Tag Archives: history

The view from the 2nd district to the 22nd

6 Dec


The photo didn’t quite turn out the way I wanted, but I found the view an interesting representation of some of the major changes in Vienna over the last 100 years or so with one of the original Gemeindebauten on the other side of the U2 tracks and the UN and everything that has grown up around it in the background. On the right you can catch a glimpse of the Danube.

NYTimes: ‘The Hare With Amber Eyes’ Comes Home

14 Nov

‘The Hare With Amber Eyes’ Comes Home https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/12/arts/design/hare-with-amber-eyes-vienna-edmund-de-waal.html

And I’m going to the exhibit at the Jewish Museum in Vienna on Sunday with the friend who recommended Edmund de Waal’s book. Lucky me. 🙂

Marathon world record in Vienna Prater

12 Oct

Eliud Kipchoge did it! He ran the classic marathon distance in under two hours (1:59:40). And he did it in the Prater in Vienna. I’ve never seen him so happy. 😁

https://sport.orf.at/stories/3054515/

Happy End – WIENzig

4 Oct

According to this, Emperor Josef II decreed that all plays had to have a happy ending. This meant (pretty major, if you ask me) re-writes for plays like “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet”. These happy endings became known in the German speaking world as “Viennese endings”. Apparently, Apfelstrudel and other delicacies weren’t enough to keep the population happy. 😉

https://www.wienzig.at/happy-end/

“Gruß Gott!”

29 Sep

“Gruß Gott!” is still a common greeting in Austria, or at least in Vienna. Today, reading an interview in the Kurier with Thomas Schäfer-Elmayer, owner of the number one dancing school in Vienna and the Emily Post certainly of Austria if not of the entire German-speaking world, I learned something of the history and associations of the phrase.

He didn’t feel the need to explain but I do: The phrase (word-for-word translation “Greet God!”) is short for “God greet you.” (“Grüß Sie / dich Gott!”) He told a story, though, in which he was speaking at a technical / vocational high school and a student called him on using it because the student considered the greeting too closely associated with the ÖVP or Austrian People’s Party (a.k.a. the Conservatives).

To his credit, Schäfer-Elmayer looked into this claim and discovered that between the world wars it truly was a sign to others that one belonged to the People’s Party. His research showed that during this time–with what amounted to a civil war being waged in the streets of  Vienna–the hate between the Social Democrats (the Reds) and the People’s Party (the Blacks) was so great, people chose to signal their allegiance immediately in how they greeted other people. “Grüß Gott” for the Conversatives; “Guten Tag” for the Social Democrats.

The civil servants, who sought to remain neutral, as good civil servants the world over do, adopted–Schäfer-Elmayer said–the term “Mahlzeit” (usually said before a meal and then taking the place of “Guten Appetit”). This is an interesting take on the greeting, as I always assumed “Mahlzeit” had a similar function as the French “Rebonjour”. In current usage, you say “Guten Morgen” when you first run into someone in your place of work–in the morning–and “Mahlzeit” afterwards to indicate that you remember greeting them the first time. (Apparently, in French companies it is a rather large faux pas to use “Bonjour” twice in one day to the same person. I read that it is tantamount to considering the person so inconsequential that you don’t remember greeting them the first time. Source: Schneider and Barsoux, “Managing across Cultures”)

From 1938 to 1945,  apparently, “Mahlzeit” took on another use. People who wished to avoid saying “Heil Hitler” said “Mahlzeit” instead. I hear my mother–born in Berlin and raised there during the Second World War–saying, “Berliners just kept saying ‘Guten Morgen’.” Her comment is supported by Christabel Bielenberg’s incomparable memoirs, which I am currently re-reading, of living in Berlin as an Englishwoman under the Nazis. Even more of an aside here: that Berliner habit got my grandmother–my German grandmother, that is, not my English grandmother (complicated family)–into trouble when she visited her parents in their small town in Thuringia.

And so a bit of culture and history on this Sunday.

For German speakers, links to the Kurier interview and to the Wikipedia entry on some of the uses of “Mahlzeit” below:

https://kurier.at/freizeit/thomas-schaefer-elmayer-gesteht-ich-mache-auch-viel-falsch/400613615

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahlzeit

 

Rooseveltplatz

26 Jul

What a concise reminder of bits of Viennese and Austrian history, all in one sign at the Institute for Social Sciences of the University of Vienna. They are located at what I have always known as Rooseveltplatz. Obviously, it has had different names over the years, reflecting eras and events in Austrian history.

I can guess at most (all) of them. Maximilian was Emperor Franz Josef’s brother, who had the nearby Votiv Church built. Freiheitsplatz (Freedom Square) probably expresses the hopes of the new democracy after the First World War. Dollfuss was the Austrian chancellor assassinated by National Socialists in July 1934. Hermann-Göring-Platz is sadly self-explanatory. And then Freiheitsplatz again until it was named after the U.S. President Roosevelt.

Interesting!

150 years of the Vienna State Opera

26 May

I’m watching the gala celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Wiener Staatsoper and remembering the moment I first saw it.

I was in a car driven by a school friend of my mother’s. It was about 10 o’clock at night. She had picked us up at the airport (thank goodness because in those days the airport bus didn’t run that late(!)) and was driving us to the student residence where we were staying.

We rounded the Ring at Hotel Bristol and suddenly there it was all lit up and glorious. In those days, I believed I was destined to sing on that stage and found the sight electrifying and deeply moving.

Over 30 years later, I must confess to a certain familiarity. I sometimes ride past on the tram without really looking at it, but tonight is giving me back some of that excitement.

To 150 more years at least!