Archive | September, 2014

Hotel Imperial

14 Sep

Last week Franz Welser-Möst stepped down from the State Opera House. This week another farewell was reported, just as significant if somewhat more peaceable. Michael Moser, the head concierge at the Hotel Imperial, who himself occasionally uses the old-fashioned word Portier, is retiring after 31 years. Originally from the Austrian province of Carinthia, he has worked half of his life at the Imperial (link to website below), and seems to be perfect concierge material–no surprise there, given the hotel’s reputation. In his interview in the Kurier (sadly I couldn’t find it available for free online) he talks about service, discretion, relationships of many years with the many prominent guests, and the need to know Vienna and what is going on in the city inside out, especially in the days of the internet when guests can do so much research themselves.

In an earlier article he said, “‘Gibt’s nicht’, gibt es nicht”–that is, “‘Doesn’t exist’, doesn’t exist” if you’re concierge at such an establishment. He mentioned that he has a annual membership at the Albertina and the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien (the Museum of Fine Arts in Vienna) and goes to the opera or theater about 50 times a year–“Because I like it, you understand. Not because I must.” He may go because he likes it, but it also means that when a guest asks him, for example, if the staging of an opera is modern or traditional he can answer. Not to be able to do so would be very embarrassing for him, he said. He also makes a point of finding less prominent spots and events in Vienna so that he can give guests special tips, like when the lilacs are blooming in the St. Marx cemetery (where Mozart is buried in a paupers’ grave) .

He may be retiring from life out front at the Imperial, but he will still be turning up regularly. Apparently,he’s been collecting menus, newspaper articles, funny stories from guests, and so on over the years, just tossing them into a box in his office. He is now going to take some time to sort through the 40 or so boxes he has assembled and bring some system to them. “Not for my sake and not for the sake of the Hotel, but for future generations,” he said, “so that they have something to laugh about.”

Sunday opening hours

14 Sep

I have left my Grätzl this morning to visit one of my “Viennese nieces” at her weekend job. She works in a bakery, and that in itself tells a story of change–and yet stability–in Austria. One sign of change: when I moved here nothing (except a few designated pharmacies) was open on a Sunday. Ran out of milk? Want fresh rolls for Sunday breakfast? Too bad.

The other sign of change: even now it is very unusual for a student at a Gymnasium (those extremely demanding high schools that are such an integral and quintessential part of Austria’s education system and whose diploma is the sole prerequisite for university entrance here) to have a job during the school year, especially if they don’t need the money. When I first arrived in Vienna it would have been unthinkable.

Then comes the stability: While my niece in the USA, almost the same age, is working every free moment to buy a car, I’m pretty sure my Viennese niece is not planning to use her earnings that way. Somehow I don’t think it would be a top priority even if she lived in the country rather than in this city of exceptionally good public transportation. Indeed, her sister in the meantime has pointed out that she doesn’t even have a driver’s license! 😉

Culture has not yet entirely converged in this globalized world, if, indeed, it ever will.

How could I have missed this?

6 Sep

In taking out my Fodor’s to check the information about the bomb damage in the State Opera, I re-discovered an excellent article at the back on Austria’s wines, written by an Englishman named Nicholas Allen, whose day job it is / was to tour Austria with an English-language theater group.

No doubt the entry will need some updating, as 1987 was pretty soon after the international “Weinskandal” (yes, that means exactly what you think it means), but the 1987 article still gives a very good overview of the various regions and varieties, including a mini-glossary of wine terms.
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The Austrian wine scandal: When it was discovered that some (although only very few) Austrian winemakers were adding anti-freeze (as I heard it) to their wines to, I’m sorry to say, improve the flavor.

Austrian wines have come a very long way since then!

News from the State Opera in Vienna

6 Sep

There are over two pages in today’s Kurier about the decision of the Music Director of the State Opera, Franz Welser-Möst, to step down, with comments from the current General Director, the former General Director, the head of the holding company for the national theaters, and the Ministry of Culture. There is even a message of solidarity to the General Director from the chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic, saying that the orchestra, from whose members the Vienna State Opera Orchestra is assembled, will do whatever it can to make sure that performances go ahead as planned. Not excessive, I think, in a city where, I have read, the Viennese, even those who had never set foot inside, stood in the streets in tears watching the Opera burn after it was hit by a bomb on 12 March 1945, so ironically close to the end of the war.  According to my 1987 Fodor’s guide, “… the Viennese made it one of their first priorities … to rebuild their beloved Opera.” Vienna, Fodor’s goes on to point out, “… is a city where opera is taken very, very seriously. “