Friday, April 11, 2008

Vienna, 6.7.03: Klimt, Linzertorte, and Imperial Decline

At the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna. A couple, not attractive, across the room, who’ve been staring. I’ve decided to stare back and sketch her profile in my journal—childish, perhaps, but somehow strangely therapeutic.

Hey, maybe there’s some charm in this. They’ve vacated their table for a much more pleasant couple to sit down. I have a new vista.

Impressions: Wien the polyglot, Wien the multicultural, where dark eyes and hair are even more common than in now-Slavic Moravia. There’s a Viennese look, one the women have, in particular—a bit of sharpness and bone to the face, shrewdness, but also the capacity to see clearly and enjoy the absurdity of life.

I’ve found waiters and waitresses—when you can get their attention—soft and smiling in a way you hardly ever find in Germany.

We headed today for Stephansdom at 9, thinking from a sign there that it had a Mass. Turns out the Mass began at 9:30; the 9 was evidently in the parish house.

I sat in great discomfort, heart pounding away—strong coffee? Agoraphobia? The stifling air of the church full of people and closed tight on a muggy day? Church itself? Being with Steve? Being with me?

By the kiss of peace, I could bear no more and fled. The fresh air did help.

I’m tired, low-spirited. It all feels…pointless: not a good way to have a vacation. I try. I try to walk to be present to what’s occurring around me, to tell myself it’s all new and worth seeing. But my heart’s not in it. Hasn’t been for days. Hasn’t felt as if I want to be here.

Sights we’ve seen today, that I’ve tried to see: the Palais Lichtenstein with its collections of Klimt, Schiele, and other Secessionists; the Rathaus, where booths with food from all kinds of countries stood on either side, a jazz band playing in the middle; the gardens across from the Rathaus, redolent of rose (though I don’t like the formality and didn’t enjoy the garish unnatural color of the hybrid teas). And now here, where Linzertorte and coffee have arrived.

There is a way in which Vienna is much like New Orleans: faded glory, the need to market itself by becoming ye olde party city, the way people like to sit and drink coffee and talk, the easy-going decadent Catholicism, even the shared imperial past. I can see why folks in the Rathaus park loved the jazz players.

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