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Published: March 24th 2018
Our final day in Vienna turned out to be the warmest day of our stay, as the temperature reached 50 degrees by mid-afternoon. With blue skies, and sunshine, we were very comfortable as we walked, while many Viennese were enjoying themselves at outdoor cafes and the parks around the city.
We had mapped out a pretty ambitious agenda, beginning with a visit to the Kunst Haus Wien, the museum founded by one of Austria's most important artists of the 20th-century, Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000).
Hundertwasser, whose birth name was Friedrich Stowasser, is considered to have been a visionary who used his art to spread his message for a life in harmony with nature and individual creativity. We found his works, which encompass tapestries, paintings, prints, and architectural designs, to border on the surreal.
He is a symbolic figure for a non-conformist way of life, a forerunner of environmental protection and a strong advocate for a self-determined, alternative life style. We watched a fascinating 10-minute video, Hundertwasser's Rainy Day
(a 1972 film by Peter Schamoni), which demonstrated just how much of a non-conformist, or "free spirit", he really was during his lifetime.
The museum was created through the renovation
of the 1892 building which housed an old furniture factory, in a style consistent with Hundertwasser's art. It stands less than half a mile from the Hundertwasserhaus, a municipally owned apartment block also designed by Hundertwasser and completed in 1986.
The museum was opened in April 1991. The Kunst Haus Wien has a total exhibition area of 36,000 sq. ft., with the two lower floors housing the permanent exhibits; temporary international exhibitions are held on the third and fourth floors.
The entire building is designed in typical Hundertwasser style, with wavy, undulating floors and a notable lack of straight lines, which he abhorred with a passion (use no T-squares was his motto); walking around is rather like being in a circus "Fun House"! Bright, glaring colours are used throughout, with foliage everywhere.
There is a fountain in the foyer, and a restaurant with abundant plant life reminiscent of a winter garden. An unevenly winding staircase leads to the main part of the exhibition on the upper floors. To keep the rooms flooded with daylight, Hundertwasser, who was said to be fond of sunlight and therefore windows, had a glass frontage built in front of the building facade.
We made a brief pit stop in the museum's cafe after completing our tour, where we enjoyed a couple gins and tonic before walking a short distance to view the Hundertwasserhaus, a subsidized apartment block in Vienna’s third district that was the first project in which Hundertwasser was able to materialize his architectural visions (with architects Josef Krawina and Peter Pelikan).
Following completion of the structural parts of the building, he worked side-by-side with the workers on the construction site every day for a year. The windows are irregularly placed, with trees integrated, and the floor is partly uneven. The roofs are green, halls were designed as arcades, and the terraced, intricate layout is topped with two gold-plated spires. After the official opening in the year 1986, dozens of similar buildings were created across the globe.
After viewing the Hundertwasserhaus, we had a bit of a trek to reach the Ringstrasse, where we planned on riding the tram to reach our lunch stop, the Café Landtmann, on the western side of the Ring. We made a brief detour into the Stadtpark, one of the many green spaces Vienna has to offer. Quite a few people---and ducks---were strolling
Viewed from the Heldenplatz
or sitting in the park when we passed through.
It turned out that the tram line we needed was shut down today, due to road construction near the Opera, so we took the U-Bahn (metro) for the first time, reaching the area close to the café.
The Café Landtmann, adjacent to the Burgtheater, is probably the most venerable of the old Viennese coffee houses, having opened its doors in 1873. The period decor and ambience are still intact, and we enjoyed our lunch very much.
Following lunch, we walked through the Volksgarten, with its numerous rose bushes wrapped in burlap sacks to protect them from the weather. In a month or so, when these plants are in bloom, it will surely be a magnificent sight to behold! We finally reached the Heldensplatz (Heroes' Square), a public space in front of the Hofburg Palace. Many important actions and events have taken place here, most notably Adolf Hitler's ceremonial announcement of the Austrian Anschluss to Nazi Germany in 1938.
After leaving the Heldenplatz, we found ourselves stymied yet again by the lack of tram service, so we flagged a taxi for the ride back to the apartment. Tomorrow
we fly to Brussels, Belgium; then via taxi to Brugge, a distance of about 60 miles. Auf wiedersehen
to the beautiful city of Vienna, where Old World charm is truly alive and well!
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