[February 29 2016]
“Would you like to avoid toll roads?”, asked the automated lady-voice and with a swiftly-pressed “Yes”, a winter road trip from Munich over Salzburg and on through to imperial Vienna began. The few rays of the mild December sun accompanied our crossing of Munich’s city borders and welcomed us into the periphery of Bavaria. Right beside the motorway, direction Salzburg, at a spot where nowhere and somewhere meet in unison, a lonely house calling the world to prayer caused us to decelerate and led us into nature’s magic.
Symphony Number 7 in A Major, OP 92, II. Allegretto. A deserted street, dusky light flashing through the towering trees, took us to a gate opening up to the pink vastness of the Chiemgau lake; the setting sun behind the surrounding mountain range reflected in its water.
Moving along in the dark, we found our way to Mozart’s birthplace. Divided by the river Salzach, the oldest city of Austria presented itself in the calm of the night. Monumental buildings rock over the city that is flooded by tourists day-in, day-out, only at peace when a dark veil falls over the picture-perfect scenery.
Occasional footsteps on cobble-stone lanes echo in the night and lead you to hiding-spots built into the caves of the hills dotted throughout the city. Salzburg’s inhabitants are a mix of young, artistic students and the older generation, dwelling in the acknowledgement of imminent retirement, whispering into the smoky air, big glasses of ‘Zwicklbier’ in front of them.
‘Wien bleibt Wien – und das geschieht ihm ganz recht’
(Vienna always remains Vienna – and that’s what the city deserves)
Vienna’s power has something divine, as if Sissy’s (or maybe Falco’s) ghost is following your every step through the marvellous streets of Austria’s Grande Dame. Monumental marble-figures with raised hands and heads guard her passages and gateways, silently observing your movements through the heart of the city.
The vibrant streets spill over with traditional cafés, where grumpy men in bow-ties serve Spritzer and cakes to young people sitting back-to-back with (their potential) grandparents. Instead of a clash, the opposing tides of the old and the new, the aristocratic and bohemian, the radical and the traditional flow into each other and entangle in a beautiful stream that carries you along for hours, and miles.
Let it take you from the mirroring twin-buildings of the National History and National Art Museum to the legendary Café Korb, where you can try a staring contest with Susanne Widl’s wild photographs while digging into their one and only, knockout apple strudel (with cream, please). Find yourself wandering into a hothouse full of palms for an early evening cocktail, before going on a treasure hunt for a bar hidden within the Volkstheater that transports you into a world of (Blue) Velvet.
Just beware of falling; falling for this city that spreads its magic slowly, yet delicately – tempting you to take another taste of its unique offerings over and over again.
Wien, nur Wien du kennst mich up, kennst mich down
Du kennst mich.
Text Kiki Jovanovic and photo Nicola Powell