Okay, I get it. I listen to strange music, I own two typewriters, I spend my days writing in rustic cafés, I down lattes like they were Smarties, I wear high-waisted jeans and I don’t give a fuck what you think. I may, in fact, be a hipster. Whatever. Most people spend years running away from who they really are. I’m comfortable in my hipsterdom.
I just got back from spending a month in Vienna (with an extra couple of weeks on the side to visit friends in London, Prague, Amsterdam and Brussels), and while I was in the planning stages of the trip, I was Googling fun, alternative, creative things to do in Vienna, but came up empty. Apart from doing the museum-clusterfuck, or the Stephansdom-two-step, the internet was not very forthcoming with activities for the lumberjack-suspenders-bowtie-red-lipstick-thick-eyebrows crowd. Last name FAIL, first name EPIC. No TripAdvisor, I do NOT want to jump on an obnoxious hop-on-hop-off bus painted the colour of communist China. Yes LonelyPlanet, there are other places to get free wifi besides the McDonalds on the Graben, thanks.
So I decided to make my own Viennese Hipster guide so no one has to suffer my fate again. If you’re headed to the Austrian capitol and want to be a total WIENER (haaaaaaaaaaaaa), I did all the artisanal legwork for you. I’ve crafted The Hipster’s Guide to Vienna for all your ironic needs. included in this post are helpful tips on:
Shopping That Isn’t Bullshit
Activities That Aren’t Lame
Cafes that Aren’t Touristy
Cafes To Avoid Like Herpes
Souvenirs That Aren’t Made In China
Hunting Vienna’s Dark Past
Museums That Still Profit From Nazi-Looting
German Phrases You Will Deffo Need.
Accommodation & Where To Stay
See this above photo? That’s where I stayed. It was a palatial flat in the area of Meidling with high ceilings, massive windows, glass chandeliers, antique furniture, a record player, and two Snugglebum von Cuddletummies (cats). And I stayed here for free.
Housesitting, I was. As usual.
If you’re a hipster, you COULD pay for an overpriced Air Bn’B on the Ringstrasse, you COULD Couchsurf on some uni student’s couch that smells of patchouli, OR you could stay for free in a place all to yourself in exchange for giving the Snugglebum von Cuddletummies some lurve. It’s up to you. If you do decide to stay in a hostel or hotel or some other huge mistake, do yourself a favour and stay outside of the touristy Maria-Hilfer strasse. It’s just too gross, too uncultured, too bullshit. Meidling was a great area because it was only 3 uBahn stops away from Westbahnhof station, and only 3 stops away on the Schnellverbindungen to the Quartier Belvedere, or 4 stops to Landstrasse Wien Mitte.
The #ringstrasse of Vienna, seen from the classic wooden tram! . . . . . #Vienna #austria #liveauthentic #cityscape #exploreeverything #artofvisuals #neverstopexploring #visualsoflife #streetdreamsmag #huffpostgram #exclusive_shot #peoplescreatives #mobilemag #beautifuldestinations #igworldclub #passionpassport #urbanromantix #nothingisordinary #tram #shotaward #exploretocreate #wanderlust #letsgosomewhere #vsco #vscogoodshot #igersvienna #igersaustria #diewocheaufinstagram #visualarchitects
A video I made of riding the trams in Vienna. Definitely ride the trams!
I could get anywhere within minutes, and I was within walking distance of the Schonbrun Palace and Gardens. Also, the homeowner left me her metropass and her bicycle so all my travel was free. I never had to pay for expensive meals (unless I wanted to) because I went grocery shopping and cooked all my meals at home. Comforts of home! I cannot stress Housesitting enough, people. You should get on that.
Shopping That Isn’t Overpriced FUBAR
Vienna is famous for its expensive shopping districts like the Graben and on Kartnerstrasse. There are tons of expensive jewelers, high-end clothes and shoe shops, and antqiue boutiques. BUT why blow all your money on the high streets when you can spend a couple cents on the same items at….
During the week, the Naschmarkt is a regular farmers market located just outside of Kettenbruckengasse uBahn station, but on Saturday mornings, it also features an AMAZING fleamarket. It mostly features antiques like chandeliers, home furnishing, bric-a-brac, and kitchen supplies, but it also has other amazing finds like historic photographs, Jugendstil jewelry for a fraction of the price on the high street, mobile phones, vinyl records, wall art, and SO MUCH CLOTHES. Here are three examples of some of the things I procured on the fleamarket. The above photograph is of a love letter I bought on the Naschmarkt for €2. It’s dated 1940 and sent from Switzerland by a woman named Grete to Salzburg to a man named Wolf. It’s in German but I translated it, it’s your standard love letter, full of hopes, longing, expectation and desire. But what’s interesting is that postal sticker on the back. It says it was OPENED by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht before it reached its destination, and you can clearly see the Nazi eagle and swastika. The other interesting feature is that it is addressed to Salzburg, which as we all know is in Austria. BUT the letter is addressed to the “German Reich.” Remember, this is 1940, so because of the Anschluss, Austria as a country had ceased to exist.
This above love letter I bought for €3. It’s a rare find on a Viennese fleamarket because it’s in ENGLISH! It was sent in 1947 from Vienna to a woman in Southend-on-Sea, UK. As you can see from the first line, the Austrian soldier has just been released from a Russian POW camp and is looking for his lost love Annie whom he hasn’t seen since 1939 before the war. Annie’s last name is listed here as Reifmann, which sounds awfully German to me. Or perhaps, Jewish? Maybe she had family in Austria and that’s how they met? But if it was sent to the UK, why was it back in Vienna for me to find? As the envelope indicates, it was Return-To-Sender. So either Annie didn’t live there anymore, she died in the blitz (or worse), or she was like, “You were a German soldier so fuck you.”
This above document I bought for €5. It’s a “Persilschein.” These were documents issued by the occupying Allied forces after the war to citizens who had proved they hadn’t been Nazis et.al. before or during the war. The document is in German, English, French, and Russian. Persil is a type of washing liquid, and schein means shine, so if you had this document, it literally meant your past was squeaky clean.
I also bought photographs, necklaces, and other trinkets and tokens on the Naschmarkt, basically at cost. Highly recommended for your Saturday mornings!! And you walk away with gifts and finds you won’t get on the fucking Graben.
Activities That Aren’t as Lame as Your Gramps
So Vienna is all about museums. They love that shit. They eat that shit up. But sometimes it feels like if you’ve seen one museum, you’ve seen them all. There’s only so much goddamned art one can take in before it all starts to look the same. So here’s a selection of the museums and galleries I liked that weren’t too much of a gaudy tourist trap.
Westlicht is an amazing photography gallery that has a wicked selection of the best photographs of the 20th and 21st century. The place also has it’s own cafe and bar, and a selection of great photography books for sale. Only €10 entry. Also, it’s located in a particularly grimy (but also charming) section of Westbahnstrasse so at least the affluent snobs from Kennebunkport won’t be there.
The MAK (free Tuesday nights!)
The museum of design is free every Tuesday night from like 6pm until closing, which is when I went, but I would have gladly paid the entry fee, it was amazing! These are pics I took inside. Look at this awesomeness!
There were video clips, light installations, and they gave you bubblegum to chew as part of the experiment! One section was a bicycle that needed to be pumped hard in order for the light installations to work! I loved it all. And of course, there were also the more refined design aspects, like art deco furniture and an entire wing dedicated to the evolution of the chair, hahaha.
The museum is on the Ringstrasse so it’s easy to find, but it wasn’t really patroned by tourists, rather by design students, so it felt like an edifying experience amongst people who genuinely care about this shit.
And and and! ThERE WERE KLIMTS!
Look at that gorgeous thing!!!
Mumok (I was only charged €6 for some reason)
The Museum of modern art was great because it was one of the few museums in the city that actively carried and promoted the works of women artists (more on this later). The exhibits were engaging and interesting. It’s in the middle of the Museum Quartier so it’s easy to find, but again, there weren’t very many tourists here, it was mostly students and locals. I liked that.
And when you’re done museum-ing, they have their own cupcake cafe inside!! Also the museum has free wifi and also a free app you can download on site for a free audioguide!
The price is supposed to be €11 but they only charged me €6 for some reason. Maybe I look like I’m under 27. BITCH I’M 35.
Wien Museum (free first Sunday of the month!)
I wouldn’t have necessarily paid the full entry for this museum if it hadn’t been free the first Sunday of the month, but I’m glad I went just for the Klimts! Did I mention I love Klimt and I eat that shit up? This here is a portrait of his longtime mistress Emilie Floge. It’s part of his gold leaf period and when his style was so unique and more two dimensional than the other portraits of the time that aimed to give the illusion of 3 dimensions. The Wien Museum also does like this history of the Stephansdom gargoyles and a whole bunch of other relics from Vienna’s past as a walled-city and such. They also had an exhibit on two really important artists from the pre and post war Vienna, detailing the sadness and atrocities happening around them that was highly stylized and super engaging. All in all, me likey, but glad me no pay full price.
Here’s another Klimt!
And this is an interesting story tied in with Klimt. This is a portrait of Arnold Schoenberg, the famous composer. The portrait was painted by Richard Gerstl who was having an affair with Schoenberg’s wife Mathilde. She briefly left her husband for Gerstl but returned a few months later for the children. When that happened, Gerstl hung himself. He was never famous or well known in his own time, but after the war he became so popular and now I’ve found his works in every major museum and gallery in Vienna. Below is his self portrait. Anyway, the reason this is super interesting and tied in with Klimt is because, over 100 years later, Schoenberg’s grandson Randy, a lawyer in Los Angeles, was hired to represent Maria Altmann in her Supreme Court case versus the country of Austria. Why was she suing them? They were holding on to Klimt’s famed portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, considered the Mona Lisa of Austria, and Altmann was the heir to the painting. It was looted from her family home by the Nazis and never returned. SIX DEGREES OF KEVIN BACON. I found it rather fitting that the Klimts and the Gerstl portraits were hanging side by side. It’s like, hey guys, do you have any idea how much shit your heirs are gonna stir?
Also, they have works by Egon Schiele, whom I didn’t like 10 years ago, but I feel like he’s grown on me and I appreciate his stylized pain a lot more than Klimt now. Here’s him in a self-portrait, flashing us his west-side gang signs.
Resistance Museum (free forever!)
Now let’s not mince words. It’s not as if Austrians put up much of a resistance. When the Anschluss happened, the white anglo-saxon Austrians welcomed Shitler with flowers and a huge parade. They cheered him in the streets, the church bells rang out and the bakeries gave out free sweets. They welcomed it. They weren’t the “first victims of WWII” as they like to paint themselves. However, that doesn’t mean there weren’t a few conscious objectors. Individuals did indeed resist and attempt to circumvent the Nazis, but there wasn’t exactly a cohesive, organized resistance movement. The only real official resistance in all of Europe that was organized and widespread (although quickly quashed) was the tram-workers strike in Amsterdam in 1941. No one in Europe was able to mount a large, organized resistance (although major props to the Polish for putting up a good fight too). Anyway, the resistance museum is free for obvious reasons (as are all Concentration Camps memorial sites throughout Austria and Germany, and the like…) and their displays have really interesting artifacts from individual’s resistance attempts. I was super engrossed in it. Worth the visit. I like bad-ass rebels.
Space Invader Hunting, and other street art hunting!
If you’re an actual hipster and not some tourist, then you know who Space Invader is. Also, if you read this blog often, then you know who he is. If not, what exactly are you doing here? Anyway, by now you should have already downloaded his Flash Invader app and have flashed at least one of his thousands of pieces erected around the world in dozens of cities. And if you have, then you know, that there are many of his pieces up in Vienna from his visits in 2006 and 2008. I flashed 23 of them.
Like this gem.
And this one.
And this one at street-level. The great thing about hunting Space Invaders when you’re new to a city is it is a free activity that allows you to get to know the layout of the city better. I found all my ‘Vaders in my first week in Vienna. After that, I could walk around the city without a map, because I knew each quartier and platz from him. “Oh I know this area because I found a ‘Vader here.” OR I knew that something wasn’t far off because I had already walked the distance to find him. Sometimes I would go hunting and the ‘Vader was long gone, but you could still see the imprint from the tiles in the wall or building or bridge. That would suck, but at least I discovered a new area of the city through it. Hunting ‘Vaders brings you to new areas of the city that you wouldn’t ordinarily get to otherwise. Sure he puts things up in touristy areas, but he also goes to the quiet, dead corners of the suburbs as well. Those are always awesome.
And Vienna is great for hunting the works of other great street artists. This is a Roa someone had the gaul to partly cover!
I call this one, “Neeeeeeaaaaarrrrr…….. faaaaaaaaaaaarrrr!”
Ah, the women of Sonke. I love Sonke’s oeuvre so hard. Oeuvre on fleek.
You’re beautiful. It’s society that’s fucked. I KNOW RIGHT.
My German is so good now, I can read this without having to resort to google translate! When I found this I was like… FINISH THE SENTENCE, I’M BREATHLESS WITH ANTICIPATION!!!
…was the best/worst thing that ever happened to you.
Bike-Share Rentals & Bicycle Paths
Vienna has the same city bike-share program as other major cities like London, Paris, Toronto, Montreal and NYC. You can find the stands located outside almost every major attraction or uBahn stop. You register with a credit card right there at the terminal and use the same pin number each time you want to take out a bike. They have large baskets, adjustable seats and 3 gears. And they’re super cheap compared to other cities! The first hour is free! After that, it’s like one euro for the next hour and it goes up incrementally after that but I think four hours is like less than latte. AND if you put it back before the first hour is up, then wait 15 minutes, you can withdraw another bike and get another hour free! Renting bikes from a shop is for suckers and not a hipster like you. I used these bikes a lot. There are excellent bike paths all throughout Vienna. One day I cycled from Meidling, along the canals, through the city, across the Ringstrasse, across the Danube, and up to the Prater, and that only took me 45 minutes! No traffic! Bike lanes are well-maintained and clearly marked. I felt super safe the entire time.
I also recommend you cycle along the Danube canal to check out some of the great murals and street art along the water. Great activity on a sunny Viennese day.
Before Sunrise film locations
Everyone’s favourite 1995 indie summer thinking-woman’s cult hit was filmed in its entirety in Vienna and after a month of being in Vienna, I would be walking down a small alley on the Molkerbastei, or I’d be at the Arena complex near Erdberg, and I’d be like, waaaaaait a minute….
Anyway, I found almost every location where they filmed their infamous scenes….
…from the bridge where they meet the dudes putting on the play about the cow…
…to the Riesenrad ferris wheel where they have their first kiss at sunset…
…to the street where they dance to the harpsichord then take mental photographs of each other.
I even found the record shop where they listen to that record in the listening booth. And Cafe Sperl where they pretend to speak on the phone to their friends…
…more on this place later!
It’s crazy to think how many famous people have come from Vienna. In fact, it’s crazy to think how many famous people were living in Vienna at the exact same time. Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Sigmund Freud, Adele Bloch-Bauer, Arnold Schoenberg, Gustav Mahler, Alma Mahler and ADOLF SHITLER were all living in Vienna at the same time. I like to think that if Klimt had passed Shitler on the street when Shitler was a starving artist, lugging his colours and palettes and brushes around and hoping to get into the art academy, Klimt probably would have felt sorry for Shitler. He probably would have given him a shilling out of pity. Anyway, with so many stars, it stands to reason their graves are here too. This is another free activity to do in Vienna that will get you exploring different areas, and you can enjoy the amazingly-scenic tram rides to get there. Also, don’t forget to Instagram them, you hipster douche.
First grave I found was the most important to me.
Luckily his grave was within walking distance from where I was staying. I found him pretty easily, and was pleased to see that the Jewish tradition of putting stones on the grave was being employed here. Klimt wasn’t Jewish, he was Catholic (yet he did some rather unCatholic things like fathering dozens of illegitimate children to poverty-striken young women), but many of his patrons were Jewish, and he wasn’t one of the many anti-semites running around the Austro-Hungarian empire at the time. He didn’t care, he socialized (and slept) with everyone. And perhaps his most famous patron was also buried in Vienna…
Well I say buried, but this is actually a crematorium wall, so I’m assuming her cistern is inside the wall. I must say, I am so glad Bloch-Bauer and Klimt passed away before the second World War. I can’t bear to think what might have happened to them had they lived…. Had they witnessed the destruction of civilized society, the murders and beatings on the street, their friends throwing themselves out of windows rather than be taken by the Nazis, their entire property be seized and then being forced into exile. Or worse, being deported to a camp. I’m glad they died of natural causes. I’m glad they have no idea what came next. But perhaps they did have a tiny inkling that their legacies would cause a massive shit-stir one day and turn the world on its head. Here’s hoping that thought gave them comfort.
Mozart was actually buried in an unmarked mass grave and it took decades for them to go in and try to find his remains. What lies in this grave could be Mozart, it may not be. But this was a super quiet experience, the cemetery was empty and I was the only one there. I told Mozart quietly that I enjoyed the marriage of figaro and the magic flute and his requiem and most of all, his piano concerto no.23 in a major k488. Grazie, Maestro!
Beethoven’s remains have been moved three times, but here he finally rests. Roll over! Haaaaaaa.
Using those old-fashioned photobooths is a HUGE thing in Austria and Germany (and France too, really). You’ll find the classic booths in most uBahn stations and places of interests. I found one inside the Museums Quartier. They’re only €2 for 4 photographs, and they come out looking super stylized in black and white. I love mine. It’s hanging on my wall right now.
For €7 you can have a tour of the imperial, ornate, illustrious Burgtheater near Schottentor, across the street from the Rathaus. If you like live theatre at all, backstage stories, and fresco paintings by Klimt before he was famous, then this is super fucking righteous and totally engaging (I majored in Theatre in university, so this was like a wet-dream for a hipster-shit like me). And if you’re lucky like me, you will be the only one to show up for the English-language tour, and instead of the tour being just an hour, you’ll be there for 3 hours and the staff won’t know you’re still there and they’ll turn the lights off on you and the guide and you have to find your way out of there by feeling the walls. It was super fucking cool and interesting, highly recommended!
The stage is set. The curtain rises.
I’ve found stolpersteines (which literally translates as “stumbling blocks”) all over Europe and of course they are here in Vienna too. This is another activity that is free and also loaded with meaning, heart, sadness, mourning, healing, hope, and all that other good stuff. If you walk around the city, pay attention to the ground. A German artist began installing these gold bricks into the ground, marking the spot where a person who was persecuted by the Nazi’s once lived. More of then than not, the person in question was killed, but sometimes the stolpersteine will note that the person survived. Most of these people were murdered in concentration camps or died in transit. So when you’re walking through beautiful and regal Vienna, and you find one of these stones, you immediately know the names of the people who once called that spot home and they were forcibly ripped from their homes and their families, then slaughtered like cattle. Don’t ever forget that every street, every corner, and every house has a dark and sad history to go with the good.
This family died in Auschwitz.
This family died in Auschwitz, Gurs, and Chelmno
Last Residences of Famous People
The internet is full of the former addresses of famous people. Sometimes their former residencies have been turned into museums, like Freud’s has above. Or sometimes there’s just a marker, like Kafka and Beethoven’s below. But more often than not, I would find an address, and there was no marker. Someone wonderful lived here and called it home, but no one who lives there now knows about it. Still, it was a free activity and it kept me exploring and full of wonder, so this was an A+ activity for a frugal hipster like me.
I made sure I found the homes of: Maria Altmann, Milena Jesenska, Adele Bloch-Bauer, and Klimt. Do you have some favourite celebs from Vienna? Maybe Michael Hanneke (you will only know who he is if you’re a hipster anyway)? Christoph Waltz? Google their addresses and go searching for them, you hipster-fuck.
Cafés That Aren’t Touristy Bullshit
A hipster without a cafe in which to drink and write is a hipster close to death. What would we do without our cafes? I DON’T EVEN WANT TO THINK ABOUT THE HORROR. Here’s my ultimate list of A+ cafes that featured zero tourists, only locals, and whose decor and drinks were top notch. I’m not including links here because I’m a carpal-tunnel hipster but all you have to do is google “Vienna + the cafe’s name” and you’ll find them easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.
Liebling: good-looking people, rustic wooden tables great for writing, vintage furnishings, cheap lattes, a bit too smokey. Free wifi.
Café Nil: a kind of Marrakesh decor coupled with a 1950s green tile design. Adorable retro stands next to the tables carry the sugar, salt & pepper. Nice servers. Lots of natural light. Free wifi.
Café Pruckel: has been around for 100 years, and hasn’t changed it’s decor for 60. Unlike other massive centenarian cafes, this is populated solely with locals. Lots of newspapers on the wooden racks to read, free wifi, really good looking people abound.
The above photograph is of a communal fridge inside Siebenstern cafe, where locals can put their unwanted food, and anyone is invited to take it, although I mostly saw the homeless and refugees taking advantage. Free wifi, large communal tables, open late for food and drinks, good-looking servers who speak English.
This is what it looks like. Cafe plus bookstore plus vinyl shop plus good-looking people. The wifi password is clapyourhands. You’re welcome! I came here so many times, I loved it. Great for writing and people watching.
Vollpension: designed like your grandmother’s sitting room, free wifi and lotsa communal tables but so difficult to snag a spot, this place is super busy. Brunch on weekends needs to be reserved in advance.
The Breakfast Club: only open until 2pm, great food, almost no place to sit. No wifi but you can mooch off of Vollpension next door if you already have their wifi password.
Café inside Leopold Museum (separate entrance): you don’t need to pay to enter the museum to visit this cafe. Free wifi, really nice view of the Museumplein, gorgeous long-bar, newspapers to read, open late, separate smoking area, gorgeous tattooed guy behind the bar. I WANTED TO HAVE HIS ABORTION.
Café inside the Kunsthistorische Museum (must pay entry): You have to the entry fee of the museum to gain access to the cafe but THIS PIC BELOW IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE. It’s like a bloody Russian novel up in hurr. Free wifi, and I chatted with a super rich grandmother and her grandson from NYC who sat next to me. They were charming in a myopic sort of way. The servers were marveled by how quickly I can type on my iPad. #hipsterproblems
Café Ulrich: free wifi, decent lattes, serves food and the tables after 5pm are reserved for diners. Creepy dudes can populate the long-bar, but in general, I liked this place.
Café Europa: I took the following photo inside Cafe Europa. Mirrors everywhere. Smoking section not properly secured, free wifi, decent lattes, lovely tall windows.
Supersense (EXTRA HIPSTER POINTS):
Okay this one I’ll link to because HOLY MOTHER OF GOD THIS IS THE GRAND PUBA OF HIPSTER. I wish I had discovered this place earlier in my stay (found it days before I left) because I instantly fell in love. Gorgeous Jugendstil Art Deco furnishings and large wooden high tables and stools, and free wifi. But the crowning jewel of this place was the attached shop that was a CORNUCOPIA of hipster shit that gave me an ironic stroke. There was an old wooden birdcage elevator upcycled into a recording booth that records you for 90 seconds and puts it on vinyl! They had wax and envelope stamps. There was a machine that put your thoughts/wishes/recipes/whatever on a scroll and sealed it in an antique bottle! I WAS ENCHANTED.
Also featured in Before Sunrise (the palm reader scene), it’s super small but is very charming and there’s lots of newspapers on the rack to read. No wifi but that’s good for writing.
Café Jelinek: early 20th century red velvet decor and lush window drapings, oddly shaped tables, free wifi, cheap lattes, a log fire, and lots of space. Surly and ornery servers but who cares. I’m just as surly. Hey! Surly only cares about one person. SURLY.
Hmm. Sorry Surly.
(Hipster points for knowing what I’m referring to.)
Café & Bar Warning
Even though the rest of Europe, and lo, the rest of the civilized world, has banned smoking in public establishments, Vienna is still behind the times. Technically there is some kinda no-smoking law, but it is either not enforced, or won’t really go into effect until 2017 (depending on who you ask). Thus, people will smoke in your face all day long in the cafes and no matter what kind of dirty looks you throw them, it won’t stop them. Some cafés have a smoking section (haaaaa! Remember Smoking Sections??!!) but staff rarely close the fucking doors to the smoking section, so all the smoke wafts over into the non-smoking section. You will walk out of every café or bar one minute closer to death and smelling like arsenic.
Cafés That Will Kibosh Your Buzz (aka AVOID)
Café Central: long-lineups, all tourists, loud, jerk waiters. I walked in to photograph the unusual inverted ceiling and then left.
Café Schwarzenberg: if you go here after peak hours, then it’s fine & kinda nice. Otherwise, it’s a shitshow.
Alt Wien: where 19-year-old university frat-holes go to piss on the floor
Skybar: just because you have a nice view of the Stephansdom doesn’t mean you’re cool. Also, FULL OF YUPPIES.
Café inside the Belvedere: €6 for a latte? Go fuck yourself, how about that.
Souvenirs That Aren’t Postcards or Tshirts
I wanted to get myself something that was quintessentially Viennese but that no one else would have. Something you can’t buy at those overpriced souvenir shops on KarntnerRing. I was reading a lot about Vienna and I came across the works of Secession artist and Wiener Werkstatte founder Koloman Moser. Aside from being an internationally acclaimed visual artist and member of Vienna’s intelligentsia of the early 20th century, he was also adept at the fine art of the Ex Libris.
For those hipsters not aware of the literati-snob practice of owning your own Ex Libris, let me explain:
Ex Libris is latin, and translates to, “Out of the library of,” or “Out of the book of.” It is a stamp, almost kind of like a Standard or a Coat of Arms, that indicates to whom a book belongs. You see, the socialites and intelligentsia of era’s past would of course own their own vast private libraries in their homes, and they liked to lend them out to their friends. But to keep track of all the books they had loaned and shared, they would stamp the inside cover with their own custom Ex Libris. As time went on, the design of the Ex Libris went from being a simple stamp with someone’s name on it, to a fashionable artistic expression of the person. And Koloman Moser was the go-to Ex Libris designer of 1900 Vienna. He fashioned them for everyone from Sigmund Freud to Adele Bloch-Bauer. Here are some examples of his work.
Pretty fucking sweet, right? So I was like, I WANT MY OWN EX LIBRIS! I’m a writer, I’m a literature-snob, I love Viennese-shit, and I’m a ridiculous hipster.
SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.
So I found this shop on Siebensternegasse that only fashions stamps. That’s all they make! Nothing but stamps! I couldn’t believe something like that actually existed. That’s like having a milkman or a blacksmith. It’s so quaint! A stamp man! I walked in and asked if he could make me an Ex Libris. He asked if I had a design in mind, and I showed him the screencaps I had taken of Koloman Moser’s work. I asked if he could just take one design and plug my name in there. He said “keine problem” as they say in German, and 2 days and €35 later, I owned MY OWN FUCKING EX LIBRIS!
KNEEL BEFORE YOUR HIPSTER-QUEEN, BABYLON!!!
So if you want your own Viennese souvenir that wasn’t made in China or unravels in the wash, get thee to an Ex-Librisy (or something).
Hunting Vienna’s Dark Past
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having dark fascinations, like looking at photos of dead bodies, or collecting Nazi junk. Our fascinations aren’t inherently good or bad. It’s what we do with these fascinations that’s important. Using these mementos of humanity’s past to remind ourselves of what is good and evil, to remind us of history so as not to repeat it, I think, is a good thing. And Vienna is one of those cities that is responsible for a lot of shit. Namely: Shitler.
Of course you won’t find a single place in Germany or Austria that marks a place where Shitler lived or worked or was born or hung out. Obvi. Once you mark it, it’s turns into a place of pilgrimage. So not only are none of his former places of residence in Vienna marked, I betcha the current residents don’t even know. The internet is good for this type of thing (like I mentioned above in the Former Residences of Famous People section), so it wasn’t long before I found the site of Shitler’s first flat when he moved to Vienna from Linz circa 1906. It’s just around the corner from the Westbahnhof. The building itself is rather unassuming, kinda dank and under-maintained. However, when I found it one night when it was cold and windy out, I realized I needed to be discrete and respectful to the current residents. First of all, you don’t want to make a big fuss, and also, you don’t want to glorify things. So I looked at the place from across the street, I didn’t take any photos, I stared for a bit, then left. I don’t know what I was expecting to see or find, but it felt similar to when I’ve visited concentration camps. You reflect, you think, you move forward.
Also, I found out that after a couple years of living in flats in Vienna, and after being rejected twice from the Vienna Arts Academy, Shitler’s living allowance ran out and he became a homeless crazy beggar on the streets. He had to move into the homeless shelter in Meidling. I WAS HOUSESITTING IN MEIDLING. That was a total mindfuck for me because not only was the building I was living in pre-war, almost all of Meidling escaped Allied bombings, which means the streets and facades of Meidling probably looked exactly the same when Shitler was begging on the streets there. He probably knew my area well. When I would walk home at night, it gave the area an extra kind of layer of sadness and horror.
I also found out about one particularly sad detail of Cafe Sperl, seen in this picture I took below:
I mentioned Cafe Sperl above in the Before Sunrise section because this is where they filmed that scene where they pretend to talk on the phone. Cafe Sperl has been around for over a century and pretty much looks the same as it did then. In the early half of the 20th Century, Cafe Sperl was usually occupied by artists, both successful and starving. They had a practice where they would give starving artists a cup of coffee in exchange for one of their drawings or paintings.
One of those starving artists was — you guessed it — Adolf Shitler.
Naturally, Cafe Sperl doesn’t like to advertise this fact, so when you visit, just be mindful.
Just think of how different the last 100 years would have been if Shitler had just been accepted into the Art Academy. Talk about lack of foresight.
Another place to visit is the former location of the Hotel Metropole, which, after the Anschluss, was taken over by the Gestapo and became their headquarters. I found this place by accident because I found a Space Invader in the Morzinplatz (see! Hunting ‘Vaders leads to other discoveries!), and I noticed a huge empty green space with a large memorial stone atop it. People would disappear into the Metropole and would never be seen again. Interrogated, tortured, shipped off to a camp, never heard from again. The Hotel is long gone but being in that spot which overlooks a nice section of the Danube canal was a bewildering but meaningful experience.
Speaking of Vienna’s Nazi past that still haunts the present day….
Museums That Still Carry Nazi-Looted Art & Refuse to Give It Back Because They’re Blood-Profiteering Shitbags
I have mentioned many times in this post the infamous case of Klimt’s portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer and the fight to have her returned to her rightful heir. Last year in NYC I stood in line for 90 minutes to run inside the Neue Gallerie and stare at the portrait for an hour before closing. I’ve always loved the haunting portrait. It’s so famous, they even made a movie about it last year starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds. It’s not a very good film, to be honest, but it gives you a good understanding of the legal battle (less about Adele herself). Actually, if you want an excellently-written study of Adele, her portrait, the cityscape of Vienna during Klimt and Adele’s time, and during the Nazi years, I would highly recommend reading Anne-Marie O’Connor’s book “The Lady In Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.” I bought this book while I was in Vienna and I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. MY HIPSTER BRAIN BLEW THROUGH CHAPTERS LIKE SOME PEOPLE BLOW COKE UP THEIR NOSE. Such a good read.
Anyway, the book goes into great detail about how Vienna and the German Reich systematically looted art from persecuted Jewish families in the city. Then, after the war, the very Nazis who had looted it were now in charge of restitution!! Many exiled Austrians didn’t want to return to Vienna for obvious reasons, but they wanted their paintings back. For this, they would need exit permits and visas for the paintings. Did they Austrians give them the permits? DID THEY FUCK. Of course they didn’t. Most of the time, the authorities wouldn’t even acknowledge that the paintings belonged to the families in the first place. They would fabricate or alter documents to claim the paintings had been “donated,” or “sold” to the state or to the galleries before the war.
Why? Because art is lucrative, and Nazis like to live like the prosperous despots they are.
Since Maria Altmann’s epic court case, where Austria had its ass handed to them on a global scale, they’ve tried to quash further legal battles with other heirs to paintings stolen by Nazis. They still don’t want to give up their paintings, even though they don’t own them, AND they’re profitting from the paintings. Here are just some of the museums that profit from Nazi-looted art and won’t give them back. Yes, I paid entry into these museums. Yes, I hate myself for it. Yes, I wanted to see the paintings. Yes, I sorta yelled at some museum attendants for having this art. Yes, I was almost thrown out. Whatever.
The Belvedere is perhaps the most well known (and most fucking expensive) museum and gallery in Vienna. I paid TWENTY FUCKING EUROS for a ticket to both the upper and lower Belvedere. This is the very same gallery that had the Adele Bloch-Bauer portrait for almost 70 years before they had to give it back. Do they still have Nazi-looted art on their walls? YOU BETCHA.
Right next to Klimt’s famous The Kiss painting hangs another of his portraits. It’s an unfinished portrait of a young woman named Amalie Zuckerkandl. I found it rather interesting that the Belvedere’s audioguide had NO audio or information on this piece. HOW INTERESTING. I wonder why? Because they don’t own the piece and it was stolen by the Nazi’s, that’s why.
As the lawyer who represented Altmann in court, Randy Schoenberg, writes in this piece for MSNBC, the piece actually belonged to Adele Bloch-Bauer’s husband! The very man who owned the portraits of Adele! The very man who willed them to Maria Altmann! The Nazis stole it, and sold it illegally to the Belvedere. The Belvedere doesn’t mention this anywhere on the plaque or in any documentation or guides, NOR does it mention that Amalie Zuckerkandl DIED IN BELZEC CONCENTRATION CAMP along with her daughter.
But the Belvedere DOES sell postcards, pins, books, bookmarks, magnets, and other capitalist bullshit with Zuckerkandl’s face on it. I need a moment to let the class wash over me.
The Vienna Secession began during La Belle Epoque to showcase works and artists who weren’t interested in the classical ways of painting dominating Viennese society. Klimt and Koloman Moser were founding members of it in the Wiener Werkstatte. In fact, the building was the place where Klimt’s famous Beethovenfries was first ever exhibited. The piece was meant to be temporary and torn down and destroyed, but someone convinced the Lederers (who were one of Klimt’s major patrons) to buy it. They cut it down and kept it. The Secession building was later destroyed during the war but rebuilt, and the Lederer’s art collection was stolen by the Nazis and they themselves were killed. Most of the Lederer’s collection burned in a fire, but not the Frieze. Erich Lederer, heir to the Lederer estate, and a Jew in exile, tried in vain after the war to get an exit permit and visa for the Frieze. Authorities said no, but they did acknowledge that it belonged to him, so they forced him to pay for its storage in a cellar underneath the Belvedere, where flooding from the war had caused water damage to the Frieze. Unable to get it out of the country, he sold it in 1956 to the founder of the Leopold museum for a mere$1150. He would have gotten more if he could have gotten it out of the country, but he couldn’t and he needed the money.
The Secession building was rebuilt and the Frieze now hangs there. I took this below photo of it. You’re not allowed to take photos inside the Secession but THUG LIFE THUG RULES. I took this pic and I got yelled at. HAAAAAA.
Now the Lederer heirs are suing Austria to try and get their Frieze back, and I hope they do. The audioguide of the Secession literally makes no mention whatsoever of what happened to the Frieze during or after the war. They lie and say it was donated. It was not, you liars.
The Leopold (Although at least they acknowledge it!)
Inside the Leopold you will find a lot of Klimts and Schieles, perhaps the largest collection of Schieles that anyone owns. Like this famous Klimt of Death and Life…
and this self portrait of Schiele…
One of the Schieles on the wall is a portrait of his longtime lover and supporter Wally, a ginger beaut with fat red lips. The plaque next to the portrait acknowledges that the portrait was looted by the Nazis and hung in the Leopold for decades before the heirs of it’s rightful owner, a Jewish woman who had died long before, sued the museum and the country when the portrait was on show in the USA. Because of such ownership disputes, the USA seized the portrait until the case could be resolved. The heirs won their case. They sold the piece, got what they were owed, and now it’s back in the fucking Leopold. I’m not sure if the Leopold was the buyer or if they convinced the buyer to loan it, but still….sneaky fucks.
Another fancy-schmancy museum, another looted piece worth millions that they won’t give back because who cares about Jews and persecution when there’s all that money, right? This is a painting by the grand Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. It’s called the Artist in his Studio. So basically, a self portrait. I took these pics inside the gallery.
This painting was owned by a man named Czernin who wasn’t Jewish himself, but married to one, so he and his family faced the same persecution. He sold the painting under duress. Guess who was the buyer?
ADOLF SHITLER HIMSELF.
He sold the painting under fucking duress the butcher of the 20th century. Does the audioguide of the Kunsthistorichemuseum make note of that? Nope. This piece hung in Shitler’s own private estate until after the war when Austria took it and placed it in the museum. Czernin and his heirs sued for restitution but where denied. Why?
“Because Czernin’s wife was only one quarter Jewish,” aka they don’t believe he actually faced persecution and that he wasn’t under any duress.
That is some bullshit right there. The entry fee for the Kunsthistorische museum is €15 too! Super expensive. So they profit from Nazi-looted art with the ticket price, and then they sell kitsch with the Vermeer on it in the gift shop, AND to add insult to injury, they don’t even acknowledge that this was stolen by Shitler in the first place!!
WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK.
Subheader: Women Artists Need Not Apply Because Vagina
One glaring omission slapping everyone in the face who visits these museums is the lack of women artists on the walls of The Belvedere, the Leopold, the Secession, and the Kunsthistorische. There are literally no women artists on their walls at all. NONE. But! They do have a lot of paintings of naked women! Naked women in various unnatural, idealized, fantasy poses. There’s even Klimt and Schiele paintings of masturbating women! FUN. And what does the audioguide to these dehumanizing naked portraits say? “Look at the natural way in which the female form has been painted….” I’m sorry, but no woman’s boobs look like two upright cantaloupes with pink nubbins for nipples. What the fuck man. I understand that at the time these were painted, women’s sexuality was believed not to exist at all, so this was perhaps an act of rebellion. But was it also an act of objectification and exploitation? Yup. It was all those things. So listen up, women artists. The only way to get inside the Belvedere is to be naked. You’re not getting in there otherwise. Sorry, but… you know…. vagina.
Important German Phrases You Will Need
Ein milchkaffee bitte. A latte, please.
Kleine, bitte/Grosse, bitte. A small one, please/a big one, please.
Kann ich die zucker haben? Can I have the sugar?
Was ist das passwort fur das Wlan? What’s the wifi password?
Es gibt Wlan? Is there wifi?
Ist das Wlan kaput? Is the wifi not working?
Wo sind die Toiletten? Where’s the toilets?
Wo ist der schlussel fur die Toiletten? Where’s the key for the toilets?
Kann ich zahlen bitte? Can I pay please?
Wie viel kostet das? How much does that cost?
Nein, das ist zu teuer! No, that’s too expensive!
Kann ich die Rechnung haben, bitte? Can I have the receipt please?
Danke schoen! Thanks a lot.
Vielen danke fur deine hilfe! Many thanks for your help!
Das ist mein einziger Mantel und mein Reisverschluss ist kaput! This is my only coat and my zipper has broken! (I had to figure this out really quickly one day when this exact scenario happened to me on the street and when I finally found a tailor around the corner, he spoke no English. Also learned: tailor = SCHNEIDER!)
Schoen tag! Have a nice day!
Schoen abend! Have a nice evening!
Ich mochte ein Termin bitte. I’d like an appointment please (great for when you need a haircut or whatever)
Ich kann nur wenig Deutsch Sprechen. I can only speak German a little.
Mein Deutsch ist nicht sehr gut. My German is not very good.
Ich verstehe nicht. I don’t understand.
Sprechen Sie Englische? Do you speak English?
Sprechen Sie Franzosiche? Do you speak French?
Ich lerne Deutsch! I’m learning German!
Das ist ein schoenen, perfekten Schwanze. Nice dick, bro.
** I have omitted the umlauts from almost everything in this post because….reasons.
I hope this Hipster Guide to Vienna has been somewhat helpful for your future visits to the Austrian capitol of cool. If you link to this post, or repost, please remember to give a sistah some credit. I took all these photographs myself and it was a lot of work putting this post together.
Just don’t be a ding-dong. Do the right thing.
AUF WIEDERSEHEN, MEIN LIEBLINGS!
From Foam Gallery’s William Klein exhibit.
The luxurious flat that was my home for two weeks in Amsterdam.
It looks like it’s the Bible… but . . .
. . . when you open it up, it has pictures of the Holocaust on the pages. This is from the Gallery Huis Marseille.
An image thematically used in Girl With A Pearl Earring
Speak of the devil!
She’s everywhere in the Delft.
I helped these little guys cross the road and back into the canal. I felt pretty good about that. They were so quacky.
The size of a tree. Delft-oddity.
Embedded in the cobblestones…
… is the earth.
When it comes to bicycles, the Dutch mean business.
Some people go to Amsterdam for the pot. Some go for the ladies in the red-lights. Some go for the bicycles.
I went for Laser314 (whom I have blogged about before). If you don’t know, Laser 3.14 is a street poet. He sprays his unique and original lines of poetry (yes, they’re his words) all over the city in English. Most locals tend to appreciate his work, as it is not seen as typical narcissistic vandalism. The poetry is moving, heart-breaking, ephemeral, and packs an emotional punch. When I found this piece last summer, I needed to sit down on a nearby bench. I just tried to breathe.
It was a glorious two weeks.
I was lucky enough, through the magic of the webernet (heehee), to get into contact with the elusive Laser, and he instructed me to go graff-hunting in certain areas of Amsterdam, where I found many of these pieces.
But I also found many of these pieces on my own, just from using some intuition, a bike, and good pair of walking shoes 🙂
After a while of hanging out in Amsterdam and finding Laser’s work, I started to easily identify possible places he might have bombed. He seems to favour either the tarps that go over construction sites, or the plywood that protects constructions sites. There are very few instances of his poetry-art appearing on anything else (although I have seen photographs of his work appearing on skips and industrial garbage bins). If I were to hazard a guess, I would say he does this because, this way, he’s not permanently damaging anyone’s property. Those construction tarps and boards will come down, eventually. No harm, no foul, no clean-up, no damage. Everyone wins.
Travel beyond the shroud.
I adore this one.
We are always on the verge of something.
Vermin gnawing holes in democracy.
This one was the hardest to photograph because half of the piece was covered by cinder blocks and construction. It says, “Days of confusion precedes the age of reason.”
And the horses waited to be tamed…
Life can be such a lonely place.
Ha ha ha!
Vote Nixon, he’s dead.
Progress. Regress. Regrets.
Hello, I’m your assassin!
I wish I was someone…
I hope to find more on my next journey to the ‘dam. Well, if I’m hoping for things, I hope to meet someone who’ll spraypaint poetry about me one day …. but one step at a time, Chris.
Ah, so much Amsterdam-Awesomesauce.
More street art pics to come from my time in the most magical city on the planet… just you wait.
When I was wandering around Amsterdam this summer, I rented a Dutch bicycle for a few days so I could cycle to and from the parks. I would bury my face in the grass so no one would pay attention to me. They would think I was sunbathing instead of dying (which is what I thought was happening). Then one evening, I was strolling by the Prisengracht when I noticed this rusted Dutch bicycle, consumed by florid blooms and foliage. It was like the two things keeping me alive had melded into one thing.
And then I found this scrawled across someone’s front window. It’s a Muhammed Ali quote. I seem to have taken that to heart. I am doing such amazing things right now, that the life I was leading earlier this year feels like it never happened. It was a nightmare I can walk away from, unscathed. I am becoming the woman I’m meant to be, and there’s no thumb pressing me down. I’m starting to think walking away was the best decision I ever made, especially since everything these days is going to plan.
Some big news to announce soon…. when I have more details, so will you.
In the meantime, enjoy this Franz Kafka quote that I typed up on my lovely typewriter!
This is where I’ll be living for the next little while, at least until mid-September. I’m house sitting and catsitting for some friends of mine in Belgium. I have this place all to myself.
Six bedrooms, five and a half bathrooms (I know, I counted… Twice), a grand piano and a pool. I’ve never lived in a gated community before but this is the perfect environment for me to work on my writing and shut out the 21st century.
So much space, I don’t really know what to do with all this space to myself.
If only I knew how to play that piano. I would love to invite a post-classical pianist to dinner in exchange for some tunes. Can anyone put me in touch with A Winged Victory For The Sullen?
The days here are warm and balmy, the evenings are fragrant with fresh rain mingling with chopped pine and grass.
The view of the pool from the main bedroom.
Did I mention they bought me a bike right before they left? So lightweight and fun and easy to handle. Life isn’t complete without daily rides through forests, cornfields and wheat husks.
Say hello Annie. This is my ward. She’s diabetic so I have to give her insulin injections twice daily. She’s not bothered by it at all, she’s used to it and purrs whilst I do it.
I’m the one crying.
When I return to civilization in September, at least I will have the first draft of my second novel done. This lovely house and that blessed accomplishment are my severance pay … a winged victory for the sullen.
(PS: Knock loud, I’m home.)
Whilst in Freiburg, in the south of Germany, we cycled through narrow roads, small villages, green reserves, up mountains, through vineyards (as seen here), past villas, down S turns, and through the ancient city with a hotel that dates back to the 1200’s. Freiburg was pretty sweet.
STOP MAKING ME LAUGH, DAMMIT. it’s my kryptonite.
oh yeah, see the sumptuous ornate historical village behind us? YOO-ROPE, bitches.
I rented the vélibre, which is Paris’s Bixi bike, and cycled all around Paris trying to be a bit of a tourist, even though I’ve been coming to Paris for 7 years and have seen almost everything… Here I was trying to see things I hadn’t before. It’s always important to try and make the familiar strange. Weimar flanneur til the end.
Les follies bergere! D’ou viens tu bergere? Hahaha, kidding.
Ah, Pere Lachaise cemetery. I first came here in 2006 with a boy who is now a ghost looking for Jim Morrisons grave which we never found. I ended up finding him a year later when I came here with Sonja, but I never found Oscar Wilde’s or Edith Piaf’s grave, so that was my mission this time around. I wish I had found Wilde’s back in 2006, because since last year, they put it behind a barrier and wiped off all the lipstick kisses. AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT.
Outcasts always mourn
Walking around Pere Lachaise in the December chill was a haunted experience, if you will. In fact, as I searched for Wilde’s grave, I paused along the way to peer into the tombs of those fallen from 300 years ago…. How the ancient gravestones employed calligraphy that dates it. The faded inscriptions, the names of those once loved now forgotten, turned to dust… The stories of babies who are forever tiny, men who were murdered and their mothers inconsolable, obelisks to lost wives and fallen soldiers, monuments to passengers who fell out of the sky …. And I couldn’t deny it any longer. As the sky turned to dusk at the ungodly hour of 4pm, I caught the scent of death. I smelled death at every corner. She was like a sick reminder that no one gets out alive.
I have been to Dublin where Wilde is from, and they adore him there. Monuments to his glory, his most famous quotes engraved in marble, and his home now a museum. Dublin is a city if writers. Too bad they’re now consider our way of paying tribute (ie kissing the grave) “defacing.” Wilde would totally tell Ireland to sod off and let the ladies smooch his stone!
Being able to pause and reflect at Wilde’s foot for a long time on my own, I remembered my favourite quote of his: “She lives the poetry that she cannot write.” And I decided right then, amongst the putricine and cadaverine, to live and live and live. To live for all those who no longer have the luxury, and also for myself.
Because you’re gonna wanna hear this story.
I’m also fucking endearing.
I have done mountain biking twice before, once in Whistler and another in Cuzco, and each time I get stronger and more comfortable. Look at the views!
We also visited the temple Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep on the way down. Very lovely if somewhat a little too much gilt idolatry for my liking.
still, some of the frescoes, like this one, were pretty lovely and moving.
Tomorrow I’m off to Pai! The “SituAsian” adventure continues!
Oh and if anybody knows a guy named “ali” or “ally” from Glasgow Scotland who also did mountain biking today in Chiang mai and is travelling throughout Asia for a while, tell him I think he’s beautiful and pretty and I wanna hang.
So. So. Pretty.
Sometimes, walking is too slow, and the subway and taxis are too fast. So the best way to see a place whilst travelling is oftentimes the bike!
Of course, for me, I don’t just want to cycle in the city. Give me the boonies, the trails, the national parks, the jungles, and the swamps! And give it all to me in the middle of a monsoon! I’m tough as nails, I am!
found on north 5th near kent in williamsburg
on roebling in williamsburg
seriously, i’ve been photographing The Good Bike project for over a year now! And examples are still popping up all over the city. This pink one was on queen street east.
i wonder if this is doubling as a ‘ghost bike’ because it begs the viewer to remember someone who has passed.
the stickers of dedicated have worn off of this one … “For…we’ll” is all you get now.
check out my Good Bike project category for more examples.
Huron Street prefers cyclists.
this reminds me of all the amazing Stop sign art that i found in Brooklyn over the winter holidays.
speaking of brooklyn …. guess which gal is going back to NYC for more graffiti hunting at the end of June?
i’m there for two weeks, AND i’ve snagged myself tickets to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon! (Last year i went to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart). i’ll be staying in Queens, house-sitting for one of my girls while she’s off to a writing retreat, but apart from a few quick jaunts to Manhattan, I will be spending most of my time in BROOKLYN! cannot wait for all the amazing street art and graffiti i get to find!
this is literally the best part of my year, when i get to fuck off to Bushwick and disappear for hours down back alleyways and behind dumpsters looking for that which is ephemeral.
some girls buy stiletto shoes on fifth avenue….. and some girls buy second-hand Chucks for $3 and hang around abandoned buildings.
you know…. whatevs.
see you soon, new york!
the great thing about riding your bike around toronto is that you get to explore the nooks and crannies those stupid cars can’t squeeze into…. AND ya don’t hafta worry about parking. a couple weeks ago, i’m riding my bike through the annex and found this Listen Bird!
no where but up!
then i’m scooting south from the annex into parkdale and find this OTHER Listen Bird!
this Listen Bird looks like it’s a bit old, but it’s still awesome! it’s referencing out shiteous mayor rob ford.
Rob Ford once described himself as 330 lbs of fun….. lots of other street artists have poked fun at that…. and LB says he’s 330lbs of pure bullshit. last name WIN, first name EPIC.
I have a pretty cool collection of Listen Birds that i’ve found around toronto and montreal if you’re so inclined to click!
cycling weather is returning, and i’ve souped up my bike! it’s all ready to go, so seeing this stencil in the back alleys nears beaconsfield and argyle was pretty fortuitous. urban culture has always been tightly woven with bike culture. most graff artists i know get around via bike, and are huge cycling enthusiasts. i like it when they end up creating bike-art……er….. “bart.”
this particular red lady cycling was stencil’d 3 times in this particular area.
and here’s three, which is interesting because it seems to be incorporated (or part of) a stencil mural.
i dunno what that black thing to the left of her is supposed to be.
those are clearly building tenements.
there’s a yellow stencil of the cyclist just over to the far right …. like an echo.
and this was below the mural … “earth seed” with some sprouts. i have seen this handwriting in stencil form before. this person never stencils the same saying twice, but i see this calligraphy all over the place.
no clue who is behind it, but high fives and fist bumps nonetheless.
found this little wheatpaste dude at bloor west and concord.
cycling hipster with the kryptonite lock in his belt loop, holding up a peace sign.
a couple summers ago, i was house-sitting on college street for a former flame while he was in vancouver. it was a hot august, so i rode my bike everywhere, and it was glorious. i couldn’t count how many people on college rode their bikes with their kryptonite lock in their back pockets of their jeans shorts. it’s kind of a hipster rule of thumb. i love bike riding so much, i can’t wait until the weather gets somewhat decent so i can hope back on Auntie Elsie (that’s my bike’s name….my previous bike was named Bea Arthur…. old lady bike names FTW).
if you take a good look at the bike this wheatpaste dude is riding, it’s a city bike with no gears. while these bikes are pleasing to the eye, and lightweight, they are SHIT BIKES. i need gears! my bike is a 21 speed with shocks and err-thang. i need to go bombing uphill. fast fast fast! no-gear rustbucket hipster bikes are uber stylish but shit-rides.
can’t wait to get cycling! ACK!
i didn’t know her, but her death really affected me, and many in this city.
please, if you drive, remember to share the road and show respect for cyclists.
“they’re gonna be oh so jealous”
before i begin with the photojaculation of my epic trek through the jungle along the ancient inca trail to Machu Picchu, i invite you to watch this video of my hike, which tells the story in a short 120 seconds (with a Justin Bieber cameo added at the end)
now, as promised, the trek to Machu Picchu!
on the first of the four days, they picked me up from my hostel in Cuzco, and i was promptly introduced to the british blokes, ben, paddy, dom, and paul. Seeing as how i lived in the UK for years and years, i felt right at home with my blokes. i’ve always been more of a shit-kicker, competitive, active girl than i have been a girlie-girl, so hamming it up with the boys with quintessential british humour was right up my alley.
the bus dropped us off at the top of these mountains where we could begin downhill mountain biking! see how we’re in the clouds? and look at our gear! i’ve done downhill mountain biking before (whistler last year, where i wiped out twice so bad, i’m quite proud of my war wounds from that extravaganza) so i was aching to get back on the bike! we rode downhill for about 2 hours, traversing over 50 kilometres, and the more we descended, the more the weather changed from epic freezing hail in the clouds to suddenly TROPICAL.
Where we were in the Andes, it was a cornucopia of temperatures, terrain, and toughness.
i’m the type of biker where i always stand up (you’re not really supposed to sit while mountain biking, the shocks make it almost impossible to be in control while sitting), but i’m not so smooth on sharp turns. i need to make my turns wide, which is why “S” turns which are very zig-zaggy are the bane of my biker existence.
i was bombing ahead of the group, mostly keeping up front with the boys (while the lovely Irish lasses Jan, Audrey, Nicola, and Ciara stayed back in the rear), but when it came to the sharp S turns, i was basically riding my breaks.
this above pic was taken at our pitt-stop half way down the mountains. see how the weather suddenly drastically changed?
the terrain also became much more muddy, and we passed by a lot of construction, making the terrain even more dangerous. i hollered “hola muchachos!” to almost each set of construction workers that we passed. they all hollered back and waved. some of them whistled at me. i wasn’t exactly sure how they could tell i was a girl, i was wearing so much gear, and my head was completely covered by the full-face helmet.
i guess my hips don’t lie.
by the end of the downhill awesomeness, we were all covered in mud, soaked from all the puddles, and some of us had pretty good wipe-out stories (ciara’s peddle came off her bike, so she wiped out spectacularly).
monkey on a chain. NOT COOL.
our guide claimed that once the hikers moved on, the monkey was allowed off of the chain.
i call bullshit.
lil thing was frightened to shit, was gripping its stuffed toy and rocking back and forth out of sheer terror.
second day of the hike. i look like a neglected horse in this pic, so i have cleverly covered up my mug whilst editing this pic, but it’s proof of how high we were trekking into the Andes.
and my rack looks nice too.
i shit you not.
lots of the girls during this uphill hike, particularly Jan and Ciara, were shit-scared of heights, and had the hardest time climbing the very narrow path up into the mountains. i was loving every second of it, and as usual, was bombing ahead with the boys, even overtaking them on some sections (smokers never prosper). i hafta say, i love bragging that i really was one of the boys on this trek.
i didn’t go all that way just to pussy-out.
in truth, i can totally understand why the girls were hanging back, gripping the ledge, and crying their eyes out. the path really was narrow (all single file), and a very steep drop off the side. some sections were extremely slippery, or had loose rocks, and depending on where you stood, a stiff gust of wind would have taken you over the side.
we had to cross many pithy bridges as above. they were situated hundreds of feet above the air, were rickety, and not particularly sturdy after being exposed to all the elements.
damned if i didn’t love it.
this above bridge was somewhat more sturdy, but the violence of the rapids underneath and the wind made it sway and shake. you couldn’t exactly hold onto those railings, and the wooden boards shifted and snapped as we passed.
after climbing hundreds of feet up into the mountains, we had to climb back down again (which, as you can imagine, is much harder than going up. it’s less taxing on the lungs, but requires extreme precision of foot). we hiked along the sacred valley river, with spectacular views, as you can imagine.
the boys and i began to play a game to keep our minds and wits occupied – name as many bands as you can that begin with a given letter. We were on the letter “C” during this section. as each bloke dropped out, it ended up being between me and Ben. i’m pretty sure i won that round.
even though i was roughing it with the boys, i still needed some assistance now and then, which the boys were generously offering. sometimes, all i required was a hand to steady me, especially over the loose boulders or going down a slippery slope.
chivalry ain’t dead.
that’s Ben above. Jan lovingly nicknamed him “Sleazy B” and it just stuck. on our third day of hiking, after zip-lining (video of me zip-lining 500 feet in the air in the Andes is included in the compilation i made here), we hiked along the rail road to Aguas Calientes, which is base camps for Machu Picchu. some of the girls were destroyed after the arduous hike already, and decided to take the train there. so it was basically just me and boys hiking along for about 3 hours to our final rest stop. ben and dom and i had an incredible conversation, that ranged from our careers, to political activism, to capitalism, to agency and more. i think i enjoyed this section of the trek the best, because connecting on an intellectual level with people while also connecting through all the physical activity translated into an emotional connection. we all had been through so much together in such a short period of time. i loved these guys in this moment.
on the morning of the fourth day (at 4 AM!!!) , thus began the epic climb up to Machu Picchu. the ruins sit atop a mountain, and there’s the option of paying 8 soles for the bus (takes 5 minutes), or climb the mountain for free.
i chose the hard way, to climb.
because FUCK YOU, that’s why.
the fastest record ever set in climbing Machu Picchu was 39 minutes.
I did it in70 minutes. i was the first girl to the top (naturally), and even beat some of the guys up there.
my ass officially hated me afterwards, but as i made it past the gates, and overlooked Machu Picchu for the first time, i started welling up with emotion. i arrived early enough to see the sun rise over the ruins. actually in the video at the top, i edited out my crying-fit. but i have it on film. i may one day share that with people. (not bloody likely)
the interesting thing about the Inca construction is, the only thing that has eroded away over the centuries is the stray/hay rooftops, and the colour painted on them. All the structures still stand, basically untouched. and Peru is infamous for its earthquakes.
despite their penchant for performing human sacrifices on 12 year old virgins, those Incas were way ahead of their time.
they knew more about mathematics, engineering, and astronomy than the europeans did 200 years later.
the incan entrance into their walled city.
600 years ago, approximately 400-500 people lived at Machu Picchu, which is why they only allow that same number of people to visit the site each day. so if you’re going, plan ahead.
i’m so hip, it hurts.
i took way too many scenery photos that, were i to put them all here one by one, would render this blog post the longest scroll ever, so i’ve turned them into collages here for your viewing pleasure.
suffice it to say, the place contains more nature porn than national geographic.
a veritable colour feast
there’s a bird mid-flight behind me here!
after i posed for this, the hooks on my hiking boots became ensnared, and i fell on my ass.
genuine class, i am.
holy fuckballs, CURVES, eh?
i spent so many hours in the blazing sun (we’re above the clouds) writing in my journal all the thoughts and emotions i was feeling at the time. you don’t go to machu picchu to find yourself, because there’s no way you can be lost whilst there.
there’s another mountain that overlooks Machu Picchu, it’s called Huayna Picchu, it’s another 2700 feet up, and you have to pay extra to climb it, and book it well ahead of time. again, only 400 people are allowed to climb Huayna Picchu each day, 200 in the morning, and another 200 later in the morning. after that, it closes. i had booked the climb, but after already climbing Machu Picchu, my body was already rickety, wobbly, dehydrated, sore, and tired.
but fuck all that.
pain is temporary. regret is forever.
i fucking climbed that bitch.
again, i was the only girl to climb huayna picchu, and again, i beat some of the boys up there. it took me 39 minutes to reach the top.
this was probably the most difficult mountain i’ve ever climbed, it was such a steep climb up, i was swearing the entire climb “i better lose 20 motherfucking pounds by the end of this cunt-ass trip!” (i so did, by the way).
this was the view of Machu Picchu from the top of Huayna Picchu. remember how i said in my last post about Cuzco that the incas believed the Condor represented heaven? well if you look at the shape of Machu Picchu from above, it is actually in the shape of a condor.
wow, machu picchu really looks so far away from up there. like a dot. a little bit of harvested land.
at the top of Huayna Picchu, it’s not like you could roam around for a stroll. it literally was a rocky mountain top. it was either crawl along those boulders or fall off the side.
me at the top, overheating, tanning, huffing for air, but also filled with the joy of living.
i breathe in and am filled with the wonder of living.
life is something incredible that i don’t think i will ever understand, but it is finite, and incredibly short.
the world is too big to stay in one place your whole life. it offers you precious gifts in one place that you could never get in another.
don’t feel like you can’t travel because you are tied down or disadvantaged in some way.
when you look back on your life, many years from you, you won’t remember the nights where you went to bed early.
from L-R, Jan, Ben (aka Sleazy B), Paddy, Paul (aka The Great Skinzerelly), Hugo (our guide), moi, Dom, Audrey, Nicola, Ciara, and Jonno.
we all shared something wonderful in one little week, and i may never see them again. but we all share a secret that no one else does.
love yous guys.
of course, on the train ride from Aguas Calientes back to Cuzco, the multitude of Australians about had to do some planking.
MAY IT NEVER DIE.
* * *
so there you have it.
with my multitude of bad health diagnoses lately, i have been crossing off as many adventures and experiences from my bucket list as possible. these opportunities may never come again, and i am now acutely aware of my own mortality.
but i’m not letting anything dilute my happiness.
so many people believe that life is pain, and the horror of existence permeates every choice in life.
after this experience (and difficult period in my life), do i believe that?
the short answer to that is, no.
the long answer is FUCK NO.
if you haven’t yet checked out the Motorcycle-Diaries- trailer-esque video of me hiking along the ancient Inca Trail, through the Peruvian jungle, to Machu Picchu, do it now.
i’m fucking endearing in it.
before i can blog about the experience, i need to blog about the amazing graffiti and street art that i came across in Peru. Peruvian street artists and graffiti artists really are brilliant. they are, by and large, engaged in politics, inspired by injustices, but also motivated by matters of the heart. poetics sayings, emotional images, and fire-infused couplings of the two are to be found all over the country. i took more photos of the street art than i did of the Andes i was hiking through!
after flying 10 hours (with a stop over in El Salvador) from Toronto, i was exhausted and smellin’ like Eau De Czech, but ready to photograph the art populating the night.
“ivo justice” i wonder if ivo is a man undergoing a trial? or incarcerated? at first i thought this said “no justice.”
LIMA (near airport)
Peru just elected a new president, and i think that’s him
i like this photo more for the scenery that compliments the graffiti, than just the graffiti itself.
zona, i’m told, was peru’s most famous footie player.
near Chinatown in Lima. this fatty with the scowl on her face wouldn’t move, even when asked, so i could photograph the mural behind her. she kind of looks like the guy in the mural. turns out her presence adds something to the photo
an accidental photo i took while zooming in a moving taxi. turned out pretty cool.
MIRAFLORES (area of Lima)
definitely political, just can’t make out the writing.
pulso danza, or “dancing pulse” was everywhere in miraflores.
hell yeah fuck yeah
brilliant. take the existing brickwork, turn it into a piano.
“revolution. if not now, when?”
surprised this wasn’t in chinatown
so much going on here…
“mi luz” means “my light.”
on the left, she’s been made to look mad. on the right, she’s eating a dick.
i like this sticker, of a young cap’d boy holding a rifle. sounds like a revolution to me.
brilliant stencil of the outgoing president. the old president was named “alan” but by putting a G in front of his name, and adding “del robo” at the end, it turns into the saying “knight of thieves,” which i think is a play on the saying “prince of thieves.”
nicely done, Tink.
i wasn’t going to photograph this at first because it’s just advertising a pub (as you can see from the drink in one hand, and the fork in the other). that is, until i noticed it’s exposed, raging cock.
sell fresh crazy someplace else. we’re all stocked up here.
you look like you was talking to me.
gringos ruin everything.
this was along the pacific ocean boardwalk.
BARRANCO (area of Lima)
Barranco is a totally bo-ho po-mo district of Lima, fulla artists and brilliant stencils. it’s celebrating it’s 139th anniversary, and it has a very colonial, european feel to it, but also a counter-culture atmosphere on the streets.
this “no la cagues” was everywhere. it’s a picture of the newly-elected president. “no la cagues” means “don’t screw it up” or “don’t fuck it up.” good advice for any new president. looks like the artist responsible for this piece forgot the “u” in “cagues” and had to add it in manually later.
here it is again. i think at the top the “jbo!” is the name of the artist. not sure.
love this wheatpaste. smiling winking dude holding a molotov cocktail, and the caption says, “agitate! protest! resist! … every man for himself!”
interesting opinion. “vandalism does not equal freedom of expression.”
so many areas of Barranco were stencil’d with the words “rubias no!” which means “no blondes!” or perhaps even “Not blonde!”
that’s right. LEAGUE OF AWESOME BRUNETTES for the win.
“call your old lady” meaning, call your moms, yo.
scary but cool face, done by someone named “kobi”
there’s that sticker again from Miraflores!
CHORRILLOS (area of Lima)
charlie chaplin! when i lived in london england, i lived in Elephant & Castle, the area where charlie chaplin was born and raised, so i feel a connection to the little moustachio’d man.
theatre masks submerged.
“forgive me if i hurt you, i love you.”
this was actually printed on a poster advertising family wares. it makes me think that very few people actually speak english in peru, because they may not understand what that means!
this is probably my favourite piece from all of Peru. it’s just a dude hugging a fish. but it’s strikingly lovely.
or is he hugging a bird? i can’t tell. i love how highly stylized the strokes are. brilliant wheatpaste.
mural dedicated to a young woman who passed away.
in Cuzco, I found the street art limited to sayings of love. as you can see from the below collage.
for those of you who don’t speak Spanish, “te amo” means “i love you.” (i mean, i don’t speak Spanish, but even i know that.)
i’m not sure what this is in reference to, but i like how the corn husk almost has grenade-like qualities. looks like a propaganda pic.
hey authorities! look! in 1664 someone ENGRAVED stuff into the side of a church. WATER BLAST THAT OFF!
this translates to “it’s prohibited to urinate on penalty of death.” i don’t know if this is graffiti or actually placed by the government (is the death penalty in Peru?), but considering that’s the ancient Inca wall standing there, it wouldn’t surprise me either way.
it’s michael jackson wearing an Incan wooly cap.
raymi, your powers are boundless.
this is deffo a government mural. going back to urination, it must be a huge problem in Cuzco. the entire mural said that in order to keep Cuzco beautiful, please don’t piss on the ground. AS I TOOK THIS PHOTO, i looked to my left to find a man pissing against a pillar. how ironic.
as we hiked through the jungle along the Inca trail, near the small but lovely village of santa theresa (there’s hot springs there!), we came to a bridge that had some incredible graffiti on it.
i think this Garcia guy must be commissioned, but it’s intricate and beautiful stencil work.
look at that gorgeous woman.
* * *
that’s it for the Peruvian graffiti, my next blog post will be about my travelling adventure expedition through the jungle, along the Inca trail, to Machu Picchu.
in the meantime, here’s a preview.
i’ve been back in toronto for a week now, and i have been enduring the spectrum of emotions from utter despair to euphoric bliss. people from my past are haunting me, and yet people from my present are treating me like tiramisu.
i won’t go into detail here, but i had felt obligated to contact some people from my past that i haven’t spoken to in ages. out of everyone i spoke to, only ONE person was amazingly supportive, kind, generous, and reassured me that no matter what, we are good friends (the rest were, as expected, bitterly cold and reserved). i wanted to reach through the telephone line and hug this person until my arms fell off.
thanks so much for being so kind to me over the years, sometimes i feel like i don’t deserve it. you are one of the meaningful ones.
then i spent thanksgiving weekend hugging and snuggling in trinity bellwoods park in between delicious ice cream licks and bike-riding.
so all in all, i can’t complain. life should never be about half-emotions, half-ways, or half-living. either feel the extremes or feel nothing at all.