Sunday, 25 January 2015

Vienna's Ringstrasse (V2)

Plan of the city walls after reconstruction in 1548. Use the sketch of the Cathedral in the centre to orient it to the map below.
The old Vienna is a really compact city with heaps happening in a fairly small space. Getting around is very easy with their super efficient U-bahn, wide pedestrian zones and trams.  The U-bann was clean and runs on an honesty system where people are expected to buy their tickets and be ready to produce them if asked, when caught without out one there is an instant €190 fine. We bought 8 day passes(€36) and validated a ticket per person at the little blue stamper boxes each day. We were quite disappointed that we were never asked to present our tickets during our stay. The Ubann carriages even have complimentary magazines hanging on little hooks, none were stolen and I didn't see any graffitied either.  We found the trams a bit harder to use because the only maps we could find, listed the name of the stops but not the numbers or letters of the trams, which were all they showed on their displays as they trundled along. One very informative tram we did go on was the Yellow Ringstrasse Tourist tram, a warmer option to the top deck bus - hop on hop off tour.
The Yellow 'Ring Tram' follows the Ringstrasse, clockwise from Schwedenplatz. €8 per circuit.
Image from the tourist brouchure
The Ringstrasse is a collection of wide avenues that merge end on end to form a ring around the old city of Vienna. This space was originally the city walls and sloping moated embankments that protected this eastern frontier of Europe against the Tartar threat. The old walls kept numerous Turkish attacks out of the city, the last attack of 300 000 Ottoman troops were kept back from the 'Golden Apple' with only 15 000 men until the Polish King arrived with reinforcements and blew the Turks to smithereens with their canon from Kahlenberg(a hill overlooking the city). Thousands of Turks drowned in the Danube running for their lives.  The Turkish Vizier was strangled with a silk cord ( the approved execution manner of the times), his soldiers pulling on the ends like a tug of war after he accepted responsibility for the huge losses.
Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha
At least he enjoyed wearing silk for
a long time before it strangled him.

The siege made a hero of Count Ernst Rudiger von Starhemberg who lead the Viennese guards as they held out against the massive Ottoman army for two months. Just as the Turks had succeeded in tunneling under the walls and blowing one section up, the King of Poland(Jan III Sobieski) turned up with the 'Holy League'. The tour guide said very little about the supporting forces but heralded Ernst as the savior of Western culture and Christianity because the Battle of Vienna was the beginning of the end of Turkish strongholds in Europe. A young 20yr old - Prince Eugene of Savoy - was serving in the Polish ranks after leaving the French court with a hatred of Loius   IV.  Leopold I(Austrian King) hated the French King as well so welcomed the young refugee. Prince Eugene would later see off the Turks from Europe in the Battle of Zenta and finally pushed out the Ottoman influence by besieging Belgrade. When the new Vizier's 200 000 troops turned up to help, Eugene marched his 40 000 troops through the fog and routed the surprised troops completely. This sealed his reputation as the greatest Austrian General ever.
Left:   King Jan III of Poland                                                                Right:  Prince Eugene of Savoy
Prince Eugene's property rewards were profitable and he was able to indulge his love of art, architecture and books. He designed and had built Lower and Upper Belvedere (zoo and all) and filled the two buildings with his art and book collections. They are now art galleries after his heir, a niece, sold everything - most to the ruler of Sardinia and the rest to Charles VI of Austria. Prince Eugene's Belvederes are full again now of precious art and open to the public for viewing. Take the D Tram from the Ringstrasse up the hill to the Upper Belvedere to see Klimt's "The Kiss"(see more in the V4 blog) and other pieces. We walked up in the snow but caught the tram back down for a quick bite at Maccas before the little concert of Mozart and Strauss in the Industries Hall.
View from Upper Belvedere back towards the Old city, M is standing with his back to UB.
A huge economic boom in the mid 1800s, the growth of the middle classes and the Rothschilde bank empowered a political change in the Hapsburg Empire and Emperor Franz Joseph saw the writing on the wall. On Christmas day 1857 his Decree that the Vienna walls should be pulled down to open the Hofburg Palace and the city center up to the people was printed on the front page of the Wiener Zeitung(newspaper). The huge space after the demolition was used for the new  boulevard, the Ringstrasse. The new land available for building was bought up by the country's wealthy elite and middle classes. Poor subjects from the Empire were bought in for 'new employment opportunities'(making the millions of new bricks required in near slave conditions). These pale bricks were used to build palaces, hotels, a huge Town hall (The rat run) to consolidate the presence of the new economic elite and cultural sites that hold their heads high over the boulevard.
Left:  Last night at the Opera   Center: The Imperial, a five star hotel with many famous guests. Left: Rat Haus
All these buildings face the Ringstrasse.
The Burgtheater: Even though it is a champion of German language plays, the English Bard has a bust on display
The Burgtheater is on the Ringstrasse has one of the biggest stages in the world with a revolving platform 21m in diameter. A guided tour takes you up the staircases designed and painted by Gustav Klimt and his brother Ernst and Franz Matsch, unfortunately the only other way you can see them is by buying a ticket to a performance, velvet ropes held us out!
We were given wipes to clean the headphones for the audio tour on the Yellow Tram: Petal refuses to listen, Willow is grossed out by the idea of other's discards on her ears and C just gets on with the job.  Nearly ready to begin the circuit.
Upon disembarking from the Yellow Tram we headed for the center of the Ring - Stephansdom. This cathedral dates back to 1147 and is considered a symbol of Vienna's freedom. Near the front door a O5 is carved, this was done by the resistance after Austria's annexation by Nazi Germany. The 5 represents teh 5th letter of the alphabet (E) - OE is an abbreviation of Ӧsterreich(Austria) - deepening the Cathedral's freedom symbolism. The Cathedral has survived and been rebuilt after many wars and fires. We had intended to climb Alter Steffl (Old Steve) which is the medieval south tower with 343 steps to a brilliant view of Vienna. But the sky was heavy with snow clouds and we decided that the compromised view may not be worth the effort. It would be a great way to orient yourself to the city, especially if arriving from the Southern Hemisphere and finding the sun in the wrong place! In the shorter North Tower that was never completed to the South's height is the biggest bell in Vienna (2nd in size in Europe to 'Peter' in Cologne Cathedral). It was made with the captured turkish cannons from the 1600's battle. The bombing and fire at the end of WWII destroyed the bells's supports and it crashed to the ground. The metal was melted down and recast to create the Pummerin (boomer) bell hung there today. It booms out every New Year at midnight and on a few Church high days.
Left : Stephansdom without the snow on the roof.                       Bottom right:Haas Haus 1990, apparently the huge mirror windows reflect the cathedral on fine days.  The police hut is in preparation for the New Year celebrations.
Top Right: Shopping street with many Souvenir shops that runs from the Ringstrasse to Stephansplatz
After Stephandom's devastation in WWII, the local people fundraised to reconstruct it - possibly the most expensive and longest running 'Save the Church Roof' fundraiser ever. Coloured tiles were fitted in the fifties and now make it easily recognisable from any other Gothic looking cathedral.  It was lovely and warm inside when we took refuge from the snow.  Even though a service was in progress, tourists were allowed into the back section of the building and he shop was still open.

Petal outside Stephensdom wishing we would hire the horse and carriage.  We never did in the end - another time.
Freud's apartment building
Sigmund Freud (Father of Psycho Analysis) walked around the Ringstrasse every day for the good of his health. His practice was in his home apartment a couple of blocks back from the Ringstrasse. It was a short walk from the Shottenring U-bann stop so we walked around to see it. We were amazed that there was a queue that went up two flights of stairs to get in. The space is quite small so they only let in a set number of people at a time. On one door was the warning "Some images of nudity in this room may irritate you." - gotta love translators with a thesaurus, perhaps they felt the common English expression 'disturb' was a little strong. Phallic symbols were the theme of the decoration and art work around the house but their cramped display meant that very few would be in danger of over excitement. I must agree with the basic principle of Freud's explorations though - talking about stuff, naming your fears and shames, is therapeutic. Just share with someone you trust! “Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” S.F.  “Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me.” S.F.  The power of language!

Left: Anna and Sigmund arriving in Paris after leaving Vienna     Center: Freud's couch now in the Freud Museum in London
Cover sheet for Willow's next
Psychology assignment?

Unfortunately Freud's incredible writing output and expansive reading was always accompanied by cigar smoking.  After being diagnosed with cancer he tried to stop this habit but found that his fluency, concentration and speed were considerably diminished without that comforting suck, draw and blow action! The Nazi's annexed Austria and Freud found himself denied citizenship because of his Jewish ancestry. Luckily a wealthy friend, Princess Marie Bonaparte (Granddaughter of Napoleon's brother and wife of a Greek Prince.) negotiated with the Gestapo (these were early days in the Third Reich) and was able to purchase visas for Freud and his extended family to leave Vienna to exile in London with many of their possessions, including the famous couch. He only lived another 15 months, pneumonia got him as his cancer progressed but perhaps facing his own denial of the danger he and his family had been in from political aggression over the border and his expulsion from beloved Vienna; weakened his will to go on. His youngest daughter Anna continued to practice and develop his psychoanalysis methods, working mainly with children.

This year Vienna is celebrating 150yrs since the Ringstrasse was opened. Balls, sporting events and festivals are booked in for a year long party. This all seemed to be overshadowed by the city's euphoria of hosting the 2015 Eurosong(60th) competition in May, after Austrian Conchita Wurst won the 2014 comp with her song 'Rise like a Phoenix'.
Parliment House, with a statue of Wisdom out front in Grecian style. This clearer day image is from a tourist brochure. 

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