Freitag, 2. Dezember 2011

The Glamour of the Days gone by

It took me a long time to write this post, much longer than I intended. The subject is last weekend which I spent in Vienna. Although I'm Austrian I don't live there, I live in Graz, the second biggest (250.000 inhabitants) town, about two hours drive away from the capital.
I know Vienna very well and that is maybe my problem when it comes to describing it. In my opinion no one who has not walked through this city's streets once in their live can possibly understand what they mean, why they are not just roads and buildings.
Vienna is the sound of classical music, the sight of waltzing people under crystal chandeliers in marble halls of palaces that were built for emperors who controlled the fate of Europe for centuries. Vienna is luxury and prestige, it is gold and glamour, it is philosophy and high society.

But more than anything, Vienna is longing.

The word nostalgia is a huge understatement for the feeling that is hidden behind every smiling face there.
This city is a fantasy we have to believe in.
Before the end of monarchy, Vienna was the centre of Europe. Internationally renowned characters were heading for the capital of the Habsburg Empire; they enjoyed the sophisticated ambiance and the well-educated society, and many of them produced their greatest works there. Vienna was fertile ground for ambitious ideas and grand cultural projects (classical music for example was born there!) and the whole city took part in the cultural peak, even those who didn't have any knowledge of philosophy were vividly discussing Freud's books for example. There was no place in the world which could be compared to Vienna.
In fact, there still isn't.

Vienna means something else too. It is the ideal place for people who want to be alone but need company for that. To be in Vienna is to feel connected with everyone around you, to feel as if everyone understood you and shared your thoughts, even without ever talking to anyone.

Visiting Vienna these days is walking on a fine line between the present of the twentyfiirst century and the imperial past. Most of the time it is crossing this line constantly.

To say that time stood still in the city would be a lie, and not even a very convincing one: there are just too many skyscrapers, H&Ms and Starbucks!
However, the traditional, sophisticated Vienna is anything but gone.
It is almost as if Vienna had a shadow self, where the memory of all great events and persons is still present: it lingers in every corner, even decades and sometimes centuries after these events are over and these people have died.

I am trying all the time to cross the boundary between the real Vienna and the ghostly one, but whenever you look too closely at the splendid glamour of the shadowy city it blurs and disappears. Then you are left alone in the 21. century again and wonder where all the time has gone.


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