Category Archives: Museums

Gray Sundays in Vienna: the Westlicht Photo Museum

On this cold, gray, drizzly winter day, I visited the Westlicht “Showplace for Photography” in Josefstadt. What a cool little museum!

The exhibits, all of which are labeled in English as well as German, are about 1/3 devoted to the history of photography. There are several cases with interesting old cameras, and a few newer ones designed to be used in space, for example. I liked the spy cameras best.

A Soviet ring camera

A Soviet KGB ring camera.

A camera for carrier pigeons

A camera for carrier pigeons.

For really unsubtle spies, I guess

A camera for really unsubtle spies, I guess

Teeny-weeny cameras of various types.

Teeny-weeny cameras of various types.

Early professional portrait camera.

Early professional portrait camera.

The rest of the museum consists of actual photographs. The current exhibition features very old photos from the National Geographic collection. Some just seem bizarre to us now, but others rise to the level of art.

Those were the days?

Elephant hunters with tusks. Those were the days?

Sicilian peasant girls

Sicilian peasant girls.

Finally, there are two slide shows going at all times. One is an exhibit of mostly American Kodachrome photos that made me a bit homesick! The other is a collection of even older Autochrome photos. These were popular from their invention in 1907 to the advent of Kodachrome color film in the 1930s. The  Autochrome photos are really quite lovely and amazing for their time.

Autochrome photos projected on a wall

Autochrome photos projected on a wall

The museum also has a large coffee/wine bar (it apparently is an events venue as well) and a nice collection of posters and books in the adjoining bookshop. Nearby, on the same block of Westbahnstrasse, there are several photo supply stores: Leica, Nikon, etc.

The Westlicht exhibits can be viewed in about an hour, and the museum is a great place to get out of the rain on a gray Sunday in Vienna.

Reviewed by Kelly.

Westlicht Schauplatz für Fotografie
Westbahnstraße 40, 1070 Vienna
http://www.westlicht.com/en/

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Gray Sundays in Vienna: Theater Museum

I am proud to say that on the very last day that my annual Kunsthistorisches Museum pass was valid, I finally made it to the Theater Museum.

Fountain in the foyer of the museum.

Fountain in the foyer of the museum.

The "Eroica Hall."

The “Eroica Hall.”

Located in a beautiful Lobkowitz Palace close to the Albertina, the Theater Museum is a small exhibition space with two or three collections on view at any given time.

At the moment, the main exhibit is about puppets, specifically Javanese -style rod puppets designed by an Austrian named Richard Teschner. I am not really into puppets, but these are very beautifully crafted ones.

Rod puppet.

Rod puppet.

More rod puppets.

More rod puppets.

Unfortunately–and somewhat inexplicably–there is exactly zero information in English in the museum. So, my understanding of what I was seeing was limited to what I could figure out from the German placards. It seems that Teschner was sort of the Terry Gilliam of his time and place, designing innovative puppets, stage sets, posters, and costumes in his own, unique style.

Theater poster.

Theater poster.

"Color organ" designed by Teschner.

“Color organ” designed by Teschner.

There was also an exhibit of Japanese theater design, and a lot of very not-PC (but amusing) photos from a turn of the century production of The Mikado. And, various other items related to theater productions scattered throughout: posters, props, a scale model of the Burgtheater, and so on.

Mock-up of a set for The Mikado.

Mock-up of a set for The Mikado.

To be perfectly honest, without any English translation, I would not pay 8 Euros to see this very nice, but small, museum. However, if you have the annual pass anyway, or if you can read German pretty well, it is a good place to while away an hour or so on a cold, gray Sunday in Vienna.

Reviewed by Kelly.

Theater Museum
Lobkowitzplatz 2
1010 Wien
www.theatermuseum.at

Gray Sundays in Vienna: The Imperial Carriage Museum

While the Sunday in question wasn’t technically gray, it was chilly and windy. A good day to cross another item off of our Bucket List!

Since we had annual passes to the Kunsthistoriches museums that were expiring soon, we decided it was a good day to finally check out the Imperial Carriage Museum at Schloss Schönnbrunn.  We are not really that into carriages. But with the KHM annual pass, admission is free. If you are new to Vienna, and want to check out a bunch of museums at a reasonable price, this pass is a great deal. Details here.

But first, a stop for lunch at the Residenz Café. This restaurant (owned by Café Landtmann), though a bit touristy due to its location at the palace, manages to remain a nice stop for lunch or a yummy dessert.

Take your pick, they are all wonderful.

Take your pick–they are all wonderful.

Stoked with truffeltorte and coffee, we headed over the check out the carriages.

The museum is bigger than you might expect, and displays a variety of carriages dating back to the time of Maria Theresa. They are mostly interesting just because they are so over the top, but I did learn a thing or two about early shock absorbers and traveling potties while looking them over.

A Baroque-era carriage.

A Baroque-era carriage.

A Victorian carriage.

A Victorian carriage.

A carriage designed for a very fat prince to be able to hunt without turning himself around (the seat swivels).

A carriage designed for a very fat prince to be able to hunt without turning himself around (the seat swivels).

Even the tiniest Hapsburgs had carriages, pulled by ponies, donkeys, or even well-trained sheep and goats.

Child-sized carriage.

Child-sized carriage.

There were a lot of very fancy sleighs as well. It seems that Vienna used to get a lot more snow!

Victorian sleigh.

Victorian sleigh.

The Carriage Museum also displays a lot of clothing and other memorabilia relevant to the Empress Elizabeth, AKA, “Sissi.” She apparently spent most of her life riding, hunting, and riding around in carriages, so there is a connection other than just catering to tourist Sissi-mania.

The museum can be visited in well under an hour, and with lunch, makes for a nice Sunday outing.

Kaiserliche Wagenburg Wien
Schloss Schönnbrunn
November to April:  daily 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
May to October: daily 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
www.kaiserliche-wagenburg.at

Gray Sundays in Vienna: Exploring the Essl Museum

The holidays have come and gone, and we’re all facing three or four months of cold, gray Sundays in Vienna. It’s a good opportunity to check out some of lesser-known attractions in and around town. We have a list on our refrigerator!

Essl's well-known flying rabbit sculpture, in the courtyard.

Essl’s well-known flying rabbit sculpture, in the courtyard.

Today, we visited the Essl Museum of of Contemporary Art in Klosterneuberg. This is about twenty minutes outside of town by car, or you can take a free shuttle bus Tuesday-Sunday departing from the Albertina Museum in the 1st District. For departure times, see this page.

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One of the more representative pieces.

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A giant wooden head.

The Essl Museum presents about ten different exhibitions per year in a large, boxy space. The focus of the collections is Austrian and European art after 1945. Because it is modern art, after all, some of it is just weird and ugly 🙂 But, we saw many pieces that were beautiful, clever or humorous as well.  On the whole, it was a very good exhibition.

I really liked this one.

I really liked this one.

Very Warhol.

Very Warhol.

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“Needle and Haystack” by a Czech artist.

We also had lunch in the café, which offers several vegetarian dishes along with the usual schnitzel and wurstl. The Asian noodles and tofu curry we ordered were bland by American standards, but quite tasty, and included a lot of fresh vegetables. We followed them up with a yummy cherry torte and coffee.

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For the young or the young at heart.

There is a nice bookshop: though most of the books are in German, there are a few English ones, and some great kids’ books in both languages, as well as posters, toys, and jewelry.

Speaking of kids, there appear to be a number of children’s activities at the museum. For more information, visit this page.

I would not personally bring a baby, toddler or very active preschooler to the Essl–there are just too many things that they can’t touch, and the large exhibition halls amplify noise (as one family with a baby discovered while we were visiting). But I saw older kids, say 5 and up, who seemed to be enjoying it quite a bit.

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Modern landscapes at the Schömer-Haus.

A couple of blocks away, the museum also exhibits art in the local headquarters of Baumax (the Schömer-Haus). This collection is not as interesting as the art in the Essl itself, but it’s easy enough to stop by on the way back to Vienna and check it out.  On a Sunday, the building looked closed, but the guard let us in and turned on the lights for us.

So, if you need somewhere warm to go on a cold, gray Sunday, I recommend the Essl Museum!

ESSL MUSEUM
An der Donau-Au 1
3400 Klosterneuburg
http://www.essl.museum/en/

TUE-SUN: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
WED: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m

Reviewed by Kelly.

 

Haus der Musik

I know there are countless museums in Vienna  that could consume much of your time here but if there is one that is not to be missed (well, aside from all those amazing art museums!), it’s the Haus der Musik – the house of sound/music.

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This museum truly has something for everyone! It’s very interactive and hands-on with many fun games that guarantee a good time (think “X-box kinect-type” games  in which you play the violin or conduct an orchestra). The museum provides a great overview of the Vienna Philharmonic, showcases Vienna’s great composers and their lives, and lets you explore sounds ranging from music to everyday noises (there’s even a room that mimics sounds babies hear in-utero).

All in all, it’s a fun-filled outing that I highly recommend! And, even better, it’s free admission with the Niederösterreich Card! Regular admission for adults is 12 Euros; kids ages 3 and under are free. The opening hours are also very accommodating – 10am-10pm every day!

For more information: