Dear Atticus,

Firstly, I feel it’s my duty as an aunt to ensure your future popularity by teaching you to be funny. Whenever anyone includes Vienna in a sentence, you must shrug and respond with the words “means nothing to me”. Of course, your generation will likely be unaware of the reference to the power ballad by Ultravox and so it’s your duty as my nephew/niece to champion this track and keep the comedy alive.

So, this bank holiday I have been to Vienna. That was a test. If you didn’t make the joke go back to paragraph 1.

Vienna is a grand city with wide boulevards and stately buildings. A long line of emperors from the Hapsburg family saw it become a fashionable centre for art and music in the 18th century.


As far as cities go, it wasn’t one of my favourites, hard to say why, especially when they drink so much coffee and eat so much cake, you’d think we were meant for each other. There was something inaccessible about it that made me feel as though I couldn’t quite get ‘inside it’ and find out what made it tick.

There were however some highlights:

Hundertwasser Museum:

I discovered this artist a few years ago when I bought a poster of his work. How he was buried tells you a lot about how he lived, giving orders to be laid to rest on his land in New Zealand, no more than a foot deep with a tulip tree on top of him. He wanted to be reincarnated into nature and called for us to reclaim it in our daily lives, telling us ‘the straight line is godless’ and the museum, designed by him has an uneven, sloping floor to make his point.

Crowds of tourists with selfie sticks swarmed around the house he designed.

As with stars, Atticus, I stood back and looked. Tracing the irregular lines with my eyes and noting how he used mirrors and colour on the exterior. Photos are great mementoes, but don’t ever photograph anything without knowing what you’re capturing. A hideous epidemic of this trip was seeing people view beautiful things only through the lens of their phone.

The crowds generally don’t make it to the museum and exhibition of his work, so learning about his life and work is much more enjoyable than almost getting skewered by the selfie sticks on the street.


Tafelspitz

This is the authentic dish of the region and is quite simply gastronomic genius. I knew I was going to love it when a series of copper pans arrived at the table. I love a meal that needs equipment. The beef is boiled in soup (a broth with vegetables) for 4 hours. You then eat a bowl the soup to start usually with pancakes or dumplings sliced into it, followed by the beef, with a kind of horseradish bread sauce, potatoes and spinach. It’s delicious.

Alt Wien

I found this cafe on an app called ‘likealocal’ it didn’t disappoint. It’s a traditional Viennese coffee house with worn velvet furniture and music posters filling every inch of wall space. I pointed at something on the menu (I don’t speak German) and the waiter wandered off pausing to suck on a cigarette on his way to the coffee machine. He and his colleague continued to smoke while my eggs cooked just 3 feet away. So bad it was good.

What I learnt in Vienna

  • You will no doubt experiment when you enter your teenage years but I ask that you don’t smoke. Drinking can be equally bad for you but you will smell nicer.
  • The list of what Hundertwasser achieved in his life is listed in the museum and is truly humbling. Do what makes you happy and don’t leave it too late.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of pointing to communicate, but always learn thank you in a new language and adopt an apologetic smile.
  • Walk – cities need to be seen by foot to be understood
  • Throw away the schedule. Sometimes traipsing around a palace, no matter how impressive cannot compare to sitting in the sunshine by a river talking with someone you love.