Vienna and Creativity

Last week I spent two full days in Vienna with no business obligations – just me, my wife, and the city. It wasn’t my first time over there and yet I had so much more fun than I thought I would have. With the images and experiences still fresh I thought I should share them with you.

Creativity

In one of the museums I visited I saw these words (won’t tell you where, you have to read until the end):

Our real illiteracy is not the ignorance to read and write and not the incapability to repeat other people’s knowledge, but the inability to create.

There is something about these words both powerful and worrisome. At least to me.

There was never a better time for creators than our time: the number of mediums, the huge number of tools, and the ease of access to information and knowledge is just off the charts compared to any previous era of mankind.

And yet, you can’t say that mankind is more likely to create something today than it was yesterday. I guess creativity is about getting out of the comfort zone and working a bit harder than the minimum expected from you. A teacher can be creative (coming up with new ways to teach a subject), a designer can be creative (not reusing the same WordPress template for all customers), a developer can be creative (writing a new library, solving an old problem differently, etc.). And yet so many of us choose the old known paths and don’t wander a single step off them into the unknown.

There is creativity and creativity. Sometimes there are individuals who use the same tools as the rest of us but they create something that is very different from everything else.  If you ever have a chance to see Gustav Klimt’s paintings (this can be a strong reason to visit Vienna) then do it. Here is a reproduction of “The Kiss” one of his most famous paintings.

The Kiss

This is a painting from 1908. Just look at other famous artists and their paintings from the same period of time and you’ll understand why this one is something quite unique. The oil paints and gold leaves, the color choices, and the lines make for something that is awesome but at the same time timeless. To me this looks so modern and fresh. Definitely not a hundred-year old painting.

Another great example is Hundertwasser‘s architecture. You can find some of his buildings in Vienna. The contrast between his buildings and the surrounding typical Austrian buildings is huge. Here is one of his buildings (if you like Gaudi’s work then you will enjoy Hundertwasser’s work too):

Hundertwasser

Hundertwasser

And here is some typical Austrian architecture and landscape (straight lines everywhere; very ordered; nothing sticks out of the picture):

Vienna

Travel or stall

This is something that everyone agrees with: you can grow as a person by reading books, talking to other people, and traveling. Obviously, it’s far easier (and cheaper) to read and talk. But if you have the means you should travel too. Seeing and feeling with your own senses a place is something that no book or talk can recreate. It is all about seeing different things than what you have at home and talking to different people.

In my experience if you travel for business than you’ll have more opportunities to talk with locals and get an insight into the local culture. When you travel for pleasure you’ll have more opportunities to visit the local attractions and just sink into the local flow.

Why Vienna

If you live in Europe probably you know a lot about European history to understand why Vienna is a cool place to visit.

If you live outside Europe here are some reasons for why to visit Vienna (no particular order):

  • Vienna was the capital of one of the biggest empires in Europe. As a result there are lots of great buildings, palaces, museums to see/choose from by any standard
  • While there are plenty of things to do in Vienna, the city is not as big as Rome, Paris, or London. This means that even if you have just one and a half days to spend in Vienna you’ll still get a lot out of the trip. By contrast, if you were to spend just one and a half days in Rome you’d feel frustrated and you wouldn’t know what to do first
  • It is quite cheap to fly to Vienna from most European cities. You can find a 100 Euro flight. Adding to this the short time you need to get something out of it, it makes a good second or third destination for an European trip
  • I think the worst period to go there is during winter holiday season – too many tourists and more expensive than usual. The best time to go is in spring, autumn, or summer. It can get quite cold in the winter and this is a city where you should walk a lot as there are so many beautiful buildings and parks
  • If you are into arts then you should definitely visit the art museums (Belvedere Palace, Leopold Museum for example) and Hundertwasser houses (the quote on creativity is from Hundertwasser). The average full ticket price is about 12 Euro. You’ll find a good selection of European artists (Oskar Kokoschka, Egon Schile, Gustav Klimt, Matisse, Monet, Manet, Courbet, and Van Gogh just to name some of them)
  • There are lots of good restaurants. While the Austrian cuisine tends to feature lots of meat (pork especially), there are plenty of good Asian, Italian, or international cuisine restaurants to choose from and for all budgets (also vegetarian restaurants). Yes, if you have money to spend you’ll find one star Michelin restaurants too.
  • Based on my experience Austrian wine is not something special so I wouldn’t try harder here (I am not a wine expert but I do drink wine :D). You’d be better off with beer.
  • Austrians love coffee so you’ll find lots of coffee shops where you can enjoy a good cup of coffee over some dessert or pastry. The apple strudel is a traditional local dessert.

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