Friday, May 7, 2010

Baden bei Wien

That means the Baden by Vienna, not to be confused with Baden-Baden in Germany. "Bad" means "spa," so they are both spa towns. I have wanted to go to Baden bei Wien since the first time I went to Vienna, about fifteen years ago, but it never happened. It's so near to Vienna that you can actually take a streetcar there. So a week ago Thursday, my friend Daniela and I drove to Baden from Bratislava. It is absolutely beautiful. A huge park (the Kurpark) filled with formal flower gardens, including a rosarium (which wasn't in bloom yet), a big hill to ramble up and down, a large Kurhaus (where you can take the waters, though we did not) and monuments to Beethoven, Joseph Lanner and Johan Strauss the Younger.
There was a big fire in Baden in 1812, so much of the town was rebuilt after that. A number of the Habsburgs spent time in Baden, including Kaiser Franz II (the last Holy Roman Emperor), Kaiser Franz Josef (his longtime girlfriend, Katherina Schratt, was a Baden native) and the last Kaiser, Karl I (who, after his abdication, spent some time in Massachusetts and died in Madeira). Other famous Baden-ites include the great director Max Reinhardt, and Count Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, who wrote "Venus im Pelze" ("Venus in Fur"), and inspired the term "sado-masochism." Beethoven wrote the "Missa Solemnis" in Baden, and finished his Ninth Symphony there as well.
There is a temple to Beethoven some way up the hill in the Kurpark. The ceiling has a fresco depicting the creatures of Prometheus, and part of Beethoven's death mask is emerging out of the back wall.
Near the top of the Kurpark- it turned out to be more of a hike than we'd counted on- is a really eclectic museum, the Kaiser-Franz-Josef museum. There are weapons, Austro-Hungarian Empire Army uniforms, a nice collection of old cameras I thought my sister would love, a room of Baden mementos (dance cards, photographs, ball gowns, etc.), some interesting 18th century Roman religious art on paper, and a strange collection of 16th and 17th century mouse traps. Mice must have gotten smarter- I can't imagine a New York City mouse falling for any of them.
The photos are of the Stadt Theatre, a fountain near the city hall, the Kurpark and the Beethoven Temple.


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