Sunday, December 23, 2007

Take the N Tram

Whilst I spent most of my time in Vienna with Tamy, she had to stay at home on the morning of her brother's graduation, so I set off on a quest of my own...

Here's tram N, at Schwedenplatz, ready to take me in search of the works of perhaps my favourite artist, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the man who inspired an Opal sock yarn range (NB the link is given merely for the picture, this isn't a company I've used). I travelled as far as Hetzgasse (where I dived into a supermarket for an Almdudler, an Austrian soft drink (allegedly a herbal lemonade, but it tastes rather like ginger ale blended with lucozade) which I actually prefer to "cola light"! A few steps later I found the first object of the morning's quest: the Hundertwasserhaus
The House is a block of flats that was given the Hundertwasser treatment (no straight lines, trees growing on rooftops and balconies) etc. Really, since he was an artist, not an arhitect, he has merely desinged the cladding. But it is so exhilarating! (What the residents think, though, I'm not sure: the street outside crawls with tourists and school groups). Somewhere near here is, apparently, a house designed by a philosopher, Wittgenstein (the Wittgensteinhaus). The Rough Guide recoomends that you visit the Hundertwasserhaus and give the Wittgensteinhaus a miss. The MAK guide, however (the MAK is Vienna's museum of applied design, which manages the increidble feat of being welcoming, cutting edge and shcolarly in equal measure) lists the Wittgensteinhaus as an architectural must-see and mysteriously fails to mention the Hundertwasserhaus... I did not go to see the Wittgensteinhaus but I have visited one of the houses he lived in whilst in Cambridge: it's where Tamy lived when she was studying for her PhD! After I'd browsed round the Kalke (Hundertwasser shopping arcade) I turned left and (following the instructions in the Rough Guide) "headed 4 blocks North" to reach the Kunsthaus Wien (Vienna Arthouse), another Hundertwasser conversion which houses a fabulous collection of his art. This was one of the highlights of my last trip to Vienna and I almost didn't go back. First, it made such an impression on me during my first visit that I can actually replay my time there like a video. And, secondly, I was concerned that the second visit would be anticlimactic.
I needn't have worried! From the moment the lady at the ticket desk flicked through the tickets to find me the most interesting one (they actually form a jigsaw of a painting of the Kunsthaus which, as you will see above, is decorated rather like a jigsaw) till the moment I left I just drank in the colour, the undulations (be warned, such is Hundertwasser's dislike of straight lines that even the floors curve up and down), the sheer exuberance. And I did spot a couple of things thta I overlooked last time, including a model of the power station which Hundertwasser "made over". Id seen the power station from the S-bahn when travelling from the airport to the hotel but I saw a very unexpected feature on the model: the top of one of the chimneys is clad in a replica of Hundertwasser's flamboyant, velvet, oversized, hippy cap. And, as I took the S-bahn back to the airport the following day, there I saw it: one mad hat with snow and steam swirling round it.

Incidentally, the KunstHaus's giftshop sells the Hudnertwasser Opal sock yarn, but at a premium. And, since my next stop was to be the yarn shop on Josefstadterstr. (tram N, tram 1, tram J...I did feel adventurous!) I gave the Opal a miss. (Probably just as well, I got to the yarn shop at 12.25 and it closed from 12.30 to 2.30 for lunch. As a sales assistant myself, I must say that I remain quite bemused by the brevity of Austrian shop opening hours).

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