111op's Trip Report for Germany & Vienna

Old Oct 10th, 2006, 01:57 PM
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111op's Trip Report for Germany & Vienna

Hi, I just came back yesterday. I arrived in Munich the previous Saturday. I left for Berlin on Tuesday. I took a number of day trips. I was also in Frankfurt, Dresden, Hannover, Hamburg. I was supposed to return from Vienna on Sunday on an evening flight after an early morning arrival. Instead I was informed that that my flight was cancelled. This gave me one full day in Vienna.

On the whole the trip went very well. I went with a friend O, and he and I didn't argue at all. He was extremely accommodating and easy going during the entire trip -- to the extent that he wasn't going to take the 120 euros I owed him. We never had an issue with bathrooms either. We each pursued what we were interested in. I never forced him to go to an art museum, and he pursued his interests in history.

I was in Berlin in the summer of 2003. I was in Vienna in the summer of 2002. My schedule was so full that I didn't have time to revist the Reichstag or Brandenburg Gate.

I'll provide the following summary so that you can decide if you want to read the full report.

Train distances (with rail pass)

Munich to Berlin (about 600 km)
Berlin to Frankfurt (about 560 km)
Frankfurt to Hannover (about 250 km)
Hannover to Berlin (about 290 km)
Berlin to Dresden (about 200 km one way so 400 km)
Berlin to Hamburg (about 290 km one way so 580 km)

Total: 2810 km

Highest Point Visited: Zugspitze (2962 km)

Castles Visited: Hohenschwangau, Neuschwanstein

Cash withdrawn: 650 euros

CDs purchased

4 CD set on Michelangeli
5 CD set on S. Richter
6 CD set on E. Gilels
7 CD set on L. Berman

Meals

Breakfasts skipped: 4 out of 9
Proper sitdown lunches: 2
Proper sitdown dinners: 2
Sausages consumed: At least 3
Pizza consumed: 3/4
Beer: About 1 liter

Paintings

Raphaels: 10 (3+5+1+1)
Bruegels: 17 (2+2+13)
Vermeers: 6 (1+2+2+1)

Missed two "Flights into Egypt" on my list -- one by Elsheimer (Munich), one by Cranach (Berlin)

Museums

"German Grand Slam"

Alte Pinakothek (Munich)
Staedel (Frankfurt)
Alte Meister (Dresden)
Gemaldegalerie (Berlin)

Kunsthistorisches Museum

Pinakothek der Moderne (Munich)
Green Vaults (Historic and New in Dresden)
Hamburger Kunsthalle

Museums in Berlin

Pergamonmuseum
Altes Museum (Egyptian Collection)
Jewish Museum
Bauhaus Archiv
Hamburger Bahnhof

Memorials in Berlin

Topographie des Terrors
Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Europe

Some Special Exhibitions Attended

Berlin-Tokyo (Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin)
Cranach, Cy Twombly (Alte Pinakothek, Munich)
"Black Paintings" (Haus der Kunst, Munich)
French Painting, Martin Munkacsi (Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin)
Felix Gonzalez-Torres (Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin)
Sigg Collection on contemporary Chinese art (Hamburger Kunstahalle)

Other Art Statistics

Art Fairs Attended: 3
Art Galleries Visited: About 10
Private Collection Visited: Sammlung Hoffmann

Concerts

Attended: 2 1/3 (Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, 1/3 of "Peter Grimes" at Staastoper)
Missed: 1

Best Art Experiences

#1: Green Vault
#2: "Black Paintings"
#3: Sammlung Hoffmann
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Old Oct 10th, 2006, 02:01 PM
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Days 1-3 in Munich, with a day trip to Zugspitze and Castles on Day 2

Day 1

I arrived at the hotel and O was already out. He had gone to Berchtesgaden. Since the Munich art galleries were mostly closed by early afternoon on Saturdays, I set off to see a few. I saw a show on Richard Artschwager. One piece on display played again with the viewer's perception. It looked like a cross, but the edges were shaved off and lined with formica, so the cross looked differently when you moved around it.

I was curious to see Funf Hofe, a shopping complex designed by Herzog and de Meuron. I didn't find it too interesting either. Nearby was Elly Seidl, a chocolatier praised highly by DK Eyewitness Top 10. I wasn't too impressed either.

By walking to a couple of galleries and visiting a few shops, I did get a sense of Munich's layout downtown.

I then made my way for Alte Pinakothek. The layout confused me, and I afterwards realized that I had used a side entrance initially, which led directly to an exhibition on Cy Twombly's sculptures. I saw some Twombly sculptures at the Whitney recently. The ones there were reminiscent of elongated Giacometti sculptures. The works at Munich were much more varied. The most interesting and colorful was perhaps a sculpture that looked as if colorful paper towels had been crumpled and put on a birthday cake. However this sculpture was also roped off and one had to see it from a slight distance.

On one of the sculptures, Twombly had written in his trademark scrawl: "Beauty is the promise of happiness." I'm still trying to understand what this means.

I then went to the permanent collection. I didn't have time to see everything -- of course -- and I quickly hurried off to see the Leonardo painting that had been exhibited elsewhere in a special exhibition. This is the only Leonardo owned by a German museum and is an early Leonardo. In my opinion, the figures seem rather awkward. The Christ child has rather unnatural folds of skin that look more like drapery folds, but a booklet that accompanies the show seems to think that deterioration of painting materials could explain this. In any case, I skipped the rest of the paintings in this special exhibition. I was in such a rush that I nearly forgot to cross off the two Bruegels owned by this museum.

I only had about 25 minutes to see the Pinakothek der Moderne across the street. I quickly walked through the latest works by George Baselitz. Wolfgang Tillmans got a show, as did Araki, with his erotically charged photographs.

My favorite room in this museum was a Dan Flavin installation. Flavin used violet flourescent light in a dark room, and the effect wasn't unlike my experience with the Eliasson Pavilion at the Venice Biennale last year. This was Flavin with a twist. There were signs posted outside that the room emitted ultraviolet light, so one shouldn't spend more than five minutes for health reasons. I walked in and out a few times.

Afterwards I walked to Maximilianstr. with its elegant high-end stores and then on to Haus der Kunst. Since this closed at 8, I left it for last. I very much enjoyed the show on "Black Paintings," which displayed works by Rauschenberg, Stella, Reinhardt and Rothko. While this experience was no match for my Dresden experience, it was nonetheless a wonderful show.

Finally on my way back to the hotel I happened upon a grocery store and bought some water and bananas. I was amazed by beer prices. I bought a huge can of Augustiner hefeweizen for 0.70 euro or something like that. It was insanely cheap. The store didn't seem to offer plastic bags to bag the groceries, and fortunately I had a spare one. I then went back to the hotel and napped, and O returned from his day trip quite late, around 10 pm.

Day 2

O rented a car for this part of the trip, and we set off together that day. The weather had not been cooperative and it had been raining, but fortunately by the time we were nearly at Zugspitze, the skies had cleared up a bit. The music on the radio station even matched the evolving scenery, as we happened to be listening to Mahler's "Resurrection" symphony.

Since we didn't have much time, we opted for the cable car up to the peak and down. One had to marvel at the engineering that made a 3000 m ascent possible. I wish that I had bought an additional day on my German railpass as this would have cost me only 4 euros instead of 45 euros.

Upon our descent, we went to view King Ludwig's castles. The road signs were a little confusing, and all roads seemed to lead to Fuessen. Finally we followed signs for Konigschlosser to reach the village of Schwangau (Hohenschwangau) to buy tickets for the castles. Fortunately the castles still had a late close that day (at 6 pm), so even though we arrived around 2:15 pm, we had time to see both Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein castles.

Entry to the castles was by timed entry and guided tours only. One had to go to Hohenschwangau first and then Neuschwanstein later (about two and a half hours later, I think -- our tours were at 2:45 pm and 5:15 pm or something like that). Each guided tour was fairly short, just about 40 minutes. While there were carriage rides and bus rides for the castles, we walked to Hohenschwangau and back and to Neuschwanstein. We did return from Neuschwanstein by bus. The climb for Neuschwanstein was definitely much more strenuous.

While one was advised that the climb for Hohenschwangau would take about 20 minutes, it took us about five minutes. This was an easy climb. This was actually not Ludwig's castle but rather the father's, Maximilian's. I was surprised to see a billiard table upon entry. Then there was bread on a silver tray that had been offered by the Russian royal family as a present. We were told that it was never eaten. The bread was more than a century old.

We were also told that because of a private arrangement, Hohenschwangau remained private property (of descendants of the former royal family). Further the patriarch lives in a wing of the Nymphenburg castle in Munich. Neuschwanstein, on the other hand, is state owned. Our guide for Hohenschwangau said he was entitled to tips as a consequence, but we didn't tip.

Schwan is the German word for swan, and this was the symbol for the Bavarian royal family, which traced its lineage to medieval knights who used this symbolically as well. It also features in Germanic legends -- like the one for "Lohengrin," in which a knight arrives on a swan to save a maiden in distress (as explored by Wagner in his opera). Anyway, the swan motif was much more prevalent in Neuschwanstein, King Ludwig's fantasy castle. Ludwig himself was mad and was obsessed with Wagner's operas and decorated many of the rooms with opera scenes. The bedroom, for example, used scenes from "Tristan."

I did think that the tour for Neuschwanstein ended rather abruptly. It was a bit of a letdown, but the castle itself exemplifies the Disney fairy tale castle. And it is quite modern too, as it was built in the late 19th century. There were running water, toilets that flushed and other modern conveniences.

Everyone would tell you to go to Marienbrucke to get a view for Neuschwanstein, and we did so after the tour. I found the bridge a little frightening. It shook a little and I felt like it would collapse. But it has been functional over one hundred years and I'm sure millions have walked on it.

We actually had a pretty rainy day, and it rained quite a lot during the drive back to Munich. Fortunately O was driving and I just had to sit back and relax. We returned to Munich around 9 pm.

Day 3

Having paid 187 euros for a hotel room a night, we had to go to Oktoberfest. I was afraid that beer tents might close to visitors when they got too crowded, so we went there before noon. We went to the Hofbrau tent. Some tables were reserved, and we couldn't sit there. But soon a German family of four (parents, grandma, daughter) were beckoning us to join them. O and I each ordered a liter of beer, and O actually finished his beer. I had about half a liter and was remarkably sober.

The tent's atmosphere was what Germans would term gemuetlich. I quite enjoyed it. The family was warm and shared their pretzels and roasted hazelnuts with us. The grandma kept telling me to eat a little and then drink a little so that I'd not get drunk. I had half a hen, the customary Oktoberfest meal, for lunch.

We left the grounds around 2:30 pm and the Hippodrom tent was closed to visitors. O was feeling sick and we went back to the hotel. I also took a nap and got up around 4 pm. I went out to run a quick errand and returned to the hotel.

In the evening, we walked to Marienplatz. Unfortunately we had missed the show with the Glockenspiel.
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Old Oct 10th, 2006, 02:02 PM
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Day 4 in Berlin [This was written while I was on my trip -- so the grammar police will have to forgive me for tense conflations. ]

To my surprise, I managed to get up for my 5 am train ride from Munich to Berlin. The train station is literally right across from the hotel. I was able to sleep for much of the six-hour train ride. I had a cream of mushrooms (porcini, I think) soup on the train (4 euros).

7-Day Pass

I arrived in Berlin and found out that I could use my German rail pass for the S-bahn rides. However, to be on the safe side, I bought a 7-day pass for the two inner zones (25.40 euros). Almost immediately I started to regret it, as I realized that I really could get by with mostly the S-bahn. However the U-bahn is more useful for the former West Berlin. The pass really won't pay for itself unless I take lots of U-bahn rides over 4 days. But I did use U2 a lot today.

Two Art Fairs, A Few Galleries

I rearranged my schedule completely so that I can go to Kestner tomorrow (or now today -- since it's past midnight). I went to two satellite art fairs of Art Forum -- first Berlin Liste and then Preview Berlin. These were a little disappointing. I'm not so plugged into the art world that I could really spot "emerging artists." These art fairs were in Mitte and the former East Berlin (I used U2 to get to these fairs). I also realized that I wasn't completely unfamiliar with these parts of town. I explored the nightlife in Penzlauer Berg three years ago, and I ate at Gugelhof then, where Bill Clinton ate, which is also in the neighborhood.

I had some sphagetti bolognese for lunch in a local cafe. That was amazingly cheap -- at 4 euros. With a Pellegrino Limonata I paid 5.50 euros for lunch.

I had drawn up a list of galleries to visit, but two on Auguststr. were closed -- presumably because of the holiday (German Reunification). I then made it to another cluster near Topographie des Terrors. I went to Klosterfelde, mentioned in one NYT article. In the same complex was Arndt and Partner. Though I had come across it during my preparation for the trip, I neglected to note it on the final itinerary. So I was glad that I stumbled upon it because it was hosting a show on Yayoi Kusama, one of my favorite artists.

Topographie des Terrors

When I was in Berlin three years ago and went on a walking tour, our tour guide gave us his top three for the city: Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag Dome and Topographie des Terrors. I didn't have time for it during my last trip. This time, I stumbled upon it after visiting galleries near the area and while walking back to the hotel. It's located near Wilhelmstr., a street with a rather notorious past, and housed in the remains of a building with a notorious past. The trouble with this exhibit was that nearly all the labels and exposition were in German -- except for the bit near the end that explained that the project had run into difficulties several years ago so that construction was finally halted.

Fortunately I ran into an English guided tour and listened in for a few minutes. One especially chilling exhibit dealt with a secret conference in Wannsee in 1942. Our guide told us that a movie was made about this episode (starring Kenneth Branagh). There were plans to kill eleven million -- some of whom lived in territories yet to be conquered -- like 330,000 (or so) in England.

Hotel

I finally returned to the hotel to check in as I wasn't allowed to check in until after 3 pm. This hotel (Holiday Inn Express) is really a steal at an average rate of 56 euros a night. It's modern, clean and offers free internet access. The location is not the best, but it's perfectly adequate and quite convenient.

I freshened up, changed and headed for Berlin-Tokyo at Neue Nationalgalerie.

Berlin-Tokyo at Neue Nationalgalerie

This exhibition on the mutual influences and interactions among German and Japanese artists closed today. I arrived around 5:20, so I really didn't have much time to see this in great detail. Yayoi Kusama got her due again, and there were two large installations. One comprised balloons with her obsessive dots that recalled Warhol's silver clouds.

The building itself was designed by Mies. I also noticed a cast of "Broken Obelisk" (by Barnett Newman) outside.

Berlin Art Forum

I walked over to Philharmonie to pick up my ticket for the night's concert. Unfortunately the doors had closed at 6 and wouldn't reopen again for another half hour or so. I decided to head to Art Forum.

This art fair occupied just one section of the massive Messe Berlin. I think that there must have been simultaneously a few fairs going on. The building for Art Forum reminded me of immense fascist architecture. There was a lot to see at Art Forum.

I only had about half an hour as I had to leave for the concert at 8.

Missed Concert

I was cutting it quite close, and I thought that I'd attempt a short cut with the S-bahn. This turned out to be a mistake as the S-bahn required some inconvenient changes. By the time I realized this and ran over to the U-bahn station (line U2 again -- to Postdamer Platz), I had to wait about ten minutes for the next train. I finally reached Philharmonie around 8:10. I was worried that the box office would close when the concert started (even though this would not be the case in the New York), and my fears were founded. I left while hearing strains of the second movement of Prokofiev's "Classical" symphony.

I was annoyed for wasting money on a concert I missed (I think the ticket was 39 euros).

Rest of the Evening

Missing the concert gave me time to return to the hotel to regroup. I thought about the itinerary for the next day and decided to see if I could take an early train for Frankfurt. The best option for me was a 6 am train that was an ICE sprinter train. This would require a reservation, so I hurried over to Hauptbahnhof to see if I could get one. Unfortunately the train was already fully booked. My option is now a 4:34 am train for Frankfurt.

I went to Monsieur Vuong for dinner. This is mentioned by lots of guidebooks. The menu was quite short, and there were three specials for the day written on boards. I had the waitress translate them and I opted for the curry chicken (6.40 euros). It was prepared incredibly quickly and was pretty tasty. The serving bowls looked more like satellite dishes in that the rims didn't have the same heights uniformly. The curry chicken was mixed in directly with rice, basil, bean sprouts, red peppers, etc. I wasn't used to having my rice pre-mixed in this manner. I had a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice (3.20 euros) to go with my meal. Dinner cost 9.60 euros. Wow! I left a one euro tip.

Afterwards I returned to Penzlauer Berg to check out the nightlife. But the place I visited was pretty dead and I escaped after a few minutes.
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Old Oct 10th, 2006, 02:08 PM
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Day 5 (Berlin to Frankfurt to Hannover to Berlin)

I rearranged my itinerary so that I could meet a staff member at Kestner in Hannover. First I took a very early train for Frankfurt that day. I arrived in Frankfurt around 9 am, with enough time to walk to the Cathedral and to Museum fur Moderne Kunst. After the museum opened at 10, I ran my errand right away and then rushed off to Staedel. I had studied the subway routes so that I didn't have to waste any time. I spent about 15 to 20 minutes at Staedel, enough to check off a few important masterpieces, and then I took a train for Hannover around 10:50 am, which I was very concerned that I might miss.

The staff member at Kestner was exceedingly helpful. Before I left, she suggested that I visit the Sprenger Museum. I was surprised to see a room devoted to James Turrell, but I didn't have time to understand how the light experiments worked. One painting by Helen Frankenthaler was on display. It reminded me of a Clyfford Still painting with its isolated patches of color rather than the diffusive, blended stains that were characteristic of her other paintings.

While I was told to be on the lookout for Karl Schwitters, it was only later when I realized that he was involved in the Dada movement in Hannover (I did go to the Dada show at MoMA, but I had forgotten about the Hannover connection).

I rushed so that I could make it back to Berlin before Art Forum closed that day. I spent some more time there. Then later that evening I went to meet O at the train station. He was coming in from Nuremberg, and I managed to save him from buying a ticket for local transportation with my pass.

Day 6 (Berlin to Dresden to Berlin)

I had another early day again today. I had to take a 5:42 am train for Dresden, which left about half an hour late. It left from Berlin-Lichtenberg rather than the usual Hauptbahnhof. My aim was to see the historic Green Vault, which had just reopened about a month ago. By the time I arrived, there were more than 50 people in line. I was quite concerned that I would have to take an afternoon slot, but to my surprise I ended up with a 10-10:15 slot. Still there was some confusion, and I almost didn't make it (more about this later).

Without a doubt, my visit to both parts of the Green Vault was the highlight of this trip -- and I'm sure this will remain the highlight of many trips.

After a quick look at Alte Meister, I had to leave Dresden reluctantly. O and I were supposed to meet in Berlin and head out together. I took a train that left around 2:20 pm, but it was again late.

This was a Thursday, so many important museums were open late. O and I went to Pergamonmuseum and Altes Museum for free. I was in the Pergamonmuseum when I was in Berlin three years ago. It was amazing to see what people were able to accomplish with sculpted friezes and reliefs more than 2000 years ago. The Gates of Miletus were being restored -- just as they were being restored three years ago. But it wasn't difficult to imagine how tall and imposing the gates might have been.

Altes Museum holds the Egyptian collection for now. We quickly walked through it. Since I missed the bust of Nefertiti three years ago, I wanted to be sure that I saw it this time.

Afterwards, we met one of O's friends for drinks in Berlin. I enjoyed the vibes of this bar, which reminded me of bars in the East Village.

Day 7

Fortunately I could wake up a little later today for a change. O and I first went to the Jewish Museum. I was curious to see Libeskind's design. One corridor led to the Holocaust Tower, a dark, chilly room illuminated by a small flourescent tube. Another corridor led to the Garden of Exile, which comprised 49 concrete slabs on a slanted square plot. There was an extensive permanent collection about Jewish life over the centuries.

Next we went to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Europe. To reach the underground memorial one had to pass through metal detectors. In one room, victims' names were recited followed by a short biography. The enormity of the atrocities committed was underscored by the realization that a complete recitation would take several years.

Around 2:30 we split up. O went to meet a friend. I went to Quartier 206, an elegant shopping complex on Friedrichstrasse, but I didn't buy anything. Then I went to another art gallery in Berlin and also to the Bauhaus Archiv. I found the gift shop tempting, but I didn't buy anything. Next I went to the former West Berlin to visit a few shops. I bought some CDs.

I had followed my Time Out Berlin (2003) to Hans Riedl to check out classical music CDs, but it turned out that this sold scores and didn't carry any CDs. I asked for recommendations and I was referred to L&P Classics at Knesebeckstr. 32. The woman even drew a map for me. She was very kind.

This was a taxi cab day. Having taken cabs twice already that day, I decided to take a cab for Kulturforum. After missing the concert on Tuesday, I wanted to be sure to get to Philharmonie in time to get my tickets for that night. After picking up my tickets, I spent about twenty minutes at the Gemaldegalerie before it closed at 6 pm.

I then took a taxi again for Martin Gropius Bau. I saw two temporary exhibitions there and skipped the one on Rebecca Horn. I don't really know her work, but I could see one of her beautiful installations in the hall's atrium. One exhibition I saw was on French painting. Interestingly it closed with two canvases by Chinese-French painters. One was by Zao Wou-Ki. The other was by Yan Pei-Ming. I then saw an exhibition of photographs by Martin Munkácsi. I had never heard of this photographer before. Wikipedia provides a nice summary about him. The photograph that Henri Cartier-Bresson deemed so influential was exhibited.

I then returned to the hotel and went to Philharmonie again together with O. Zinman conducted the Berlin Philharmonic that evening. To my surprise, I rather enjoyed the concert. It started with works by Stravinsky, none of which was familiar, which was then followed by a flute concerto by Dalbavie. I'd never heard any of Dalbavie's works before. The flute part sounded quite challenging, and the music seemed at times eerie. There never seemed to be decisive moments in this music -- rather this seemed like a continuously evolving web of sound. After intermission came the Tchaikovsky "Little Russian" symphony. I had heard this symphony before, but I couldn't quite remember the last two movements.

We had a late dinner at Pan Asia. I preferred Monsieur Vuong, but Pan Asia is located near the hip Hackescher Markt.

Day 8 (Berlin to Hamburg to Berlin)

O went to Hamburg early today, and I was due to meet him at 6:30 that day at the Rathaus. I went back to West Berlin to check out some shops and buy chocolates at Leysieffer. Then I had to rush to Gemaldegalerie again to see what I didn't get a chance to see the day before.

I probably could have spared 15 or 20 minutes for the show on Rembrandt, but entry was by timed slots, and the next available slot was for noon, when I was due at Sammlung Hoffmann.

I'll elaborate separately about my interesting experience visiting Sammlung Hoffmann, a private collector's contemporary art collection installed in the collector's home.

The tour took more than 90 minutes and ran longer than I expected. After checking out some more shops nearby, including Claudia Skoda (I was told the shop has been around for 15 years (?), and I could ask for clothes to be custom made -- ready in about two weeks), I decided to go to Hamburger Bahnhof since this is right across from Hauptbahnhof, where I would be taking a train for Hamburg.

In the main hall, I saw works by Anselm Kiefer and a work by Richard Long. There was a show on Felix Gonzalez-Torres. I don't know much about him, but he liked using candy in his works. I had seen some similar works before. In Hamburger Bahnhof, someone actually kicked some candy out of place. I looked at the label and it belonged to a private collection in Texas, I think. The Guggenheim offers a nice summary about this artist, who died when he was young.

I also tore off some free posters to take with me. Gonzalez-Torres also invited us to take away a poster at Sammlung Hoffman, and I did there as well. However this meant that I had to deal with unwieldy rolls of paper for the rest of my trip.

I left Berlin around 2:30 and arrived in Hamburg a little before 5. I went to the Kunsthalle to see an exhibition on Chinese contemporary art from the Sigg Collection. I first heard about the Sigg Collection through Y. Sigg, I believe, was a former Swiss Ambassador to China. The entrance was dominated by sculptures by Yue Minjun that looked like the figures from his paintings. When seeing a group of them lined up together, I was reminded of Chinese terracotta soldiers.

I rushed through this show so that I could see the one on Caspar David Friedrich. Unfortunately it turned out that the ticket I bought wasn't good for this show (even though I had clearly asked for a ticket to see both), and the ticket counter had closed for the day. So I had to give up. I left the stuff I had brought from Berlin in a locker at the train station (I had no time to drop things off at the hotel before setting off for Hamburg) and set off to meet O at the Rathaus.

Right at 6:30 pm, O emerged from the subway station. We found a coffee shop to sit and rest for a while and then went to Reeperbahn, the city's red light district. I found this underwhelming. O had already been there and told me about Condomerie. There was a huge condom displayed at the window and one would get 100 euros if one could wear that condom snuggly. Apparently two people managed to claim this prize, according to Lonely Planet.

We returned to Berlin around 11:30 pm.
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Old Oct 10th, 2006, 02:11 PM
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Vienna

Day 9

Leaving Berlin was quite an adventure. Imagine dragging a 20 kg bag for a couple of blocks, and the bag was not made to be wheeled easily. I like this bag because it's very compact, but once it's full it's a bag from hell. Of course a few blocks look like a short distance on a map of Berlin, but anyone who has been to Berlin knows that there's a lot of walking involved. Anyway, I caught U6 at Kochstrasse a little before 5 am and switched to Bus 128 and arrived at 5:30 am for a 7 am flight. I wasn't checked in until after 6 am.

I left my bag at the Vienna airport and took the bus for the city center. I picked up a ticket for "Peter Grimes" later in the evening and my standing froom ticket for the Philharmonic I had reserved about a week ago. I also noticed that the Vienna Philharmonic has decided to issue historic live recordings from its archive. I decided to buy the Bruno Walter disc. He conducts Mozart's G minor and Mahler's "Das Lied" (with Patzak and Ferrier). Walter made some celebrated recordings with these soloists.

Prior to getting my tickets, I stopped by Pension Suzanne, the hotel Y recommended. I wanted to see if a room had opened for the night. I was offered a double for 102 euros, and I turned it down. The hotel is indeed very central. It doesn't have its own building.

While walking towards the opera house, I noticed J & L Lobmeyr. I dutifully noted that all the chandeliers on window display were several thousand euros.

Vienna Philharmonic Concert

Despite having seen many photographs of the Musikverein, I was still awed by the hall. The emphasis is gold. Gold everywhere. This is a beautiful hall, and it reminds me a bit of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, in that both have similar two-level designs and are quite intimate. Standing room is on the orchestra level, and I felt like I was standing in a loggia with the imposing pillars. That's the main problem with standing room -- that the pillars block one's view. But since I was just behind another person I could make out most of the stage.

The program, on the other hand, wasn't terribly appealing. Muti conducted a Haydn symphony and then the Mozart little G minor (used in the movie "Amadeus"). After intermission, he conducted a ballet suite from Salieri's "Europa Riconosicuta" and then another Haydn symphony. Of course the Philharmonic excels in this sort of repertoire. If I remember right, the Salieri piece was the first piece ever performed at La Scala, and it was chosen to be the first piece performed after the recent renovations. In that sense it was interesting to hear this piece. How do Mozart and Salieri compare? The oboist has some brilliant work to do in both pieces, but Mozart's writing in the opening movement for the oboe has much more character, in my opinion.

Hotel

I didn't have a hotel reservation for Vienna, so I decided to visit the tourist office near Hofburg. After asking for the cheapest and most central option available, I was booked at Hotel Austria (no. 37 out of 290 on Tripadvisor). I paid 87 euros plus 2.90 euros booking fee for a single room. The hotel is actually quite nice. It's near Schwedenplatz. My room is huge. It has two single beds and a separate sitting area, and the hotel offers free net access.

Albertina

I next went to Albertina. There's currently a show on Picasso. It turns out that these are mostly works from the last decade of his life (1960 or so). Apparently these works have been mostly misunderstood and underappreciated. I took this to mean that I could speed through the exhibition. But the flat sculptures were interesting to see. There was not much of a sense of volume, and they reminded me of Matisse's paper cuts -- except the sculptures were of course three-dimensional, but not completely.

There was another show on Austrian dagurreotypes. I spent even less time on that.

Then of course Albertina excels in its prints and drawings collections. Almost immediately in a series of rooms, I was first greeted by Michelangelo, then Durer, then Rubens. However after taking a closer look at the labels, I saw the word facsimile on nearly all of them. Were these merely copies? Still Durer's work is a tour de force -- from praying hands to a rabbit to a bird's wings to nature. Rubens's drawing of his son with a coral necklace was lent to an exhibition at the Met a while ago. It was nice to see this again.

Lunch at Cafe Demel

I felt like I was about to collapse any minute -- from lack of sleep and lack of nourishment. So I decided to have lunch at Cafe Demel. When my mom and I were in Vienna in 2002, we went to Sacher to have the eponymous torte. I figured that I should give Demel a try this time. All the tables outdoors were taken, so I went to the second-floor tourist ghetto. I ordered a goulash, a water "zitrone" (very sour) and an ice-cream concoction of the day. I thought the dessert was rather ordinary -- cream, chocolate and vanilla ice-cream and strawberries. But the goulash was decent. Lunch was a little over 15 euros and I left a 2 euro tip.

Fortified, I was now ready to tackle some more museums in Vienna. But first I went to buy a lot of chocolates at Xocolat.

Kunsthistorisches Museum

I arrived at the museum at 4:15 pm.

The weather was great, and people were lying on the grass patches in front of the museum.

I asked about Cellini's salt cellar. It's being restored -- and the decorative arts galleries are currently closed.

I then headed for the paintings. This museum has the same problem as the German art museums that I visited. Labels were not terribly informative and were of course in German -- mostly. The strategy seems to be to hang large paintings in the main galleries and smaller paintings in side galleries so that they are not overwhelmed by the larger paintings. However as there are basically no signs as to which rooms contain what, it's not easy to find things.

I first saw some Guido Reni paintings. Not surprisingly, three Caravaggio paintings were nearby. The museum has a beautiful Raphael painting, and it also has some óther important paintings in the Italian school. One is Antonello's "San Cassiano Altarpiece," which exists as a fragment. Another is Mantegna's "San Sebastian." It has a beautiful Correggio painting called "Jupiter and Io," in which one can barely make out Zeus's face in the gray clouds. Next to it was another Correggio on the abduction of Ganymede. The treatment couldn't have been more different from Rembrandt's in Munich's Alte Pinakothek.

As for the Flemish and Dutch schools, I found it surprising to see a Jean Fouquet among the Flemish Primitives. The museum owns one Vermeer and one Bosch. Then there are of course the Bruegel paintings. I checked off thirteen Bruegel paintings. Nearly every painting the museum owns is on view except for "Storm at Sea," which a book published by Taschen notes as an unfinished painting and as probably Bruegel's last.

Then there were the Arcimboldo paintings, which predate surrealism by centuries.

Velazquez's portraits hung in a separate room, but some of them are probably in London for the show. Then the Kunsthistorisches Museum is itself preparing for the show on the Venetian Renasisance, which traveled from DC. So this was a good excuse not to spend time finding paintings that may happen to be elsewhere.

To my surprise I was done in 50 minutes.

Akademie der Bildenden Kunste

This institute is near the museum, but the building wasn't in great shape. Paint was peeling, and floors were poorly lit. Anyway, the prize of this art gallery is the Bosch "Last Judgment" triptych.

Seccession Building

Since the secession building is right across the street, I decided to walk over to take a look. The outside pots for plants are supported by tortoises.

Act 1 of Peter Grimes

I then checked in at the hotel and tried to rest a little. I'd been feeling like a zombie all day, but I didn't manage to sleep. After taking a shower, I went to Staatsoper for "Peter Grimes," which started at 7:30.

I once spent a few weeks trying to be more acquainted with Benjamin Britten's music, having heard his Cello Suites in a concert performed by Wispelwey. I think his operas were intended as vocal vehicles for his lover Peter Pears. However, having checked "Grimes" out of the library a while ago and listened to it casually didn't make the opera more accessible. If I were less tired, I probably would have stayed, but I decided to leave after the first act. I did take my time to walk around the opera house. I also found the Vienna boxes more spacious than their New York counterparts. My box had a sitting and resting area upon entrance.

Furthermore no one wants boxes in Europe (my ticket cost 9 euros), whereas they're much more desirable in NYC.

Dinner

I walked to Julius Meinl, which was closed. I then tried DO & CO, but there was nothing available. I picked up two medium sacher tortes at Hotel Sacher. I think the shop closed at 1 am. This was 18.50 euros each. I returned to the hotel and used the computer for a bit and then went to a cafe near Freud's House.

Leaving and Flight Home (Day 10)

I decided to take the S-bahn to the airport. With my 24 hour Vienna ticket (5 euros), I had to pay a 1.50 euro supplement. However this was still the cheapest option available. Incidentally this was the only time during my entire trip when a conductor checked my tickets on regional rail transport (my tickets were never once checked in Berlin or Munich).

I was impressed by the classical music selections on Austrian Air. Each piece was introduced in German and then in English, and a summary was given for the conductor and a date for the performance. All the performances were taken from live performances by Vienna Philharmonic.

I finally saw "The Da Vinci Code" and parts of "Inside Man." I'm curious to know how this movie ends. First I didn't realize that the movie was directed by Spike Lee. Then there's supposedly a big twist at the end, which I of course missed because the airline turned off in-flight entertainment right then.
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Old Oct 10th, 2006, 02:12 PM
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Ok, I guess that's it for now. I'll be back with details on the Green Vault & Sammlung Hoffmann for those interested. Feel free to ask me any questions. I'm happy to go on, but I think no one wants to read a long report like this one.
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Old Oct 10th, 2006, 03:35 PM
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Amazing. Totally amazing. I'm going to print it out to be able to read it in full detail. Glad you had such a great trip.
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Old Oct 10th, 2006, 03:38 PM
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Boy, were you busy! Thanks for the details on the art you saw.

From what we were told at the Albertina, they display facsimiles because of the fragility of the original drawings. Also, did you see the Cranach's and Altdorfer's in the Kunsthistorisches museum? They are my favorites.
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Old Oct 10th, 2006, 03:49 PM
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111op,

Sounds like a great trip. I was in Berlin and Dresden this time last year. How is the construction coming in Dresden? It seemed like there were cranes everywhere. We were able to tour the Frauenkirche, but the entire surrounding was a construction zone.
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Old Oct 10th, 2006, 05:50 PM
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Thanks starrsville.

I saw some Altdorfers and some Cranachs, but you'll have to forgive me if I can't remember where I saw what. One famous Altdorfer is the "Battle of Issus" in Munich. I saw that. Actually the treatment of the soldiers reminded me of one of the Bruegels in Vienna. Both portrayed masses of men.

A famous Cranach is in Berlin -- "Fountain of Youth," which I saw. And actually Alte Pinakothek had a special exhibition on Cranach also.

I arrived in Dresden around 8:30 and left around 2:30. I never really ventured outside of the Zwinger complex. It was raining that day. I took a taxi between the Neustadt station and the Zwinger complex. So actually I didn't see much construction. I wanted to see Frauenkirche, but I had to pass in the end. I know that I'll return to Dresden again to see the Green Vault.
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Old Oct 10th, 2006, 06:34 PM
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I love it!!! very well done! thank you for taking the time to write it.
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Old Oct 11th, 2006, 02:18 AM
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Hi,

thanks for this report. You were really busy!

Of course I'd like to know more about the Historic Green Vault - haven't been in so far. What did you impress so much? I got feedback from a friend from the USA who was somewhat disappointed that the most famous single pieces are on display in the New Green Vault (Court of Delhi, Golden coffee set etc.) - and they missed it. Is it the overall impression in the Historic Green Vault?

Re: construction - yes, there is still a lot going on. That won't change in the next 5 years I think. More and more is getting completed, though.
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Old Oct 11th, 2006, 05:14 AM
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They missed the new Green Vault? How could that be? You're right that the best pieces are in the new Vault. Of course the star in the end is Dillinger. And you get the best Dillinger pieces there.

The prize of the historic Green Vault is the Obeliscus Augustalis. As you know, this requires a mirror to complete the display because that's the way the piece was designed. It was displayed this way in the historic Green Vault.

However the historic Green Vault is special because of the carefully orchestrated sequence of rooms.

Further as you said, the collection is unparalleled. I don't think that I've never seen anything like this before. The French Royal Collection, for example, didn't really survive the French Revolution. I remember reading one of the books I bought about the Green Vault, and it was likened to the collection in the Tribuna in Florence (which was deemed perhaps more superior). However that didn't survive either.

Anyway, I'll be writing more about it.
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Old Oct 11th, 2006, 05:19 AM
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I should add that you need to go to both Green Vaults to get the complete experience. When seen this way, the collection is overwhelming.
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Old Oct 11th, 2006, 05:45 AM
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Thanks for your response. Yes, I think it is the only (almost) completely remaining collection.

I have had the unique opportunity to see the Historic Green Vault before the restoration started. It was in surprisingly good condition considering the firestorm in 1945. (without the pieces of course, only the stucco works, painted decoration, panels, marble floors).

I saw a lot of TV shows about the restoration works lately. The craftmanship is amazing. I also visited the craftsmen's workshops (located on the 3rd floor of the Royal Palace) two years ago and watched them working. That was fantastic too!

Oh yes, the works of the Dinglinger brothers ... and the obeliscus Augustalis. What I like in particular in the New Green Vault is the ship of ivory.

Looking forward to read more

PS: only a short visit to the Old Masters Gallery? And you missed the temporary exhibit "From Monet to Mondrian"? And the Porcelain collection? ;-)
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Old Oct 11th, 2006, 05:54 AM
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Sorry I misspelled Dinglinger.

I'll write more later -- after work.
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Old Oct 11th, 2006, 09:30 AM
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111op: Great report that i'll have to pour through a bit more thoroughly - especially Berlin portion.

Q? You say you found the ICE Sprinter train sold out - this type of train is the only train in Germany that requires reservations and thus with a railpass you can hop on every other type train - 99% of them. Q- what class of pass did you have and did you find it ever a problem to find empty seats or did you in fact reserve seats ahead of time?

Thanks. PalQ
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Old Oct 11th, 2006, 09:36 AM
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Great report, thanks. I'm visiting Vienna in December and wanted to ask a couple of questions:

1) how did you get a standing room ticket at Musikverein, and about how much was it? Did you have to buy that day like for the opera?
2) What did you think of Akademie der Bildenden Kunste? I'm trying to decide whether to go or not.
3) Were there any impressionist drawings in the Albertina, do you recall?
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Old Oct 11th, 2006, 09:39 AM
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Hi, re the rail pass, I never reserved a seat. The first time each day a conductor saw the pass, there was a cancellation mark/stamp across the date that I filled in. The ensured that you couldn't change the date subsequently.

I believe my pass was always checked at least once during each ride. Once it was checked when I was eating in the dining car. But I never had a problem with it. They never asked for my passport either.

I had a four-day German rail pass.

I wanted to take an ICE Sprinter from Berlin to Frankfurt to give myself an additional hour of sleep. But I was sold it was sold out when I checked at the Berlin Hbf (I checked around 9:50pm the night before for a 6 am or so departure).

As I mentioned the Zugspitze rides are probably worth getting one extra day of the pass for -- if you're planning on a 4-day pass (or more days) already. (Each incremental day is only 20 euros.)

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Old Oct 11th, 2006, 09:42 AM
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JoeTro,

#1 I called a week in advance. Check the Philharmonic's webpage for details. Ticket cost 4.50 euros -- no need to pay in advance. But the office is on Kartner Ring 12 not the Musikverein.

#2 Skip Akademie unless you want the Bosch triptych (which I wanted). It costs 7 euros.

#3 No imp drawings as I recall but there were some Schieles on display.

I'll write more after work.
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