Vienna Excursion 2015 – Part II

In the second part of our Vienna Blog, read about the Wiener Schatzkammer, the Marionette Theater and a performance of Mozart’s Magic Flute, the Sisi Museum, and the Albertina.

Wiener Schatzkammer
by Ezra Sassaman

One part of Vienna which I enjoyed immensely was the treasure chamber, or Schatzkammer. This is one area in which the United States does not offer much: back at home for me, it would be impossible to find this amount of royal adornments or anything at all from this far into history. The treasures in the rooms were like something I had only ever seen in books or movies and I couldn’t believe they were real at first—I felt like I was in the storage room of a theater.
Included in the cache were huge portraits of former Austrian royalty, the Habsburgers, resplendent garments, bejeweled crowns and swords, and even some things I had never imagined, like a much too intricate cradle for a baby Habsburger and an amazing pitcher for the official baptism of royalty. Among the portraits was a painting of Maria Louise, one of Napoleon’s wives. Of course, we hear about Napoleon, but I have the feeling I did not fully grasp that he was a real person—it had always seemed like a story from the past that we did not have much connection to in the present. In the Schatzkammer, however, seeing these portraits and treasures which belonged to these people from so long ago was simply different than seeing pictures or reading about historical events—these figures of history began to come to life for me.

Rachel image (15)

Kaiser Ezra I.

Toward the end of the tour, I needed to ask a question. We often see criminal masterminds trying to break into exhibits like the Schatzkammer in shows like “Sherlock” or movies like “National Treasure.” I asked the tour guide what kind of security measures the Schatzkammer used, and if there had been any attempts to steal the priceless treasures. “Well, of course I can’t tell you exactly what kind of security we use” laughed the tour guide—“are you trying to steal something?” She said that there had been no break-in attempts at the Schatzkammer, but a painting had been stolen from a neighboring museum during construction. The thief had tried to blackmail the museum, but they caught him.

Magic Flute Marionette Theater at Schönbrunn Palace
by Santiago Princ

During our excursion to Vienna we were taken to multiple theater plays and different kind of performances, one of them being a rare Marionette depiction of The Magic Flute” (“Die Zauberflöte” in German); a two-act opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. What I found most remarkable about the experience was the amazingly honed skill that the puppeteers had to control the marionettes. This play normally performed by human beings lacked no fluidity or expression while being performed by the stringed dolls. The movements of the dolls were perfectly synchronized with their dialogs, every scene flowed smoothly and the fact that these were puppets being controlled instead of humans made “special effects” such as Papageno quasi-flying great addition to the play’s fantasy. We were also given some insights on the art of puppeteering. According to the professionals in the theater every single action of the puppet such as walking, waving or striking a pose can take years to master, and becoming proficient at puppeteering can be as demanding as becoming a professional instrument player. During the intermission we could also see how the design and making process of the marionettes develops and after the play we were invited by the puppeteers to see how they operate from behind the scenes. I found this to be a very peculiar and hilarious experience!

Photo from

Photo from

Sisi Museum
by Cassandra Blyler

A few oSisif us chose to visit the Sisi Museum, which is located in part of the Hofburg Palace. The museum was organized into two sections; the first being a collection of silverware, plates, and other household items made specifically for the Habsburgs. I found this part of the museum to be impressive due to the sheer quantity of various items; for example a collection of 200 golden plates only occupied a tiny section. The second half of the museum was dedicated to the life of Empress Elizabeth (Sisi) who was married to Franz Joseph I. This part of the museum was very interesting because it provided us with so much information about Sisi’s personal life. It included excerpts of poems she had written, along with dresses and other articles of clothing she had worn in private. I was amazed by the circumference of her waist and the corsets used to further exaggerate its smallness. It was also noteworthy to see the highly popularized paintings of Sisi in their original form. It was interesting to hear about the daily-life struggles of someone in the royal family; those makes her more relatable, especially with her depression following the suicide of her son.

by George DeRosa

“For about six hours, entranced, S. A. Powers had watched thousands of Picasso paintings replace one another at flashcut speed, and then he had been treated to Paul Klees, more than the painter had painted during his entire lifetime. S. A. Powers, now viewing Modigliani paintings replace themselves at furious velocity, had conjectured (one needs a theory for everything) that the Rosicrucians were telepathically beaming pictures at him, probably boosted by microrelay systems of an advanced order; but then, when Kandinsky paintings began to harass him, he recalled that the main art museum at Leningrad specialized in just such nonobjective moderns, and decided that the Soviets were attempting telepathically to contact him.”

After four days of travelling around Vienna, coffee was no longer a tasty pick-me-up but rather a necessity. After touring the Belvedere Palace and Museum, the rest of the afternoon was free and I eagerly retraced my steps through the city towards my bed. Along the way, I was remarking to myself how odd it is seeing buildings and cathedrals from the 12th century directly across the street from ultra-modern boutiques selling handbags and skin creams but sleep was the only relevant thought on my mind. As I pulled the door handle of the hotel expecting entrance into my own personal nirvana I was snapped back into reality when the door wouldn’t budge. I was locked out. Santiago had the keys. Scheiße. With no means of contacting Santiago, I quickly surveyed my options and did the only rational thing left to do: I took the nearest subway in a completely random direction. Upon exiting the subway, I found myself in Schillerplatz and the accompanying park memorializing the life of German poet, philosopher, historian, and playwright Friedrich Schiller. After a tour around the park I found myself outside of the Albertina Museum and decided to view their exhibitions.
That lovely excerpt from PhillipAlbertina K. Dick’s, A Scanner Darkly, was my first exposure to what would be considered “High Art” and whether it was Synchronicity, the Russians, or the fact that the Albertina Museum is home to over 1,000,000 prints and over 65,000 drawings (one needs a theory for everything), I was pleased to find that one of the first paintings I had chosen to spend time with, upon further inspection, was Amedeo Modigliani’s Young Woman in a Blue Shirt. Seeing Modigliani’s name conjured up memories of that particular passage from Dick’s text and gave me a sense of familiarity and connectedness in a completely foreign city and country. After spending another 10 minutes trying to unlock the secrets hidden behind her solid blue eyes I moved on to the rest of the museum. I was greeted by works of artists with familiar names such as Monet, Picasso, Kandinsky, and works by artists less familiar to me such as Redon, Delvaux, and Giacometti. The Albertina is one of my fondest memories of Vienna not only because of the events leading up to it but also because after leaving I felt ever slightly more cultured.


Vienna Excursion 2015 – Part I

From March 1 to March 6, the Dickinson-in-Bremen program traveled yet again to beautiful Vienna. The current group of students all wrote about their respective favorite activity. In Part I, read about the Austrian National Library, Modern Art in Vienna, The Hundertwasser Haus, and a theater performance we saw during the excursion.

The Austrian National Library
by Rachel Schilling

My favorite activity in Vienna, the one where I never stopped bouncing up and down and smiling during the course of it, was visiting the Austrian National Library. On the morning of the third of March the group headed over together to the Hofburg, the palatial complex that was the residence of the Austrian monarchy. While the entirety of Hofburg was beautiful, the library and its connected muRachel image (8)seums were heaven for a bibliophile like me. We started with a tour in the Prunksaal, the court library founded by Emperor Charles VI that was finished in the 1730s. The Prunksaal contains books from the very beginning of printing in the 1500’s. The library itself was beautiful with grand book shelves and beautiful ceiling frescos. We were shown some old books on flowers and allowed to smell them (for those that love the scent of old books as I do) and were told that we would be allowed , after buying a day library card, to have one of the books pulled from the shelves for us. I especially loved seeing the amazing hidden doorways that the workers use to shelve books and hearing about the current digitizing of the collection.

Rachel image (11)

Rachel reading

We also got the chance to see some of the library’s archived books including some enchanting pop up books and miniature books which I was absolutely obsessed with. We looked at old lesson books which included an alphabet with three different types of S’s. We peeked into the very active current national library and saw the lift system that they use to transport books from the archive to areas where the public can use them.

Later that week, Ezra and I returned to Hofburg to also visit the museums that are a part of the larger library system, namely the Globe Museum and the Esperanto Museum, both extremely unique and interesting museums. The highlight of the Esperanto Museum was the modified Pac Man game that helped us learn a little Esperanto, the language that people once hoped would bring the entire world together under one language. The Globe Museum was fascinating. We were able Rachel image (16)to catch a glimpse at how people perceived and misperceived the world (including a few maps where California was an island completely detached from the US).  The entirety of the Vienna excursion was beautiful and fun, but getting to see the collections of the National Library was the biggest treat for someone that studies literature.

Modern Art in Vienna
by Adrienne Brown

Vienna, Austria is quite the destination for art enthusiasts. There were more art museums than I could visit in a week, and that is before one even starts to consider the special galleries and smaller art exhibitions. As a part of our Dickinson planned excursion in Vienna we had the opportunity to explore the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum) and the Upper Belvedere art museum. Which, between the two of them, showcased some big-name artists like Rubens, Durer, Klimt, and Matisse, among others.



image source: Nicole Spies – Flicker

While I enjoy all kinds of art, the month I spent living in Berlin turned me into a lover of all things modern and contemporary. So I decided to branch out a bit and visit the MuseumsQuartier in my free time. MuseumsQuartier is located right in the heart of Vienna’s center city and it is far more than a museum. According to Google, MuseumsQuartier is the 8th largest cultural center in the world. It consists of four museums, an institute for modern/ contemporary dance, and a few bars. I had the opportunity to visit two of the art museums at MuseumsQuartier, the Kunsthalle Wien (Art Hall Vienna) and MUMOK. The other museums were, unfortunately, closed the day I went to visit.

Kunsthalle Wien – The Future of Memory

image source: Lorenz Seidler - Flicker

©: Lorenz Seidler – Flicker

The exhibition “The Future of Memory” is a good example of a challenging art exhibit. Some of the installations made me uncomfortable, others forced me to think critically about memory, identity, and technology. The mediums exhibited varied widely. As one entered the space there were sixty watches laid out on the ground in a perfect circle. I learned the hard way that one must pay more attention to the floor in art museums these days. In one corner a baby swing propelled itself back and forth in a never ending rhythm that was more than a little disconcerting. In another corner an empty projector flipped through the slots where the slides should have been. I stood in front of the empty projector for a good while wondering if any sort of image would eventually pop up, and then it dawned on me that the projector was in fact empty. On the back wall of the exhibition films about the connection between memory and identity played over and over.

One of these films was a short documentary about how countries in south-east Europe, such as Croatia, are currently struggling with a disconnect between identity and memory. Due to their recent history, they are disillusioned with their current identity and are trying to create a new one. However, there is a general feeling that they lack the role models necessary to build a new identity. There has been some debate among artists, but currently numerous statutes are being built in tribute to foreign role models such as: Bill Clinton, Rocky and Bruce Lee. Other artists, however, are trying to remain honest and deal with the identity crisis by taking it on rather than running from it.

As one might understand, I needed some time to processes what I had just seen in the Kunsthalle Wien, so I decided to get a coffee and a cupcake in the cupcake cafe. Which may be a shameless plug, but I don’t think any art-complex is complete without a cupcake cafe. Once I digested everything, I was off to go take in some more art. This time at the MUMOK museum, which was featuring the exhibit “Ludwig goes POP!”

“Ludwig goes Pop!”

image source: Lorenz Seidler - Flicker


featured some really big names in pop art. Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol mostly, but also a few cool artists that my art professor is obsessed with. The most striking part of this exhibit was just to see those artists we are always hearing about in real life. I mean I’ve seen so many pictures of Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup”, but seeing a print in real life is kind of magical. It’s also weird to see the little name plate next to Warhol’s name that reads “Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania” and think I came all the way to Vienna, Austria from Carlisle, Pennsylvania and here is art from a Pennsylvania artist… All in all, Vienna was wonderful and I want to go back to visit the other two museums at MuseumsQuartier, among others.

The Hundertwasser Haus
by Katherine Mooradian

Katie02My favorite part of the Vienna Excursion was easily the Hundertwasserhaus and Museum. I had seen pictures of his architecture in previous German classes at Dickinson but I never knew that he was also an artist. Not only that but he was a true visionary. I found the experience very inspiring. He has designed four buildings in Vienna, three of which I saw on site, the Hundertwasserhaus, Hundertwasser village, and the KunsthausWien. His last building in Vienna is a heating plant. In his architecture he strives to create a harmony with nature which I found intriguing. All of his houses were filled with plants, a major part of his design was always green roofs, covered in grass or trees. He advocated for more beautiful building styles rejecting stark horizontal and vertical lines, which almost Katie01exclusively is found in man made creations.   My favorite part of the museum was the uneven flooring. This technique is found in the majority of Hundertwasser’s architecture. Throughout the museum there were quotes and writings by Hundertwasser which added congruence to his life work on display.

Katie03The artist himself has an extremely interesting history and personality. He is known for being an environmental activist and opposed the EU. He advocated for strong individualism and a reconciliation of humans with nature.

“It is disgusting to see what is understood as freedom now. When you stroll through the city you get the feeling that you are walking through a prison: ruler-edged windows, ruler-edged buildings, the people as identical as if they wore prison uniforms. It is a self-made prison. What the people now take to mean freedom is no longer a jail which they are forced into but rather one which they themselves obediently enter. For they have already learned the taboos and prohibitions by heart.” – Real Freedom, 1966

Hundertwasser’s art spoke to me for this reason. He was not afraid to break the rules. He lived for himself, and in realizing his vision he created, and designed practical solutions to real world problems, such as sustainable living communities with his classic green roofs. Furthermore by being free to really express himself, and actualize his dreams he inspires others to do the same.

“Art exists only in an enslaved society like ours. In a free society “art” exists neither as an undersupplied commodity nor as spiritual edification. Art is as omnipresent and natural as the grass and trees, which grows wherever there is water. The attainment of this goal is the artist’s holy commitment. He alone possesses a sure instinct for the coming disaster. And so he simply cannot keep still as he watches the society in which he lives, sink into subjugation.” – Real Freedom, 1966

“Freunde, das Leben ist lebenswert!”
by Madison Alley

Vienna is rich with history. I thoroughly enjoyed our tours through various Habsburg estates, resting places, museums, and treasuries, but the most impacting experience I had during our time there was at a small theater directly next to our hotel. The play we saw is entitled “Freunde, das Leben ist lebenswert!” (Friends, Life is Worth Living!). It follows the lives of a Jewish Madisondoctor and poet, Fritz Löhner, and his two Jewish friends, as well as his non-Jewish driver, beginning at the rise of Hitler and ending, as so many lives did, with their respective deaths in a concentration camp. The driver in the story, Prohaska, is an aspiring poet, but lacks the skill that Löhner has with words. Later, Prohaska joins Hitler’s force as a Nazi and becomes famous by forcing Löhner and his friends to write songs for which he takes credit. If I had to describe the play with only one word, it would have to be “shocking”. The brutality with which Jews were treated during this time period is not a surprise; however, seeing these intense situations acted out – in Austria, and in German – left me breathless by the end of the performance. I was constantly surprised throughout the play, taken aback by the bluntness and the very straightforward and heartbreakingly honest way these incredibly sensitive scenes were portrayed.

For whatever reason I was simply not expecting such a dynamic and dramatic representation of the events captured in this play. It was, literally, breathtaking.