Wednesday, December 1, 2010

From the pew to the podium, part 5 of 10

Me: Sitting down: now there’s a concept.
DH: Yes, apparently human beings fold in the middle, so they can be stored in various positions, including sitting and lying down. They are not always found upright and in motion.

This exchange gives you a little taste of what our Sunday is like—and yet, it does not feel like we are trying to do too much. After getting up and showering, we wash some laundry in the bathroom sink. DH hasn’t managed to bring quite enough clothes to get through the whole two weeks, plus I need clean pajamas for when we visit his extended family later in the week. The hotel’s Continental breakfast is delightful, and then, somewhat behind schedule, we set off for mass in the St. Stephan’s Cathedral, very fast, and in the wrong direction. This becomes apparent after we walk for longer than necessary past unfamiliar shops. Finally we find a transit stop and manage to get to the Dom 15 minutes late, right in the middle of the singing of the Gospel lesson from the book of John. That is our favorite part of the service, not least because we know what is going on (geekily, we had been discussing John [and Isaiah] during lunch at the palace the day before). Unfortunately, the rest of the mass is mostly incomprehensible Catholic rites and a mumbled homily on St. Elizabeth and charity, so there is time to absorb the heavily decorated interior, with its statues of saints and bishops, its altars and paintings, and the candles and chandeliers. This church is important in Viennese history, and I suppose it is beautiful by old church standards, but it is a bit much for me.

The locals call this figure "Christ with a toothache"
(Zahnweh-Herrgottbecause of his pained expression.

View from the Südturm

For lunch we meet a UofI Fulbright scholar and his girlfriend for Goulasch (goulash) and Zitrone (hot lemonade) at Café Alt Wien until the catacombs open. Back at the cathedral, while walking around the outside of the building, looking for the entrance to the underground tombs, we come across some documentation of the cleaning and restoration work, as well as some fabulous—and fabulously old—religious artwork around the outside of the church. When we
We climbed this high!
finally find the catacomb entrance (inside), we are turned away, because the sanctuary is being closed in preparation for a special mass that afternoon. Instead, we climb the 343 steps up to the lookout in the south tower. We get down in time to  witness the looong procession of the Austrian Catholic men’s association into the Dom; although that is kind of cool, it also means that we can’t see the catacombs that day after all. Schade.

The other stop on our agenda for Sunday is the Haus der Musik, a hands-on multimedia music history museum and sound-exploration center. We hear how the Vienna Philharmonic has a unique sound among orchestras; play with vowel sounds; mix a track of classical music/ street noise/ music of the spheres; take turns conducting a video-recording of the Vienna Philharmonic in Brahm’s “Hungarian Dance”; and enjoy exhibits on Vienna’s most well-known composers (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven [right], Schubert, Strauss, and Mahler).* Dinner is at the restaurant at the top of the museum. On the way home from the Haus der Musik we stumble upon a very large monument dedicated to all the Soviet soldiers who died while liberating Austria from fascist Germany in April 1945. What is perhaps more surprising than finding an enormous marble and bronze monument to dead Soviet soldiers in the middle of Vienna is the fact that it was dedicated in August 1945 already.

*--There is also a very small room with Schopenhauer and two other members of the Second Viennese School (of 12-tone composition)—DH notices they didn’t play any of their music on loudspeakers. For more on 12-tone music, look under "serialism" here.

1 comment:

  1. Heyyyy... I know where that monument is. Again, memories from being 12. We were on our way to an opera, or Midsummer Nights Dream (the ballet) and we stumbled upon it. My mom put up some fit about not understanding and my dad and I had to pose with the monument looking anxious because we still needed to eat dinner.


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