Monday, January 5, 2015

In Vienna: The Danube

As I wrote in this post a few months back, my parents moved to Vienna, Austria in September because my dad accepted a position with the International Atomic Energy Agency. As soon as they left Chris and I started planning our winter vacation in Austria and just returned from a really wonderful two weeks in that ΓΌber-historical Central European country. As tourists and amateur photographers do, I took thousands of photos. So this is the first of a series of posts all about our travels in Austria.
When writing about Austria one should have a beer and now, beer in hand, it seems only fitting, then, to begin a series of posts about Austria with the Danube River: the heart of Europe - "the most international river in the world".The ubiquitous Danube river is like a thick artery that connects ten countries and pumps life into them. It flows rapidly from Germany into Austria, making its way east to the Black Sea. The river is so omnipresent that Johann Strauss had no choice but to write a waltz about it, "The Blue Danube". In Vienna the Danube is divided in two: the river and the canal. The Donaukanal was once a branch of the river but became used as a water channel in the 1600s and now pulsates along the city's bustling center. 

My parents live a short walk from the Danube Canal and it is their go-to spot for walking Muneca. The canal courses through about 11 miles of the city, year after year, witnessing many changes as evidenced by the modern skyscrapers shooting up alongside the more elaborate Romanesque, Baroque, and Art Nouveau styles that have long dominated European architecture. In the longer days and warmer months of the year the canal has become a trendy recreational area, dotted with umbrellas, lounge chairs, boat rides, and cafes. While we were in Vienna the canal was mostly frequented by bundled up joggers and dog walkers during the day and cuddling teenagers hidden in shadows at night.
The Danube's waters have been flowing for centuries - through empires, dynasties, and war after war after war; through absurd wealth and absurd horror. Its waters now run through a relatively peaceful moment in time. A moment born of the devastation from the past that has brought with it a generation of down-to-earth  renegades and an urban art movement. While graffiti has traditionally been synonymous with vandalism a growing number of artists are changing that perception and bringing beautiful, colorful murals embedded with social commentary to streets (or canals, in this case) worldwide. 
Many of the walls along the banks of the Danube Canal have become "legal walls" where graffiti artists can paint murals openly without fear of persecution. Where once the walls stood dull and gray now a walk along the canal is filled with a kaleidoscope of images and colors, layered upon each other, a constantly changing and accessible gallery. I am not an expert on art, or graffiti, or social movements, all I know is that I like what I see. While others may not appreciate public wall murals, I see them as signs of change, of resistance, and of a brave,creative youth. But there is a difference between graffiti murals and graffiti "tagging", which is just someone scribbling their nickname across a wall. That's still stupid. 
Vienna is a city saturated with history, culture, music, and art. The Danube sparkles at its core, winds around, and connects the old with the new. Basically, my parents live in a really cool city. 

Thanks for reading and I'll have another Austria post tomorrow (hopefully)!


Anonymous said...

Que post tan estupendo! Do you know when the walls became "legal walls"? It will be interesting to see the difference in activity between summer months and colder, winter months. Until the next post!


Anonymous said...

Excelente! Thank you for recording and reporting on your wonderful visit with us in Vienna. I can now share with my friends and relatives this shared experience, and all the pictures that you took!!
Lucky me,

Coot said...

Wow! It's beautiful! And your writing is beautiful! I love everything, and the murals make it so much more interesting! It's neat how universal it is for people to express themselves through graffiti. Reading this post reminded me of the graffiti in Bogota and Medellin which we all documented with cameras as well!