Sunday, September 1, 2013
After only a few hours in this curious city, I think I can safely pass on one thing: Vienna is, if nothing else, a city utterly unafraid to be itself.
Some cities shy away from the stereotypes we hold about them - New Yorkers go out of their way to be friendly; Washingtonians insist their city is lively and cosmopolitan. Not Vienna. The Viennese really do throng the Ringstrasse on a weekend afternoon; people do sit in cafés eating strudel and drinking coffee mit Schlag. Mozart is everywhere, as are waltzes; elderly ladies charge down narrow sidestreets in heavy tweed suits and heavier stockings that appear to be made of some form of tweed themselves. People smoke.
Even the art - especially the art - is entirely of the place. Here, for example, we have a lovely portrait of someone who could be nothing but a Hapsburg, and in the context of all the generations of his relatives gathered at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, he's one of the better-looking ones.
I think I like it, but I can easily see why one might not. All that being oneself is fine, but at various times in history, that self has not been terribly pleasant, and I suspect that the Viennese are not the most self-assessing sorts when it comes to some things (paradoxical, when you think about it, since it's also the home of psychoanalysis...).
Thanks to all who've sent in thoughts, in comments and by e-mail, of what to do here; I've already spotted the Dorotheum (closed, alas, on a Sunday afternoon, but I'll be back), and when I wrap up here I'm off to find a little boite recommended by a Gentle Reader. I'm hoping for a little pork, a glass of local wine, and some first-rate people-watching - wish me luck!