The Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna, Austria reopened its doors at the end of August following an extensive renovation that further enhances the story of one of history’s most influential thinkers.
Sigmund Freud, psychologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, lived and worked in Vienna for most of his life, having set up his clinical practice there in 1986, a time when Vienna was emerging as a hub of European artistic, intellectual and spiritual awakening.
Freud’s work was controversial and ambitious as he interpreted the dreams of his patients to reveal their unconscious desires. The doctor was convinced that there was something unconscious in the human soul that was responsible for our actions.
It was at Berggasse 19 in Vienna – referred to as the “birthplace of psychoanalysis and Vienna’s most famous address” – where Freud lived with his daughter, Anna Freud, until 1938, when the doctor left Austria to escape Nazi persecution.
The iconic address is now home to the Sigmund Freud Museum, which is located in Vienna’s Alsergrund district, and travellers recently had an opportunity to tour the reimagined space, virtually, as part of an ongoing livestream series hosted by the Vienna Tourist Board.
Vienna goes virtual
Vienna Showcase, as the series is called, invites visitors to take virtual tours of Vienna’s latest highlights in arts and culture.
The interactive program launched in October with a virtual tour of Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna and its Beethoven Moves exhibit, a homage to Ludwig van Beethoven, who lived in Vienna until his death in 1827.
The Vienna Tourist Board’s latest episode on the Sigmund Freud Museum streamed on Friday, Dec. 4, one day before the museum would reopen, again, following a temporary shutdown due to local COVID-related restrictions.
The live broadcast, which included a panel discussion, not only highlighted the museum’s latest additions, but also illustrated the “interplay between contemporary art and mental health,” as Norbert Kettner, managing director of the Vienna Tourist Board, said in his opening remarks.
Monika Pessler, director of the Sigmund Freud Museum, led the virtual tour, guiding guests through various rooms of Freud’s apartment and private practice, from the mezzanine, where patients would ring a bell to signal their arrival, to Freud’s personal “sleeping room,” kitchen, and dressing rooms, to even the famous couch that hosted Freud's patients.
New concepts at the museum include three permanent exhibitions and two contemporary changing exhibitions, bringing together the worlds of art and history.
Original family photographs and collectibles from Freud’s life enhance the experience at the museum, which first opened in 1971.
For example: there’s a mirror, given to the museum by Freud’s daughter Anna, that the doctor would use with patients at their initial consultation (Freud would instruct patients to look at themselves as a metaphor for looking at one’s own inner self).
There’s an “exit door” that allowed Freud’s patients to exit his practice, discretely.
But there's a darker side to the apartment, also.
After Freud left Vienna, the Nazis changed the function of the building, erecting so-called collection apartments where approximately 80 Jews were imprisoned while awaiting deportation into concentration camps, explained Pessler.
Enhancing the Viennese experience
Historically-significant museums, like the Sigmund Freud Museum, play an important role in Vienna’s history and culture, said Armando Mendonca, president of AMPM, which represents the Vienna Tourist Board in Canada.
“It’s such a classical city that has given birth to so many iconic figures,” Mendonca told PAX, listing off other culturally-significant individuals linked to Vienna, such as composers Beethoven and Mozart and painter Gustav Klimt.
Vienna, located in eastern Austria on the Danube River, is famous for its Imperial palaces, museums, coffee houses and historic and contemporary architecture.
The famous city has some 850 public parks and gardens, 200 castles and palaces and more than 100 museums.
Mendonca, notably, hosted an intimate event on Oct. 5 for media and industry players to watch the Beethoven Moves tour, live, from Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel. (Click here to watch our video from the event).
The Sigmund Freud Museum, said Mendonca, not only highlights Freud’s research in psychoanalysis, but also showcases Freud as a human being, his family life and his upbringing.
“Museums enhance the whole Viennese experience,” he said. “They allow you to learn about individuals that became world-renowned...It says a lot about Vienna and how the city had the education and facilities to nurture these brilliant minds.”
While direct lift between Canada and Vienna has been temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mendonca said he expects tourism to rebound in 2021.
Air Canada is set to resume direct service to Vienna from Toronto this spring, he noted.
Tips for the trade
Mendonca encouraged travel agents to share the Vienna Showcase series with clients to inspire future travel to Vienna when it’s possible. (Click here to view them all).
Vienna.info, the Vienna Tourist Board’s website, is a great resource for learning about the latest on local museum openings, classical art venues and other attractions, he said.
“It gives you a taste,” said Mendonca, noting how the website is updated daily with the latest COVID-19 protocols.
Another great tool for discovering Vienna is an app called "ivie,” a digital map that delivers inside info about urban life, local happenings, deals, and quirky facts about the city, straight to the traveller’s smartphone.
Travel agents are also urged to join the Vienna Experts Club, a certification program that helps travel pros boost their Vienna sales and enhance their marketing efforts, while offering exclusive discounts and incentives.
The next edition of Vienna Showcase, coming February 2021, will explore Albertina Modern, the city's new museum of modern art.
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