THE WAY THINGS USED TO BE

METROPOLE - Vienna in English - - EDITOR’S LETTER - Mar­garet Childs

It was all so much sim­pler then. Back when we were in­no­cent, when we treated each other with re­spect, com­mu­ni­cated with­out smartphones and build­ings were built to last. Sure it was. In mem­ory, we merge re­al­ity with ide­al­ized edi­tions of the past and repack­age it into nos­tal­gia. It may be one of the strong­est, most pow­er­ful emo­tions of the col­lec­tive con­scious­ness.

The re­frain, “früher hätt’s des net gegeben” (this would never have hap­pened back in the day) is used jok­ingly by plenty of Vi­en­nese, but there is an essence of truth to what we project back onto “the good old days.” We ex­am­ine Vi­enna’s ver­sions in our Cover Story (p 18), see­ing how we con­ve­niently for­get the neg­a­tive and en­hance the pos­i­tive, re­liv­ing mem­o­ries in the blurry com­fort of know­ing we are part of that world.

“Thank god our brains do that,” Opera Ball Di­rec­tor Maria Großbauer told me in this month’s Me­lange in­ter­view (p 15), dis­cussing the pos­i­tive ef­fects of nos­tal­gic prac­tices like ball sea­son. Even neu­rol­o­gists are get­ting closer to un­der­stand­ing the way our mind fools us, as we out­line in our science fea­ture (p 38). Nos­tal­gia is also good for busi­ness. From the suc­cess of Net­flix’s Stranger Things fran­chise, to retro trends in fash­ion and photography, brands have made good money tar­get­ing us with re­minders of child­hood.

Not to men­tion the one brand we all know: Vi­enna. The city com­bines the nos­tal­gia of var­i­ous eras, from Bie­der­meier to Bruno Kreisky, from fin de siè­cle to Falco, there’s a golden age for ev­ery­one.

In our pro­files we’ve spo­ken with Flo­rian Kaps, the Aus­trian who saved Po­laroid from ex­tinc­tion, with Oliver Braun, head of the legacy con­fec­tioner and ho­tel owner Ger­st­ner; with Matti Bunzl, guardian of Vi­enna’s ur­ban nar­ra­tive at the Wien Mu­seum, and with Thomas Brez­ina, author of the wildly pop­u­lar Knicker­bocker Gang books of the 1990s and Tom Turbo, the talk­ing bike(p 28). The busi­ness of nos­tal­gia is per­haps most vis­i­ble in the lux­ury in­dus­try and among the su­per stars in Vi­enna is Lob­meyr, the pur­veyor of chan­de­liers and glass­ware and one of the most cel­e­brated master work­shops in Aus­tria (p 34).

With all this gazing into the past, what re­mains of liv­ing in the mo­ment and dream­ing and plan­ning for the fu­ture? We vis­ited the Tech­ni­cal Mu­seum, where ev­ery­day ob­jects show how past gen­er­a­tions imag­ined the present day (p 40). We look into nos­tal­gia vs. re­al­ity and retro trends around the world in our Quotes & Stats (p 16).

As ex­pats, we as­cribe a cer­tain mag­i­cal hap­pi­ness to our home­land, but what if, as for so many dis­placed peo­ple, that home­land has been taken away? Ste­fan Zweig tapped into nos­tal­gia for his fa­mous The World of Yes­ter­day, yet never came to terms with the soul-killing re­al­ity of his ex­ile to Brazil (p 24). Europe’s largest dis­place­ment and geno­cide has, in fact, left only a tiny Jewish com­mu­nity in Vi­enna and we’ve looked at how its mem­bers are fac­ing the chal­lenges of com­mu­ni­cat­ing sto­ries and val­ues to the younger gen­er­a­tion and how they are un­der­stood by so­ci­ety at large (p 45). The city is also cel­e­brat­ing the legacy of Leonard Bern­stein who took on Vi­enna’s Nazi past and changed mu­si­cal his­tory, ul­ti­mately be­com­ing eter­nally bound to the city and its mu­sic (p 46).

As the year comes to an end we turn our at­ten­tion from the past to the fu­ture, with fam­ily gath­er­ings, cel­e­bra­tions of the New Year and, for many, some days off to dream about ad­ven­tures and ex­pe­ri­ences to come. Stay­ing in Vi­enna this hol­i­day sea­son? We’ve got you cov­ered! From the­ater and con­certs to din­ing and nightlife, there’s plenty to do.

So be­fore you start tear­ing up with fond mem­o­ries of win­ter won­der­lands past, take a mo­ment to revel in the mag­i­cal present. When the weather gets cold, head for the near­est Pun­sch stand to sip on some­thing warm, and find all the rest of Vi­enna at a stand near you.

Prost, Prosit Neu­jahr and...

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