Cities / Towns Visited: 28
Countries Visited: 11
Steps Taken Today: 17,436
Steps Taken Around the World: 1,114,596
It was our last day to explore Vienna, and as we opened the curtains we were met by grey skies and drizzle. All of our plans involved being indoors at least, but we were still going to get wet on the way. Undeterred, we loaded up on our hostel breakfast, checked out, stashed our bags, and headed out.
We arrived at our primary destination promptly, if a little damper than would be preferred; the House of Music. After cloaking our bag and jackets we scurried through to the turnstyle. The first section runs through all of the past and present Kapellmeisters of the Vienna philharmonic orchestra, as the museum which used to house their exhibition has now been combined with this one. The next section looked at past noteworthy conductors in Vienna, with a display of conductors batons which looked more like a display of wands from famous wizards; but then I guess they do kind of make magic.
The next portion of the museum takes you through an interactive series of displays which explain everything you’ve ever wanted to know about how our sense of hearing works. It was truly fascinating, giving you examples and interactive activities at their headphone equipped stations, to demonstrate the ideas they were putting forward. From explaining the different parts of the ear, to displaying how vibrations transfer through the air, to showing how reflection of sound allows us to recognise the kind of space we are in without sight; it was a welcome education on this dreary day.
The last part of the exhibition houses a series of rooms, each one dedicated to a different famous composers from history. From Beethoven, to Mozart; Schubert to Haydn, it really was the who’s who of classical music. Reading many of their tragic stories, it wasn’t hard to see why their work was so inspiring; often the most pained individuals make the most beautiful art. The museum covers almost every facet of sound as a science, but couples it with the history and tradition of orchestral music. They even has an interactive display where you can virtually conduct the philharmonic orchestra, which is mildly amusing.
After a solid few hours, it was time to move along to our next destination; the Globe Museum. Located in one of the plethora of buildings in the Hofburg Palace complex, and housing the world’s largest collection of geographical and astronomical globes, it was like heaven for me. From massive globes more than two metres in circumference, to a tiny one little more than five centimetres, to collapsible globes for the geographer on the go, and globes showing the surface of the moon for all you would be astrologers, it had something for everyone. There was centuries old examples where half of the countries and coastlines, and even whole continents, are missing (usually Australia), to a plethora of globes mapping the constellations along with beautiful artistic paintings of the silly figures we assign to the abstract coupling of stars millions of light years from each other. There was even a few working solar system mechanisms which used to be used to show how the planets moved around the sun. All of them were beautiful, and worthy of sitting in a dim wood panelled room on the desk of a philosopher from Victorian times. There is something nostalgic about ornate globes in even more ornate stands that harks to our romanticised vision of life in the 17th — 19th centuries, when there was still places to be discovers, and the sciences were growing exponentially every year.
Downstairs from this exhibit was a small but interesting exhibition on the attempted creation and installation of a universal language; Esperanto. Although it seems like an ideal solution to communication issues, and creating unity across the planet, it had one major flaw; there is millennia worth of history and culture behind peoples languages and they simply aren’t willing to give that up. Also, in my humble opinion, it really just felt like they had fused Latin and Germanic based languages, it sounded remarkably similar to Spanish and Italian, and seems to forget that there is a whole Asian continent who’s languages are not based on European origins. To summise, novel idea but poor execution.
Once we’d finally torn ourselves away we carried on, once more, to another area of the massive royal complex; the Papyrus Museum. With its extensive collection of old papyrus scrolls and figures, displayed with a collection of other artifacts, and a wealth of information on ancient Egypt, it was amazing to see handwritten text from some 3000 years ago. There was essentially the papyrus version of paper mache creating death masks, along with numerous fragments naming the dead in memorandum, which was much more fascinating than any 14th century gravestone. We like to think that we are infinitely smarter than our ancestors, but there was a long scroll full of mathematical equations that made me chortle at the idea that you can never really get away from your maths homework. These people built massive pyramids by hand which are still standing today, I think it only apt that we give them the credit they deserve.
Eventually we had to leave though, as the day was wearing on and we had another town in another country to travel to before day’s end. Thus we hustled back to grab our bags, and made our way onto the train. The trip ran smoothly, and before long we were alighting in Brno in the Czech Republic. After quickly whipping up dinner from what food we could scrounge from the local Tesco express, we settled into bed in the smallest room we’d had so far (you literally couldn’t open the door the whole way as it hit the bed). As I relaxed to the sounds of the city outside, I took a moment to be grateful for my hearing. I can’t imagine my life without sound; a life without the joyful sounds of laughter; the intoxicating sounds of cooking; the tranquil sounds of nature; the soothing sounds of the voices of those I hold dear; and most of all the glorious sound of music. That most magnificent art that draws out memories from decades past like they were just yesterday, and that can change your mood almost instantaneously. My heart breaks for those who have been robbed of that sense either from birth, an accident, or simply by time. Today, and everyday, I am thankful that I can hear, and I hope immensely that I never lose that.