A Roman in Vienna

Vienna . . . personally, I didn’t like the Austrian capital when I visited in the spring of 2010 and I usually fall in love with everywhere I travel. It was too perfect with its oversized baroque buildings and wide boulevards celebrating a vanished empire that never really accomplished much.

One has to wonder really about the size issue in Vienna — even the statues of Archduke Charles, the Duke of Teschen, in Heldenplatz and Empress Marie-Theresa in her namesake square near the city’s Museum Quarter are gigantic. Bigger than most statues of important persons in other, more impressive European cities.

Now granted, the archduke was considered a great general and a thorn in Napoleon’s side and the empress is one of the few female rulers from the 1700s. But her statue in particular is not flattering. The 19-metre-high artwork, topped with a six-metre high bronze of the empress, weighs an estimated 44 tonnes and makes her ass look huge! But I digress.

One building that thumbed its nose at the rest of Vienna when it was built in 1898 was the Secession Building, located on Friedrichstrasse. Known as the Temple for Bullfrogs by haughty Viennese at the time, it was a place for the city’s up-and-coming modern art painters, sculptors and architects to shine, including Gustav Klimt (whose Beethoven Frieze is the museum’s biggest draw), Joseph Maria Olbrich (who designed the building), Max Kurzweil, Otto Wagner, and Koloman Moser.

Located outside the Vienna Secession building, is a bronze statue by artist Arthur Strasser called Marc Anton Gruppe. Designed for the Paris World Exposition in 1900, the sculptor portrays Marc Anthony, the heroic supporter of Julius Caesar and doomed lover of Cleopatra, as a slothful general pulled by lions in a Roman chariot as the historian Plutarch had famously described him.

Experts have suggested the statue is a commentary on the excesses and conservatism of Viennese society at the close of the 19th century. One thing is for certain, the statue and the Secession building are a cheeky way of cleansing the palate after viewing the city’s overwrought architectural confections.

Touring Vienna is sort of like eating an entire meal of linzertortes and strudels at Demel, the city’s famous pastry shop. Delicious but nutritionally empty.

Strasser’s creation also reminds viewers of Vienna’s Roman past, which can still be glimpsed in the ruins found in Michaelerplatz. Unfortunately, most people take little heed of the archaeological site and focus on the impressive and ornate buildings that ring the square, including the entrance to the Hofburg.

© Jennifer Robinson and, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Robinson and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Alicia

    Well said my friend. My experience in Vienna was disasterous. On the night we arrived, I got sick eating a garlic-flavoured pretzel like bread product at the Prater. Day 2, its a public holiday and the town is basically shut down, I can’t visit the opera house, all the stores are shut, they are out of sachertorte at the cafe we visit, its raining and we get back to the campsite to find that the tent had flooded. Luckily the pseudo opera we enjoyed that night was enjoyable but not enough to drag Vienna from the very bottom of my least favourite cities in Europe list.


    1. Jennifer Robinson

      Hey Lish,

      OMG, your comment is too funny! I, too, took into the pseudo opera while in Vienna. It was enjoyable except for the horrible old German couple behind us. I made the mistake of leaning too far back in my seat to take in the beautiful ceiling of the opera house only to have the wife swat my hair and say something in German that had to have been nasty. I apologized but boy was I steamed. To me, Vienna appeals to older, provincial tourists who like their cities neat and orderly. And boring! I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to go back!


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