23 April 2014

Getting Jaded with Vienna

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Austria, in the capital Vienna. This was a very short trip, just a weekend from Friday to Sunday. I didn't do much, but just explored the city, as I have been to Vienna two times before, in 2005 as well as in 2008. For the most part, I just explored the places I have previously seen already, and somehow, it made me reflect on how and why I was wow'ed back then, in 2005, 9 years ago, when I visited this city.

See, Vienna was where I lost my European travel virginity. Vienna was the first city in Europe I have visited. It was in 2005, I just graduated from university, and I was visiting my parents who were living in Vienna at that time. Our trip was rather long, about 5 weeks, though almost two weeks of that time span was spent in Athens and Rome. The rest were spent in Vienna.

I remember being amazed and awed by the buildings. Every building looked important, and majestic. Imperial was the word that perhaps was most appropriate for it. I remember being so gung-ho about taking pictures at that time, as everything seemed to nice and pretty not to capture in film.

Nine years later, I decided to walk around and revisit the sights that I have previously seen. They were still there, but I realized that they didn't have the same impact as it had on me 9 years before. In fact, I realized that as much as Vienna is pretty, I would not want to live here if I had the choice.

So why is that? I guess it has something to do with the Viennese social psyche. I hate these mentalities where one plays social police. Back in 2005, I had two negative experiences, where ordinary Viennese citizens chastised me for doing something socially wrong. You'd wonder what it is I did. First, I threw the wrong garbage in the wrong garbage bin, and as I was doing so, an elderly Austrian lady walking her dog shouted at me for doing so. The other incident was when I wanted to take photographs in a museum, and yes, I checked prior to that that taking photographs are allowed, as long as there is no flash. This lady thought that was not the case, and so she told me that taking photographs is verboten, but at that time, my German was still bad, so I just ignored her. What she did was funny and annoying: she stood between me and the exhibit I wanted to photograph, for the next 30 seconds. And when I didn't move, she called an attendant to tell him that there is someone taking photographs. I thought the look on her face when she found out that photographs are actually allowed was rather priceless, if you ask me.

This time, no one chastised me for wrong social behavior. Although I still saw these elderly Viennese trying to do their social duty in various small ways. I think I just cannot deal with that, and prefer the relative couldn't-care-less attitude here in Berlin. Vienna was pretty, but it isn't my type of city. I can see why it fascinated me with its sights and museums back in 2005, but to be honest, I have a feeling that the crowd could lighten up a little bit.


  1. That would annoy the shit out of me. I respect rules and etiquette but I hate micromanagement and place where there are too many rules, like in Singapore (where, strangely, it actually wasn't that bad).

    1. Zhu,

      At least, in Singapore, the rules are written somewhere. In Vienna, it's like the rules are all in the citizens' head, and the outsiders are left guessing what they are.