Lake Attersee: Where Klimt Spent His Summers and So Should You

The water of Lake Attersee in Upper Austria is crystal clear but changes its color by the minute from a near Caribbean-like sapphire to bright azure and dark navy; I watch the clouds race and the swans jockey for bread from the tourists walking past. It is easy to understand why Austrian painter Gustav Klimt spent sixteen summers at the shore of this lake and created 45 of his 50 landscape paintings based on the views around the lake.

The Gustav Klimt Center in the small town of Kammer am Attersee celebrates and explains Klimt’s fascination and works connected with the lake as it brings together facsimiles of some of his landscapes and provides a handy map of the lake indicating the locations of the views from all his Attersee paintings.  A short documentary explains more about Klimt’s life at the lake and his friendship with Emilie Floege, the sister of his sister-in-law and a fashion designer; many of her pieces remind me of the loose and colorful robes in Klimt’s paintings.

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Outfit Designed and Worn by Emilie Floege, the Sister of Klimt’s Sister-in-Law (on display at the Klimt Center)

The Center provides a nice summary and starting point, but do not expect too much; it is a very small exhibit and none of the paintings are the originals. Of course that is understandable considering that Klimt’s paintings are worth millions. For example, the painting “Kammer Castle at Attersee” sold in 1997 for 19.1 million Euros according to a sign in the Center. However, the Center’s exhibit would greatly benefit from at least one original painting that maybe could be a loan. So I recommend not expecting more from the Center than a starting point and inspiration to go out and explore the lake and its shore, especially via the Klimt Artist Trail starting right outside the Center.

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Map of the Lake and its Surroundings Indicating the View of Each Painting

The trail is an easy walk of about 1.5km or a little less than a mile along the lake shore from the Center to Villa Paulick, where Klimt spent some time.  Other parts of the trail are on the southern shore of the lake. Along the trail are panels/kiosks with details about Klimt’s life as well as photos of paintings based on the particular view and often a square cutout/view finder to imitate Klimt’s process, who used a simple cutout/frame to look for motifs.

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Close-up of sign along the Klimt path with square view finder looking at Castle Kammer similar to Klimt’s painting.

From 1899 onward, all of Klimt’s landscapes were exclusively created in a square format, so Klimt favored a format that now has become standard and expected with the popularity of Instagram and its square photos. Inspired by the cutouts in the kiosks, I took several photos of the same view in landscape format and then also in the square format, and I did prefer the square ones (but maybe that is because I have been influenced by the daily use of Instagram):

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Landscape View of Lake

 

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Square View of the Lake a la Klimt

 

Even though the trail leads one to the spots that inspired Klimt’s paintings, often too much has changed to create the same impression on photos such as the avenue leading up to Kammer Castle:

 

A drive around the lake (the road is often right next to the water) offers plenty of gorgeous views reminiscent of Klimt’s landscapes even if you do not spend the time to find the exact spots:

 

At some point, I was too taken by the views to pay attention to the map and possible markers to keep track of the trail on the southern lake shore:

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Southern Lake Shore

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The color of the lake water changes from bright green to teal to azure.

Even if you are not a Klimt fan, the lake is worth a visit for strolling, hiking, boating, and swimming; it is also a very popular lake for scuba diving because of its clear waters and depth.

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Public Pool Overlooking the Lake in Seewalchen (Along the Artist Trail)

Or maybe the views inspire you to paint or sketch (here is how Klimt depicted the water):

 

Lake Attersee is about 2.5 hours by car from Vienna, and a little bit over half an hour by car from Salzburg but pretty difficult to reach by public transportation (no major train stations are right on the lake).

The Klimt Center is near the harbor in Kammer and its opening hours change throughout the year, so check the website for more details: https://www.klimt-am-attersee.at/en/ . The Artist Trail is free and open 24/7; find a great map of all the stops here.

There are plenty of cafes and restaurants with great views along the northern shore of the lake, so the lake is definitely worth a visit.

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View of the Harbor in Kammer from the Cafe at the Klimt Center

 

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Not Your Typical Lecture Hall or Library in Bologna, Italy

I have spent plenty of my time in lecture halls/rooms on a college campus since I teach, but I teach at an institution that is barely older than I am (and no, I am not that old). So the buildings are nothing exciting – they are clean, they are practical, and they do their job, but they are definitely not memorable or give the impression that one is at a special place of learning. It is of course unfair to compare a college barely out of its infancy to the oldest university in the Western world, Bologna, but it is hard not to.

The University of Bologna was founded in 1088 and was home to some very famous students such as Erasmus and Copernicus. The schools and venues of the university were scattered across town, but in the mid-16th century, the Palazzo dell’ Archiginnasio became the first permanent seat of the university until 1803 (when it moved to Via Zamboni, where it is still today).

Today, the Teatro Anatomico is a big tourist attraction, but oh, how exciting it would be to teach in this classroom (even though I do not teach biology, medicine, or dissection). The building was damaged during WWII but was rebuilt with mostly original materials it seems.

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Teatro Anatomico is the lecture hall for human dissections in oldest university in Europe.

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Teatro Anatomico is the lecture hall where the first human dissections in Europe took place.

Another lecture hall in the same building is Sala dello Stabat Mater; it is still used for talks and lectures today, and old decorations clash with modern chairs, screen, and projector.

The palazzo is also home to the city library, Biblioteca Comunale, which is really a working library and does not allow entry to  tourists but only to serious library users.

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Page of the medical book by Lucantonio Giunta from the mid-sixteenth century on how to take care of fractures.

Just across the square Piazza Maggiore is another gorgeous library that is just a “normal” city library used by residents. Biblioteca Salaborsa is a gorgeous, multi-story building in Art Nouveau style; it was once a botanical garden, military training ground, basketball court, and the Stock Exchange.

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Biblioteca Salaborsa inside the former Stock Exchange in Art Nouveau style

It was built on Roman and medieval structures, which can be viewed through the glass floor of the library or walked through on the lower level.

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The glass floor of the Biblioteca Salaborsa shows excavations of medieval and Roman settlements.

I love libraries anyway, but these environments are even more exciting. I wonder if students or library users are/were  inspired by the environment or whether it was just another building to be in to reach one’s goal.

Street Art in Bologna, Italy

Bologna, also known as the Red City, is famous for its many rust-colored buildings, small alleyways, and of course porticoes, and even though the town has plenty of old-time charm, it also offers plenty of modern street art in some parts of town. Many of the pieces are large and intricate and much more than a quick tag and dash (although there are plenty of tags around the city as well).

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A small street with the typical architecture and already some graffiti.

Many of the pieces I found in the university quarter of town are large and intricate:

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Many of the pieces are entertaining and do not offer political comments (at least not as far as I could gather):

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The piece is close to four meters tall.

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A large doorway enhanced by art.

However, some pieces do seem to include more obvious messages, which were still lost on me (but I did appreciate the details in the pieces):

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Several pieces spell their message out rather clearly:

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Technology is phallocentric

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While many of the pieces are painted or sprayed onto the walls and doors,  a few of the pieces are also pasted and hung like wallpaper:

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And then there are murals that cover half a building/block:

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If you are in Bologna, look for more than old churches and palazzi. As I explore more parts of the city over the next few days and weeks, I am curious to find out if more large-scale art pieces exist outside of the university quarter.

Enchantment: Impressions of Venice

I was not sure what to expect of Venice; I was not that excited to go and see it. I thought I already knew it well enough even though I had never visited since pictures and descriptions of Venice abound. How could Venice surprise me if I had seen plenty of pictures of it on Instagram and Pinterest, in commercials, and as cheap posters of romantic sunsets over the town?

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Sun Setting over Venice and Campanile di San Marco

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Sunset in Venice

 

But even with this lack of excitement – or maybe because of it – Venice surprised me and turned out to be one of my favorite towns in Italy. I was sure this would not happen – it was too touristy after all, but it did enchant me. If I thought Florence was difficult to describe (see previous post), Venice and its surprising appeal seems even more difficult to put into words.

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A View of a Canal in Venice

 

Venice is too well-known even to those that have never visited and it has inspired plenty of artists. As American writer Henry James in his Italian Hours addresses this issue, “Venice has been painted and described many thousands of times, and of all the cities of the world is the easiest to visit without going there. Open the first book and you will find a rhapsody about it; step into the first picture-dealer’s and you will find three or four high-coloured ‘views’ of it.” So how can this city still be surprising and enchanting? Isn’t the unexpected or novelty truly enchanting? Even though we think we know Venice even if we have never visited, Venice is difficult to compare and to completely “get.” German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe mentions in Italian Journey that “Venice can only be compared with itself. The large canal, winding like a serpent, yields to no street in the world, and nothing can be put by the side of the space in front of St. Mark’s square – I mean that great mirror of water.” Venice is a “strange island-city, this beaver-like republic” (Goethe).

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Piazza San Marco with the Basilica di San Marco and Campanile

 

This strangeness and the city’s many sides accentuated by the quick change of light and reflection in the water are some of the reasons for Venice’s charm. It is hard to forget this city. As James explains, Venice – “the creature varies like a nervous woman, whom you know only when you know all the aspects of her beauty. She has high spirits or low, she is pale or red, grey or pink, cold or warm, fresh or wan, according to the weather or the hour. She is always interesting and almost always sad; but she has a thousand occasional graces and is always liable to happy accidents. You become extraordinarily fond …. The place seems to personify itself, to become human and sentient and conscious of your affection. You desire to embrace it, to caress it, to possess it; and finally a soft sense of possession grows up and your visit becomes a perpetual love-affair.”

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The Top of Basilica di San Marco in Venice

One of the many charms is of course the water, the many canals and the numerous small steeply-curved bridges across them. Venice without the water would still be interesting but not as unique. The water reflects the light, the colors, and the mood; it prohibits the use of cars and Vespas and thus creates a quietness that does not exist in any other city.

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Small Canal and Bridge in Venice

What can be more stereotypically touristy than a gondola ride? But if in Venice and a tourist, I felt I had to give in and hire a gondola. And once I again I did not expect much; after all, it was just a small boat. And once again Venice and its experiences surprised me. The gondola ride was one of the highlights of the weekend, maybe because it was still early and we stayed mostly in small canals: “The gondola moves slowly; it gives a great smooth swerve, passes under a bridge, and the gondolier’s cry, carried over the quiet water, makes a kind of splash in the stillness. A girl crosses the little bridge, which has an arch like a camel’s back…. The pink of the old wall seems to fill the whole place; it sinks even into the opaque water. …On the other side of this small water-way is a great shabby facade of Gothic windows and balconies – balconies on which dirty clothes are hung and under which a cavernous-looking doorway opens from a low flight of slimy water-steps. It is very hot and still, the canal has a queer smell, and the whole place is enchanting” (James).

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Gondola Passing through a Small Bridge in Venice

 

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Gondola Ride through a Small Canal in Venice

 

It does not take much to enjoy Venice; just take the time to look and soak in the light and colors because “the mere use of one’s eyes in Venice is happiness enough, and generous observers find it hard to keep an account of their profits in this line. Everything the attention touches holds it, keeps playing with it — thanks to some inscrutable flattery of the atmosphere. Your brown-skinned, white-shirted gondolier, twisting himself in the light, seems to you, as you lie at contemplation beneath your awning, a perpetual symbol of Venetian ‘effect’” (James).

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Gondolas Maneuvering through a Small Canal in Venice

I remember the light glittering on the water, the waves rocking the boats, the water slapping against hulls and steps, and the smell of the damp walls battling the saltiness of the seawater. But it always comes down to the light as “the light here is in fact a mighty magician and, with all respect to Titian, Veronese and Tintoret, the greatest artist of them all. You should see in places the material with which it deals – slimy brick, marble battered and befouled, rags, dirt, decay. Sea and sky seem to meet half-way, to blend their tones into a soft iridescence, a lustrous compound of wave and cloud and a hundred nameless local reflections, and then to fling the clear tissue against every object of vision” (James).

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Light Reflecting off the Water – View from inside the Bridge of Sighs

 

“Memories in the Wind” – Exhibit by Raffaele Celentano in Sorrento

The best pieces of art can lose their luster in a disadvantageous setting or display design, and the right lighting or effective display can let a piece really shine and transforms it into a memorable experience where the piece of art seems to gain energy from the setting and sometimes the display/setting itself becomes nearly as important and memorable as the piece of art itself. I experienced this in the elegant dark rooms of the Gucci Museum in Florence (see previous post) and again in the photo exhibition entitled Memories in the Wind by Raffaele Celentano in Sorrento, Italy.

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Poster Announcing the Exhbit

The exhibition shows mostly black-and-white photographs of Italian scenes and street photography taken between 1990 and 2013 around the country. The photos depict scenes that often made me smile and reminded me of the stereotypical Italy that we expect as tourists. So the photos themselves are worth a look, but what made the exhibition so memorable and exciting was the space they are displayed in as well as the display design itself. The gallery is on the second floor of the Chiostro di San Francesco.

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Chiostro di San Francesco in Sorrento: The Exhibition Is on the Second Floor of this Building

The space includes large windows overlooking the sparkling blue waters of the Bay of Naples and the silhouette of Mount Vesuvius. It is hard to know what to focus on – the photos on display or the view from the picture windows. Many of the photos are printed on canvas and are also displayed on the the balcony, where a swing hangs from a large tree that reaches up to the second floor. This is the perfect way to view photos about Italian scenes: on a swing overlooking the azure waters of the sea and breathing in the air sweet with the smell of blooming wisteria and lemon trees. I am not sure why not more galleries or museums embrace the idea of fresh air and a view in their exhibit space (for the pieces that can withstand the light and elements).

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Balcony as Exhibition Space

 

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View from the Balcony of the Gallery – Mount Vesuvius in the Background

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Some of the Works Displayed on the Balcony

To fit the theme of “memories in the wind,” many of the canvas prints are actually hung on a clotheslines interspersed with laundry: t-shirts, bras, pants, and stockings. The exhibit plays with the popular motive for tourist photos: laundry drying on the clotheslines in small and picturesque Italian alleys.

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Exhibit Outside on the Balcony

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More Pieces on the Clothesline

I enjoyed the photos but I loved the way they were displayed. I doubt that I would have been as excited about them if they would not have been fluttering in the wind with the Mediterranean Sea in the background and the smell of lemons in the air.

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Print on Canvas in the Staircase Leading to the Exhibit

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Photographer Raffaele Celentano in front of his Work

If you are in Sorrento, I highly recommend stopping by the gallery – no matter whether you come foremost for the photos or the view. Unfortunately, neither the website for the gallery nor the posters at the gallery list any opening hours, but the website includes a phone number. The artist, Raffaele Celentano, was in the gallery when I visited and explained his photos and inspirations for the exhibit in fluent German. The website also lets you visit the gallery virtually and “walk” around the space and see many of the pieces.

Don’t Forget to Look Up: Ceilings in Florence

It is easy to walk through Florence without looking up – too many famous sculptures and paintings, too many chic items in the shop windows, too many wonky cobblestones ready to turn your ankle, too many tourist groups to pass. But do stop and look up. Looking up is worth the effort and holds rewards here in Florence – the ceilings are sometimes as enchanting if not more so than everything else closer to the ground.

Since many museums are in sometimes very grand palazzi, the ceilings in museums are especially worth a look. One perfect example is the Museo del Bargello in Florence. It houses sculptures (for example Michelangelo’s Bacchus as well as Donatello’s David), china, weapons, and also religious icons. And the sculptures are impressive, but the ceilings are also noteworthy I find:

The Museo Stefano Bardini is not the most famous museum Florence has to offer and has an interesting mix of items from sculptures, to columns, to carpets, to religious icons, but it also features fascinating ceilings since it is also housed in a palazzo:

Of course, churches always offer impressive ceilings:

San Miniato al Monte

Interior of San Miniato al Monte

But the motto of always looking up also applies outdoors:

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Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence

Even in the classrooms where I teach, the ceiling surprised me (and I think back to the white dropped ceiling tiles common in American office buildings and shudder – after all, a fresco in an office seems perfectly normal):

Even a meal or aperitivo in a restaurant or bar means a ceiling worth looking up to:

The famous sculptures and paintings I expected of Florence, but the gorgeous and varied ceilings were a nice surprise.

Street Sign Art in Florence

It is easy to get one’s fill of marble statues and bronzes of mythological figures and saints and portrayals of the Virgin Mary in Florence. I have been here only a little more than a week and I have seen a lot of them – and they are gorgeous and awe-inspiring, so don’t get me wrong, but sometimes it is nice to see variety. So the street sign art by Clet Abraham throughout Florence has caught my eye, made me smile, and made my walks even more entertaining. Now I can keep an eye out for impressive buildings and humorous signs on my walks.

It did not take me long to learn online that the artist is Clet Abraham, a French artist, who has been using stickers to improve street signs across Europe it seems (I have only seen them in Florence so far).

Here are a few of my favorites – enjoy. Also, if you are interested to see the artist at work and view more of his art, check out this video (it is in French but the gist is clear even if you do not understand French).

I just noticed based on my photo collection that there seem to be a lot of no-entry signs in Florence.

Do you have a favorite?