Travel Notebook: Vienna

Jun 20

Me wearing a Bibliothèque gavroche, tied like a necklace, secured at the back with a small horn scarf ring.

Although I often went to Austria with my parents as a child, my memories of the country are of “Alpine” Austria, particularly the Salzkammergut region. I have been to Salzburg quite a few times, but never to Vienna – this has long been on the “travel-to” list, but somehow I had never got there – until last week.

I wanted to visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna to see a painting related to the book I am working on, but the curse of the art historian struck and I discovered it is not currently on display. I have had this happen before, namely when I went to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art as a PhD student to see Picasso’s Portrait of Gertrude Stein, only to discover that it had been lent to another museum! Anyway, all attempts to arrange some sort of viewing fell through, but we decided to go anyway.

In the Vienna vineyards at Grinzing.

We had a gigantic list of things we wanted to do, aside from seeing the painting, but tried to limit it to avoid the dreaded “tick-list holiday”. R wanted to visit the Prater and go on the big wheel, as well as see Haydn’s house (an excellent museum that really summed up the composer’s personality). We went to a heurigen (open-air tavern) in the fields above Vienna in Grinzing, where we sat in a vineyard drinking wine and sparkling water (our waiter suggested we mix our own spritzers like the locals) and eating delicious dishes from the BBQ. We visited Mahler’s grave (also at Grinzing); the Imperial apartments in the Berghof; the silberkammer (where all the royal silverware and porcelain is displayed); the Sisi Museum (a bit disappointing, if I’m honest) and the Hapsburg mausoleum. We also had some down-time wandering the neighbourhood, meeting some cats, eating lots of schnitzel and sitting in cafes (Cafe Sperl was my favourite, and close to where we were staying in Mariahilf).

Hermès window on the Graben.

Of course, I did not omit a visit to Hermès on the Graben: Vienna’s exclusive street of boutiques. I don’t really have the budget for any of the full-sized carrés but I wanted to buy a new gavroche to add to my (mostly vintage) scarf collection. This was my first Hermès carré, though, so it was a special purchase. The dream is to have one of the vintage jacquard carrés (La Comédie Italienne by Philippe Ledoux is my favourite) but it’s out of my price range. I toyed with looking for online bargains but ultimately decided against it on the grounds that if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Anyway, I thought a gavroche would be a nice souvenir and perhaps a bit more versatile than a twilly (you can tie a beautiful flower knot with it for example!)

I suspect the Vienna shop is modest compared to Maison Hermès at 24 Faubourg Saint-Honore in Paris, but the window display of scarf rings was very nice with bright, interlocking shapes. I had looked at the website before going and had my eye on Brandebourgs – which is like a Hussar’s uniform – but they did not have this in stock (a shame because I love the look of military clothing). Nevertheless, I tried a handful of others, including The Savana Dance, which I found very beautiful but a bit too “boho” for my taste (R loved it though). After some advice from the sales assistant I ended up with the first scarf I had tried on – Bibliothèque (1996) by the great Hugo Grygkar. I adore bright colours, and books, so it seemed appropriate. I remarked to the assistant that it would be worth wearing black to show off the colours and she said: “Yes, but black can be so boring sometimes”.  Very true.

My Bibliothèque gavroche in Bougainvillier/Jaune/Rouge.

We finished our trip with a look at the Kunsthistorisches Museum’s Picture Gallery but I had not anticipated just how gigantic the collections are there, so it was very much a whistle-stop tour. I have never seen so many famous Old Masters in such a short space of time! We will definitely be back – and although I never got to see the “Unknown Woman” painting I had come for, I did leave Vienna with a beautiful piece of wearable art.


  1. Wonderful post and a beautiful gavroche – congratulations.

    Carre de Paris