Sunday, 17 May 2015

Hello Vienna!

Normally the most bedazzling thing in Vienna is the tiled roof of St Stephen's Cathedral in the city's old town.

But this week, the arrival of Eurovision's Class of 2015 will temporarily cast a shadow on the city's classic treasures.

And the contrast couldn't be more acute.

In the city of Mozart and Beethoven, elegant horse parades at the Spanish Riding School, and Viennese balls, this week it will all be about wind machines, costume reveals and key changes.

Eurovision has arrived in Vienna following the triumph of bearded drag queen Conchitta at last year's competition.   Conchitta's rise to fame shows there's more to Austria than lederhosen and Blue Danube.

While some European cities do "crumbling chic", Vienna's sparkling old buildings show no signs of wear and tear after centuries of existence.

Schonnbrunn Palace, the former imperial summer residence, is sprawling Austrian style at its best. 

It's also a great example of the opulent excess that must have inspired revolutionary thoughts among the proletariat. 

Schonnbrunn Palace

But it's the little things I remember most about my first visit to Vienna.  

Not the least of which was the fact that my luggage didn't arrive with me from Australia, forcing me to wander the streets among the stylish Viennese in the same clothes I had spent the past 30 hours in on the plane.

In response, I ate my feelings at one of the city's cacophony of cafes, most of which purport to have invented the sachertorte (a chocolate cake regarded as one of Vienna's culinary specialities). 

Vienna's sweet delights

Then seeking to repent for my sugary sins, I headed for St Stephen's Cathedral, which comes complete with tombs, catacombs and crypts.

The Habsburg tombs in the Cathedral's crypt
Gothic sculptor Anton Pilgram's self portrait in the cathedral's wall
It has all the usual cathedral trimmings, but I'm particularly taken by the well-equipped "Dom Shop" selling all sorts of christian souvenirs.   

My favourite is a cookbook by Father Michael - watch out Nigella!

Confess in any language

Father Michael is unlikely to make an appearance at this week's Eurovision (though maybe he's part of the Final's halftime show?), but Vienna will take pride of place as host city.

Only time will tell, but I wonder how this year's crop of Eurovision pop will sit in the city renowned for classical music.