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Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts to Rock Me Amadeus

“In Berlin so many people are out walking, that you meet up with no one. In Vienna you meet up with so many people that no one is out walking.” – Karl Kraus (In Berlin gehen so viele Leute, dass man keinen trifft. In Wien trifft man so viele Leute, dass keine geht)

1)      Don’t mix up Australia and Austria

Don’t even joke about it. The joke’s just old. Older than a worn out record. Granted – if you made it the whole way here, you must realize you won’t be finding any koalas hanging out in the chestnut trees along Prater Allee. That being said, if you expect to receive any kind of mailing while here, be sure to advise the sender to write “EUROPE” in big bold letters across the bottom of the envelope. The kangaroo image Australian postal employees stamp onto Austrian mail that has detoured its way Downunder might be adorable evidence of the Aussie sense of humor but is little consolation for the extra month you will have to wait till your mail finally arrives.

 2)      Don’t Call Austrians Germans

Don’t. I’m not kidding. Austrians are touchy about this for many reasons but I think it is also similar to Canadians who are mistaken for US Americans and New Zealanders who are mistaken for Australians. It’s that big neighbor complex. Austrians speak Austrian German and would never be caught dead humming a hymn honoring Kaiser Wilhelm. They seem to feel an affinity towards that Bavarians but I suspect it has something to do with the shared love of Lederhosen.

Salzburg - Mozart's Birthplace

Salzburg – Mozart’s Birthplace

3)      Do Feel Free to Austrianize Beethoven 

Pasqualatihaus - Beethoven Residence in Vienna's 1st District

Pasqualatihaus – Beethoven Residence in Vienna’s 1st District

Beethoven was born in 1770 in Bonn, Germany but came to Austria to study under Mozart at age 17 but had to leave before he could begin his tutoring only to return in 1792 (aged 21) to study under Haydn. He then stayed in Vienna until he died in 1827. In Vienna, you can visit places he lived, played concerts, and hung out. Though he moved about 70 times while in Vienna to different places in the city, he considered Austria his “Wahlheimat” (chosen homeland). And between you and me, Mozart’s Austrian citizenship is disputable because he was from Salzburg, which was actually the independent Archbishopric of Salzburg from his birth 1756 until his death in 1791. But I strongly advise you to keep this our little secret. No one has to know. What good would it do to bring it up?

 4)      Don’t confuse the Von Trapps with the Brady Bunch

Yes, you might go to Mondsee and do the Sound of Music tour. And if you are feeling romantic, book yourself a room in Villa Trapp if you can navigate the supposedly English version of the their website that only appears in German and has no prices. Austrians might love raindrops on roses, Edelweis and Schnitzel but they won’t break out in a round of Do-Re-Mi at the first sight of the Untersberg Mountain. Most Austrians will have never seen The Sound of Music nor will they know anything about it. So if the Alps inspire you, Climb Every Mountain till your heart’s content but don’t expect the Austrians to join you in harmony.

 5)      Do mention Vienna’s High Quality of Life

Vienna Museum of Natural History

Vienna Museum of Natural History

In 2014, for the fifth consecutive year (!), Vienna ranked the world’s number one most livable city. Yeap! Number one, not two, not three, not four! And Viennese are rather humble about this but will definitely appreciate your knowing it. http://www.cnbc.com/id/101423558. Perhaps it is a good little secret like the second district and Karmelitermarkt once used to be.

 6)      Do mention soccer and beloved Austrian player, David Alaba

“How about that soccer game.” He plays as defender for Bayern, Munich, and the Austrian national soccer team. His charming smile is bound to disarm you just like his attacking prowess does his opponents. He stars on billboards, in commercials and all over the place. The Austrians LOVE their Alaba. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Alaba And if you know Hans Krankl and Cordoba, then you are really good and the Austrians will soon be buying you the beers.

 7)      Do Know the Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra

Famous for a reason. The Austrians are understandably proud of their Viennese musicians. And in a place that has served as the breeding ground for centuries of musical talents, one would expect nothing less. Viennese audiences are notorious for their strict standards. Artistic pieces celebrated the world over often prove just good enough for the Viennese audience. And every New Year’s the Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra rings in the New Year to a sold out house at the Musikverein in Vienna. Brush up on your concert facts and impress your country hosts: https://www.wienerphilharmoniker.at/new-years-concert/history

 8)      Do know your coffee

Melange in Kleines Cafe, Vienna, Franziskanerplatz

Melange in Kleines Cafe, Vienna, Franziskanerplatz

This means do not even attempt to order a decaffeinated coffee in the world capital of coffeehouses. And should you eye a Starbucks, that is NOT a traditional Viennese coffeehouse. They have cool souvenir mugs and great chocolate chip cookies but are incomparable to the centuries old Viennese institution. Check out more on my blog post on Viennese coffeehouses.

 9)      Do smile at their Fipsis

Viennese love their dogs. Smile at their dog as you pass by and I guarantee the owner will smile back at you. Smile at the owner and the chance of a return smile reduces to about 50/50. Trust me on this. And if you want to engage Viennese in a conservation or meet the locals, try taking a dog for a walk. Come to think of it, maybe the city should offer rent-a-dogs to increase chance encounters between visitors and locals.

 10)   When you see someone you know, stop, say hello and shake hands

Austrians are more formal than a pass and greet though this is starting to ease up a little. So if you see someone you know, you actually walk up to them, shake their hand and greet them. Simply ducking your head or waving can be construed as rude. And if an Austrian greets in the breakfast room of a hotel or an elevator please do yourself a favor and greet them back loud and clear. They get annoyed when these friendly overtones are ignored. And rightly so. That being said, neighbors you can simply greet but be sure to actually do so. So remember, when you

Leopoldsberg - Vienna

Leopoldsberg – Vienna – the perfect place of a Sunday walk

get into an elevator at a smaller office or hotel, it is not uncommon to greet the others in the elevator and also say good-bye as you leave. The tricky part is knowing when to do so and when not. If you notice others doing it, then do it too. In the countryside, if at a small shop, greet when you go in and say good-bye as you leave. Always err on the side of politeness.

And if all else fails, invite them for a Grüner Vetliner (and be sure it’s Austrian – probably Wachau and a “young” wine).

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Saints, Souls, Death and the Viennese – 1 Nov Allerheiligen

Angel Statue in St. Marx Cemetery in Vienna

Angel Statue in St. Marx Cemetery in Vienna

Der Tod muss ein Wiener sein…” (Death must be Viennese)
(Der Tod: Das muss ein Wiener sein , song title of 1969 song by Georg Kreisler)

On All Saints’ Day (November 1)  and All Souls’ Day (November 2) the Viennese pilgrim to the cemeteries to light candles and pray for those who have passed (sometimes hoping to help them out of purgatory (or in German Fegefeuer sweeping fire)).

You don’t have to be here long to recognize that the Viennese have a special relationship with death. “Ein schönen Leich” (a beautiful corpse/ funeral) is as Viennese as the folk songs that cheerfully, acceptingly, ironically lament the inevitable fate of every human. And no blog about Vienna would be truly complete without mentioning death.

YOU CAN RING MY BELL , RING MY BELL…

THE FUNERAL MUSEUM OF VIENNA (Bestattungsmuseum)

For years this museum was listed as one of Vienna’s fun sites to see as in, “Hey, after we visit the Fool’s Tower (Narrenturm), let’s hit the Funeral Museum! Won’t that be fun!” Well, it was indeed interesting but unfortunately, the museum is closed until its reopening in September 2014 at Vienna’s Central Cemetery – a very fitting new home.

Church of Saint Charles Borromew in VIenna's Central Cemetery

Church of Saint Charles Borromew in Vienna’s Central Cemetery

An interactive site at the museum was a bell with a long string attached to corpses in coffins. If someone was buried alive, he or she could theoretically ring the bell signaling the heroic funeral workers to spring to the rescue. The reality was, however, that due to postmortem spasms and unfortunate corpse positions, the bells rang non-stop and the heroic funeral workers not-so-heroically ignored them.

Which is probably why an Austrian playwright who was sometimes dubbed the “Austrian Shakespeare”, Johann Nestroy, feared being buried alive so much that he spent much of his last will and testament giving very specific instructions about measures he wanted taken to prevent this possibility. “The only thing I fear about death, is the idea that I could possibly be buried alive.” (January 31, 1861) Nestroy was generally a pretty funny guy but it seems he took being buried alive very seriously.

CEMETERY OF THE NAMELESS (Friedhof der Namenlosen)

“The goal of all life is death.”  – Sigmund Freud

Tombstone "Wiedersehen" in St. Maarx Cemetery Vienna

Tombstone “Wiedersehen” in St. Marx Cemetery Vienna

Vienna boasts over 40 Roman-Catholic cemeteries but those don’t do much good for the “weary of lifers” (Lebensmüde) who have plunged to their untimely deaths into the murky waters of the Danube.  For many of those and others who have died namelessly and whose bodies have washed ashore, there’s the Cemetery of the Nameless. Most of the graves state simply “Unknown” or “Nameless.” Every year in November, the cemetery honors those who have never been recovered and whose remains still grace the Danube floor by launching a wreath down the the Danube towards the Black Sea. This year the ceremony will take place on Sunday, November 10, at 2 pm – gathering at the restaurant by the cemetery

VIENNESE LOVE STATUS EVEN IN DEATH

Helmut Qualtinger Grave in Central Cemetery in Vienna

The honor grave of Austrian musical, theater and comedic legend, Helmut Qualtinger, at Central Cemetery in Vienna

Honorary graves were created in the Central Cemetery to up the prestige of the cemetery in the late 1800s a few years after the cemetery’s creation. Viennese are notorious for their initial skepticism to all that is new and in a brilliant 19th century PR move to increase the new cemetery’s popularity, the city of Vienna moved  most of its prominent dead to “Honor Graves.” These include Brahms, Beethoven and Schubert – graves still popular today. Vienna grants the selected few Honor Graves for the life of the cemetery and assumes the costs for caring for the graves. In an interview in Austrian National Television, (ORF – link below) a reporter asks the man in charge of the grave honor what one has to do get an Honor Grave. His response? “Well, it’s not a very desirable achievement since the first thing you have to do is die.”

BUT DEATH MAKES NO DISTINCTIONS AND THREE TIMES A CHARM – EVEN WHEN YOU’RE DEAD (July 2011, Habsburg and the last Austrian royal funeral)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Grave at St. Marx Cemetery in Vienna

Mozart’s Grave in St. Marx Cemetery in Vienna

“Death as the true best friend of man.” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Since 1633, Austrian royalty has been buried in the Imperial Crypt under the Capuchin Church in Vienna. Some body parts, however, such as the hearts and intestines are buried elsewhere. Currently over 145 members of the House of Habsburg have their last resting place in the Imperial Crypt. When Otto von Habsburg passed in July 2011, a traditional royal funeral was held with all the pomp and circumstance and is said to be the last time an Austrian royal will ever be buried in the Imperial Crypt.

Open Sesame – watch the link above (July 2011) and here’s what you’re witnessing:

Schubert's Tombstone at the Central Cemetery in Vienna

Schubert’s Tombstone at the Central Cemetery in Vienna

A Herald in a black suit leads the casket procession through the heart of old Vienna up to the Capuchin Church. The Herald knocks upon the iron gates with his long black cane. A Capuchin monk, whose brethren have held watch over the crypt since the 1600s, asks: “Who demands entry?”

After hundreds of years, you would think someone would have written down the right answer but nein. In attempts one and two, the Herald iterates an exhausting list of the the dead royal’s titles and accomplishments. Nearly three whole minutes. But the monks, being monks, are stoic and patient and simply respond, “Don’t know ’em.” (In all fairness to the monks, this seems a very benevolent response. After almost 4 centuries of conducting this ritual, I’d be a bit more testy with such slow students. Or maybe I’d paint a cheat sheet on the iron gate.)

Finally, upon the third attempt, eureka. The Herald responds, “Otto, a sinful mortal.”

Bingo! The gates open and the monks respond: “So then come inside.” (Monkese for, “Why didn’t you say so in the first place?”)

ST. MARX CEMETERY

“The biggest effort in life is not getting accustomed to death.” – Elias Canetti

Angel on Tombstone at St. Marx's Cemetery

Angel on Tombstone at St. Marx’s Cemetery

I had never been to St. Marx and always wanted to go so this past weekend I went. Finally I managed to visit the place where Mozart’s bones are said to be buried somewhere in a mass grave. And I was not disappointed. Again, just when I thought I knew every single one of her little secrets, Vienna sprung a beauty on me. A wonderful surprise and a trip I highly recommend. I love this place. (Take bus 74A from the road that passes in front of Wien Mitte/ Landstrasse (on the U4 and U3 lines) to the station Hofmannsthalgasse – just a short hop and skip from there.)

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Central Cemetery, Vienna, one of the biggest cemetery's in all of Europe

Central Cemetery, Vienna, one of the biggest cemetery’s in all of Europe

Cross marking Austrian Artist, Max Weiler's burial place, Central Cemetery

Cross marking Austrian Artist, Max Weiler’s burial place, Central Cemetery

Tombstone of Johannes Brahms in Vienna's Central Cemetery

Tombstone of Johannes Brahms in Vienna’s Central Cemetery

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