After a day of unpleasantness in an Austrian hospital, I was feeling completely and utterly down in the dumps. My feelings towards Vienna were not exactly warm and fuzzy, but I really did try to find something, anything, that I could love about Vienna.
As it happens, one of my favourite movies, Before Sunrise – a nineties romance film by Richard Linklater – was set and filmed in Vienna. I was encouraged to watch this film by a fellow backpacker when I was around 19 years old, and though romantic films were not (and still aren’t) my cup of tea, this one is downright brilliant.
In the film, two strangers, Celine and Jessie (played by Julie Delphy and Ethan Hawke) meet on a train headed from Budapest to Paris. Celine is headed home to Paris, and Jessie is headed to Vienna where he has a flight booked back home to the US the following day. The two begin talking on the train as a result of a rather vocal argument happening between a pair of other passengers on their train cart. They get to talking, and when the train arrives in Vienna, Jessie convinces Celine that she should get off the train and spend the evening exploring the city with him.
The film is strange in that not a whole lot happens. It is literally a film where two people walk around Vienna and talk. On paper, it sounds so dull. But it is absolutely, anything but dull.
The film makes what should be boring, utterly enchanting, and showcases a beautiful side of Vienna in the process.
So, I decided if there was any chance of me finding something positive about Vienna, maybe the way to do it was to seek out some of the places that had seemed so magical on film.
My first stop was at the Albertina museum. This museum has a balcony at its entrance which provides some pretty beautiful views of the streets below. Albertina was featured twice in the film, once late at night and once early in the morning as the sun rises and the heart-wrenching ending to the pairs romance becomes inevitable.
This was probably my favourite place in Vienna. It was empty when I visited, it was beautiful, and it was the only place I visited where I could really feel the essence of the film. It is a hard thing to explain, but everywhere else I visited just felt kind of… empty, I guess?
In addition to Albertina, I also visited Maria-Theresien-Platz, Kleines Café, Café Sperl and the Wiener Riesenrad.
As much as it was great to see these spots, they just didn’t really do anything for me. However, part of me wasn’t actually all that surprised.
At the end of the film, there is a sequence of shots of all the locations the pair had visited, but these shots are of the following day, the day after the fictional pair had their life-changing encounter.
When I first viewed the film, I think that was one of the most moving parts of the entire movie. I remember wondering how could a city go on as if nothing had ever happened when a great love story had just unfolded hours prior? How could all the places that had appeared magical in the presence of the characters now appear so ordinary? I know it was just a movie, but I can’t help it, I get invested in stories!
It really does seem silly, but that when I viewed that film sequence, it was one of those moments in which I was reminded of how small and insignificant we all are. When something massive happens in our lives, we kinda forget that the rest of the world goes on without skipping a beat. Having those reminders are like little jolts back to reality, and I guess that was the point of having that short sequence included in the film. It was like taking off the mask of romance and seeing a city for what it really was, just another place in the world.
So, when these places didn’t feel as magical as they had looked, and didn’t make me feel much of anything, I was disappointed, but honestly, not all that surprised.
Spending the day Before Sunrise spotting was lovely, but it was not exactly what I’d hoped it to be.
Vienna – I tried to love you, but it just didn’t happen. Maybe next time?
Getting to Vienna: Vienna airport and railway station both have many international connections
Wombats City Hostel: A well located and comfortable hostel, a dorm bunk starts at around $21/night AUD
Before Sunrise: Available to stream on iTunes and also pops up every now and then on Netflix
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2/8 lens
Remember: Just because Vienna didn’t do it for me doesn’t mean it wouldn’t do it for you!