27 August 2010
'Glamour and easy charm...'Vienna. Day off.
Given last night's bloodbath, this morning was a complete write off, as was most of the afternoon. On surfacing, I wandered out to my default cafÃ©, the very appropriately named 'Kleines CafÃ©' on Franziskanerplatz where you can get an omelette and read the papers any time of day.
I love this city, though it took me a long time to really discover the place. The truth is that (with the possible exception of the stadium we're playing on Monday) all rock venues in Vienna are crap. Small, medium or large, the places where bands play are just rubbish, so coming here on rock tours for years was never much fun. The only time that was really promising was when I came to play the Opera House with R.E.M. Vienna Opera House is one of the world greats, so the prospect of doing a gig there was very exciting. Imagine our disappointment then to discover on arrival that the band was to play in front of the iron curtain on the stage apron and we were not allowed on the actual stage at all.
Added to this, before the introduction of the Euro, Vienna used to be a particularly expensive city (post-Euro, everywhere is expensive...) so all in all the place did little to win my heart during my rock tour visits.
All that changed about five or six years ago when I came to Vienna to work on a musical (Barbarella - Das Sexy Space Musikal) with Dave Stewart of Eurythmics fame. I lived here for about three months in total, from December to February, with the place covered in thick snow for much of the time. Living in a city obviously presents more bonding opportunity than on a one-night-stand and Vienna eventually won me over entirely. Aside from its movie-set old-world charm, the secret is that it's really a city for grown-ups. They still take their longstanding coffee shop culture very seriously and it's perfectly acceptable to hole up in one of these places for the whole day and read the papers. I'm sure there must be a smattering of youth culture somewhere in Vienna, but if so it's sufficiently well buried so as not to disturb the status quo. Arts funding is enormous so the cultural programmes are extraordinary, plus you have history and scenery in an extremely cosmopolitan city, so 'glamour and easy charm' is still here to be found.
Having managed a brief excursion, I went back to lie down for a while before meeting a friend for the evening. We headed out for dinner and ended up taking a lengthy stroll through this most beautiful of cities. The oldest part of town (the '1st District') is enclosed by the 5km-long Ringstrasse and centred on the cathedral. Incredibly over-the-top baroque buildings line narrow streets, making the place stupidly atmospheric and a great place for a late night walk. We ended up hiking around half the perimeter of the Ringstrasse, so I was fit to drop by the time I got to bed.