By Antonio Malara
The trip to Vienna was the third stage of a ten-day tour that took me, in June 2015, to visit first Berlin and then Prague. And it is precisely from the Czech capital that together with my travel partner, we moved for two and a half days to visit Vienna. This goal was strongly desired by me even if my friend didn’t believe it could be done so easily. In reality, the idea for this trip was given to me by a girl I followed on a social network. She repeatedly traveled between Prague and Vienna by train, I contacted her and asked for some tips about that type of itinerary so I could better organize my plan.
Vienna was another city that had intrigued me after seeing a movie and it’s not the first time that I have visited a place suggested by the magic of cinema. The fact is that after watching “The Third Man”, I had an incredible desire to go and see the Austrian capital, to understand what was left of what I had seen in a movie which had a unique atmosphere. In reality, the visit seemed like a tour of the locations of the movie because I had found the most important ones on Google Maps and it was from those that I wanted to start visiting the city.
We left Prague station at around 8:30 AM and the journey would take 4 hours. Traveling by train, even if longer, is still more practical; you could arrive at the station just before the train left and normally the destination is always in the city center. Of the whole trip I only remember when we stopped at Brno station and then a long time spent chatting with a girl from another continent who wanted to have a relationship with me at all costs! We arrived in Vienna shortly after 1 PM and once I got off the train I couldn't help but be amazed by the station's design. An ultramodern terminal, where the track cover was not only futuristic but also gave a sense of "muscular". Inside, colorful monitors gave all the necessary information. But what struck me most was the level below the tracks; practically a huge mall with a modern design. Although it seemed to be in a shopping center, the terminal was structured in such a way as to be able to find the platforms very easily.
We took the metro and in a few stops we arrived in Stephanplatz, our hotel was nearby and we found it immediately. The first pleasant surprise I had immediately after entering the room, it overlooked Neuer Markt, a square that appeared in the film "The Third Man".
Also in Wien there was the Vapiano restaurant chain I mentioned in my post on Berlin, after check-in, at 2 PM we immediately headed there for lunch with a good plate of spaghetti.
We returned to Stephanplatz around 4 PM and we mingled with the many people who populated the center at that time. I immediately liked the place, both from the urban point of view, a very large square with a slight curve, and for the elegance of the buildings and shops. In general, I noticed that the inhabitants of Vienna were very elegant, both women and men. This detail made the girls look even more beautiful, in Prague they were beautiful without make-up, in Vienna let's say they were valued thanks to their style.
We immediately headed to the Cathedral, this gothic building had a tower separated from the main structure and the large part of the square overlooked the side of the building. However, when we arrived in front of the facade, I noticed that even that part of the street was large enough to be able to admire the building in its entirety. Moreover, right at the source of the facade there was another street and looking at the cathedral from there, it gave the possibility to play with depth, this was very useful for photos as well as giving a 3D effect. We walked several blocks and then returned to the starting point and I was very pleased to photograph both the beautiful buildings and the beautiful women I passed. With my friend we also stopped a bit near a large statue, or "The Plague Column" (Wiener Pestsäule) not only very characteristic for its shape but also thanks to the steps at its base which were used as a seat for many beautiful tourists. I understood that Vienna would distract me with its "beauties" so I tried to concentrate on the monuments and itineraries I had planned.
The next place we stopped was Michaelerplatz, a square and semicircle that had a sort of rectangular basin in the center. It consisted of ancient walls, placed below the road and surrounded by walls. The view on the finds was easy to access and had a nice effect thanks to the beautiful building in the background. Just a few steps from there, there was Josefplatz, where we got there with a five-minute walk. This square was not of particular importance in itself but it was important to me. In fact, there was the famous building with the statue of 4 women who supported the partition with their heads. A famous scene from "The Third Man" was set there or at least it was a scene that struck me a lot. I was happy to be able to visit a place of the cinema that was real, and moreover it was preserved in the same way even after half a century. I wanted to have a photo taken that had the same shot that featured Joseph Cotten; that is me in profile while looking over the entrance door of the building. Unfortunately, even though the square and the building were still the same as they were seen in the film, the "progress" had brought vehicles that at that moment were parked in such a way as to ruin the image I wanted. Together with my friend we decided to go on and return in the evening hoping that the entrance door would be free from cars.
Wandering through the streets of Vienna, I noticed that there were also some modern buildings in steel and glass, however this type of construction was a minority. The presence of tourist carriages, on the other hand, increased the classic beauty of the city, if it were not for the presence of today's horrible cars, in some moments it really seemed to have gone back in time. Everything was going well and it was time to go and visit another place linked to "The Third Man". This time it was the door where, with an excellent scenic cut, appears for the first time the character played by Orson Welles. That image of him with a mocking smile has always fascinated me and when I saw that the place really existed and it wasn't a set, I immediately put it on the list of things to see. I remembered exactly the area where the door was or at least this was what I believed. I remembered that the street was geographically to the right of Rathausplatz and I started searching using Google Maps. Just at that moment I noticed that I had never marked the address of the place but had only found it, many times, on the map. Despite this I was confident in myself, so I headed with my travel companion to the streets that were in front of the Rathaus. The route in question was in a gap between two roads, easily recognizable, however after about twenty minutes of searching I couldn’t find the place, unfortunately my friend could not be of help. At one point I found a very similar place but we arrived in front of a staircase that I didn’t know existed. For the sake of it, only I climbed it, avoiding the effort of my friend, but once I got to the top I noticed that there was no trace of the block I was looking for. At that moment my friend began to have pain in his knee and I, giving up the "mission", proposed to return to the Rathaus park where we could rest on a bench. So we did but inside me I still wanted to find that place. Suddenly I don't know how, I had a vision of where the road might be located. I had by now checked entire blocks so by exclusion it had to still be there but slightly to the north. I immediately opened Google Maps and after a few seconds I found the place! With the happiness of a child, I announced it to my friend and after the rest necessary to make him recover from the pain we set off. When we got there after a few minutes, I laughed at myself and was happy to have achieved the goal. The door number 8 was located above Schreyvogelgasse, in a street called Mölker Steig. The area was well maintained and right next to the building with number 8 there was a nice restaurant with outdoor tables. I believe that precisely by virtue of the film, the area has been redeveloped; the road made of cobblestones and also the wall that overlooked the road below, everything was perfect and I think original. Obviously once there I took many photos trying to take one next to the door in the hope of reproducing the same mocking expression that Orson Welles had. I don't think I succeeded but I was happy anyway, the tour in Vienna was turning into “The Third Man” tour.
After leaving that place hardly found, we headed back to the Rathausplatz where we arrived in ten minutes. The City Hall building, built in a Neo-Gothic style, was imposing and majestic, with a clock tower that soared higher than the others. When I saw it, it was decorated with long Austrian flags that hung vertically from above to cover an entire floor. That white and red color broke sharply with the yellow of the Rathaus, giving a very personal connotation to a building that was already beautiful in itself. The large square in front gave the opportunity to admire it in its entirety, as I like it, in fact I spent a pleasant moment both walking in front of the structure and photographing it. However, the infinite width of the Rathaus did not allow me to photograph it as I wanted and to tell the truth I have never been fully satisfied with the images I took of that beautiful structure.
When we left, on the road to our next destination, I noticed another building that had an entrance very similar to that of the one seen in Josefplatz. This even saw four couples of women who supported a large balcony on their heads, below which there were three entrance doors. I don't know if the work was by the same architect but in any case it was very beautiful and original. Just a few steps from there was the Parliament Building, this instead was built in a Neo-Classical style, a clear homage to the great Greek Temples. All white and with decorated columns, it had a very large statue of the goddess Athena in the lower part of the building. I particularly like this type of structure, in fact we spent a lot of time in that area both to take pictures and to stay in that kind of environment that inspires me a lot.
The tour that day included visits that were definitely close to each other and right in front of the Parliament, there was the Volkgarten, a huge park. From there, walking in the green, we arrived at the other park, L’Heldenplaz which ended on Hofburg Wien. This was an imperial palace in the shape of a semicircle, which was also impressive despite looking at it from a distance. That large green lawn was full of people playing football, reading or simply resting on the grass. After taking some photos, we too sat on the grass and there my friend had an original idea. Given the large lawn, he proposed to take pictures of us imitating the famous pose that Michel Platini used to do after he scored a goal. In turn, first he and then I lay down on our side resting our hand on our head, it was a lot of fun and in fact it was at the same time a way to rest after the many kilometers we had covered that day. The afternoon was almost at the end but we had one last mission before going to dinner, to return to Josefplatz. We got there right away, only my idea of taking pictures with Joseph Cotten's pose didn't go the way I wanted. Even though we returned after many hours, there was still a vehicle, in this case a blue motorcycle, which spoiled my view. Thanks to the patience of my friend I took the same photos but not with the desired result.
Vienna also featured nightly entertainment and that night after dinner we went to an adult entertainment club called Golden Times. In reality, due to a wrong GPS fix, we lost some time to find it but in the end we arrived in front of the place in a reasonable time. Once inside, after wearing the typical outfit of places like that, that was, slippers and a bathrobe, we set out in search of our partner. The club was very nice, with lots of elongated sofas and lots of tables where we could sit and start conversations. Personally, beyond everything, I liked the outdoor pool so much, even if I didn't take a bath, I liked to go out from time to time and soak my feet in the hot water. That night, after a long intimate conversation with a brunette girl whose appearance I vaguely remember, we ended the night together in a room wrapped in soft lighting. Everything happened with the utmost respect but without long and unnecessary formalities, life is short so downtime must be cut, that's why I love clubs like the Golden Times.
The second day in Vienna started in the late morning, in fact it was 11 AM when we had breakfast. Moreover, that was the only full day that we could take advantage of in the Austrian capital. Precisely for this reason the list of things to see was long but nevertheless not prohibitive. The first place to visit that day was the Donauturm, a lookout tower, this was one of the two buildings we wanted to visit which was located just outside the center. To get there we took the metro but the tower didn’t have a dedicated stop. This apparently seemed a bad thing, however the building was located inside the Donaupark, a really large green park. From the stop we practically entered the park and arrived at the tower walking through the greenery. Moreover, this gave us the opportunity to admire the tower from afar, appreciating it from all possible perspectives. The observation tower was about 250 meters high, lower than the one we visited in Berlin, however in proportion to the height, the platform was higher. This was an aesthetic detail but in fact the viewing platform of the Berlin tower remained higher. Both the park and the tower were not very populated that day, without queuing up and in a few minutes we reached the top of the Donauturm. The panoramic terrace had medium protections, I mean that there was a wall just over a meter high above which iron grids were installed. It was a type of protection that gave the possibility both to look clearly and to photograph without filters such as glass or plexiglas. The view from up there was certainly impressive, the tower was surrounded by greenery and on the one hand this continuity was only broken by a series of new skyscrapers. From another side an area full of villas was immersed in a strip of green land between the river sides, they certainly had a more harmonious and characteristic view. The other side, on the other hand, overlooked Wien, the view was a bit "squashed", probably because the distance-height did not have the right proportions. At that moment, moreover, the part of the city wasn’t sharp so it made the situation worse. However, it was easy to distinguish buildings such as the Cathedral or the Rathaus plus some new area of skyscrapers that I did not know. Also for this tower, I think the same thing I said for Berlin, I’m of the opinion that when the view is not formed by other and mammoth buildings, the effect is not particularly exciting. The real peculiarity of that tower, on the other hand, was the fact that on one level there was a revolving restaurant. This was a discovery we made there, after we sat down to enjoy a Sacher Torte, the movement was imperceptible but in the end looking out the window, the view changed in appearance.
Moving lunch for a few hours, we headed to the Prater, the famous playground of the city, and I immediately had another pleasant surprise. Just shortly after I entered, it appeared in front of me a Ferris wheel named "Wiener Riesenrad", only this looked like the one featured in the movie that I no longer mention. The cabins and the design were those, obviously I don't know if they were the original ones or replicas that kept the same style. By the time we arrived, the wheel cabins were hosting a private event so we couldn't go up. We decided to reschedule that visit for the end of the day and limit ourselves to visiting the Prater. This playground was very colorful, the structures were all low and the style was what can be found today in large clothing outlets. Inside there were many types of entertainment, the most popular rides but also some with a water theme, there was another more modern Ferris wheel with outdoor cabins. Just adjacent to Prater was a newly designed university campus with buildings still under construction. One of these was the building designed by Zaha Hadid, whom I knew and wanted to go and see. This was one of the visits not connected with Carol Reed's film and I was very surprising for the beauty of the whole area. In addition to the building that saw two blocks, one gray and one black that practically intersected in an impossible design, all around was a series of modern and colorful buildings. After taking photos with Zaha Hadid's work, which was still covered by some scaffolding, we headed to an area that attracted me even more. Right there, in fact, a large green lawn with a metal sphere placed on a raised floor, divided two beautiful structures. On one side a building with a “zebra” design and on the other a sort of box with a color that, starting from the orange at the bottom, faded to yellow at the top. The design was completed with vertically placed wooden installations. It was an incredible glance, I was ecstatic like every time I see a place that reminds me of a dreamlike atmosphere like in the world of Oz. I ended up taking more photos with the yellow-orange building than with the rest and driven by that positive mood, I returned to the Prater with my friend. In the large circular square we ate a huge sandwich with sausage and mayonnaise, we were a little late but that didn't bother us. Before saying goodbye to the Prater, I took some special photos with a life-size statue of Marilyn Monroe that was outside a cinema.
There was a panoramic place with which I identified Vienna, it was a view from a hill that overlooked an immensely large sumptuous palace. That palace was Schönbrunn Palace, an imperial palace built in the early eighteenth century. This was the other place in Wien that was not connected with the movie and that I had studied before leaving. More than anything else, my studies focused on how to get there as it was slightly out of town. We actually got there from the Prater in about 45 minutes and got off at a metro stop that was right near the entrance to the building. I had been to Versailles so I already knew what kind of place I was going to visit and I must say that this castle immediately showed itself in a big way. Two high columns were divided by the entrance gate beyond which there was a huge courtyard. The yellow castle stood out beyond the courtyard, from the entrance we could not perceive its true grandeur because the area was very large. There were several green areas and statues and I took dozens of photos before even arriving in front of the entrance. I noticed the grandeur right in front of the double staircase, which allowed us to reach the first floor where a balcony covered the various doors below. I took many photos of them that makes understand the proportions, it’s unusual to see how small am I compared to the context of the stairs and the balcony. I was there to see the famous hill of which there was no trace in that sector, then turning around the building it opened up a new scenario. Suddenly we were inside a maniacally cared green park. The hedges, the grass and the flowers seemed unreal as they were perfect, a backdrop of beautiful colors. Right there we saw the famous hill, it was not very high but certainly far away and just below it there was another structure that I didn’t know. Walking in the midst of that splendor we arrived under the structure that I discovered to be the fountain of Neptune, even here, we are talking about immense proportions. Considering that there were no other structures around to make understand the size, however the "giant" effect was perceived. At that point it was no longer possible to see the hill that to reach it had to "circumnavigate" one of the sides of the fountain. After we did it, we set out to climb to the top on what was a “mini hike”. Once we got to the top, we discovered that just below the structure, which was called "Gloriette Schloss", there was an artificial lake that could not be seen from below. That place was perhaps the best point of view, the castle below could be seen perfectly and beyond it the urbanized periphery. After going around the lake we arrived under the Gloriette, it was like a conquest because in the end it took time and effort. Despite this, however, it was rewarded with unique scenarios which was what I wanted to see. Also at my friend's suggestion, we took pictures of us trying to imitate Rocky's pose after he climbed the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. After playing with the photos, we began the descent, a type of walk that most of the time is hard as the climb. We arrived in the "valley" which was almost 6 PM and headed back to the Prater. The old Riesenrad was there waiting for us, personally I didn't expect great things, I liked the idea of visiting a place where had been shot an important scene of an iconic movie. To my surprise, the view from above the Ferris wheel was truly original. Not only we saw the details of the colorful Prater but also the view over the city was more interesting.
The position of the Riesenrad was more in the city center than the Donauturm, giving more satisfaction. Above all, there was a corner from where we could see the classic red roofs of Viennese houses, in the background a series of skyscrapers and to the left of them a little further in the distance the Donauturm. It was certainly a more exciting experience than that of the morning, despite the fact that we were at a much lower height on the wheel. These are the surprises I appreciate most when I travel, the low expectations of certain places that turn out to be a thousand times more beautiful than I thought.
That night we were going to visit a quieter place, named Club Passage, a very popular disco in the city center. This club was a normal nightclub which from what I understood was also exclusive. Surely the place was original, the Club Passage in fact was built in what was an old metro stop now in disuse. The unique thing was the entrance, which was was the metro stop! If it weren't for the presence of security, you didn't understand what people could do outside that area at that time of the night. The interior design retained the base of what used to be the metro but enriched with lights, bars and tables. However the place was chic, whoever conceived it had done a good job. Essentially there was only one room but there were many corners with sofas and tables that gave enough privacy. Unfortunately, both there and before arriving at the club, I realized that there was a certain snobbery in the Viennese girls. On the road, in fact, we had met several girls to whom we asked where the club was; we are still waiting for them to answer us. Even within the club, people were divided into groups and rarely interacted with each other. The club was not full, probably because it was a midweek but in general the atmosphere wasn’t the one I like. Let's say it was the exact opposite of what I described in the Berlin post talking about the Matrix Club.
The third day in Vienna was also that of departure, being a train journey that took place at lunchtime, this left us room to take advantage of the morning by going to make the last visit. To tell the truth, we woke up around 9 AM but confident in ourselves we weren't afraid of failing in our plan which took us to visit the Belvedere and then be at the station just before 1 PM. The Belvedere Castle is a former princely residence built in the eighteenth century. It consists of two opposing buildings (called upper and lower probably due to the difference in height on which they stand) which are divided by french gardens. Today the Belvedere houses one of the largest art galleries within its rooms. Mainly our purpose dictated by the tight times, was to see the famous "The Kiss" by Gustav Klimt but personally I was sure, as always happens in this kind of places, that I would find other works worthy of inspiration.
At 10:30 AM we were in front of the Belvedere entrance. It was majestic with three high central doors which could be accessed from a staircase or from side ramps. Also flawless from an aesthetic point of view with a perfectly maintained sand-colored facade, it overlooked an immense garden with an artificial lake in the center. In reality, for my taste, it had a little too much concrete right in the area in front of the entrance but nevertheless that was only the outside of the building. The real beauty, however, was the part of the internal garden, which to define it in this way was an understatement. In fact, the french garden was so large that it gave the impression of being inside a large park. Moreover, at the bottom of the gardens stood the lower Belvedere palace, probably less beautiful than the upper one but certainly a remarkable work. Despite having little time, we spent at least fifteen minutes taking pictures outside as the view was beautiful, immediately after we entered for the specific destination. To get to "The Kiss” room we crossed parts where the view was dominated by marble and decorations, then we found ourselves in front of Klimt's masterpiece. The painting was hanging rather high, it was neither large nor small, a medium size and it was on a wall with a black background. In this way the predominance of the yellow of the work was more evident. Unfortunately, as often happens in these cases, there was a group in the room to which the guide explained the details of the work. For this reason we could not see the painting very close but I took advantage of the people to take pictures (which was forbidden) hiding among them. The painting was certainly beautiful but I believe that to fully appreciate art you need to be in intimacy, even if you look at a painting, when you are alone with the work, you create a sort of complicity as if it were alive and not a object. Inside the room there were other works by Klimt that I didn’t know but that I recognized for his style. After admiring the other paintings, we went to another very original room. This oval place had about ten faces exposed in the shape of a circle, they were placed on narrow and long stands about one meter and sixty centimeters high. These faces were funny as long as they almost all depicted the "elongated" facial expression. Lips tightened, eyes closed with wrinkled forehead up. It was a comic expression but in the noble sense of the word, yet it was funny and led me to do what good manners forbade me to do. I stood next to one of the faces and tried to imitate the same expression while my friend photographed me. Since it was a long practice made up of many tests, I lost some time and this led to an original event. Right there there was a girl of about ten who, seeing me as an "adult" doing those things, she felt free to do the same. In fact, I was happy to have been an inspiration and my friend was able to capture a frame where both the girl and I imitate the expression.
We exited the upper Belvedere after about half an hour and headed down through the gardens. Halfway, right next to a fountain, we found another original installation. A classic frame with a mirror inside, was placed on the ground and perfectly reflected the entire building from the high Belvedere. The moment you approached it, you found yourself projected into the picture, it was a beautiful effect that gave multiple photographic ideas because the picture changed every moment that someone passed by. It was a very fun moment and it would have been very nice to stop a little longer and create different images with people standing in front of the mirror. We continued to go down calmly enjoying those gardens that I was trying to immortalize in my photos in the best possible way. In the lower part we found ourselves in front of an immense fountain that was hidden by the difference in height. We spent the last moments at the Belvedere enjoying the view from the lower part which had its charm in the same way as the view from the upper part; I can't say which was the most beautiful. The visit lasted just over an hour and the last unexpected thing we saw after leaving the museum was a memorial in honor of the World War II. A series of columns placed in a semicircle with a tall statue of a soldier. That was our farewell to Vienna, after that we took the subway which in a short time brought us to the train station.
The visit to Vienna was a beautiful experience from many points of view. As I have already said, it was a destination wedged in the middle of visiting two other cities, an idea that seemed impossible. Not only I explored Wien starting from the places seen in a noir movie from over half a century ago, but I also discovered a place that was much more beautiful than what I expected. Elegance, style, cleanliness, Vienna was perfect and the monuments not only reflected all this but also had a royal and very scenic beauty. This city had a feminine charm for me, like those elegant and well-groomed girls I met in the streets. It’s precisely the personality of the female gender that struck me deeply. The fine and composed beauty in addition to the snobbish attitude intrigued me a lot. I would have liked to know that type of girl in an intimate way and in a certain sense "wean them", introduce them to a wild side which I think is pure science fiction for them. Without a doubt, this, in addition to all the other beauties in Vienna, inspires me to return. If in 2015 I saw the places of "The Third Man", in the next one I will try to explore the "intimate" side of this beautiful city. A “deeper” visit from all points of view.
Pictures: Antonio Malara
Camera: Nikon D800