I’m finally settled back in Berlin for the home stretch of the semester, but am even now trying to figure out how I will fit all the Christmas presents I bought during vacation into a suitcase that already met the weight limit when I left. For vacation, three friends and I spent three days in Vienna, and three days in Prague. In keeping with the theme of my entire time in Europe, both cities held exciting surprises.
I thought Vienna looked similar to Paris and Saint Petersburg in its delicate architecture, heavy on palaces and with baroque details flanking every corner. The similar sights coupled with less than ideal, snowy weather meant that I didn’t see too much of the city. Fortunately on day one, we discovered the impressive twin palaces/museums in a square that also held a beautiful Weihnachtsmarkt and I ventured back there regularly. One of the museums housed art historical relics from the 15th-19th centuries. I saw a set of paintings by one of my favorite Renaissance artists, Arcimboldo, who painted literal still lives by composing the anatomy of the human face out of objects like produce and candle wax. I also saw a gilded salt cellar I remember listening to a lecture about during my first semester of college..
Next door’s natural history museum carries another art historical legend: The Venus (or Woman) of Willendorf. The entire natural history museum besides was spectacular. As we wandered through, looking for the Venus, we got to stick our faces inside geodes, get up close to dinosaur skeletons, and tried to avoid a terrifying model of a giant bird that apparently once “ruled the Earth.” I especially loved the clever interior design of the museum; while most baroque palaces flank the tops of their walls with marble figures, this museum had created replicas and added ironic new features, such as a regally sculpted man battling a carved prehistoric crocodile and a woman breaking the palace’s “fourth wall” by staring alarmed at the model of a brontosaurus.
Prague has too many wonders to capture in words, but I can easily rattle off my favorite parts as the Kafka Museum—a psychological trip featuring an eerie art installation that set me in a room of mirrors with a video flashing “you are nothing”—the Charles Bridge, medieval in appearance but alive with stalls of craftsmen and musicians, the Old Town Square with the beautiful astronomical clock, and my first taste of gnocci. The best part of Prague lay simply in meandering (with slight difficultly) through the uneven streets. The buildings are not just beautiful but different than anything I’d ever seen. I love Gothic architecture, a surprise considering how unmoved I felt while studying gothic church floor plans in an early art history class (they’re shaped like crosses from above!). Prague has stayed with me even now I’ve returned to Berlin, affirming for me that my favorite things in this world will always be the old somehow magically preserved today.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Having grown up in rural Vermont, Alli Green now studies art history and studio art at Skidmore College. She stays active on campus by working as admissions ambassador, a tutor in Skidmore’s writing center, and looks forward to assistant costume designing the theater department’s main stage production in the spring of 2014. Her ambitions include pursuing a master’s degree in either art history, museum studies, or library sciences, exploring opportunities to work as a field archeologist, illustrating children’s books, and contributing to the making of movie magic as a costume designer or special effects makeup artist. In the meantime, she is content to get excited about books, movies, art, history, and learning everything she can both while she is a student and after.</span></p>