Tuesday, April 01, 2008

VIENNAWALKS by J. Sydney Jones

The Book: J. Sydney Jones, VIENNAWALKS (revised edition). Henry Holt trade paperback, 1994. Good condition; front cover is loose, spine is creased.
First read: 1995
Owned since: 1995

No April Fool's post today -- I toyed with the idea of inventing a fictional book, but I'm too busy this week. And while I love the silly, I can't stand practical jokes. Most April Fool's jokes cross the line.

Anyway, when people talk about their favorite places to visit, or where they'd most like to return, Vienna tops my list. That is partly because Vienna is a magical and haunted place; partly because I saw it with Sue and Thomas Schulz, two of my favorite traveling companions; and partly because of this book. (And maybe partly because of some genetic memory; Celts were among the first settlers of prehistoric Vienna, and moved north later.)

The subtitle of this book explains it all: "Four intimate walking tours of Vienna's most historic quarters, with maps, photos, and a select list of restaurants, hotels, and more." It's part of a fantastic series that covers dozens of cities around the world; a year or so later, Sue and I walked around Chelsea, Kensington and the City with LondonWalks, because ViennaWalks was so good.

ViennaWalks lays out four walking tours of the city, in chronological order. The first, "The Stones of Vienna," starts at the Stephansdom, takes you back in time to the Vienna of Marcus Aurelius, and then forward through the Second World War. Late in the tour, Jones takes the reader by a building that now serves as yeshiva and synagogue in the old Judenplatz -- "it has a police guard day and night," the guidebook says, and we saw them, two men with guns and a large dog. T.S. Garp's beloved Franz Grillparzer was on the Judenplatz too, at least in spirit -- he lived and wrote in an apartment at Judenplatz 1.

A weekend was not enough time to spend in Vienna; the opera wasn't performing, the weather was marginal, we never even got to the Kunsthistorisches Museum. We did see the KunstHaus Wien, aka the Hundertwasser Museum, which is cool not only for its contents but for its design. Hundertwasser objected to straight lines, right angles and flat surfaces, and the museum has none.

Someday I'll go back in good weather, and see the Prater and the opera and the trees in leaf. I'm hanging on to this book until then.


Moira said...

I spent a magical Christmas Eve in Vienna -- Mass at St. Stephens. I too would love to go back. I'm intrigued that it might be in our DNA -- I never heard that before about the Celts -- thanks Answer Girl!

Anna said...

Greetings from Korea! Waverly is a spitfire - can't wait for you to meet her! heard you were fab in the play!!!

Anonymous said...

Ok, just came back from getting the photo album downstairs:

Vienna: Feb. 17-19, 1995; Tower of St. Stephens: 343 steps; Feb. 18: ViennaWalk through bustling downtown V. (I have a picture of the Gulasch Museum-- don't think we went in though, right?); we DID go into the museum of the city of Vienna (ticket cost AS 15,--); great pix of us in front of the Hundertwasserhaus (will send via email); Feb. 19: stop at the Melk monastery on the drive back to Munich. I wrote "Ellen looking for "The Name of the Rose", wrong Melk, oh well" in my album?!

Lots of memories...great trip. Let me know when you do a blog about your first trip to Munich (with Eileen in Nov. 1992) or London Jan. 1997 or any other bad weather visits. I have pictures...

AnswerGirl said...

Those pictures crack me up. Why was I still rocking that 1980s-era hair? And didn't we eat at the Gulasch Museum?

Maybe I'll post one to the blog...

AnswerGirl said...

Anna, can't wait to meet Waverly -- see you on Thursday!

Anonymous said...

No, we didn't eat in the Gulasch Museum (although why on earth not, I'll never know). I believe we ate here:

Wildpretmarkt 3
Delightful downtown French restaurant with an intimate setting, well-executed dishes (from a daily changing lunchtime menu) plus a terrace/garden area in the summer. Good value and ideally located near to Stephansdom and the Graben.

Obviously, we never got to know the terrace/garden area...