My first exposures to Austria were through classical music, The Sound of Music, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. All fairly important influences in my life (Arnold not so much), but classical music definitely has been (though not strictly Austrian), and I always dreamed of becoming someone like the Baroness von Schraeder (complete with a pet/sidekick named Max). However, when I saw the movie The Third Man when I was about 19, the darkness of Vienna called to me. The city became real. Prior to watching this film, Vienna was a bit of a fairy world. A place lost in time. Mozart writing operas during the Age of Enlightenment, Beethoven stressing over the moral collapse of Napolean, Captain Von Trapp and his seven children singing Edelweiss before escaping to Switzerland (by the way that didn’t happen). Vienna was a place of colour, music, philosophy, fabric, art and a thousand other things – but they didn’t feel real to me. Even now, I am in Vienna and thinking about that, the city doesn’t seem real. The film, The Third Man showed the seedy underbelly of life in a Post War Austria. A place where the black market still existed, where people died in order for others to make money, where stories were based on half-truths or less. This was the Vienna I wanted to see. And today, I got to see just that.
We lucked out and got a private walking tour of Vienna through the eyes of Harry Lime and Holly Martins courtesy of Kersten at Vienna Walks + Talks. We learned
all (not all because its only a 2 hr tour) about the history of Vienna, the shooting locations, some gossip about the scandalous behaviour of the cast, the way the sewer system works, how Austria is a neutral city – but that being neutral comes at a cost, and I learned a new term for a meat dish, “roof rabbits” – which I will now use whenever I go to a restaurant in Chinatown in Vancouver, when I suspect the dish is a bit of a mystery.
The architecture is so grand (even the sewer kiosks are kind of tricked out), everywhere you look the buildings are bigger and more ornate, add in the fact that less than a century ago, this city was bombed to near rubble – it’s gobsmacking! How inelegant to say such a thing. But I can’t think of a more appropriate word to describe how I am feeling.
I’d like to give a big shout out to our tour guide Kersten – she was so excellent, filled with pertinent information about the history of the city, and is a great storyteller to boot. We were so lucky to get a few hours with her – and will try to book another tour with her again before I leave.
Now if you will excuse me, I have to go have a cup of tea, and listen to Anton Karas play the zither.