Monday, August 8, 2011

Wien-er Town, or You Really Don't Have to Wait for the Green Man

We've spent the last two weeks in Vienna (Wien to the locals, and a source of endless amusement to my puerile sub-intellect), where Tanja's aunt has very kindly put us up in some luxury. I realised that this is the longest consecutive amount of time I've spent in the same city for at least a year. It's lucky then that Vienna is awesome, even if the people do have some little.. let's call them quirks, shall we?

But before I get to that - Vienna? Before I arrived here, I'd had "Vienna is the best city in the world and everything is better in Vienna" drilled into me by Tanja (a.k.a. Captain Map, a.k.a. Oatface Killer) for a month and I wanted to hate it on principle. It's unfortunate then that it's a really chilled, beautiful city. And the people that I've spent time with, mainly Tanja's family, are fantastic - they're welcoming, open, informed and love to have good debates. There's a cafe culture like Milan, an art culture like Paris* and a drinking culture like England. There are beautiful parks like Schonbrun and great bars and restaurants. Beer is good and cheap(-er than anywhere else we've been), bars stay open late and the coffee is good. There is an inherent love of pastries and sachertorte. English is the defacto second language and they're actually willing to speak it. I forgot how much easier it is when you can understand the language. Not that I can, but my translator / German teacher / intercessor has assisted me in negotiations and, in addition, I can now navigate the minefield of the purchase of essentials, i.e. coffee, weissbier and wifi, like a true Wien-er (hur hur). (Oh, and I found a pretty decent climbing gym close to the centre of town, which doesn't exactly hurt)

So, if it's so cool, why aren't I dropping everything to move here? Because, sweet baby jesus, there are so many rules and most of the population follow them to the letter, which bugs the hell out of me. For example, at crosswalks everyone waits for the little green man. Everyone. Out of some sort of demented principle. Even if there are no cars in sight and the the only coming in their direction is a guy on a bicycle pedalling, slowly, up a hill 400 metres away. They'll still wait. And give me the shifty eye when I walk across, all "Why the hell aren't you people walking?". I can only think that all of Vienna must shut down when there are power cuts and the traffic lights don't work. And then there was the first climbing gym I went to, where you weren't allowed to use chalk, or brush holds. I did both, of course, but the minute I brushed a hold, an employee walked downstairs from the front desk to tell me off. Apparently he'd seen me on their CCTV and decided to rush down to put me to rights. And of course you need CCTV in a climbing gym to stop people from brushing holds because the alternative, the collapse of civilisation, is unthinkable.

I don't get it - despite all the rules, there's lots of graffiti which means that either there are no rules against it (not very likely) or there are fellow nihilists like me who habitually disregard the rules and are contributing to the breakdown of society. It's still a cool town.

Oh, and we saw Bad Religion, Suicidal Tendencies and Strung Out last night. It was Bad Religion's 30 anniversary. They're almost as old as I am. Jesus. The show was incredible. I've written more about it here, but perhaps one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time was, after the gig when everyone was walking to the u-bahn station, a crowd of people who, 15 minutes previously had been shouting their allegiance to anarchy, were now waiting for the little green man before they crossed the road. And there wasn't a car in sight.

Punk rock, huh?

*Italy's art culture seems to be rooted in and often focused on the classics, while Paris and Vienna embrace all manner of art, from a largely horrific space-inspired exhibit (the only highlight being Kentridge's Journey to the Moon), to a Dali exhibit to Kunsthaus Wien and it's permanent Hundertwasser exhibit - the whole building is actually a Hundertwasser exhibit - to the Klimt, Schiele, Durer and Holbein exhibits currently running.

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