Thursday, 5 April 2007


A city much more agreeable than the Ultravox dirge of the same name. But beset, for me, with similar technological difficulties. Just as the well-known number two (kept off the top slot by Joe Dolce's Shadduppa Your Face, as every self-respecting trivia fan knows) speeded up because the band had bought a duff drum machine, so my mchine failed to interact with any of the city's wireless connections. And the PC I had access to had a firewall which stopped you from getting online to anything.
More on Vienna soon, but some brief cultural notes from my first visit, which may well not prove useful should you find yourself here, as everyone will at some stage.
Food: surprisingly all right, with good raw materials available in the shops if you have access to a kitchen. But it is difficult to buy decent olives and chillies. When eating out, you have the choice of meat, meat or meat. Fast food is roast potatoes in rosemary and salt, followed by kaiserschmarrn - a cross between pancake and sponge, shredded, and with plum sauce. Despite the cafe culture, coffee is acceptable rather than excellent. Espresso is too often just strong black coffee.
Drink: I should think it's fantastic. But then I imagine all drink is fantastic.
Music: The radio plays forgotten - and rightly so, if you want my opinion, and if you don't, what are you doing here? find some other blog to lurk on, why don't you? - 1980s pop music. Jim Diamond, I ask you. There's a man there was never any excuse for. Cliff Richard's We Don't Talk Any More is particularly popular. I avoided Strauss (I like the other one, of course) and heard some Schubert. Mozart must look up from where he is now (there will only be Bach in heaven) and spit tacks at the amount of stuff you can buy with his name on it. You can get Mozart anything. Oven gloves, barbeque tools, watering cans, pedal bins, motorcycle trousers, flea spray, hairnets, mousetraps, nam pla, hard drives... if you can stick a bar or two of the MS of Eine Keine Nachtmusik on it, they sell it. All the teenagers are wearing Cradle of Filth T-shirts.
Real Art: The Kunsthistorische is outstanding. You could come for hours every day for months. Too many highlights. I really only managed to look at the non-Italian side, and didn't even attempt anything but the pictures.
Modern Art: MuMoK is like a send-up of modern art galleries, because you can see they really believe in it (I never feel Tate Modern does). Still, the Klein exhibition is very groovy, and IKB is a lovely colour. Every single person, including the gallery staff, looks like a modern architect, or Michael Nyman, and wears black Japanese suits and spectacles which show how serious they are. I know I did. I almost believed I was trendy for about half an hour, until I remembered that I don't believe in any of that stuff, and think the people who do are preposterous. They are preposterous, of course.
There are all these films of modern artists telling you how they are challenging the boundaries, and there is more conformity to a set idea of design, style and received nostrums than any other area of human thought one can conceive of. And it can be well done and seductive, until you remember that any sane person would swap the whole lot of it for anything doodled on the back of a cigarette packet (or contemporary equivalent) by, say, Hans Memling.
Books: In homage to Graham Greene, I went to look at the Ferris Wheel built by an Englishman where Orson Welles improvised the bit about cuckoo clocks, which don't come from Switzerland, or Austria. It looks like some very unsafe wooden Portakabins (Portakabin is a registered trade mark, you know, and these resembled temporary buildings which are probably not by Portakabin, so I expect a letter from their very diligent solicitors soon) stuck to a giant wheel. My daughter said: "Look, they've got an Eye." So at least London's branding of its wheel has registered with the young.
Architecture: lovely, except Karl Marx-hof; as ugly as he deserves. The Freud museum is empty, because it's all in Hampstead. But he has a playpark, where the sandpit ruins your shoes.
Next, Pressburg, or Bratislava, or Pozony, depending on where you're from.