Journalism :: Protest

On Saturday, I was headed to the school to pick up my laptop which I had left in my locker. It was closing in an hour so I had to hurry fast. I was riding a strassenbahn, or streetcar, my new favorite mode of transportation around Vienna. It reminds me a lot of Russia when I would ride the trams. Then someone came on the PA system and said a whole bunch of stuff in German. I didn't understand a thing and just decided to go along and do whatever everyone around me did. As we were driving along, we got to a stop that was pretty close to where I needed to be when I saw a large mass of people marching down the street.

Obviously, I didn't even think twice about staying on the strassenbahn and jumped off immediately. Apparently, my route had been changed because of this protest. That's probably what they were saying on the intercom. These people were protesting Act 2, which is like the SOPA and PIPA acts in America for censorship of the internet and anti-piracy, but it's for Europe. It was quite the amazing adventure and I felt like a photo journalist. I was hoping for someone to burn something or for some kind of explosion somewhere, but that never happened. It was fun, nonetheless. I even got a few cries and yells in with the crowd, just to fit in a little better while I was taking pictures.

I never got my computer back that day and would have to wait until Monday. I didn't mind though.

Lots of people were wearing these masks from the movie V for Vendetta. I'm still not sure what that actually had to do with the protest, but, hey, they have some masks so I'll let them have their fun.

There were lots of signs and probably a lot of people that had no idea what they were actually protesting. Kind of like occupy Wallstreet. Just something for people to do. Heck, it even gave me something to do.

Best sign of the day.

Everyone is headed to the Parliament. Maybe someone in charge all of the internet in Europe will hear their cries.

My favorite shot on the day.

There was surprisingly quite a few people at this protest.

Even Mr. Sexy Dreadlocks with a sign half in English, half in German showed up.

They didn't know how to put there masks on.

The man himself giving his most convincing speech ever.

The beautiful neoclassical Parliament. Perfect meeting point for a protest.