Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On the Beautiful... Green Danube?

Austria is an interesting mix of modern and traditional. Were the Captain and Maria still alive and living in their homeland, they would simply be Georg and Maria Trapp, minus the von. Noble titles, as I learned from our local guide on this morning's walking tour, are verboten in modern day Austria.

But despite losing two world wars and the Hapsburg Empire, tradition thrives in the form of such institutions as the Vienna Boys Choir and the Lipizzaner Stallions, both of which were begun by the Hapsburgs (whose descendants, by the way, are only welcome to live in Austria if they agree to stay out of politics). Were these brought back to bring in tourist money, or are they truly important to the Austrian identity? Today, along with two other guides, I watched the Lipizzaners at their morning exercises. The graceful horses cantered in time to the strains of the Blue Danube Waltz, a piece so strongly associated with Vienna it's practically a cliche.

This evening I took a long walk along the Danube Canal, which is, in fact, anything but blue at this moment in time. Murky green would be a more apt description, although the Danube itself can be blue on certain sunny summer days. Such days are not, however, typical for today's river.

But blue or not, the Danube makes a great backdrop for an evening outing. On a warm night like tonight, the Viennese are out walking, rollerblading, biking, playing soccer, and eating ice cream throughout their many parks. In fact, about half of the city consists of green spaces (and I'm not referring to the Danube this time), which doubtlessly played a large role in Vienna's being chosen as the world's most livable city last year.

And the clever Viennese have even found a way - almost - to go swimming in that murky Canal. How? Watch for a photo here when I return.

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