When planning a trip of any sort, there is always the essential task of building a list of sights to see. This task remained key when planning a trip to Vienna, Austria with a group of my friends. The one place that we pushed to the end of our three-day adventure was the Belvedere. Unintentionally, we left the best site for last…
Our trip to Vienna started off with my friends and I hitting the ground running. In quite literal terms, we had run what felt like a 100-metre dash to make it to our bus on time. Shoelaces were untied, backpacks shuffled side-to-side and in my right hand, I carried a bag of baked goods. My mom always said that snacks are an essential when travelling; in this case we could have done without the 10 minutes spent at the bakery. However, the Amazing Race start to our journey energized and excited us for Vienna!
The first two days of our trip to Vienna, Austria were filled with a combination of architecture and food. The city’s centre is surrounded by beautiful buildings that make you want to walk with your head up, aiming to not miss a thing. Visiting St. Stephan’s church as our first location was the beginning of exploring Vienna’s beauty. The church’s roof of blue, green, yellow and white leaves a smile on your face, as you value the time and history of its construction. What kept me staring was thinking of all the central historical moments this church has seen. The walk down Kohlmarkt street to the St. Michael’s Wing of the Hofburg literally leaves you mesmerized. You see the lavish stores down Kohlmarkt, leading you to the best site on the street, the wing itself. Once the sun hits the building, you stand there trying to put its size and vast amount of detail into perspective. You try to take in as much as you can, taking mental pictures to remember this moment. Roaming the rest of Vienna’s centre felt similar, where everywhere you look there is something new that leaves you even more in awe.
Alongside the fabulous city views came the excessive amount of food, including a schnitzel larger than the plate it is served on. Vienna is a city that will never leave you hungry, and enjoying the famous Sachertorte from any of the pastry stores reminds you of the food-central culture of the place you have come to visit.
However, the last day in Vienna is what left me with the most impactful memory. As we started off the day with our backpacks on and made our way from our AirBnb to a small local coffee shop, the uphill hike made me feel even more like a backpacker. Inside the coffee shop, my friends and I enjoyed morning coffees and baked goods and started off our journey to the Belvedere.
The Belvedere’s large size is divided up into two baroque palaces, an upper and lower palace. “Baroque” is a form of highly ornate and extravagant architecture that flourished in Europe from the early 17th until the late 18th century. From just the exterior of the Belvedere, you can tell that the inside of the palace will be just as breathtaking as the outside. The palace is placed on garden grounds, featuring Baroque park landscaping including decorative fountains, sculptures and majestic wrought-iron gates.
The Belvedere is well-known is for its collection of Gustav Klimt’s pieces of art. The Austrian painter became famous for his paintings, murals and sketches and was a prominent figure in the Vienna Secession, which was an art movement by a group of Austrian artists who had resigned from the Association of Austrian Artists to lead on their own interests and passions in the field. Prior to going to Belvedere, around the city of Vienna, you see posters and promotion for The Kiss, a piece by Gustav Klimt.
When we entered the building, we decided to visit the Upper Belvedere, since Gustav Klimt’s pieces were in this part of the palace. When entering, you see this large white staircase, enough for it to be a work of art in and of itself. Each room and exhibit has a board to explain its history. The boards describe what the room was used for in the 18th century, and they add depth to the experience of being in those rooms with the different pieces of art.
When we actually got into the room where The Kiss is, I realized that there is no picture that can do this painting justice. Klimt’s interest in painting themes of love, intimacy and sexuality can be seen in his ‘Golden Phase.’ The Kiss is a work that largely signifies this phase and these themes. When seeing the work in person, it is clear that it depicts Klimt’s belief that love is the centre of life. From every different angle you look at the painting, the light reflects off of it, which brings about different features of the work. Where the man is gently kissing the woman on the cheek in a valley of flowers, the feeling of warmth comes across. However, the powerful impact of the gold leaves and starry golden background highlights the importance of love. There has never been a painting that has made me first smile so widely, then reflect so much.
Klimt’s choice of showing a gentle embrace reminded me of the little parts of love. I imagined the little things that shapes when one cares for someone else; kissing good-bye in the morning before leaving the house, holding someone’s hand when driving or even simply waking up beside the person you love. I even went so far as to imagine the little displays of love I see in my life; my dad coming home Saturday morning with flowers for my mom, my brother planning to come back early from a business trip to surprise his girlfriend and my friends surprising me with a gift before moving to Europe. Klimt’s painting reminded me of the little things that make up the golden aspects of a relationship shaped on true care and love for the other person. Also, the choice for Klimt to surround the couple with the vibrant shapes, figures and swirls of gold against the darker background reminded me of the bubble of love, how you are willing to do anything for your relationship when you are in love. Protecting the so-called bubble becomes a huge factor in your life that comes with doing the little things to ensure the relationship stays strong — and stays golden. Just looking and giving time to this painting provided an experience that no online picture of The Kiss could ever provide. This is why taking the time to visit the Belvedere was the best part of my trip to Vienna.
After the beautiful day spent at the Belvedere, my friends and I decided to enjoy a quick meal at a small restaurant near the palace before departing Vienna. With our bags scattered around the small table in the centre of the restaurant, we each enjoyed a delicious meal alongside constant laughter and story-telling. As we filled the restaurant with loud, happy voices, the owner offered us complimentary wine and dessert, providing the best possible end to the adventure of Vienna, Austria.
Featured Photo via Unsplash