Sunday, 3 August 2014

Vienna Snapshots

It was a 10 day dream escape. Things were not going well with the world in those days. I came back to a place where one couldn't avoid TV and newspapers. And the images in them could make you wonder whether there is any meaning in all these; whether anything matters in human life. 

But for a short while Vienna gave me a chance to be lost fully in new sights, smells, sounds and tastes. There was even a heavy rain that drenched me while I hoped in vain that the biggest tree in the Botanical Garden would give me cover. There is a lot of history scattered everywhere in the city. All of us know that, and the guide books give you more information than necessary. I could sense a lot of romance in the air, and a bit of laziness and sadness too. And yes, music. The music that cannot be named. The kind that comes in search of you if you are ready to be silent.  

Life is a mix of the unexpectedly good and the terribly bad that lurks behind it. I wonder whether our sense of aesthetics remains the same all the time. But Vienna can never be considered an ordinary city. The beauty that has emerged out of its good and bad times cannot ever be compared to the gargantuan obscenities that many consider to be the modern buildings that impose on you a sense of immense wealth and power. I wonder whether cities like this can ever be made again, with an eye to details, a special care given to the way they compliment nature instead of overpowering it. It's just like the larger-than-life David Lean movies that are now becoming part of history. Those were made for a purpose, in times when they could afford it. But film industry can have good alternatives, even though it involves a lot of capital and focused effort by a lot of people. When it comes to the making of a city, the dimensions are unimaginably larger and unmanageable. We may have to be content with the crowded cities full of tastelessly constructed skyscrapers.

Oh, all that rant apart, let me come to the point. I went to Vienna to read a story at the 13th International Conference On The Short Story of English held at Juridicum, Vienna University. I will write about the conference in another post. Here I will share some snapshots. It was hard to choose these from the thousands of pictures clicked by me on my Samsung Note 3 and a Sony video camera that shoots not-too-bad stills, and by my sister on her Sony proper still camera.  None of these can be termed professional, though my video camera can be considered a semi-professional one, but only for its videos. Anyway, I felt like sharing some random selections. I tried to include those that left some impression in me, and not the regular ones that are similar to those you can find all over the Internet, if you google images for Vienna. Here they are...

I was in the right mood for people watching. The man was very busy on his phone. But at some point he noticed the two well dressed ladies staring at him. The shameless ones!

This guy kept staring at me for full five minutes. I kept staring back and then, believe me, he laughed. When I tried to click one more picture, he said "No, please! This is between you and me. I have a reputation to keep" and went back to his stare-self.

This is the place from where I got the idea in my head of taking a ride in a horse carriage, but I found out that it could be very expensive. And by the time I finally made up my mind, I had seen most of Central Vienna by walk. So I decided to go for a ride in the Central Cemetery, which was too vast and secluded to be seen in one day by walk. And the ride there was much cheaper too - a decision I did never regret.

Henry the gentle fiaker (horse-carriage driver) and his naughty (and lovely) horses took us for a 30 minutes ride inside the central cemetery. Henry told us about all the 'music guys, art guys, culture guys and literature guys' who are buried, or have memorial graves, there. That was a unique experience and there were some surprises too - hope to write about it soon.

The happiest man I met in town...

I don't know how much time I spent hunting for graffiti art in Vienna. But I forgot where I spotted this. 

This was in Wien Mitte/Landstra├če. I had to wait endlessly to get this shot with no people in front of it. It's a very crowded place, all times of the day. I just got lucky for some five seconds and I made it!

This is not exactly the result I wanted, though I tried a lot of positions to get it framed this way, including the one in which I almost lay down on the pavement, next to horse shit. 

I loved the way that cycle stood there, with so much confidence and attitude.

Oh, these big things, and these tiny things...

Yes, the bird was shooed away, successfully.

I didn't want to bore you with my 'lamp post series' but thought this was special.

We entered the Belvedere from some place near this.

You find these folks everywhere - they are quite good-natured, almost all the time.

This was a great story. I guess his name was Robert, and he wanted to run away from the place, from his mom, who was very energetic and witty the way she treated him.

You must agree that this is a great idea for a photo frame.

Well, I didn't follow the advice, and did even forget to buy a Klimt Kiss. 

Belvedere. You may get a better picture on wikipedia, but I felt this was an achievement for a photo taken on phone.
Cafe Central. I can write pages on that place. I felt very special sitting there. Perhaps the fact that it was the usual haunt of many famous guys like Trotsky and Freud mattered to me too, but to be honest, I was more drawn to the ambience, the way it is designed, the ceilings, the paintings, the music. And yes the coffee and the cakes. I wish I could be there again, right now.

I won't forget a comment made by my friend Mahesh, who works in Geneva and came to Vienna to see the place and to show me around a bit: "If we were here at a very young age, it would have been a dreamland. But why is it that we see all these lovely pastries only at a certain age when we have to remind ourselves to pull our tummy in whenever someone takes our snaps?". Hmm...that's a question and a half.

A place we loved and were not meant to see in detail. On both the occasions we tried to see it, rain threatened us, and in one case,  drenched us. 

Lovely lady.
 Mahesh was next to me when we saw this too. Each of us just let out a sigh this time.

 Saints for sale.

I never managed to get inside. Just stole a glance through the window. Well, don't look at that painting. I warned you!

Schonbrunn Palace. We went there two times. Once it was too dark to take a picture of the city from up there, and the second time it rained, so we couldn't even go up there. There is supposed to be a next time. 

 I loved to spy on them.

That was my first giant wheel ride, and I thought it was quite good. The view was great on all sides. 

 Another view, from the Giant Wheel.

I love anything that has two faces.

 A view of the Central Cemetery.

I had to go near them, they had to bow, and then I had to bow, and the lady had to give me a beautiful smile.

Not a great fan of Madam Tusaauds, but I confess I loved some parts of this one, especially the ones on the 'music guys', as Henry the gentle fiaker would call them.

I couldn't take my eyes off this. It seems there's so much more growing up for me to do.

 Another view, of the Botanical Garden.

Well, this is what they call the Giant Wheel there.

Thanks so much for your patience. That was just a bit of the Vienna I experienced. I hope to return with some more serious news in the next post, on the conference.


  1. Loved the write-up and the photos. Had passed through Vienna once, but could not spend time there. This persuades me to visit Vienna soon!

  2. I'm glad you liked it sir. Yes, Vienna is a place that demands your quality time. I had plans to take day trips to Bratislava and Budapest, but dropped that since I wanted more of Vienna this time. Hope you visit Vienna again.

  3. You have virtually taken me along with you; with such a rich collection serving as a feast to the eyes, you have with a fine balance of photos and fine commentary created a must-read for the traveler to Vienna. Hope to see this place in real some, along with you.

  4. Sure Zahid, let's hope we will get a chance to see it together some day. This is but just a fragment of the Vienna experience. There is a lot on the Internet about the things you can do there.

  5. Jose, your blog transported me back to Vienna and relive those memorable days spent with you and Minu exploring the city! I hope we get another opportunity again soon.

  6. Yes, I hope for the same Mahesh. We need to get together as often as we can!