July 31, 2010 The company of one’s self
Solitude is underrated.
Nowadays, people are so concerned with being connected with others that they’ve forgotten how to be with themselves. Even when they are alone, they anxiously grasp for others, through Facebook, Twitter, text messaging, lest they are overlooked for even a minute. How much time in a day do people truly spend on their own? How many people would voluntarily go see a movie by themselves? Or not contact anyone for even a day? When I choose to eat lunch alone some days, I’m often looked upon with pity. Why do people assume indubitably that it was not my deliberate choice to not have company? Being alone does not have to mean being lonely.
Today was a day I chose to spend in my own company. No effort to coordinate a time and place to meet, no pressure of making conversation, no disagreement over where to go and how long to spend there; there was only total freedom. I got up at 11 in the morning, showered and dressed, went grocery shopping, mailed a letter at the post office, and was off on my own little adventure. Navigating the streets of Vienna alone, I had finally found a chance to make some use of my guide book and map. Armed with these tools, along with a bottle of water, my camera, and my handy transit pass, I was ready to make this day amazing.
The weather was the perfect kind. Sunny with occasional clouds, breezy, and the temperature comfortably warm. My first stop was Stadtpark. What a wonderful place to begin the journey. As soon as I stepped into the lush greenery, all my worries melted away and all I felt was a tranquil kind of joy. Neat rows of park benches lined the curved paths that wound through the grass and beautiful shrubs and flowers and ponds. Statues and monuments were to be found every dozen steps, but of course, the most famous one being the gilded bronze statue of Johann Strauss.
A busker plays the accordion beautifully. In this oasis of a park, music flowing through the air, sun shining warmly on my skin… it was the happiest I’ve felt in a long time in this city.
After walking through Stadtpark for some time, I decided to go visit the Museum of Applied Arts that’s just next to it. The museum has free admission every Saturday, so I knew I couldn’t miss my chance. The building itself was gorgeous, in Italian Renaissance style.
The collection was odd, eclectic to say the least, but so very wonderful. I absolutely loved it. The pieces on display ranged from textiles to furniture, glassware to jewelery, book covers and illustrations to lace, ancient Chinese vessels to modern art installations to a fully reconstructed Frankfurt kitchen. I was first greeted with a long corridor lined on both sides with silhouettes of chairs illuminated behind a screen; what a way to make an entrance.
I think my favorite was the seating furniture exhibit. So many bizarre and creative pieces. But due to the grumpy looking old man standing watch at the door of the hall, I was unable to take pictures of the collection. The design shop at the museum was also to die for; I wanted to own every book, every lighting fixture, every little useless-but-oh-so-pretty knickknack in the shop. But I was on a poor student’s budget, so I breathed a deep breathe and left empty handed. But I was still happy, because that’s how art makes me feel.
My next destination was somewhere I’ve been wanting to visit since a few weeks ago, the Hundertwasserhaus. Designed by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the edifice has a dreamlike quality to it. Colorful, uneven lines defined the place, where no surface is undecorated and no pavement is flat. Adult convention and formality is replaced by childlike charm and cheerfulness.
How I long to be one of those lucky people who get to live in such a fairytale every day.
After the first 3 sights in this area, I took the subway to the multifaceted Naschmarkt area of the city. My second art-related visit of the day took the shape of the Vienna Secession building. Like so many other places in this city, the building itself was a work of art.
Of course, the masterpiece of the place was Gustav Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze. The 34 meter long fresco was a sight to behold, and I could almost feel a sense of holiness in the room that houses it. I did manage to sneak a couple of photos of portions of the painting, but they are such a poor representation of the piece that I won’t even bother with them. The beauty of it can only be appreciate in person.
Besides the frieze, there were also numerous other interesting collections in the building, including this disco ball under bright red light:
A series of ironic motivational posters:
And possibly my favourite, a swing fixed to the ceiling, which the viewer can sit on, and videos of moving background projected onto the wall.
I tried unsuccessfully to pace the cycle of my swing to match the video; perhaps this discrepancy was intended and the dizziness that results was meant to be part of the experience.
After leaving the Secession building, I walked towards the bustling Naschmarkt, a colorful place with hundreds of stalls. Shops with vendors selling fruits, vegetables, nuts, spices, meat, seafood… cafes, food stands, and restaurants of all kinds… the market was a feast for the senses.
The smell of food from all around me made my stomach grumble, and I couldn’t resist anymore and bought myself a delicious vegetarian falafel sandwich. Squeezing through the crowd, my hunger fulfilled, I glanced across the street to find two of Otto Wagner’s art nouveau style buildings, the Wagner Haus and the Majolika House.
The Saturday flea market was also happening, and tables and makeshift stalls were flowing with treasures from the past.
Vendors from the flea market were starting to pack up, and I looked at my watch to find that it was already 5. As I prepared to go home, my feet were sore but my heart was singing. I saw more of what I really wanted to see of Vienna in a day than all my other time here combined. So, thank you, me, for a truly amazing time.