Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Feasting on food and art

And yet, and yes, it was a feast for all the senses. With time and energy limited, I tried to be discriminating, but still came away with the feeling I had gorged on food and wine and art and talk.

Begin with
Wiener Schnitzel, melting and crispy, overflowing the plate, with creamy potato salad and the first of many light golden wines in a round glass with a thick green stem. Begin with Bruegel at the Künsthistorisches Museum, a whole room full of vivid colours, tender, monumental detail, unfaded messages from daily life. And then Van Eyck and all those grave, delicate faces by other painters of the Northern Renaissance that I love. A creamy-smooth mélange under gilded vaults, rolling and cradling the precious colour and texture of the paintings as I sip. White fleshy fish and more golden wine at a crowded sunny place in the market, and crossing the road to gaze upwards at the soft sprawling pink and green of the Majolikahaus. Early Spring seems the right time for Jungendstil - pure colours emerging from plain stone and steel.

Tender Turkish kebabs - now just as typically Viennese - and curly leering statues lurking on a corner fountain. Sour-cheese pastries, flaky and filling, as we contemplate the fortress tower of the Minoritenkirche, hard but gentled by a blue sky. A long evening wander in the MAK as dusk filters through the windows and musicians send up a cool electronic background from the foyer. Exquisite objects, exquisitely displayed: curvy-perfect bentwood chairs lit in silhouette behind a screen, a big marquetry cabinet with repeated Egyptian ladies - I want to touch, to touch; light pouring through glass vases in the same pink and green as the Majolikahaus and a perfect screen with grey cobwebby drawings by Margaret Macdonald when she came to Vienna; the small, beautifully crafted objects of the Wiener Werkstätte. Breathe it in, digest it along with the red veal goulash and just one more glass of perfect wine (hurrah, I can drink this with impunity - no headaches!). And talk, and talk - my unfeigned delight in the museum opening warmth and spontaneity between us after long absence.

Leave the best till last: rabbit on a skewer with buttery asparagus and then Marillen(apricot)schapps. Nah, too sweet! It's not sweet. Smell it. Taste it! Oh. Choke. Wow. Broad smile.

Leave the best till last: the Belvedere. The aching prettiness of Klimt and the aching ugliness of Schiele, and the keen pleasure of spotting in the Viennese paintings not only streets and landscapes, but faces, types I've been seeing around me all week. And right before leaving, having stayed miraculously off the cakes, a slice of Sachertorte, dry and semi-sweet with sharp jam and rich chocolate. Tasting it, tasting Vienna, all the way on the airport bus.


This is one dimension. My friends are Social-Democratic politicians, so, between the gourmandising and the art, be sure there was also endless talk of real life, of what else Vienna was and is.


Back home, I feel odd, as full of shadows as of pleasure. Vienna is a place. For good or ill, it exists in space and time. It made me feel my edges, whereas London is pure flux and habitually, within it, so am I. I feel my edges still. They hurt. Crushing, nauseating waves of heartache wake me in the night. Is all this about me, me, or also about the tragedies of Vienna? Who knows? We can feel our edges, but not exactly where they lie.

7 comments:

Zhoen said...

(o)

marja-leena said...

Beautiful post, yet with that edge...

Having never been to Vienna, I can still identify with some of those beauties that are so similar in Germany.

Lucy said...

Fabulous. Please, don't stop, even if it is a little painful, catch as much as you can before it fades...

I love those wineglasses with the green stems, it they're anything like the Rhineland ones.

Pica said...

Jean, you astonish me with your ability to live through your senses and then write about it so vividly. Often they're not translatable experiences. Thank you.

Jean said...

Thank you all for the kind words.

Pica, thank you for bearing with me despite all the meat :-)

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

What Pica said. You have the gift of communicating your sense-impressions so that they become contagious. Even though there was so much I didn't like in Vienna during my one visit, seeing it anew through your eyes gives it a whole other dimension and I think that were I to find myself there again, I would respond differently.

rr said...

Oh yes. Cream and steel. Mmmm. Thank you.