Vienna: Jewish Museum, St. Peter’s, Cruise, Danube Tower
The Jewish Museum of Vienna
The Jewish Museum of Vienna comprises two buildings. One, the smaller of the two, is on Judenplatz, Jewish Square. It is located on the site where a synagogue sat in medieval times.
At street level, the building contains two small rooms displaying drawings of Jewish artists. Some are from before World War II, but many were done after.
The other level is below ground. Downstairs rooms display artifacts from the old shul. In a separate room, some of the excavated foundation walls and floor tiles exist in situ.
Vienna’s holocaust memorial sits in the square outside the building. It’s a little-adorned grey cube. To me, it looked like a crypt. A sign told me it represents an inaccessible, introverted library.
At the base of the memorial there were old flowers and yahrzeit candles that, I assume, members of the public left.
The Bigger Building
The second building spread over three small floors. (Small when compared to, say, a major national museum, but larger than the other building and far from the smallest museum I’ve been in.)
The first floor’s exhibit, titled “Our City!,” told the story of Vienna’s Jewish community from 1945 to today.
Spoiler: For decades after the war, Vienna did not treat Jews well. There was considerable ant-Semitism. It seems to have gotten better. Each of the buildings had only a one lightly armed guard standing outside. Another guard stood inside the bigger building. There were no metal detectors or other visible security at either building. I’ve been to Jewish sites in other cities where they felt a need for significantly tighter security.
The second floor housed an exhibit of works of the Viennese Jewish artist Arik Brauer. He was born in 1929 and is still alive today. Or at least he was when they set up the exhibit and, as far as I know, still is. Below is a larger than life-size picture of him in his studio. The text accompanying the picture said it was taken in 2019.
St. Peter’s Church
St. Peter’s church is a beautiful baroque* church.
(* I’m such an art history aficionado that, whenever I hear “baroque,” the only image that ensconces itself in my mind is a scene from an episode of the 1960s TV show The Dick Van Dike Show. In my memory, the scene goes like this: Laura tells her young son, Richie, “That’s a baroque vase.” Richie immediately proclaims, “I didn’t barreak it!”)
I couldn’t venture too far into the church as there was a service in progress, but from my vantage point at the back I saw it was lavishly decorated. The ceiling wore a gorgeous mural.
Full disclosure: St. Peter’s church was on the route between the two Jewish Museum buildings. I stopped in on the way, but it didn’t seem right to insert a Catholic church in the middle of the Jewish Museum.
Danube Canal Cruise
There are four channels of the Danube River through Vienna, the Danube Canal, the main channel, and the New Danube, and the old arm. Wikipedia tells me that the Danube Canal used to be an arm of the Danube, but is now a regulated channel.
I took a one-and-a-quarter-hour cruise on the Danube Canal. Why, you might ask, a cruise on the canal rather than the main channel? Two reasons. One, that’s the one that comes closest to passing through the central part of Vienna. And two, it was the only cruise included on my Vienna Pass (see yesterday). So, it was “free.”
The cruise provided a taped commentary in German and English broadcast over speakers. From where I sat for most of the cruise, the English was generally inaudible. The German sounded clearer and louder, but that didn’t help me much, now did it.
Near the end of the cruise, I moved a couple meters from that position There, I could make out the commentary, but by then I’d missed almost all of it. I’m using that, rather than my horrible memory, as my excuse for not relating the commentary here. Either are valid excuses.
Do you see that weird-looking bulbous tower? I don’t know if the commentary told the wind what it was, I imagine it did, but I had to hunt for it on the internet for that. It’s the smokestack of The Spittelau, a waste-to-energy incinerator. How cool is that?
I’m sure you know the waltz by Johann Strauss, The Blue Danube. Wikipedia tells me that’s the common English name for An der schönen blauen Donau (translation: “By the Beautiful Blue Danube.“
I assume the colour of the other branches of the Danube are roughly the same as the colour of the water of the Danube Canal. (I was able to confirm this for the main channel when the hop-on, hop-off bus I took to the Danube Tower, see below, crossed it.)
I don’t know if the colour changed between Johann’s time and ours, but I’m here to tell you the Danube is now green, not blue.)
The Danube Tower was my final stop of the day before dinner. It’s located on the other side of the Danube’s main channel, which is a fair piece on the other side of the Danube Canal, which is just on the other side of the inner ring of Vienna. Long story, short, it’s a fair distance from the old part of Vienna.
The tower elevator took me up to the observation deck, an outdoor level. I snapped the photos below there. After fighting gusty winds, I walked up to the slowly revolving indoor café one level up. (There’s a restaurant above that which I assume also revolves, but I didn’t go there.)
In the café, I leisurely consumed a Sachertorte and what I would call a cappuccino, but they seem to call a melange in Vienna. Google Translate translates melange to blend, which is what I would have guessed.
While I indulged, I watched the Vienna environs go around. For the sticklers out there, which may be only me, yes, the environs remained as stationary as anything on this planet stays. It was the platform my chair sat on that revolved. But you probably figured that out.
By The Way
I forgot to mention yesterday that I saw the sign to the right on one of my strolls. It reaffirmed my belief that not everyone in the world is neurotic as I am. What about “it’s happening soon” could possibly lead me to not panic.
And why is the sign in English in Vienna? Did they know I was coming? If so, how did they know? And were they targeting me specifically? If so, why?
In summary, it’s not easy being me.
Also By The Way
Do you remember that cool clock I told you about a couple of days ago? I walked by it today at, according to my watch, 12:07 p.m. It was playing an organ concert that I imagine started at noon. While the music played, the hours marched by one every half-minute or so. This also allowed me to see that what I thought was a connecting bridge the clock was mounted on probably houses only the hours and the mechanism that moves them in front of the clock face. Their movement was visible not just on the clock, but also through the windows in the bridge on either side of the clock. The hours must move on a roughly oval shaped track, so there is likely no room in the bridge for anything other than the clock mechanism.
The concert and march of the hours was still going when I left sometime after 12:10. I’m guessing it goes for fifteen minutes. If so, if people depend on the clock to know what time it is, they will have to settle for a rough approximation if they arrive between noon and 12:15.
Here’s a brief video of the clock and the concert:
So now it’s forever the green Danube for me. And I’ll remember what baroque whenever I sweep up ceramic shards of erstwhile vases or mugs.