I had a quick visit - only a couple of days. However, the second morning found me with a couple of hours free, so I journeyed into town to visit the museum of that most famous and most favorite of Viennese sons - no, not Mozart. And not Ah-nold, either. I mean that towering giant of 20th century psychology: Sigmund Freud.
The museum was the apartment he lived in, conducting most of his professional life in Vienna (didn't know that) before being exiled to London in 1938 (didn't know that) and passing away in 1939 (didn't know that). Many other things I didn't know prior to my visit: he was a contemporary of Einstein and had the occasion to meet him (remarking in a later letter, "I knew as much physics as he knew psychology, so we had a very pleasant conversation."), avidly followed archeology and collected Egyptian artifacts, had children and grandchildren, some of whom went into psychoanalysis themselves, and was rarely seen (or even photographed) without a cigar. Died of cancer, unfortunately. All in all, the museum was very interesting and taught me a great deal about the life & times of Dr. Freud. My only criticism was that it was a little thin on taking about his work - I still have no idea what his major accomplishments were, professionally, aside from the background noise of random culturual references that have seeped into my subconscious. (Freud would have a field day with that comment, I'm sure.)
Found on the train. Even the Euro2008 cup is Freudian apparently. Must have something to do with the balls.
How does one top a visit to something like the Freud museum? By visiting the private, invitation-only collection of the Wien Sternwarte. (Ok, if you ask nicely, they'll pretty much let anyone in, but this sounds better.) They have an astonishing collection of astronomical instruments dating back one, two, even three to four hundred years - but even more astonishing is their collection of antique manuscripts. Original, first editions of manuscripts from Kepler, Copernicus, Galileo - even artifacts that /predate/ those individuals can be found in their fireproof safes. To see these books in person, to even hold them, was coming to touch directly the astronomer's equivalent of the Rosetta Stone.
A first edition of Copernicus's De Revolutionieus - the book that started the Scientific Revolution, despite being "the book nobody read" (a myth debunked by Owen Gingerich).
Title page for De Revolutionieus. The inscription in Greek warns, effectively, "Those who do not know math should not read further." The handwritten note below the title remarks that the copy was given to the university as, basically, tuition for a student. Discoloration of the lower half of the pages was due to a spilled oil lamp.
The heliocentric system shown in its full glory. On the right hand page is seen margin notes, seen frequently in manuscripts from that time.
A textbook by Puerbach that predates the Copernican manuscript by decades, to the mid-15th century, which instructs the reader on the geocentric system. Copernicus apparently had Puerbach, or at least this textbook, for instruction as a student of astronomy early on.
All in all, a tremendously successful visit to Vienna. Had a lovely time, met wonderful people, enjoyed delightful local cuisine, discovered interesting things about the cultural background of the world I live in, and had compelling, personal interactions with the scientific tapestry that defines my career. Couldn't wish for more in a visit!
Only in Vienna could one find a Falco tribute band!