As our train approaches our second home in Salzburg, I have to marvel at the amazing sights that our group has seen during our short Vienna excursion. We may have only spent a few days in Austria’s capital, but we’ve experienced some of the best things that Vienna has to offer. As for me, I spent my time in Vienna living like royalty as I explored St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Schönbrunn Palace, and the Belvedere Art Museum. In my limited time in this beautifully dissonant city, I’ve definitely gained a better appreciation for Austrian culture outside of Salzburg, and the curious ways it integrates the past into its outlook on the future.
Going to Mass at St. Stephen’s Cathedral was unlike any Mass I had ever been to. The Mass was offered in German, and the St. Stephen’s Cathedral choir serenaded the congregation with a beautifully executed Haydn Mass setting. In my opinion, one of the most amazing things about Catholicism is that no matter where you go, whether that be Austria or Australia, the core of the Mass is universal. However, while I’ve experienced mass in non-English languages before, the language barrier combined with the classical musical setting shifted the energy of the Mass away from congregational involvement, and redirected it towards individual reflections— which was foreign to me. In hindsight, going to Mass at St. Stephen’s Cathedral required me to heed the words of Psalm 46:10— “Be still, and know that I am God.”
I also got to explore the lush gardens of the Schönbrunn Palace; the former Habsburg monarchy’s summer playground. While the Schönbrunn gardens make the Mirabell gardens in Salzburg look like the Lowe’s flower section, the real highlight of Schönbrunn was paying the extra 3 Euro to catch a glimpse of the palace with the stunning Vienna skyline as a backdrop. The Habsburg dynasty may be gone, but one luxurious way that their legacy lives on is through countless tourists spending a day enjoying their former royal playground – Schönbrunn is reported to bed Vienna’s most popular tourist destination!
But despite the grander of St. Stephen’s and Schönbrunn, my favorite spot in Vienna was the Belvedere Art Museum, the current home of Gustav Klimt’s: The Kiss. The Kiss has long been a favorite painting of mine, and seeing the real thing just inches away from my face was quite literally tear-jerking. I also was able to see other exquisite works by well-known artists like Renoir and Monet, and discovered works by artists that were previously unknown to me, such as Schiele and Schwarz-Waldegg, that were equally provoking. See below for some pictures of the pieces that made my jaw-drop to the floor.
Vienna is a bustling city fueled by contradictions. It overwhelmed and intimidated me at first; but now that we’re almost back to Salzburg for our final two weeks, I find myself yearning for the cacophonous energy that Vienna thrives on, the energy that we, as guests in the city, contributed to. While I’m excited to see the mountainous Salzburg skyline again, I think that Vienna has permanently changed the way I interpret Austrian culture, and the ever-changing roles that we all play in the larger historical narrative.
If you haven’t already, follow my #TownieTuesday on @msmutravels, to see what else I get into during our final weeks in Austria!