ArtOdysseys: Danube river cruise - Voyage of contrasts in scenery, architecture and time
|Cruising into Budapest, Hungary, by night revealed a contrasting panorama of gold against the darkness of night. All photography is the property of EuroTravelogue™ unless noted. Unauthorized use is prohibited. This photo only: WikiMedia.org.
Welcome to the February edition of ArtOdysseys—my ongoing series that unites my love of travel with discoveries in art along the way. This month, my focus "contrast" and having just returned from my Danube River cruise with Viking River Cruises, we traveled through four countries from Germany to Hungary and along the way, discovered many interesting compositions offering striking contrasts in art, architecture and the natural beauty of the landscape.
We began our eight-day voyage in Dreiflüssestadt (City on Three Rivers) or Passau, Germany, perched on a spit of land where the river Danube meets the rivers Ilz and Inn. On the eve of our first night in port, I set out to explore the city with only my camera in hand and no one in tow.
St. Stephan's Cathedral
|Saint Stephan's Cathedral in Passau provided a striking contract of the white cathedral against the velvety night.
As I wandered the cobbled streets up to the cathedral square, I stumbled upon this striking image of Saint Stephan's Cathedral—not only a contrast of its white exterior set against a black velvet night, but by day, it's a contrast in architecture—a composition of Gothic and Baroque due to a fire that destroyed most of its earlier self. Much of what we see today dates to 1688.
Linz and Salzburg
|The Institute of Computer Graphics in Linz, Austria, was a dazzling display of neon light.
Upon arriving in Linz, Austria, sometime in the middle of night, I awoke prematurely and took a peek outside to see our new surrounds. My eyes were met with a striking composition of alternating neon colors vibrating in the darkness of night. As it turned out, this was the exterior of the Institute of Computer Graphics.
Later that morning, we were off to Salzburg, about a two-hour journey from Linz. Along the way, we stopped at a rest area where the dramatic scenery of Alps unfolded before our eyes—a sweeping panorama of a striking composition of craggy slopes laden with snow and the softness of the green grass in the foreground.
|En route to Salzburg, Austria, we stopped at a rest area for a wonderful preview of the Alps!
While on our walking tour through the "Old Town," we strolled through Kapitelplatz or Chapter Square where we stumbled upon this dazzling golden globe with a little man at the top—"Sphaera." This remarkable sculpture is the work of resident artist Stephan Balkenhol who completed this commission in 2007 as part of a 10-year program launched by a consortium of art benefactors who organized one piece of contemporary art to be installed throughout Salzburg every year starting with 2002. "Sphaera" and the imposing 11th-century fortress, Festung Hohensalzburg atop the hill in the background, comprised an unusual contrast of very different shapes and times.
|A contrast of time—the "Sphaera" and the 11th-century Salzburg Fortress.
Melk and Dürnstein
|The imposing Melk Abbey looms over the tiny village of Melk below.
Along our Danube river cruise, the fourth day brought us to Melk, Austria. In the morning, we set out to explore the majestic Melk Abbey perched upon its rocky bluff for almost 1,000 years. What struck me about this magnificent scene is its incongruousness between the Baroque exterior of the Abbey and the medieval town below. How this picture came to be was a happy accident actually. As I was wondering through the village after my decent from the Abbey, I turned around to see this incredible view—and gasped!
|The vibrant colors of some of the buildings in Dürnstein provided a stunning contrast to the bleakness of winter along the Danube River.
Later in the afternoon, we enjoyed a cruise through the beautiful stretch of the Wachau Valley replete with villages, castle ruins and vineyards. Our destination was Dürnstein, an enchanting medieval village where Richard the Lion Heart was imprisoned in the Kuenringerburg Castle at the top of the hill in 1192-1193.
|A harmonious blend of contrasting materials in this view of wine barrels at the Winzer Krems Winery in Dürnstein.
After we disembarked, our group set out for a wine tasting at the Winzer Krems Winery whereupon arrival we learned of the Austrian wines, the terroir, toured the cellar and attended a tasting of country's renowned vintages. During the tour, this interesting composition caught my eye—the rich amber tone of the barrels, the metallic bands, the cobbled flooring and surrounding brick blended so rustically, so harmoniously.
|The Haas Haus at the left has become a controversy in the city of Vienna due to its modern architectural style juxtaposed with Saint Stephan's in the background. Look deeper, and more contrast in the geometric patterns on the roof.
What has certainly become a controversy within Vienna since its completion in 1990 because of its juxtaposition to nearby Saint Stephan's Cathedral, the Haas Haus is a harmonious blend of curvature and glass when viewed alone, however, it seems out of place when viewed against the backdrop of the European-Gothic edific across Stephansdom or Saint Stephan's Square.
|Magnificent architectural details of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria.
Adjacent to the Hofburg Imperial Palace, the Spanish Riding School offers a vibrant contrast in its patina dome and stark limestone façade. Dating back to the middle of the 16th century, the Spanische Reitschule was originally intended to be the personal residence of Maximilian II but he ascended the throne before it was completed and therefore settled into the old Imperial Palace. Inside the school today, you'll find 72 Lipizzaner stallions, such noble creatures of grace and elegance.
|Budapest was a city of gold upon our arrival by night. Photo: WikiMedia.org.
Our last stop on our Viking Christmas market cruise landed us in the capital city of Hungary—Budapest. On the night of our arrival, Viking invited us up to the top deck of the ship, mind you it was a wintry night and very cold, to experience our arrival into city. Suddenly out of the darkness, emerged Budapest—all of the sights unfolded before our eyes—magnificent architecture aglow in a city of golden light—a sprawling scene surrounding us on our ship and making us feel quite small. We were captivated to say the least and awe-struck as we scanned the horizon to see the Neo-Gothic Parliament building, Buda Castle, Fishermen's Bastion—among others! This experience was absolutely one of my "revel in the moment" moments, so to speak, where I wanted time to stand still. As my spirit soared, I soon forgot how cold it was outside. Looking back, I think my cup of glühwein may have had something to do with that as well.
Our morning tour the following day led us to the Buda side of the Danube River where we toured the Saint Matthias Church and adjacent Fishermen's Bastion.
Saint Matthias Church
|Exquisite diamond patterns adorn the roof of Saint Matthias in Budapest, Hungary.
The vibrant geometric pattern on its 19th-century roof betrays the cathedral's origin which dates back to the middle of the 13th century—once again revealing a contrast in time.
|Fanciful designs of the 20th-century Fishermen's Bastion in Budapest, Hungary.
Located just behind the church is Fishermen's Bastion, a fairy-tale composite of turrets, spires and romantic arches offering some of the most spectacular scenery of Budapest. This fanciful structure represents contrast in time—although it looks to be of medieval origin, it was constructed at the turn of the 20th century and named for the fishermen who guarded these ramparts in the 18th century.
|The rear view of Fisherman's Bastion reveals the old castle ramparts that served as the base for the fairy-tale structure. Note the statue of King Stephen (István).
Once again, I would like to give special thanks to my friends at Insight Guides whose books proved to be an invaluable resource during my visit to Europe and in providing the background information for this and many other articles.
Above all, my heartfelt thanks to Viking River Cruises who made possible this voyage to Europe at Christmastime. Of course all opinions and thoughts reflected are mine, and mine alone. Thank you Viking Cruises for a magical Christmas holiday!
- What’s With The Wall Colors? by Erin from ASenseOfPlace.com
- Pablo Picasso: Creative Chameleon by Christina from DayDreamTourist.com
- The French Impressionists Challenge of The Salon: A David and Goliath Art-Tale by Lydian and Pal from ArtWeekenders.com
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