If Richard Linklater had filmed “Before Sunrise“—his tale of two strangers falling in love in a span of one day, with Vienna providing the setting—today, he could have found a much more enterprising First District that he did in the mid-1990s.
Spending a day on Vienna’s touristy museum-hopping path, we were enthralled with the sights and sounds of the Inner District, from Graben to the end of Kärtner Straße.
Graben’s landmark is the famous Pestsäule (plague column) built in the 17th century at the behest of Leopold I following the Great Plague of Vienna. Next to it are two fountains designed to contain fire. One of them is adorned with the sculptures of Saints Joseph and Leopold.
We found a young Asian pianist on the middle of the street performing from Beethoven’s Spring piano piece to Franz Lizst for tips. Moving on, we saw a crowd clustered in front of Stephansdom. We struggled to see a group of hunky men jumping and breakdancing to the delight of an awed audience. Before we entirely left Kärtner Straße, we realized that the warm weather might have been responsible for the plethora of performers.
You see, we spied yet more street performers. There were a couple of blind gypsies singing a capella, a group of old musicians playing Austrian folk music with their self-produced CD already on display, and young people’s orchestra who couldn’t stop the wind from blowing their notes. Finally, we spied a couple of two pantomimes pretending that they were on the run while Queen’s “I Want to Break Free” was playing.
These are, perhaps, the typical tourist traps, but we don’t wonder why they look good on screen.