Travel: Hofburg Imperial Palace Complex

Within the Hofburg complex, there is a dearth of iconic buildings that provide cultural insights into classical art and Vienna culture. Despite a limited amount of time, I sought ought two of these, namely the Albertina Museum and the Spanish Riding School.

The Albertina Museum houses one of the largest and most vital print rooms in the world. The collection numbers at 65,000 drawings and 1million old master prints, including, but not limited to graphic works, photographs, and architectural drawings. The building was erected on one of the last remaining fortifications, the Augustian Bastion. It lies on the original site of the Hofbauamt, which was built in the second half of the 17th century.

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Monet – The Water Lily Pond

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Henri-Edmund Cross – Les Petites Montagnes Mauresques

I readily enjoyed the large collection of impressionist painting which was comprised of the works of Monet, Van Gogh, and Cezanne. This period of artistic expression is by far one of my favorites. Impressionism uses blatant, yet subtle thin brush strokes, and emphasizes a picture of a moment. Each painting is incredibly textured and you can feel the hardened ridges of oil paint on the canvas, and the movement behind the artist’s bold, aggressive composition. Ordinary subjects are made extraordinary with the play of light and shadows.

Prints are pretty self-explanatory. 😛 Detailed engravings utilized such techniques as woodcuts, and etching. These were then printed on paper, and often expressed vital artistic, historical, or social motifs of the current period. My favorite collection included a set that depicted the artist’s take, namely  Pieter Bruegel Der Altere, on the seven deadly sins. Can you guess which print represents which evil?

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Unfortunately, due to my schedule, I was not present in Vienna during a show of the infamous Lipizzaners. As a condolence prize, I attended one of their daily practices instead, and observed how the students, and their mounts achieve harmonious precision. It was far duller than I planned :/. The majority of the two hours involved a trio of riders, exercising a rotating trio of horses in choreographed steps, and typical gaits, around the floor. I kept thinking that some more coordinating and fancy tricks would be put into action, but this was far from the case. Two hours later, I was only using half my attention, and multi-tasking via my Kindle.

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The highlight however, was watching the horses being led by the groomsmen from the stables into the ring. They are an absolutely gorgeous and majestic breed that date from the 800 A.D. It emerged as a powerful, yet agile horse in the 16th century, and became increasingly fashionable for the emerging prevalence of riding schools. In 1920, the Piper Federal Stud was selected as the main stud for the Vienna horses. Breeding is thus very selective, and only proven stallions can stud with mares that have passed rigorous performance testing.

I absolutely LOVE the grace and power you can sense within these majestic beats. It is hard to miss the noble air with which they hold themselves. A long time ago, it was my childhood dream to be a horse jockey or own a dude ranch, living the simple life in the mountains of Montana.

Travel: Classic Paris Sites

I promise, this is the last church that I visited in France! Of course, it is the infamous Notre Dame; the building that inspired Victor Hugo’s classic novel with a hunchback as the protagonist who watched medieval Paris life occur from afar. The sprawling gothic architecture is unique, and it is not difficult to revel in the stark contrast these dark creatures present against the sunny skyline.

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The one flaw in climbing the tours however, was how incredibly jam-packed it was. There was little to no room to maneuver, and the entire walkway was enclosed within a 3” x 3” wire mesh. I can’t even imagine partaking in this during the summer!


While I understand the safety precautions, it took some strategic planning to get good photographs devoid of this interference.

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The statues also reminded me of a classic Warner Brothers cartoon called the Gargoyles. It was ‘back in the days’ of my youth, and I’m sure it is no longer a recognizable cartoon or brand. I enjoyed it though! It told the story of good versus evil gargoyles that could only continue their battle within the confines of darkness. If sunrise hit, they returned to their stony state.

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We then headed to the Orsay Museum; it has a diverse collection of impressionist paintings, and documents the progression of this art. Once again, no photos allowed. Some of my favorite artists were on display, such as Van Gogh, Manet, Monet, and Cezanne.

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As dusk approached, we decided to breath in the crisp Paris air, and swing by the triumphal arch to witness the largest roundabout in the world. Interesting Fact: Insurance companies no longer debate claims when an accident occurs here, to save time and headaches they now just split the damage costs 50/50.

Strolling to the Eiffel Tower took longer than expected. Fortunately, we arrived just as the sun dipped below the horizon. This allowed for a large array of photographic shots documenting the vibrancy of the lights with respect to the darkening sky.

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(I almost lost mother in the crowd, she is about a head shorter than me and quite difficult to locate even in a supermarket)

Opting not to wait in line and pay the high lift prices, We managed to climb to the 2nd level platform (a LOT of stairs) and witness some breathtaking views of the city, and particularly the Champ de Mars at night.

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On the hike up, I took some time to have a nerd moment and admire the forethought required in the difficult connections. It’s interesting to consider the complexity of the geometry and how the designers engineered all the steel elements to puzzle together in just the right formation.

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What comes to mind when you think of Paris? Have you been to any of these places? How have the inspired you?