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The Christmas Magic of Vienna

In November 2018, I had a chance to spend a week in Vienna and participate in the 6th Young Scholars Forum (YSF) on Central- and South East Europe „Cross-border cooperation in Central and South East Europe“. The symposium, organised by the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe gathered 30 young scholars engaged in research of different aspects of political, historical, economic, social, urban and cultural life in the region, in order to promote and encourage cross-border cooperation and knowledge transfer and further the mobility within the region. In the impressive venue of the Europahaus Wien, researchers debated on variety of contemporary questions in the region, such as the challenges of the labour market in Moldova, importance of connectivity in the Lower Danube region, coverage of contemporary novels in Bulgarian digital media, the effect of the borders on citizens of South Moravia and Lower Austria before and after ‘89, cross border experiences of Belarusian authors, civic immigration in the Czech Republic, and many more.

Participation in the Forum was also the opportunity to enjoy Christmas magic in snowy Vienna and amazing views of the illuminated streets, decorated trees in the main squares and festive lights around the major buildings. During this time of the year, Vienna smells of the gingerbread, cinnamon, punch and almonds as magical Christmas markets overtake the city. Even the Campus of University of Vienna has its own Christmas village, where students along with professors relax with a glass of mulled wine and some roasted chestnuts. Short visit to the University library (actually several of its buildings) allowed to admire the architectural wonders of the city of Vienna and the richness of the sources available to both internal and external students and researchers.

Visit of the city of Vienna is never complete without a tour of Albertina, one of the most important art museums in Europe, settled in the 18th century royal palace surrounded by the Opera house, Burggarten park, National library, Hofburg palace and other major cultural landmarks of the city. As I have already spent important number of hours around the famous Batliner Collection, including some of the major works of Monet, Chagall, Matisse, Picasso, Modigliani, Renoir, Kandinsky and many more of the world’s finest artists, this visit of the museum was about exploring the Albertina contemporary collection, displaying masterpieces of Warhol, Richter, Katz and other late 20 century artists. Contrasted to the Habsburg royal opulence of the palace, collection of contemporary artworks illustrates the diversity of artistic approaches, color aesthetics and degrees of abstraction throughout the latest decades.

Finally, the star of the museum collection at the end of 2018 seemed to be a temporary monographic exhibition dedicated to Claude Monet’s artistic treatment of color, displaying impressive number of paintings loaned from major international museums. This popular exhibition allowed to trace several stages in life and artistic expression of French impressionist, influences of major artists of the time and transformation from realism to impressionism.

I would conclude by saying that the trip to Vienna reminded me once again why we are so privileged to do – and to live – the job we enjoy, which includes not only exchange with inspiring scholars, flows of ideas and international cooperation, but also the opportunity to explore heritage, culture and everyday life of European cities.

Text and photo: Jovana Vukčević


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