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Austria: Land of Pure Art

俞祎君 Aggi Yu 2018-08-16 10:42

This is tour of exploration takes you through countless solemn buildings and museums — meanwhile experiencing the convergence of traditional culture and contemporary life. 

Architectural Spectacle 

Austria is unquestionably known for its architectural diversity. Vienna is generally formal and conservative in architecture, but also noted for a “revolutionary style,” which points back to a group of dissident artists from the Austrian Association of Artists, who created a new style called the “Vienna Secession” in 1897. The precursor, Art Nouveau, however, was unique and short-lived, having already diminished before WWI. 

Influenced by the then-popular art movement, Otto Wagner, who designed Karlsplatz Station in Vienna, went on to produce the Austrian Postal Savings Bank in 1904. The interior of the bank building is decorated in grey, while the light cast through the rooftop glass infuses the building with a beautiful linearity. 


These pieces, however, are considered the early attempts of modernism. One can say it was truly born by the time Friedensreich Hundertwasser, an Austrian artist and designer, voiced his revolutionary principle, “the straight line is godless”. 

Another example is the Hundertasserhaus in Vienna designed in the 1980s. Through the trademark building Hundertwasser combines with a profound respect for nature and, naturally, a love of irregular shapes and wavy lines. The mosaic façade poses in an abstract manner, while the rooftop bushes extend beyond the structure, as if a stage set by a wizard out of thin air. 


Hundertwasser also participated in another project — the reconstruction of Fernwärme Spittelau. The façade again is featured with mosaics along with massive curves and bold colours, resulting in a fairy tale atmosphere. Credits go to the architect in transforming incinerators into such fantastic artworks. Besides Vienna, many other European cities are home to architectural wonders — whether they are Gothic, Baroque, modernist, or simply traditional cottage houses. 


Culture Idols

“Visiting the Sissi Empress” is probably on the wish list of every visitor in Austria. 

The legendary film Sissi Trilogy is one reason for some travellers to visit Austria. In April, 1854, the 16-year-old Elisabeth of Bavaria came to Vienna to marry her cousin, Emperor Franz Joseph I. After the wedding, she moved to Hofburg and thus entered the world of Austrian royalty. And this year, 2018, happens to be the 80th birth anniversary of Romy Schneider, the actress who played Empress Sissi, and the 90th birth anniversary of Karlheinz Böhm, the actor for the Emperor. 


The Sissi Museum is themed as “Legend and Truth,” exhibiting six sectors from “Death” to “Assassination” in a flashback manner. Precious items like Sissi’s first deciduous teeth and the dagger that ended her life could be found in the museum. 


During the 21st Shanghai International Film Festival in June, Sissi Trilogy returned to the screen in China, offering a special panorama in the SIFF CLASSICS program. Thanks to the format of Digital Cinema Package (DCP), the three masterpieces are able to depict the luxury and romance of the medieval European court after decades of time. 

Taste of Coffee 

Not far away from Sissi Museum is Café Horfburg. In 2011 Viennese coffee culture was enlisted as a UNESCO Intangible Heritage. According to a BBC report in April, the average coffee consumption in Austria is 8kg a year, ranking 6th globally. 


Speaking of Viennese coffee, a strong black coffee served in a glass topped with whipped cream and sugar powder comes to our mind. Exactly this is the Viennese specialty — einspänner. “Ein” stands for “one” and “spänner” stands for “rein.” 

In the olden times, coffee was a handy companion for Austrian coachmen. To prevent from spilling, a thick layer of cream was placed onto the surface, and also kept the coffee warm. 

Musical Inspiration 

Austria also takes pride in her musical heritage. Numerous musicians discovered their inspiration here: Mozart, Haydn, Mahler, Liszt, Bruckner, Strauss and Schubert to name a few. Undoubtedly, music is an integral part of Austrian life, and it has extended to other forms of art — opera and dancing, for example. Every year from June to October, this heritage is celebrated with dozens of art events and festivals held all over the country, from towns to towns and villages to villages. 


Among the most prominent of these events is the Salzburg Festival, or Salzburg Summer Art Festival. Established in 1920, this year’s festival will be held from 20 July to 30 August. 

Audiences are drawn to the play Jedermann (meaning “everyman” in German) by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, an annual event of the festival since 1920. Every time, the performance is expected to be the cultural focus of the whole festival, as it has been for nearly a century. 


Therefore, the joy of traveling in Austria, in another term, is the joy of life, the joy of pure art. 

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