Tag Archives: history

Praterwal wird ins Wien Museum gehoben

20 Jul


Here is a nice, light story in a world full of heavy news. A 10-meter whale sculpture that stood in front of a Gasthaus (kind of restaurant), zum Walfisch, in the Prater is being moved to the Wien Museum now that the restaurant it represented is no longer there. It is so big that it is being moved in now while the renovations are still ongoing. Eventually it will be hung from the ceiling.

More about this later, I hope, but now I have to go to work. The curse of the drinking classes, as my father loved to quip, possibly quoting George Bernard Shaw. Curse of the writing classes is more like it! 😉

If you’re interested in the renovation of the Wien Museum, I mentioned it in this post: https://ecbinvienna.com/2019/01/10/wien-museum-vienna-museum/

Lillehammer 1994

2 Apr

Today’s Kurier has an interview with Oksana Baiul, the 1994 Ukrainian gold medalist in women’s figure-skating. (She beat Nancy Kerrigan in the final seconds of her routine, as I remember it, by adding a rotation to a jump.)

Just seeing her name and the photo of her with her pink costume and frizzy 1980s hairstyle reminded me of how, in those days, no one except Ukrainians knew the Ukrainian anthem. The way I remember it, the award ceremony was delayed because they were searching backstage for the music so the anthem could be played. In the interview, Baiul says it was because the organizers couldn’t find a Ukrainian flag.

We are now all familiar with the anthem and the flag. I wish it for different reasons.

April 1st – a significant date for both the last emperor and the last empress of Austria

1 Apr

I always check the ORF headlines on my phone at breakfast. This morning I saw that today is the 100th anniversary of the death of Karl I of Austria — the Habsburg who had the thankless task of assuming the throne after the almost 68-year reign of Franz Josef I. He was ill-prepared, not really having expected to ascend to the throne (Crown Prince Rudolf shot himself, Franz Ferdinand made a morganatic marriage and was, of course, later assassinated in Sarajevo, and Karl’s father died young) and took on the role in the middle of a war he had mixed feelings about. One could say that at least he only had to do the job for two years, from 1916 to 1918 when Austria became a republic, but I suspect he didn’t see it that way.

Reading this reminded me that I was a part of the crowd at Stephansplatz that gathered to see Empress Zita’s funeral procession. What I had forgotten was that this was on 1 April 1989. What I still remember is that I got a very good place to stand because there was an incredible downpour just as I was walking to Stephansplatz, which, I suspect, sent the people who were already gathered there scurrying for cover. I sheltered in the doorway of a shop until the worst was over and then made my way to the square and took up a spot near the doors to St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the front row.

What particularly overwhelmed me as the procession went by was the weight of history summed up in this last imperial funeral in Austria. The funeral coach had already become a museum piece and I had seen it in the Wagenburg (Imperial Carriage Museum) at Schönbrunn. The enormous black horses with their stiff black plumes were like something out of Victorian England, as were the uniforms worn by the staff members of the City of Vienna undertakers. The crowd stretched away from Stephansplatz up Kärntner Straße and off along the Graben, where people hoped to catch a glimpse of the procession as Zita was conveyed from the Cathedral to the Kapuzinergruft, where the Habsburgs are interred in their family vault. The Habsburgs are laid out chronologically and so it happens that Zita’s coffin stands on a pedestal next to that of Franz Josef I. Because of history and human frailty, her husband’s grave is still (and probably now will remain) at Funchal in Madeira, although in the manner of the Habsburgs his heart lies elsewhere (in Switzerland).

What a privilege it was to be able to see that bit of history. Something I will never forget.

If you would like more information, here are two pages from the ORF website, with videos.

About Karl I: https://orf.at/stories/3256669/

On Zita’s funeral: https://tvthek.orf.at/history/Persoenlichkeiten/9501729/Begraebnis-von-Kaiserin-Zita/9573009

A peace tree

27 Mar
In front of a school in the 18th district

As spring comes in full force to Vienna we continue to keep our Ukrainian neighbors in our hearts as the war rages on. Schoolchildren in the 18th district were inspired to express their desire for peace and their solidarity with Ukraine in this way.

With many thanks to my friend Petra for the photo.

Heading into the 4th week

17 Mar

A number of years ago, I started a gratitude practice I call my gratitude session. I sit at my breakfast table and, before I take a bite or sip, I get into a slightly meditative state and ask myself: What am I especially grateful for right now?

Often the answer is simple and quick — the sunshine, the flowers in the park, my central heating, or the food on my table. Sometimes it takes longer and says more, like in 2015 when I had been helping distribute food to largely Syrian refugees at Westbahnhof. Then it was that I have some control over my life.

The last few days the answer has been the same: that I am still here in this city I love, that I can still practice my profession and earn a living, and, today, that I can still meet friends for a drink in the evening.


10 Mar

A few days ago, I heard that the friend’s sister mentioned in my post from February 24 (link below) and her charges, co-workers, two cats and a dog had made it safely to Poland and will be relocated to Germany.

I haven’t seen my Ukrainian neighbor in the last week.

I have once again been amazed at how wonderful the “children” in my life are. When I, at my wits’ end, asked the older of my Viennese nieces what she wanted for her (29th — you see why “children” is in quotation marks) birthday, she asked me to donate to Neighbor in Need, a very reputable Austrian charitable organization that did wonders in the Balkan war.

And so we stumble into the third week of war in the Ukraine.



3 Mar

Every morning I send an e-mail to my mother in the U.S.A. to check in. Sometimes I literally just write “Checking in.” Below is today’s mail.

Boy, it’s been a long week. Still, in terms of acquiring business it hasn’t been bad. Whether things will actually take place given that Austria is already seeing the impact of the war is another question. (The BMW plant — in Steyr, I think — has cut production because they can’t get parts from Ukraine and one Russian bank with offices in Vienna has already gone bankrupt.) C. has also advised stocking up on sunflower products, like oil, because they come almost entirely from Ukraine. 

I saw my Ukrainian neighbor on Alser Straße yesterday. She was on her way to the university. How much she will be able to concentrate is anyone’s guess. She did say her parents had left Kyiv and moved west. With the news this morning that may turn out not to have helped.

For me, the war is pretty much all present. I’m getting on with what needs to be done, but it is always there. You know what this feels like, I know.

Sending very much love 

Ukraine’s First Lady takes a stand

2 Mar

Crying again and then picking myself up again.



24 Feb

This morning I awoke to beautiful sunshine in Vienna and about 3°C — a perfect late winter day. As always, I went out with Maylo without checking my phone. We enjoyed our walk.

Then at breakfast I checked the headlines. The NYT: Russia attacks Ukraine. ORF: Russland greift Ukraine an. Both sites with videos of the shelling. And I realize that Europe is once again at war. I think of a workshop participant on Tuesday who was joining us from Moscow and felt it necessary to emphasize that many Russians do not want war. I think of a neighbor, a student at the University of Vienna, who comes from Ukraine and whose family who is still there. I think of the wonderful members of a Ukrainian choir who passed through Vienna on their way to a church choir festival in Switzerland in the heady, hopeful days of the early 1990s. I think of a U.S. American friend’s sister who has lived in Kyiv for many years working for an organization that takes care of orphans, who has chosen to stay and continue her work. I think of them all and can hardly type this for the tears running down my face.

When I can, I will wipe my tears and will carry on — as my parents did growing up in Germany and England respectively in the Second World War and my grandparents before them in the First World War, and as so many generations have and so many people around the world throughout time. No doubt I will cry again, and wipe my tears again, and carry on again. And in the meantime I will leave sunflowers for my neighbor to let her know that someone in our house has noticed and cares, and I will donate to Caritas for humanitarian aid to the Ukraine, and I will sit and try to maintain my own peace so that I do not contribute to the violence of this world.

I have loved and tried to be guided by this quotation below from Etty Hillesum for years. Now more than ever.

“Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.”

If she could write that from the despair of a concentration camp, surely I can begin, at least begin, to do it surrounded by the beauty of a perfect late winter day in Vienna.

Third jab

16 Dec

And in Stephansdom no less, where you don’t need an appointment.

Beyond the fact that I didn’t need an appointment, why did I choose to go to Stephansdom for my vaccination? For romantic reasons. I have never forgotten the tour I took of the catacombs very early on in my Vienna days. There are bones of Bubonic plague victims in those catacombs and I am slowly coming to accept that COVID-19 is our plague.

As a bonus to that historical connection and a beautiful setting in which to wait, an Advent meditation was starting just as I was leaving. Simple and meaningful, with a small choir and short bursts of organ music and a homily on finding room at the inn.

Stephansdom has survived plagues (and wars and reformations) and we shall, too.

The way home