We went to the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek or Austrian National Library one day for class. This is the library that resides in one section of the Hofburg Palace. Part of it is very old and only used as a museum of sorts, but the rest is used by people in Vienna for their research.

It was like a library from out of my dreams, with shelves full of books going all the way to the ceiling, spiral staircases and secret rooms full of even more books!

The National Library was built in the Baroque style and by Charles VI, the last Habsburg man and father of Maria Theresa. He created a rule called the Pragmatic Sanction that allowed Maria Theresa to take his place, because he could not produce any male heirs. After his death the Habsburgs become Habsburg-Lorraine.

The bookshelves were so high that ladders are needed to reach the top.

The books are so old that the pages have turned dark brown. Everything is hand printed and many of them have beautiful illustrations with the boldest colors I’ve ever seen. We were lucky enough to have our professor there who knew one of the tour guides personally, so we got to see some of the books close up. The covers are also made out of wood.

There were secret rooms all throughout the library. They are not actually supposed to hide anything though.The room was built in an oval shape, but the building itself is square so they had extra nooks to fill in.

The ceiling at the entrance to the library.

The domed ceiling of the central part of the library.

A statue of Charles VI, which stands in the middle of the library.

After we looked around the old library our guide took us underneath the Hofburg to reach the new section of the library. I felt very official walking through all the secret underground tunnels and using the non-public elevator.

We walked by the ventilation system for the library, which is underneath a garden.

The never ending archive room.

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I have two ten-page papers due at the end of my semester. One of them is about the Turkish sieges on Vienna, but the other one is on Art Nouveau and specifically the Art Nouveau movement in Vienna. Since I’m right in the middle of one of the most artistic cities in Europe it was easy for me to simply walk outside and do my research through sightseeing.

The Art Nouveau movement in Vienna was specifically called the Secession, because a group of artists left the Künstlerhaus. They believed it was too restricting. In this group was Koloman Moser, Joseph Maria Olbrich and most famous of all Gustav Klimt. Later Otto Wagner would join the movement a little later, but he was also a large player in the movement. 

The first place I visited was the Karlsplatz station, which was built by Otto Wagner. He is responsible for a lot of different buildings in Vienna and he also worked on the Ringstraße.

Karlsplatz is one of the larger U-Bahn stations in Vienna. This particular exit is not used too often, but it is really beautiful and probably the most artistic of the Karlsplatz stations. Its name comes from the Karlskirche (Charles Church), which is only about two minutes from here.

Gold, nature and swirling patterns some basic themes in Art Nouveau.

This actually looks like the front, but it is the back of the station. No one can exit through these doors from the U-Bahn.

Detail on the station.

One of the doors. I love the attention to detail. Its simple yet beautiful.

Next I headed over the the Secession building, which was built by Joseph Maria Olbrich. At one point in his life Olbrich worked under Wagner and many of his buildings are similar to Wagner’s own work. Olbrich built the Secession building specifically so that the artists had a place to exhibit their work. Today it still hosts exhibits and has one of Gustav Klimt’s famous works, the Beethoven Frieze.

The Secession building.

Many people hated it when it was first build, because of the golden ball on top. They called it a cabbage or a furnace. Personally, I think it looks cool on its own, but I was surprised by it the first time I saw it, because it doesn’t look like anything else in the area.

Olbrich built this building as a “temple to art” so the entrance is very ceremonial, but inside the building is completely white and plain. This was because the Secessionists believed in functionality over form.

The three heads over the doorway. They are the three Gorgons, representing painting, architecture and sculpture, which are the arts that the Secessionists mastered in.

Above the Gorgons are the words of the Secessionist’s motto, Der Zeit Ihre Kunst, Der Kunst Ihre Freiheit.

To Every Age Its Art, To Art Its Freedom

The side of the building.

Owls on the side of the Secession.

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