2003. July. William’s flat sold and Ann Goddard’s final years. In July 2003 we sold William’s flat in Watford which was becoming a burden and though it was put on the market for over £200,000 which is the price flats had been sold for in the development, the market was very low and he had to let it go for £183,000  in the end.

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I must say it was a great relief to get rid of the place. Before we finally left, we had Ann Goddard over to have tea. Sadly we would no longer be able to visit Ann who lived nearby in Salter’s Almhouses. We tried many times to ring her from Bridport or from London when we visited, but to no avail. We found out that she had attempted to commit suicide but had failed. Some time after this we heard from her only known relative who had been called in to make arrangements for her to go into hospital as she was extremely ill, who rang to say that Ann had died.. The relative also said that of all the names of people in her address/telephone book who were members of the GLC drama club mine was the only one that had not been crossed off. Apparently they discovered that the whole of her back was covered in the most appalling bed sores and that she must have been in considerably agony for a great length of time. Poor Ann, if only they had let her go when she wanted to, she would have been spared those last few grim years. As for the heartless members of the drama club, how could they have abandoned her in the way they did.  Someone could have visited. No one ever did. Thus we severed all links outside Bridport which is now our main and only home town to this day.

2003. Vienna and Budapest. 2 July to 12 July.   We decided to do a trip to Vienna and then pick up on an organised tour. So we flew out on 2 July and booked in at the K&K Hotel Maria Theresia, centrally situated and extremely comfortable and quiet.

Image result for k&k hotel maria theresia

3 July. We spent most of the day in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, which was very close by.  The Museum is a mixture of our National Gallery, British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum all piled into one vast building.  Of course masterpieces throughout.  We decided that we would look at some of the paintings and then break off and go to see some of the Roman statuary, some of the magnificent Roman gems and then return to the paintings. It is not possible to describe the paintings or to pick any one or even a group.  Room after room of some of the world’s most famous paintings.  But I will choose three Roman cameos which I had been looking forward to seeing. All of them world famous.

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(left) The Emperor Claudius and Germanicus with their wives. 49AD
(right) The Augustus Cameo (10AD

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King Ptolemy II Philadelphus of Egypt
with his wife and sister Arsinoe II c.170 BC

On one night each week, the Museum opens its doors in the evening and serves a magnificent dinner in its restaurant under the central cupola.  We booked in advance and were allocated a dining table for the evening.  A lavish buffet is served and you are encouraged, between courses, to go off and visit the museum and return to your table for the next course. What a wonderful way to spend an evening.  It is an absolute must for any visitor to Vienna.

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4th July. vienna 7We started by visiting the Albertina, the state collection of drawings, watercolours and engravings. If you ever wondered where Durer’s Hare was it’s in the Albertina. There are over 22,000 drawings alone, in the collection, but only some are shown at any one time, so there were a number of favourites we did not see. Our next port of call was the Military Museum (Heeresgeschichtliches Museum) which is situated in a beautiful park. Built in a so-called mock Romano-Byzantine style in the mid 19th century, it is absolutely massive. It contains, a great deal of armour, as would be expected but also  a magnificent collection of paintings including many portraits. The Hall of the Commanders is enlivened with 56 life-size marble statues of Austrian commanders.

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It also houses the car in which the Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife were murdered in 1914. Rather battered looking thing.  Also his stained uniform.

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Another curiosity is a coat which belonged to the Russian General Shuvalov which Napoleon wore to disguise himself during his passage into exile on Elba; the authorities feared he might be assassinated if recognised.  The whole place is like reading an illustrated history book of Austria at war. 5 July.  As we were to join the Ace Study Group later in the day we visited the Palace of Schonbrunn, and were taken around by a very informative guide.

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One of those impossibly lavish palaces which are scattered all over Europe. It’s their sheer scale that is mind-blowing. It even has it own theatre. We knew we were going to see the gardens with the group so left them till later.

We then visited the Secession Building. The Secession Building was not on the itinerary.  How anyone can visit Vienna without seeing this buildings amazed us.

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The Secession Building, an exhibition hall by Josef Olbrich. 1897
One of the extraordinary paintings by Gustav Klimt which decorate one of the rooms called The Beethoven Frieze.

The building was designed as an exhibition hall by the architect Joseph Maria Olbrich in 1897 as the manifesto of the Secessionist movement.  It opened in October 1898. Sadly most of the original interior was looted during World War II. Klimt’s extraordinary Beethoven Frieze was restored as was the remainder of the building and was reinaugurated in 1986. Exhibitions are regularly held in the hall. Sadly this, like many other iconic buildings was completely ignored by our ACE guide so thank heaven we had extended our visit by a few days.  Also visited the Capuchin Church which contains in its crypt the Imperial Burial Vault of the House of Hapsburg from 1633-1916. Very elaborate sarcophagi and positively awash with sculpted crowned sculls.  Here are a few.

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      Vienna 17              vienna 18

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Finally we visited the Leopold Museum. Stunning collection of paintings and drawings and containing  one of the world’s largest collection of Egon Schiele’s work, all displayed in one of the most perfect modern galleries we have ever visited. It is the collection of Elisabeth and Rudolf Leopold and opened in 2001.  It is quite impossible to choose one of its masterpieces but here goes.

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Self Portrait by Egon Schiele

We met up with the ACE group in the evening, seem quite a nice collection of people. During the time in Vienna it slowly dawned on us that our guide was besotted by, to us, an obscure Slovenian architect called Jože Plečnik (1872-1957), who had left his mark on Vienna and frankly bored the pants off us. 6 July. First visit was to the suburbs to the Steinhof Church, a Roman Catholic oratory of the Physchiatric Hospital in Vienna, by Otto Wagner. Considered one of the most important Art Nouveau churches in the world it is indeed an Art Nouveau confection with its copper dome and elegant  angels with gold wings. Wonderful mosaics and stained glass windows. One of those ‘wow’ factor churches.

Angels over the portico by Othmar Schimkowitz

Christ in Paradise over the High Altar by Koloman Moser.

Next we returned to central Vienna to view the Hofburg, the Imperial Palace of the Hapsburgs and the National Library. The Hofburg has its massive imperial apartments, room after room, crammed with paintings and furniture. You come away with a feeling of being drowned in a mass of white icing red plush and gold. Two images will surfice. One ceremonial the other private.

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Hofburg

The Empress Elizabeth’s Saloon

And course we had to visit the Imperial Treasury in the Palace. A remarkable collection of ‘Crown Jewels’. ecclesiastical treasures and the regalia of the Holy Roman Empire the latter includes the Imperial crown of the 10th century. I loved the golden bejewelled ‘purse’ of St Stephen containing some earth soaked in his blood. We were knee deep in rubies, emeralds, diamonds and just about every other jewel known to man. Not very well displayed, rather cramped space I thought.

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The Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire, 10th century

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St Stephen’s Purse. 9th century

After lunch we made our way to the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Sadly our guide who I think had lived in Vienna for many years, clearly did not want to go in, presumably he was bored to pieces with the collection so he spent an inordinate time talking about the exterior of the building. He then let us in. Fortunately we had already visited it during our small pre-stay period so just went to see our favourites paintings. We noticed that he did not even bother to enter the gallery but sat on a seat in the ticket foyer.  The group, only had a very short time in which to enjoy the vast collection; we felt really sorry for them. 7 July. To St Stephen’s Cathedral. It is dedicated to the first king of Hungary. (1000-381). Started in 1137 and remodelled again and again and completed in 1359 though bits and bobs were added right up to the 1850s. It’s great treasure is the Tomb of the Emperor Friedrich III (d.1493). Unfortunately it is raised so high on its plinth that the magnificent sculpture of the emperor which lies on the top cannot be seen.

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Tomb of the Emperor Friedrich III (d.1493)
by Niklas Gerhaert van Leyden and Michael Tichter

ZacherlhausNext we visited the Zacherlhaus, now used as offices but were presumably flats at one time.  Built by Plečnik between 1903/5. We spent forever and amen looking at the wretched building and then spent far too much time looking at the staircase which is all that the public was allowed to see. OK its very Art Nouveau but extremely dull. There is just so much time one can spend on looking at a staircase. The ornate sculpted candelabra on the left is in the shape of an indeterminate insect with a long proboscis, and allusion to the owner’s source of income, the production of insecticide! And meanwhile the whole of Vienna, groaning with magnificent art treasures awaited.  holy trinity churchWe then went to the Metro station at Stadtpark which he designed and from there to the Post Office Savings Bank which is also by Plečnik.  We then travelled on the metro looking at various other stations he had designed and finally to the Holy Trinity Church which he had also designed made of concrete. One of the most dreary churches in the whole of Vienna. By which time I did not want to see another Plečnik building, ever.  8 July. Church of St Charles Borromeo. Spectacular exterior. Restoration work was being done to the ceiling and we were given special permission to climb up the scaffolding to see it. The frescoed dome is by Johann Michael Rottmayr and Gaetano Fanti.

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Luther bring driven out of heaven
and his books burned by an archangel. Great fun. But Tiepolo it isn’t.

Someone had to expose the goings-on in the Catholic Church but why did it have to be ghastly Luther.  Our next port of call was to see the collections at the Belvedere Palaces. The Lower Belvedere holds the Austrian Baroque Museum, The Orangery has Medieval Austrian Art and the Upper Belvedere holds the 19th century works of art. Between them lies a beautiful formal garden. What a feast. Quite impossible to summarize. It holds the world’s largest collection of paintings by Klimt and of course it has The Kiss.

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The Kiss by Klimt. 
Everyone has to stand in front of The Kiss just once in their lives.

This Egon Schiele is for me one of his great masterpieces

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The Family by Egon Schiele. 1918. Belvedere Gallery

It’s a portrait of Schiele but not of his wife and child. It was unfinished at the time of his death. It was his last important painting. His wife, six months pregnant, died on 28 October 1918 and he three days later, both died of Spanish influenza. He must have had a premonition in this work that he was not going to have a family.  Almost two years of his precious life had been wasted as a soldier during which he produced hardly any work. He is one of my great heroes.

In the afternoon we visited St Peter’s Church a Baroque frolic. Built 1703-1733. Another Rottmayr dome.  The organ case is something else

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© Bwag/Wikimedia

We spent the afternoon looking at the gardens of Palace of Schonbrunn. Splendid though the gardens are, I thought the party should have been taken to see the Palace but our guide was very dismissive of it, he’d probably seen it hundreds of times. Fortunately we have visited before we met up with the group.

Schonbrunn

Anyone in the party who thought he had seen much of Vienna was deluded. The whole of Vienna is populated with some of the worlds most extraordinary and beautiful buildings many dating from the late 19th century which just take your breath away by their sheer vigour and audacity, Otto Wagner, Josef Hoffman, Adolf Loos, Paul Engleman, etc., etc., names I have hardly ever heard about and who clearly did not influence anyone in the UK. When I look at the sheer horror of the National Theatre with its heavy ugly concrete slabs of uncoordinated heaps and with its trash bins and offices occupying its river frontage not to mention the foul passageway leading to the side theatre. No entrance of any note and an absolute shambles of stairs which do not lead to anything, I could weep.  Please someone pull it down and start again. How could anyone design such an important building and put the bins and offices on the riverside façade. Enough.

9 July. We caught the train to Budapest and had an excellent lunch served on board. Walked around Pest. Apparently Buda is up on a hill.  We visited St Stephen’s Basilica which was begun in 1851 and completed in 1905 the dome having collapsed shortly after having been erected which meant that the whole basilica had to be rebuilt. Apparently Franz Joseph was said to have looked extremely apprehensively at the dome when he inaugurated the Basilica.    It has the supposed mummified hand of St Stephen (c 975–1038), the first king of Hungary. Sadly for Stephen, bits of him are scattered all over the place. Anyway the basilicia managed to bag a hand.

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High altar, St Stephen’s Basilica  

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The reliquary and hand of St Stephen

We then wandered around looking at the extraordinary Art Nouveau buildings. This by Miksa Roth

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The gable of a house by Miksa Roth showing Our Lady of Hungary

10 July. Our guide had made special arrangements for us to visit the Kiraly Turkish Baths which are regarded as the finest and oldest of the Baths in Hungary having been built in 1570 for the Buda garrison. kiralyThe Kiraly family apparently owned the Baths in the 18th century. We were told we had to get up at about 5.30 as we were expected before the baths opened. Well we arrived there at about 6am and of course no one was expecting us and we could not gain entry.  The coach driver went off somewhere to see if there was any other means of access. After about an hour on the doorstep we were finally, reluctantly allowed in. It looks positively sordid inside and all the staff were discovered in the heated swimming pool have a fine old time before the doors opened. We had to take our shoes and socks off, something we had not been told beforehand. Anyway after a perfunctory and it has to be said disappointing visit and all with wet feet and not a towel between us, returned rather disgruntled to the hotel for breakfast. What a complete waste of time and effort. Apparently, according to the guide books, it is the most popular gay meeting place in town! After breakfast we headed for the castle district in Buda to visit the partially 13th century but mostly 19th century neo-Gothic St Matyas Church, restored after war damage.  Very colourful interior.

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One of the stained glass windows !

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One of the church’s treasures the tomb of King Bela III (c. 1148- 1196) and his queen Agnes of Antioch.

and the Citadel. After lunch we visited the Royal Palace it now houses a number of museums but we were interested, first and foremost, in the Hungarian National Gallery. We could see that our guide had other ideas than visiting the National Gallery and indeed as it turned out the group had hardly time at all after being subjected to overlong boring descriptions of the exterior. We said we would be leaving the group to visit the gallery, which was not received well and the guide said he would not pay our entrance fees, big deal, to hell with him and off we went. It’s the Hungarian National Gallery for heavens sake and we wanted all the time we could get. And what a feast.  Even then we had far too little time to do the collection justice.  It is appalling that almost every artist was completely new to us.  None, just none of Hungary’s great artists are represented in our galleries. Everything displayed in the most magnificent manner. A bewildering but beautiful collection of 15th/16th century Gothic altarpieces many plucked from churches to save them from destruction by the Turks. Two paintings caught our eyes and will have to stand for a remarkable collection unknown of in the west.

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The Visitation by Master MS 1506. (possibly Marten Schwartz)
One panel of a vast altarpiece whose other panels are scattered about Hungary and elsewhere.

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Edmund Zichy (1811-1984) by Jozsef Borsos (1821-1883)
Apparently a passionate art collector and shown in his oriental court dress having travelling in 1842 to the court of Soliman Pasha in Syria.

11 July. We began by viewing the exterior of the Parliament building. Why did we not like other groups we could see, go into to building, but our guide was not into interiors, all he was concerned with was the exterior architecture of a building.  We then visited the the confection called the Postal Savings Bank. Erected between 1889 and 1901.

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The National Savings Bank 

SynagogueThe Great Synagogue.  Built between 1854 and 1859. Used by the Nazis as a stable and severely bomb damaged during the war.  Only renovated in the 1990s. It’s the largest synagogue in Europe.  Then on to the New York art nouveau café and the Museum of Applied Art. Founded in 1872. I suppose it is the equivalent of our Victoria and Albert Museum.  Covers Hungarian arts and crafts from the Middle Ages to date.  Fascinating. After lunch we went to Heroes Square

Heroes Square Budapest. Crammed full of statues and includes the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, Originally built in 1896 to commemorate the thousandth anniversary of the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin and the foundation of the Hungarian state in 1896. And finally to the Museum of Fine Arts to see the collection of European paintings. It is a fabulous collection. I shall just choose one of my favourite pieces to represent it.

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St James conquering the Moors by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

We had our final dinner at the famous Gundel Restaurant where apparently presidents, prime ministers, the pope and our queen have also eaten.  Nice little collection of late 19th/early 20th century paintings. A band played throughout the meal, something I could have done without.  Bands are for solitary diners, they are the death of conversation.   12 July. We flew home from Budapest.

 

 

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