Tag Archives: history

The Anschluss – 80 years on | ecbinvienna

12 Mar

10 years ago I wrote the text linked below. Reading it again, I am struck by how quickly we have moved to just such a situation historians and survivors warned about then. Let us remain active and keep lighting those candles, every day.

https://ecbinvienna.com/2013/03/13/the-anschluss-75-years-on/

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Visitors

14 May

What a great thing it is to have visitors–nice visitors–in this case, a friend I hadn’t seen in 30 years and her husband. (Sadly they were just in Vienna for the day.) They bravely put themselves in my hands at 10:30 this morning in front of Stephansdom, after saying they wanted to see whatever I recommended.

We started with the climb up the 343 steps to the top of the South Tower of Stephansdom so that we could get the overview of the city. We had great weather for it, which, along with the fact that today is a holiday in Austria (Ascension), perhaps explains why there were so many people up there, some of them rather, shall we say, assertive. Nonetheless, we did get to see out of all the windows, in all directions, and I got to play the game of “Can I orient myself and tell them what is what”.

Then down to the ground again and around to the Graben. We didn’t stop to admire the Plague Pillar but did take note of it and made use of the Art Deco (Jugendstil) toilets under the Graben near St. Peter’s Church. Then up Kohlmarkt to Michaelerplatz where it started to sprinkle, which we considered a good excuse to duck into Café Griensteidl for coffee (and cake, in some cases).

When we came out again it had stopped raining. We marveled at the Roman ruins laid bare on Michaelerplatz and then took Herrengasse north away from the center, turning off to go down to the Freyung. After a quick detour to Am Hof (because of “The Third Man”) we headed out Schottengasse to Schottentor. I pointed out Palais Ephrussi because of our mutual Japanese connection, and because I’m pretty sure “The Hare with Amber Eyes” is a book this friend would appreciate.

There we turned into the Ringstraße (celebrating 150 years this year). We didn’t go in anywhere but admired in passing the University (650 years old this year), the Rathaus all decked out for the Life Ball, Café Landtmann, and the Burgtheater (where reference to Klaus Maria Brandauer was made). Then we came to the Parliament. We walked up the curved approach commenting on the Greek-style statuary and the mosaic on the wall at the top, and I realized I had never walked up there before. I usually simply go by in the tram and look out the window. It may not be all that high–certainly it’s not 343 steps up–but we still had a nice view of the Volksgarten and parts of the former Imperial Palace.

We continued along the Ring to the two museums, and I told the joke of how to tell which one is the Natural History Museum and which the Museum of Art History. Out of the depths of my memory I dredged up what I know about Maria Theresia so that my guests had a sense of who it was sitting between the two buildings looking regal. It’s amazing how easy it is to remember the more prurient details–Marie Antoinette was the youngest of Maria Theresia’s 16 children–and how vague I was on the important reforms, including educational reforms, she pushed through.

Deciding to take a slightly closer look at the former Imperial Palace (Hofburg), we crossed the Ring, went through the triumphal arch, studied the victorious, of course, military gentlemen on horseback (A. Ferkorn’s statues of Prince Eugen and Archduke Charles), pondered the fact that Hitler had stood on the balcony and made his first speech after Austria was annexed in 1938, and then walked through with a quick glance at the chapel where the Vienna Boys’ Choir sings.

Coming out at Michaelerplatz once again we turned right and headed south this time, with only a nod to the Spanish Riding School where you can see the Lipizzaners in their stalls, the National Library, the Augustiner Church, and the Albertina. By this time, those of us who hadn’t had cake earlier were feeling a bit peckish so we turned into the Burggarten and secured a table at the Palmenhaus, one of my favorite restaurants in Vienna even when, as was the case today, it’s a little too chilly to sit outside. (I simply can’t resist a restaurant that has a six-page menu of which one page covers the seasonal dishes they are offering and five pages cover the wines, all good and mostly Austrian.) After a lunch of white asparagus for two of us and Schnitzel for one of us, we continued on to the Ring where I left my visitors to go on to the Secession while I went home to walk the dog.

It strikes me that this was a pretty good tour of the city for five hours or so, and that it was rather special to do it this year with the two anniversaries (Ringstraße and University) and two big events (the Life Ball and the Eurovision Song Contest) happening in the next few days. A great way to spend a holiday.

A garage in Hernals

15 Sep

I’ve been meaning to take a photo of this for years. It is precisely the kind of building that is a perfect example of an earlier time and most likely to be torn down or converted into something else. In this case, although the building is much older, the fact that it is called a garage makes me think of the 1950s, when very few Viennese had cars and quite often they parked them in neighborhood garages, which were more like workshops than more modern parking garages. Mary Stewart describes just such a place in Marseilles in her wonderful romantic thriller Madam, Will You Talk?

garage on hernalser hauptstrasse_01

garage on hernalser hauptstrasse_03

Freud’s Vienna

31 Aug

I’m not a compulsive seeker of Freud’s Vienna, but I do find articles and books interesting that address Freud’s complicated relationship with this city, so imagine my surprise to find the following lengthy article in the weekend edition of the International New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/31/travel/freuds-city-from-couch-to-cafes.html

Without doing any extensive fact-checking I can correct a few points:

– The university campus with the outdoor cafés Stephen Heyman writes about was, until about 15 years ago, the General Hospital. Freud would not have known it as a campus. The university as Freud knew it was centered around the building on the Ringstrasse, formerly on Dr-Karl-Lueger-Ring now on Universitätsring, a change of name rich in Viennese history.

– The “Narrenturm” on what is now the campus was revolutionary in its day (late 18th century) for its humane treatment of psychiatric patients. As I overheard one guide telling a group, many people who were treated in that facility would, before the “Narrenturm” existed, for example, have been burned at the stake as witches. Granted, psychiatric patients did have it somewhat easier after Freud and his pupils brought in their revolutionary theories, but it is all relative.

My favorite source for a quick fix of Freud’s Vienna is Frank Tallis. He is a practicing psychologist in the UK who has created a fascinating detective team of a Catholic detective inspector in the Viennese police and a Jewish pupil of Freud’s. Together they solve mysteries around opera singers and freemasons in turn-of-the-century Vienna, and when they are not solving crimes they are making music together. In the tradition of the day, the psychoanalyst is an accomplished amateur pianist and the police inspector has a lovely baritone voice.

See: http://www.franktallis.com/

“The Third Man”

30 Aug

Do you immediately hear the zither music when you read that title? If so, you can look forward to some interesting trivia (as well as one person’s reminiscences of a long relationship with the film).

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can discover a quintessential film about life in Vienna right after the war (WWII, as one must specify in this city which has so much history).

Ah, “The Third Man”. Black and white. Based on the book (do we really believe it was a novel?) by Graham Greene. Directed by Carol Reed. Produced by David O. Selznick. Starring (a still young and relatively slender) Orson Welles as the elusive Harry Lime. Starring still more the city of Vienna c. 1947–“bombed about a bit,” as the English narrator tells us in the beginning. World premier: 65 years ago, on 31 August 1949.

My mother showed it to me when it was clear that I was moving here. Above all, she wanted me to experience the landlady played by Hedwig Bleibtreu because “you might end up with just such a landlady”. (In broadest Viennese dialect she said things like, “Das ist ein anständiges Haus. Hier hat sogar früher ein Metternich verkehrt” Translation: “This is a respectable house. In the olden days, even a Metternich [member of an old aristocratic family] came to visit.”)

My mother had forgotten, though, a treasured line (one of my favorites) from another great Austrian actor, Paul Hörbinger. He played the concierge in the house where Harry Lime lived.  When tired of and scared by questions about Harry Lime’s death, he says he won’t answer any more and adds very gruffly indeed, “Und jetzt gehen Sie. Sonst verliere ich meinen Wiener Charme.” (“And now leave–otherwise I’ll forget my Viennese charm.”) Even writing it down like this makes me laugh.

There are far too many such moments too relate here, and I don’t want to ruin any surprises for those who haven’t experienced it yet. If you are interested in Vienna, I simply encourage you to see it. If you’re in Vienna, you can catch it in the late show on weekends at the Burg Kino. For the time being, I’ll simply pass on some facts that were printed in today’s Kurier.

Part of what people remember best are the music (by great good fortune done by a zither player, Anton Karas, at the last minute when the budget was more or less exhausted) and the chase scenes through the sewer system of Vienna. To this day, you can take “Third Man” walking tours of Vienna including, indeed, a look underneath the commendably clean streets of the city.

First bit of trivia, over 100,000 people have already taken that tour. I’m assuming the tour does not cover all 2,400 kilometers of that system, especially since only 25 meters were used for filming. This year Tom Cruise, who just finished filming in Vienna, took it.

“The Third Man” won the Academy Award(R) for “Best black-and-white picture” and was nominated for two others. Apparently in 2012, film critics named it the “Best British Film of All Time”.

That may have made worthwhile to Reed and Selznick that they apparently only slept two hours per night for the seven weeks they were filming on location. The Kurier reports that they kept themselves awake by taking a drug called dexedrine, better known as speed(!).

The unfortunate Anna Schmidt (Harry Lime’s paramour) was played by Alida Valli, an actress ironically descended from  an old Austro-Italian aristocratic family, possibly as important as the Metternichs ;-). She died in Rome in 2006 at the age of 84.

Five years ago was the first talk of a re-make, which supposedly would star Leonardo DiCaprio as Harry Lime and Tobey Maguire as Lime’s faithful friend Holly Martins. I’m not a fan of re-makes, but I think those two would be well cast, at least. Don’t know what they’ll do about the City of Vienna, though. Most of the bombed out bits have been re-built in the last 65 years.

The famous music was #1 on the U.S. charts for weeks in 1950. The next Austrian artist to achieve this feat was Falco in 1986 with “Rock Me Amadeus”.

To give you a bit of a taste, here is the opening scene, with fantastic running commentary from Major Calloway, the devastatingly attractive if unattainable British narrator, played by Trevor Howard:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fja9kwTl_jU

For people who have already seen the film, here is the unforgettable cuckoo clock speech:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WS-JcaPFzp4

With thanks to Bernhard Praschl of the Kurier, who wrote the article from which most of these tidbits were drawn.

The Zoo in Vienna

3 May

The zoo at Schönbrunn is the oldest in Europe and has won prizes for the quality of its animal care. Evidence of this is the high rate of reproduction among the animals. Here they are celebrating the cheetah cubs born on April 16th.:-)zoo_cheetah cubs_2014

 

Two exhibition openings in one week

30 Mar

This past week I was at two exhibition openings, in each case at a Bezirksmusem.
Bezirk means “district” and is similar to what the Parisians mean with arrondissement. Therefore the exhibitions were at the small museums that serve each district in Vienna by maintaining and displaying things that are unique to that district. Sometimes these museums are located in the same building as the administrative offices for the district, as in the 18th district where I was on Thursday evening, and sometimes not, as in the 8th district where I was last Sunday. Usually they also house an auditorium that can be rented for different kinds of performances and occasions.
The exhibitions were completely different from each other and yet both fit perfectly the idea of what a Bezirksmuseum is for.
Last Sunday was the Day of District Museums in Vienna. Each district museum (there are 23) was open for most of the day and had its own exhibition on a common topic. In this case, the theme was—not surprisingly—“Vienna 1914: The End of an Era”. (People in other parts of the world may also be aware that this year marks the 100th commemoration of the start of the First World War.)
Each district in Vienna also has a name. For the 8th district this is “Josefstadt,” which explains why the exhibition was entitled “Josefstadt from 1900 to 1914”. If anyone doubts that there was enough going on in those 14 years to warrant an exhibition, allow me to put their minds at rest. It was a time in Viennese history when tremendous expansion was going on. When it seemed clear that the threat of the Turks overrunning Vienna was truly over (around 1858) the city walls were torn down, the famous Ringstraße with its stunning buildings was created, and the satellite towns were incorporated into the city proper. Josefstadt was such a town.
This meant that there was suddenly much demand for housing outside the first district and many of the Baroque houses—too small and too uncomfortable to accommodate the growing and ever more demanding population—were torn down to make room for much larger and, above all, taller buildings. (Sound familiar?)
New streets were created. Several existing streets, like Lange Gasse, were lengthened to open up contact to the—are you ready for this?—9th district. All of this expansion required new transportation and so new streetcar lines and then the Stadtbahn (literally “city railway”, now the U6, running along the old outer line of defense against the Turks) were constructed.
All of this meant that many open spaces, where old maps suggest gardens and orchards that provided food for the district, were built over. The improved transportation no doubt made it possible to bring in what was needed from areas farther out.
The 8th district is considered a very desirable neighborhood, and it was no different back then. The famous painter, Gustav Klimt, had his studio in the courtyard of a house on Josefstädter Straße. He, too, was a victim of the expansion. That house was torn down to make room for a bigger house with no room for artists’ studios, and Klimt had to move to the 13th district (also very desirable so my sympathy is somewhat limited). Apparently, though, he was so attached to his studio in the 8th district that he continued to use the address professionally.
Some of the obvious parallels from that era to this were highlighted by the talk given by the elected administrative head of the district. She mentioned a planned building that will cut off a historic view from the 8th to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. She didn’t mention the building of what has been referred to as the “phantom underground line U5”, but that, too, apparently is on the way. Plus ça change, plus c’est le meme chose.
On Thursday in the 18th district the exhibition was of ceramic pieces with modest price tags done by two residents of the district. The artists, married to each other, were both self-taught and had earned their livings doing something else. The guests were mainly friends, family, and neighbors, one had the sense. Music was provided by two ladies, one on the violin and the other on the cello and both well over 60 at a guess, playing Haydn(?) with an encouraging blend of skill, musicality, and love—true amateurs, then, who probably also live in the 18th. When one had sufficiently explored the artwork one could wander through the 18th district’s version of “Vienna 1914: The End of an Era,” more rural than in the 8th and as such fitting to the character of the district, which lies farther out. To round off the evening, the artists’ son and his partner danced the Tango Argentino.
So you see that, too, was simply a typical gathering at a Bezirksmuseum