Europe, May 2018: first 13 days (IG)
Above: “Monocle”, on ÖBB regional train near Kitzbühel, Austria – 13 May 2018.
From 8 May to 4 June 2018, I travelled through Austria and Germany for 27 consecutive days by train with a two-country Eurail rail pass. I obtained over 10-thousand frames over the four-week span: the mirrorless Fujifilm X70 with fixed-lens prime accounted for 8020 images (77%), and the full-frame Canon 6D with changeable zoom-glass accounted for 2449 images (23%). From this giant haul of pictures, the following provides glimpses and visuals to the first 13 of 27 days, including stays in Innsbruck and Vienna.
(The final 14 days here)
Day 1: Tuesday, May 8 – Frankfurt am Main, Germany
When I arrive in Frankfurt am Main, it’s sunny and warmer than usual for early May. One place in the financial metropolis I’ve wanted to see for some time is the Old Jewish cemetery next to the Jüdisches Museum at Judengasse. Leaving my identification as security deposit with the staff at the museum, I pick up their key to open the gates to the adjacent cemetery. I’m alone the entire time I wander the grounds, hidden behind stone and cement walls, covered in shade by the rich ceiling of leaves above, and surrounded by numerous evidence of past lives below. Stretching over a space of 12500 square metres, this place along Battonnstrasse is the city’s oldest Jewish cemetery with confirmed burials dated to 1272 AD/CE.
Day 2: Wednesday, May 9 – Innsbruck, Austria
I’d stepped foot inside Austria before. You don’t go up into the German Alps and not see or touch the Austrian border within tantalizing reach. I’d also visited Salzburg and Vienna before, but that’d been a stretch of over 15 years, and those memories had already become increasingly opaque without accompanying images. So to Innsbruck the first time I go, and as its name directly states, a settlement to be called “Ynnsbrug” begins with the construction of a bridge (Brücke) over the Inn river. It turns out “Innanna” was probably the historic female name for the Inn River. That’s also reflected in upper Tirol with two other rivers, the Rosanna (Stanzer Valley) and the Trisanna (Paznaun Valley); both merge into the Sanna and eventually with the Inn. With bold distinctive signage on the bridge, artist Ursula Beiler explores the primordial female life-giving and -sustaining energy of the regional rivers including the Inn.
Day 3: Thursday, May 10 – Innsbruck, Austria
The rock wall dominating Innsbruck’s skyline is the Nordkette (North Chain) mountain range, a part of the greater Karwendel range in the Northern Limestone Alps whose rocks are about 250 million years old. The very modern Nordkette Cable Railway whisks residents and visitors up to one of its peaks: first from the Old Town is the Hungerbergbahn funicular, followed by cable cars to Seegrube (1905 metres / 6250 feet) and Hafelekar (2256 metres / 7400 feet). Sweeping panoramas await: to the north, other peaks in the Karwendel and Wetterstein mountains; to the south, the greater urban conglomeration of Innsbruck, the Inn river valley, the Bergisel Ski Jump, and the Europa Bridge. In the coming days, I’d follow those receding roads into the Stubai Valley and to Brenner Pass at the Austria-Italy border. Architect Zaha Hadid left her mark in Innsbruck: with her redesigned Bergisel Ski Jump which opened in 2002, and the “Shell and Shadow” design of the four Hungerbergbahn stations which opened in 2007.
Day 4: Friday, May 11 – Hall in Tirol, Austria
The word “dollar” is derived from “thaler” (taler), a silver currency produced in the late 15th-century in the town of Hall, near Innsbruck, Austria.
With a short trip by train or bus from Innsbruck, I’ve headed east to the town of Hall in Tirol. Hall established itself as a production and trade centre for salt in the 13th-century; “Hall” is related to the Celtic word for salt. With the availability of silver from nearby Schwaz, the Münze (Mint) within the Hasegg castle is where the silver “thaler” (“taler”) was first minted in 1486, and the facility continued to produce silver coins over the next three hundred years.
Photography within the history museum isn’t allowed, but fortunately, there’s the 500th anniversary reproduction of the “Europataler”. In 1508, Maximilian the First was proclaimed Holy Roman Emperor, and to honour this event with a show of power and influence, the mint produced a 52 mm (2 inch) diameter “propaganda” coin which included what’s understood to be the first ever appearance of “Europa” on a coin. The translated Latin inscription goes something like: “Maximilian, by the grace of God Emperor of the Romans, expander of the empire at all times, Grand Duke of Austria – King of multiple European nations and most powerful prince.” Subtle and humble, he was not.
Fast forward to 2008 for the UEFA European Football Championships in Austria and Switzerland, the quincentenary version of the “Europataler” is a massive 360 mm (14.2 inches) in diameter. Notable people and events are shown on the coin’s reverse side from the 16th-century to the present: Protestant reformer Martin Luther, composer Antonio Vivaldi, chemist and engineer James Watt, peace activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Bertha von Suttner, and the formation of the European Union.
Day 5: Saturday, May 12 – Neustift im Stubaital, Austria
I arrive in the Stubaital to get a short glimpse of life in the alpine valley. I’d heard the common refrain before in other similar mountain valleys: it only “seems” quieter in summer than in winter. In the warm season of green, there are hikers of all ages, some with backpacks and walking sticks; there are also many on bikes, some casual for the day, others dressed sleek and bright for visibly optimized aerodynamics. For those with an even greater need for speed, there are hang-gliders and mountain-bikes. Among the streets of Neustift im Stubaital, the few Saturday sounds emanate from cafés whose open patios are busy with resident and visitor, ready to fortify themselves with Kaffee und Kuchen. Other distinct sounds include the rattle of bells around cows or goats as they feed in adjacent meadows and pastures: it is a small alpine town after all.
With a long-zoom up-valley view southwest from Neustift into a section of Stubai Alps, most of the peaks including Zuckerhütl (3507 metres / 11506 feet) are located within Austria. The exception is Wilder Pfaff whose peak is shared between Tyrol, Austria, and South Tyrol, Italy; the Italian name for the peak is Cima del Prete. The line-of-sight to these peaks is about 20 kilometres (12.5 miles). The reverse down-valley view is dominated by the town’s Catholic parish church.
I recommend the Stubaitalbahn tram into the Stubai Valley; a one-way ride from Innsbruck to endstation Fulpmes takes 1 hour. Additional bus service takes people deeper into the valley.
Day 6: Sunday, May 13 – Wilder Kaiser, Austria
Carrying Québec maple syrup and Reese’s Pieces, I fulfill a promise to visit a friend in Austria in an area known as Wilder Kaiser (Wild Emperor). The timing is good, because my friend is about to have their “second” wedding in 2 weeks’ time. They’ve already had their dream wedding, just the two of them in Iceland; the second version is naturally for the joy of family and friends.
The Wilder Kaiser is a localized upthrust crown of rock, a part of the Kaiser Mountains in the Northern Limestone Alps. A quick wander through Ellmau, Going, and Scheffau on this warm quiet Sunday afternoon conjure up adjectives such as “idyllic” and “transcendent.” I utter my mild restrained wonder as “you live here?!” more than once. In the town of Going, the small homemade batch of Apfelstrudel-Eis (ice cream) at kEISer is a cool creamy slice of heaven for the palate. The day ends with schnitzel, beer, a view and thunderstorm from the Jägerwirt lodge restaurant in Scheffau.
The area is known for film and television production, especially for the series “Der Bergdoktor” (The Mountain Doctor) and “Soko Kitzbühel” (Task Force Kitzbühel). From Innsbruck, a regional train to St. Johann in Tirol takes about 80 minutes.
Day 7: Monday, May 14 – Brenner, Austria / Brennero, Italy
I want to see an important transport route and mountain crossing that’s been around for many millennia; the long history is a short summary of European history. At an elevation of 1370 metres (4500 feet), one of the lower Alpine mountain passes and crossings is at the border town of Brenner, Austria / Brennero, South Tirol, Italy whose population of about 500 mostly speaks German. With rail, truck, bus, and automobile, Brenner Pass is one of the most important ground passages for transporting people and goods on the European continent, linking Scandinavia in the north with the Mediterranean to the south. Lower motorway toll charges and gas prices have encouraged more shipping through Austria; over 2 million trucks transit Brenner annually. In local terms, paved motorway and standard-gauge track provide a direct connection between Innsbruck, Austria and Bolzano, Italy.
It’s 40 minutes from Innsbruck to Brenner with an OEBB regional train. With the Brenner(o) train station entirely within Italy, there’s Trenitalia train service every 30 minutes to Bolzano, and hourly trains each to Merano and to Bologna.
Day 8: Tuesday, May 15 – Wien (Vienna), Austria
I enjoy the process of cooking: the preparation, and of course, the consumption. In a period of time of what seemed like a never-ending research dissertation, I liked how cooking had well-defined endpoints: a desirable start and a satisfying conclusion. Modern kitchen design invites repeated patterns of movement and action around where cookware, utensils, condiments, glassware, etc. are stored and where the central focus of cooking activity takes place. And so, if you have spent any time in a kitchen (which would be everybody), we have Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky to thank.
Shortly after my arrival in Vienna, I head out on the U-Bahn to the MAK (Museum for Applied Arts) to learn more about Schütte-Lihotzky and her “Frankfurt Kitchen.” In the early 1920s, Schütte-Lihotzky became Austria’s first woman architect. In 1926, she joined the municipal planning department in Frankfurt am Main. With her mind primed towards social housing, she designed a kitchen which was reproducible and built-in to the planned design, reducing overall construction time, money, and effort. As part of the “New Frankfurt” public housing program, over 10-thousand apartments were built with her kitchen design. By 1936, what became known as the “Frankfurt Kitchen” was included in Ernst Neufert’s standard book “Architects’ Data” (Bauentwurfslehre) which would be distributed and translated throughout the world.
What we think about present-day kitchens is not yet a century old in concept, but because of its ubiquity in first-world apartments and houses, it’s difficult to conceive how new and innovative Schütte-Lihotzky’s kitchen design was at the time compared to what came before. In an interview on her 100th birthday in 1997, she said for someone who didn’t cook, she designed the kitchen not as a housewife but as an architect. The Frankfurt Kitchen appearing in the MAK is an idealized reconstruction enabled by Schütte-Lihotzky based upon her own memories.
Day 9: Wednesday, May 16 – Wien (Vienna), Austria
Throughout 2018, the Austrian capital city celebrates 100 years of Vienna Modernism by highlighting the work and achievements of Gustav Klimt, Koloman Moser, Egon Schiele, and Otto Wagner. Anyone spending any time in the city will have seen, brushed past, and likely, traveled within Otto Wagner’s architectural legacy. Examples of Wagner’s creations include the Pavilion at Karlsplatz and the Hofspavilion at Hietzing, both maintained and operatedby the city’s Wien Museum.
By 1894, the city of Vienna tasked Otto Wagner with the planning and construction of the new “Stadtbahn” or city railway. Not only was he responsible for planning the bridges, viaducts, and stations, he was charged with light fixtures, decorative features and colours, railings, signage, ticket counters, station gates, roof details, floor covering, furniture, etc. Today’s U4 and U6 subway lines and the S45 suburban rail line operate on part of the former Stadtbahn.
The Karlsplatz Pavilion is dominated by yellow sunflowers and green paint on a white background; the colours and motifs would be Wagner’s signature for his entire design of the early Vienna subway system. The Royal Pavilion at Hietzing was designed so the royals including Emperor Franz Josef could have their own separate entrance and exit to the subway apart from the commoners. Both buildings are lasting heritage to Wagner’s architectural vision of bringing Vienna from the 19th- to the 20th-century.
Day 10: Thursday, May 17 – Bratislava, Slovakia
I get to say “dobrý deň” again, at least for a day. Thanks to Twin City Liner, I’ve secured a seat on both legs of the catamaran service between the two neighbouring capital cities of Vienna, Austria and Bratislava, Slovakia.
Over the next 8-plus hours in Bratislava, I’m on the city’s streets, crossing the Danube river twice in the process. Bratislava’s Old Town is a big highlight, but I’ve cast sights on other parts of the city. That includes an example of street art (by Fat Heat at Stone Square), and a view from Castle Hill to the UFO Bridge and the much-maligned but ubiquitous “paneláky” where many in the city live. “Paneláky” are pre-fabricated apartment buildings from the former Soviet Union and its influence over countries behind the former “iron curtain.”
As much as I try avoiding it, ice hockey stalks me halfway around the world, because I end up in a fan park for the Slovakia national team who are in Denmark at the IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship. Undoubtedly, it helps Bratislava is one of two cities to host the championship next year.
Day 11: Friday, May 18 – Wien (Vienna), Austria
The early-evening mood in Vienna’s Old Town is as ethereal as the remaining light scattered from the cobblestones. Grünangergasse was likely once the location of a green commons and, according to local legend, house #8 was where the first Kipfel / Kipferl / crescent / buttery croissant was made in the late 17th- to 18th-century. Ballgasse is a narrow cobblestone passage and one of the last remaining from medieval times, even though the surrounding buildings are much younger dating to the 18th-century to celebrate Vienna’s successful defence against the Ottomans’ second siege on the city. This short stretch of street, the lack of vehicles, and the sounds of quiet chatter are a slow relaxed trip back in time.
Day 12: Saturday, May 19 – Wien (Vienna), Austria
I’ve set aside the day to immerse myself in the art works by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele at the Upper Belvedere and the Leopold Museum, respectively, containing the largest collections of these artists’ work in the world.
Vienna celebrates the 2018 year as the 100th anniversary of Vienna Modernism with four major figures: Gustav Klimt, Koloman Moser, Egon Schiele, and Otto Wagner. I’m pleasantly surprised, because I hadn’t expected both museums to allow visitors to photograph their collections. Sure, images for some of these paintings appear online, but I know the *act* of taking pictures of the famous paintings will deepen the memories of my visit.
In a massive crowd of people who are here to see the painting (or even if the simple desire is a quick selfie and leave), to stand in the immediate presence of “The Kiss” for a period of time is like gently swimming in a sea of gold. The speckle and sparkle seem to undulate from one Gustav Klimt painting to the next; it’s almost like changing ships in the sea. By comparison, I think Egon Schiele’s work is “sharp” with penetrating gazes and distinct lines. There’s no question Klimt’s naked women and Schiele’s direct questions caused discomfort and consternation among early 20th-century viewers in a conservative Vienna.
Seeing art is direct, personal, and visceral; the experience goes some way to complete research I’ve done in advance about historical and cultural context. And above all, the art here is beautiful *and* confrontational. Another pilgrimage is complete, one of many planned during this month-long journey in Austria.
The images: “The Bride”, Gustav Klimt, 1917-1918; “Judith and Holofernes”, Gustav Klimt, 1901; “Self-portrait with Chinese lantern plant”, Egon Schiele, 1912; “The embrace (lovers)”, Egon Schiele, 1917.
Day 13: Sunday, May 20 – Wien (Vienna), Austria
Vienna has seen her fair share of history, back to a time when the once Celtic settlement was called Vindobona under the auspices of the Roman Empire. And there’ve been more than a few who’ve been successful in the city …
Suspended next to the entrance of the E. A. Generali insurance company building at Am Hof 11 is a crinkly golden sphere: the Türkenkugel (Ottoman ball).. It’s a (replica) gilded cannonball fired during the Ottomans’ second and unsuccessful siege of Vienna in 1683. The ball was walled in and later gilded; the house and restaurant which used to be here at this location was given the name “Zur goldenen Kugel” (At the golden ball).
Judenplatz (Jewish Square) was home and centre to the city’s once-thriving Jewish communities and to one of the largest synagogues in Europe. To one side of the square is Rachel Whiteread’s memorial to the 65-thousand Viennese Jews who were deported and murdered by the Nazis. The memorial is a reinforced concrete cube which represents an introverted/inverted inaccessible library. Countless editions of what seems to be the same non-titled book represent the large number of victims and their individual stories. I think Whiteread’s memorial sculpture is an interesting counterpoint to Micha Ullman’s memorial at Berlin’s Bebelplatz where an empty set of white bookshelves marks the place where books by authors Jewish, undesireable, or traitorous were burned by Nazis in 1933.
I had promised myself to explore more of Jewish Vienna, especially in Leopoldstadt. Along with the Vienna Modernism centenary, I had a punishing and almost impossible schedule. So I’m coming back to Vienna, hungry to see, find, and learn more in this tragic, vibrant, and beautiful city.
(Whiteread’s “Nameless Library” on The Guardian here and here.)
13 days down, 14 remain: “27. Reisetage in Folge …”
I made the images above between 8 and 20 May 2018 with a Fujifilm X70 and a Canon 6D. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins.com as https://wp.me/p1BIdT-bSg.
5 Responses to “Europe, May 2018: first 13 days (IG)”
Sounds like an awesome time to visit Henry. Just as the weather turns.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for your comment, Ryan! I had decent weather for the most part which is mostly expected for May into June. I also experienced the fury of a couple Alpine thunderstorms, but I expected that, too.
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