Tag Archives: Vienna

The Madhouse Tower

The Narrenturm is a rather special museum to visit in Vienna. Special in the best sense of the word. The building as such was one of the first psychiatric hospitals and very advanced for the late 18th century. Advanced meaning that there were no windows (for the fresh air) and that the main treatment was to wrap patients in wet towels…

This rather shabby looking tower is full of knowledge, history, facts and artefacts. I don’t think to have ever seen a stuffed human being. Well, in the madhouse tower, you can see one. Along with all other kinds of:

  • Human and animal dry preparations of bones and other body parts with pathological changes – it’s frightening to see what the simply lack of Vitamin D does to our skeleton
  • Human and animal cadaveric parts with pathological changes, preserved in formaldehyde – lungs filled with coal dust compared to which a smoker’s lung looks healthy for instance.
  • Moulages, i.e. castings of pathological body parts in wax or paraffin – those were taken as long as the wound or infection was fresh so that the students could learn almost as if they were there. For those seeking treatment in the AKH (general hospital) that meant that they would have to endure a longer pain even in case of scalds…

Especially these castings are not always beautiful to see; I’m glad we arrived just on time to join a guided tour which made the museum a lot more accessible and insightful going beyond the ‘freak show’ it otherwise risks to be. For those interested in seeing something totally different from the general museums of art, history, etc. it’s a worth-while address!


And counting

Besides giving a pretty precise approximation of Π, the exhibition (or permanent installation, no clue) all along the underground exit following the direction “Secession” of the U-Bahn stop “Karlsplatz” is displaying all kinds of mixed, diverse and irritating numbers. The spending on defence world-wide next to the number of people in love in Vienna, the number of Schnitzel eaten since 1 January next to people unhappy with their job in Vienna (more than those who are in love). Not knowing who’s work it is neither the purpose, I can’t give much credit besides: I think this is cool.


What can I say about Vienna that hasn’t been said already? Well, here’s a try:

  • Vienna is best to be visited from April to November. A snowy, cold and windy mid-March weekend does not do justice to the city. Best is probably June as there is a maximum of daylight and hence sight-seeing time.
  • One day trips are to be avoided. They only lead to frustration as they give a good idea of all the things that are to be seen but for which is not enough time.
  • Watch The Third Manupon the day of your arrival, at the latest the day after. Then go sightseeing and try recognising the monuments, corners and sights. Adds a taste of paper chasing to the whole visit. After four days of sightseeing, watch the movie again.
  • Go in one several of the numerous wine/beer bars or restaurants.  Enjoy the Austrian wine and the Austrian beer – yes, this is a country that can do both – and the food such as Gulasch, Powidltascherl, Golatschen. Complain regularly to the people you visit the city with that you don’t have the time to taste everything and that you will have to come back for the food. Never mention sights worth seeing during those conversations.
  • Visit the Karlskirche and take the lift up to the dome. Thanks to the on-going restoration, it is possible to have the 17th century frescos at almost your fingertips.
  • Make sure to see the front and back sights of historical buildings. As hard as it might be to believe, it really makes a difference, especially for the Rathaus.