Our September holiday this year took us to Germany, Strasbourg France and finally Vienna. I had been told Vienna was a beautiful place and it did not disappoint. An interesting tidbit from one of those recorded narratives on a tour bus—Hitler, Karl Marx, Freud and Joseph Stalin all lived in Vienna at the same time back in the early years of the last century. Did they ever meet for coffee one wonders. Vienna was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire—tiny landlocked Austria grew prosperous by colonizing and sucking the life out of the Balkans mainly. It was for that reason that disgruntled Serbs shot and killed the Archduke Ferdinand when he visited Sarajevo, triggering a bewildering cascade of events that eventually escalated into the First World War. There is a war museum in Vienna where we saw not only the open car the Archduke was riding in on that fateful day, but also in a glass case, is the uniform he was wearing complete with bullet holes and faded bloodstains.
Movie buffs will remember the Third Man –the Carol Reed noir masterpiece about postwar Vienna and the scoundrel profiteer Harry Lime, portrayed by Orson Welles. There is a scene in the movie that takes place in a giant ferris wheel with cabins that hold a dozen people instead of seats. That ferris wheel is still there and the Third Man movie is still played every week at a local cinema. There is a Third Man walking tour available as well.
Vienna is noted for its coffee houses, where people gather for hours and nobody seems in a hurry to enforce the 20-minute limit like at Tim’s. There is a more relaxed attitude towards smoking as well. In Vienna, as in much of Europe, smokers are not forced to huddle in segregated pens as is the case here. They are provided with decent outdoor accommodations with awnings and tables with white tablecloths. It doesn’t seem to have destroyed the country.
I rode the LRT in Vienna, (they call it the tram) and it was a pleasant experience. There’s not much of a takeaway for us in Hamilton, however. In Vienna the avenues are so wide they can accommodate the 2 LRT lines and still have three lanes available for traffic, plus another lane on each side for parking. They also have enough passengers that the trams are full day and night.
Outside the Vienna Opera House you find guys dressed up like Mozart, providing direction to tourists. The city is filled with history with its many museums. Schönbrunn Palace is a former imperial summer residence located in Vienna The 1,441-room Baroque palace with vast gardens is one of the most important architectural, cultural, and historical monuments in the country. Vienna is also a convenient jumping-off spot for Budapest and Prague—both about two and a half hours away by road or train.
Saturday Night Live is back with new episodes just in time for the US elections. Alec Baldwin will be portraying Donald Trump alongside Kate McKinnon’s devastating send-up of Hilary Clinton. Baldwin’s debut as Trump is easily the best impersonation of the real estate tycoon ever. Otherwise, unfortunately I fear my long-time favorite show is showing its age. Increasingly the sketches are simply not funny, which was the case for much of last season. The show has gone through dry spells before in its 42 year history- and when you think about it, 42 years is an amazing run- but the current dry patch seems to be the longest in memory. The glory days were the 1970’s with the likes of Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Eddie Murphy and Chevy Chase; but in those days most of the cast and even producer Lorne Michaels were all fueled by pharmaceuticals, so comparisons with today are probably unfair. Still there is a lot of original comedy elsewhere on TV, especially cable, so SNL is going to have to pull up its socks.
Written by: John Best