A Viennese Ball

The last day in Vienna was certainly the highlight. I decided that I needed to make another try at a museum, since there are so many here and the buildings are as amazing to view as the exhibits. I decided to head to the Belvedere Palace. The building was constructed in the early 1720’s and also has an beautiful and intricate garden. I’ve been there before, but as Klimt is a personal favourite, I was happy to head there again.

Here is a shot of the main upper building…check out those rain clouds! It was a wet day.

I enjoy going through museums at my own pace. I sometimes stay and look at a painting for a long while and other times just blow through the rooms if it isn’t something that interests me or if I can’t process anything else for a few minutes (small brain).

I did brave a modern art exhibit there in the lower building. It was a collection from collaborative artists Arnulf Rainer and Dieter Roth. It was, well, hmmm, well…good to try new things. You can decide for yourself.

Rainer/Roth exhibit

Rainer/Roth artwork

Then off to see Klimt and Moll and Wilhelm List. There was a couple of paintings of young girls by List. They had such a twinkle in their eye and confident poses and a hint of a monkey grin that it just made me think of Annie (although after 4 days away, just about everything made me think of Annie.)

I also spent some time thinking about how I view different forms of art. Without a doubt, the first 20 or 30 years of the 20th Century are my favourite period for paintings. Time and again I think a painting striking and it invariably is from those years, regardless of whether or not I have heard of the artist (usually not). However, the literature of that era often leaves me stone cold (Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and the rest of the modernists.) It wasn’t until the post-modern period (Sheila Watson, Kurt Vonnegut, Italo Calvino) that I really found my groove in terms of literature. (Followed of course by my obsession with Canadian lit.) And poetry is different again. I’m as happy to read William Blake as Robert Frost as ee cummings. And then there is movies. They are my complete off switch, so I can sit through and enjoy James Bond and Mission Impossible as much as The Pianist or Like Water for Chocolate.

Anyway, it was a delight having time and space to think about these things. Now back to Vienna.

I spent the afternoon getting my hair done and even splurged on makeup. (Although after I struck up a great conversation with the make-up artist, who is of Turkish descent but was born in Vienna, the ridiculous number of samples she gave me probably made up for the costs of the sitting.) Markus and I got our ball attire on and were off to the fest.

Here we are in our finery in our hotel room. (The couple of shots people took of us together weren’t good, so you’ll just have to image us arm in arm)

The dress isn't new, but still pretty I think

The dress isn't new, but still pretty I think

And a bit closer

And a bit closer

And Markus

My handsome penguin

My handsome penguin

The ball was at the Rathouse, which is City Hall. We were transported in an historic street car, which was quite fun and special. When we arrived, there was a large Christmas Market in full swing. The lawns and trees were completely decked-out for Christmas, with beautiful lights everywhere and giant electric lamps in the trees.

Here is a shot of a market stall and one of the exterior of the building.

Christkindlmarkt

Christkindlmarkt

Wien Rathaus

Wien Rathaus

We walked up on a red carpet, just to set the mood, and then had a reception in the main hall. The evening was sponsored by Moet & Chandon, so you can just imagine how much Champagne was poured that night. (Whatever you are thinking…double it.)

The dinner and dancing was in the main hall. Incredibly beautiful with three-storey ceilings and massive chandeliers. (I have a new-found love of chandeliers after this trip.)

The main ballroom in City Hall

The main ballroom in City Hall

Here is a clearer day shot from the net.

The meal was fantastic, especially considering they were serving 600 people. The big splurge was on the truffles. There were three on each table, so the scent wafted over the room from the moment you sat down. Delicious. When the main course was served, the waitstaff brought out the mandolins and gave each person a generous helping. Probably $50 worth per person, according to the chefs we were seated with. (For the millionth time that week, I was so glad all costs were included in the event…we aren’t particularly flush with cash right now, and I am still interested in eating and feeding the family for the next few months.)

Our dinner companions were from Ontario, France and London, and I enjoyed each of them. (If Markus and Maria hang on to the hotel for a bit, it would be great to get to visit some of these places. But I’m not keeping my hopes up.)

The organizers had a few surprises for us as well. The first was a 20-minute concert by the Vienna Boys Choir. They really live up to their reputation and were just delightful. There were a couple of soloists that would blow any contestant on American Idol out of the water, let me tell you. And they were probably 10 years old. And then before dessert we also were treated to two singers from the Vienna Opera. Wonderful.

After dessert a 15-piece orchestra set up on the stage and started to play traditional Viennese waltzes. There were 4 young couples in white dresses and black ties who gave a short performance to show how the traditional waltzes looked when done properly. And then we all joined in. Markus and I did our best for a few dances. He is a good leader, so even though I’m a bad follower (control issues), we held our own.

At about midnight the electronic music came on and let me tell you, that was quite the sight. A couple of hundred overworked hoteliers and chefs in long ball gowns and tuxedos going at it to Van Halen and Joan Jett. Too funny! But luckily all of us were sufficiently sauced to just let loose and have fun.

We arrived back at the hotel at about 2 a.m. That was certainly an evening to remember.

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