As we entered Vienna in a taxi on Friday night, all the roads to our hotel were closed, and there was a massive police presence on the streets. “Not again,” we thought to ourselves, though it turned out there were no terrorists on the streets, just neo-Nazis having a ball. I’m not sure whether it was a dress up kind of ball, and I started imagining skinheads in animal masks and their porcine partners in ball-gowns and Dr. Martens, which isn’t the most pleasant apparition to conjure up in one’s mind’s eye. The area was cordoned off by riot police to apparently stop angry left wingers from infiltrating and giving them a good kicking. One presumes all the action took place earlier in the evening, because there was hide nor hair of the fascist scum once we dragged our bags in from the taxi.
The next day we went on something of an art nouveau pilgrimage, checking out the Secession, and other works of Klimt at the Belvedere, as well as the ornate Otto Wagner buildings and metro stations dotted around the Austrian capital. There were also visits paid to the Looshaus, which was a proto-modernist building that was the subject of much derision on its completion, the Sigmund Freud house, where he saw patients and devised the early phase of psychoanalysis, and the big wheel in The Third Man. It was fun wandering around such an elegant city, even if it hasn’t moved on much from the fin-de-siècle, or from some slightly dodgy attitudes, though Europe seems to be full of those right now.
It’s a strange thing that none of my friends live there. Many have moved to interesting outposts; Amsterdam, Reykjavik, Berlin, Budapest, Prague, and yet nobody really wants to live in Vienna, possibly because of things already mentioned. Moseying around its sumptuous streets and beholding its ostentation, I occasionally feel ashamed to be a white imperialist European, though to be fair the Hapsburg Empire was probably the silliest empire of them all, and it’s difficult to feel any affinity with those inbred royal clowns.
Zebra crossings are indicative of different cultures, and in Vienna everybody stands to attention and nobody dares jaywalk. In Paris, people tend to walk with a defiant strut of insouciance, ignoring the fact the lights have changed and there are cars considering whether to run them over or not. I’m a disorganised kind of fellow, so I enjoy a bit of indiscipline on the streets. I had the most beautiful time there with Claire, a late birthday present, but I was also pleased to get home when we did. Paris is often accused of being a museum city like Vienna, but it has at least moved into the 20th Century, if not quite the 21st just yet.Follow @jeres