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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Waltzing through the Grand Cafés of Vienna - Page 4

Written by John M. Edwards
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    But how about those free Hershey’s Kisses ™, rather than Austrian  

chocos (comparible with Swiss brands) resembling chess pieces or pert  



    In the end, I felt the spiritual uplift of the sine qua non  

musical-chairs-loving charmingly unctuous city around me, “a place  

where time and space is consumed,” as well as plenty of pretty polly.  

With the bile of the “Blue Danube” rushing by me I could tell why  

Wien’s (Vienna’s) café culture tradition is designated an (intangible) UNESCO  

World Heritage Site, much like reading a poem by Rilke on the sly.


    Even so, my literary walking tour (“on spec” with a “kill fee”) did  

not follow an either-or proposition. A tingle of dread adventure moved  

around in my stomach like a Stuxnet Worm stuck in cyberspace, as I  

eventually submitted to a monotone phonomat guide in German, sounding a  

lot like suppressed swearing. (I decided to skip the Art Nouveau Hohe  

Brucke, Parliament, and Stock Exchange.)


    Catching my second wind, I ducked into the nearby Judenplatz, the  

former Jewish Ghetto, where I paid a quick visit to the Café Alstadt,  

which didn’t move me.


    Oho! Maybe it was time after all to check my e-mail, exercise my  

pop-up-menu eyes and football-shaped occipital lobe even though I did  

not have a regular job to go back to and could travel indefinitely if I  

had my druthers.


    Hence, I suddenly had an ah-ha experience, like an unsold soul  

illumined by an MRI, while the light wind suckerpunched my windbreaker,  

combined with little bouncing baubles of holiday hail. . . .


    Thus, I retreated into an open opulent palais, the Kunsthistorisches  

Muzeum, and sat among the displays, reading Richard Basset’s “A Guide  

to Central Europe” (Penguin Books, 1987). Mostly to relieve the  

lonelies of the road, antsy with apercus.


    I read about St. Stephen’s Cathedral (bombed during World War II but  

rebuilt according to the original blueprints), the beating heart of the  

city like a trot of Lippanzeer stallions in the Winter Riding School  

built in 1722. I could not believe that Habsburg rule lasted over 800  

centuries! In fact, the empire from Otto I (crowned in 962) to Francis  

I (rule ending in 1918) stretched all the way from the North Sea to the  

Mediterranean Sea. At its zenith the Austro-Hungarian Empire included  

not only Austria and Hungary (albeit eventually divorced from Germany  

and Italy), but also much of present-day Romania, Czech Republic,  

Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Slovakia, Luxembourg, and parts  

of Poland and Serbia.


    Incidentally, my friend Erik D’Amato, an American expat publisher of  

the Magyar website Pestiside ( claims he met the last  

known Habsburg, Otto van Habsburg, while ogling the awesome spires and  

domes of the Austrian capital, at an undisclosed location, or perhaps  

he was just pulling my leg.


    In some ways, reading about the “sights” was preferable to actually  

visiting them, in the same way that grainy reality only becomes clear  

in retrospect and in revisionism. Forget Moto Photo. For example, I  

didn’t know that the progressive Emporer Franz Joseph (ruled 1780-1790)  

freed both the Serfs and the Jews. I also wondered about Vienna’s  

“Mannerism Movement,” which seemed to claim that art was only a  

mannerism. At least, this beat pub-crawling through Vienna’s  

“Bierstubes” (beer banks) and “Weingartens” (wine gardens).


    After a quick pick-me-up at an undisclosed location, serving  

“Schlosserbuben” (chocolate nut pudding), similar to Nutella ™, I went  

to see the embalmed hearts of all the Habsburgs in the “Loretto Chapel”  

of the Neo-Classical Augustine Church. Yick.

(Page 4 of 6)
Last modified on Friday, 02 May 2014

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