Vienna Sunday

A beautiful sunny day and the locals were out in droves ! These were admixed with an equal number of tourists. Speaking of which, I know you won’t believe this, but within the space of half an hour, I bumped into the 2 Spaniards then the 4 Israelis!

To paraphrase, “There are eight million tourists in the naked city. This has been a story of 6 of them”! All of them heading back to their respective homes tomorrow.

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A strange quirk about shopping in Vienna. Conrad at reception told me “everything is shut on Sundays. “Everything”, he repeated with a flourish of his arms, for emphasis. I had run out of toothpaste. In the past, unintentionally in a poorly lit bathroom, I have squeezed shaving cream onto my toothbrush. Anyway it is true that except for tourist orientated food and ice-cream parlours, shops are indeed closed. However I found one of those ubiquitous small supermarket shops, indeed open. I entered, making a mental note to update Conrad on his local knowledge later.

Imagine my disbelief when faced with a well stocked supermarket, the health and hygiene shells were roped off! “Where do I find the toothpaste”? I enquired. The young assistant explained ” Sorry, Sir we are not allowed to sell toothpaste!” Not allowed? I was flabbergasted! He was eventually able to get it across to me that they stock toothpaste, but it is “verboten” to sell it on a Sunday’! I briefly toyed with asking him about flossing, but just as rapidly dismissed the idea as fraught with interpretative innuendo.

It is impossible to do justice to Vienna as a cultural city of charm and steeped in history either on words or pictures. To me it is a complex combination of Prague and Dresden. Chaotic traffic, hordes of tourists but with a old centre where the baroque buildings are hundreds of years old yet are so strong and stable that one knows they will still be standing and just as ageless in other 500 years.

The House of Music

This was a totally unexpected but so very rewarding and fascinating discovery. It is part museum and part interactive technology centre. A must visit place for the music lover.

The first floor is dedicated to the history of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. To give one example it has a display of all the batons preferred by the resident conductors over the years starting with Strauss of Tone Poem fame.

The second floor is an interactive “laboratory” in which one can learn about the complexity of sound via touch screens and headphones.

There are a couple of fun activities even for aging Recorder students.

The first involved throwing a furry dice onto a Perspex square plate about 1 meter square. I suspect it uses the detection of minute electrostatic changes to generate a pulse of charge. The pitch and beat of the tone generated is determined by the enthusiasm with which one throes the dice. It obviously bounces around the Perspex plate at variable rate and places! To add to the fun, you do it twice – once with a blue dice – which translates to the sound of a flute and a second cabinet with a red dice and it translates to the sound of a cello! The two are combined and played back to you as a sonata for cello and flute! I could have composed all day, it was delightful.

But the one that well and truly won me over was an interactive display which allowed one to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. There was a huge video screen, the “conductor” stood on a podium in front of the screen and held a baton which was a rod of clear Perspex. An infra red light detected the frequency at which this baton moved and this determined the speed at which the movie of the orchestra in front of you projected. I was ecstatic, especially as I was alone in the cubicle so could over act to my heart’s content!

The third floor was given over to famous composers who had a significant association with Vienna.

Hadyn, Mozart, Beethoven , Schubert, Mahler and Berg.

One fascinating titbit- Haydn acquired a pet parrot. It screeched his name and whistled the Austrian National anthem!

I have to start getting serious about my Conference from Monday.

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