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Where in the World?

Posted on 8/2/2016 12:32:00 PM in Travel Trivia

The Globe Museum, located in Vienna’s National Library, is just one of many lesser-known gems that make it so rewarding to return to the city again and again.

Question: In what city, chockablock with wacky and wonderful museums, can you fit the world in the palm of your hand after you stand in its shadow?

Answer: Vienna, home to the Globe Museum and more

Austria’s capital is rightly known for its stately architecture and classical music, but those who know the real Vienna recognize that it has a playful side with a healthy sense of humor and a love of the macabre. A quick tour of Vienna’s less-famous museums finds collections that are charmingly whimsical, simply amusing, and even downright frightening.

At the Globe Museum (Herrengasse 9, Palais Mollard), the enchanting collection walks you through centuries of nation-building and un-building. The museum has 600 globes on rotation (natch), with 200 visible at all times. The biggest looms over the average person; the smallest can fit in your palm. Some are inflatable and others are mechanical, with orbiting moons or attached suns. It’s a delightful (and perhaps dizzying) array.

Six More Strange & Delightful Vienna Museums

  • Kaisergruft: Imperial Crypt of the Habsburgs (Tegetthoffstrasse 2) After centuries of being elevated above the commoners, perhaps it is ironic that the Habsburgs will spend eternity below them—literally beneath their feet. 143 Habsburg kin are entombed in a sprawling crypt underneath a Capuchin cloister in Vienna. The church itself is small, but a modest admission fee allows you to descend into a warren of casket-stuffed chambers that fan out beneath a street busy with cars and foot traffic. The casket of Holy Roman Emperor Karl VI drives home the point: it is adorned with a grimacing death’s head that sports the royal crown as if to say, “All this and I still ended up here.”
  • Esperanto Museum (Herrengasse 9) L.L. Zamenhof, a Polish-born opthamologist practicing in Vienna, dreamed up a language that could unify the world with a common tongue. Calling it Esperanto (meaning “hopeful”), he envisioned his new language creating world peace. Alas, though it had its champions and practitioners, it was never officially adopted by any country (aside from a one-citizen, self-proclaimed Republic on a man-made platform off the coast of Italy). The mere idea of the language nonetheless scared the Nazis, who killed many Esperantists; and Stalin, who derided it as a spy tool. The museum is full of goods intended for the utopian era that never came. Among its holdings: packages of cigarettes, soda, and toothpaste labeled in Esperanto—and even a map written in a language none of the depicted territories spoke.
  • Kriminalmuseum (Große Sperlgasse 24) Sure, you could go could to other museums to see Impressionist watercolors or elegant statues of noble gods. But if your taste runs a little more ghoulish, forget Monet and go morbid at the Museum of Crime. Its collection especially focuses on gruesome crimes, from who-done-it to how-to. And skulls are de rigeur, including those of criminal and victims alike. But it’s not just murder: The museum offers a primer on less lethal pursuits, from prostitution to pickpocketing. As long as it was ever illegal in Austria, it’s welcome here.
  • Republic of Kugelmugel (2 Antifaschismusplatz) In 1984, Austrian artist Edwin Lipburger decided to build a perfectly round house, perched on stilts, and declared his new spherical domicile The Republic of Kugelmugel. Local authorities weren’t thrilled—and once he started issuing his own national stamps, he was arrested. But his fellow Austrians were incensed that the government would bother harassing the artist, and protests were held on his behalf. The President of Austria not only pardoned Lipburger but allowed him to erect the Republic in the Vienna Prater.
  • Vienna’s Narrenturm (Uni Campus Hof 6, Spitalgasse 2) The word Narrenturm isn’t very gentle—it means “Lunatic’s Tower”—and that’s fitting because the world’s first mental hospital is now a museum to pathology. Its five floors are crammed full of medical specimens, human and animal alike. Want to see a necrotized arm under glass? A balloon-headed man? A spooky deceased baby said to look like the devil himself? You can’t go just anywhere for that kind of hauntingly specialized display, but with 70,000 items, the Narrenturm has the stuff of all your nightmares.
  • Museum of Art Fakes (Löwengasse 28, 1030) Can’t get to the Louvre? Don’t want to wait in the lines at the Prado? Stick to the Museum of Art Fakes, where you can see works seemingly painted by Rembrandt, Matisse, and more. The museum breaks its collection into two categories: replicas of existing works and paintings intended to look like “lost” works by famous artists. It also highlights the stories of the world’s best forgers, like Tony Tetro, whose Chagall-like pieces still grace some museums in the world whose curators couldn’t tell the fake from the real.

Related Article:

Flowing Through History instead of Liberal Arts
Vienna is one of many places of significance along the Danube River. See how its banks are home to a mélange of historical influence spanning nearly 2,000 years.
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Discover the fun—and the beauty—of Vienna when you join Grand Circle Cruise Line’s Old World Prague & the Blue Danube River Cruise. Spend 36 hours in Vienna with The New York Times in this short film:

Produced by Fritzie Andrade, Max Cantor, Chris Carmichael, Will Lloyd, Julia Rylova, Sarah Brady Voll ©2014 The New York Times

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