Remember how Ethan Hawk and Julie Delpy taught us about chance encounters and kismet love inBefore Sunrise, the movie? When he recited Dylan Thomas’ poem, As I walked Out One Evening, Vienna was forever changed for me.
Alas, I did not jump off the train with a stranger, and I have no love stories to share. But I do have three things you can do, if you’d like to fall in love with the real Vienna – all before sunrise.
#1 Breakfast at Café Tirolerhof
Forget about the typical buffet breakfast at your hotel, no matter how sumptuous the spread. Eat at one of their local coffee houses (the equivalent of our kopitiams) where you’ll meet locals before they speed off to work, or aged retirees scrutinising the headlines on the dailies in disdain, or the occasional student-philosophers penning down their thoughts over a cup of Viennese Emperor. Order the Tirolerhof toast (toasted brown bread with ham, cheese and onions), with a side order of spicy sausages and top it all off with a cup of café Viennese Emperor. There is no better way to start off your day in Vienna than feeling like a King.
#2 Leopold Museum
Vienna isn’t just about Gustav Klimt. Maybe it was the Egon Schiele exhibition at the time I visited. But spending an afternoon at Leopold Museum immersed in Schiele’s work would inspire anyone to love the expression of art, no matter your major. He died at the tender age of 29 (three days after losing his wife to the Spanish Flu), but the pain and suffering he went through compelled him to express his forbidden thoughts onto his paintings. From him, one is able to see we are all human, and we have the same needs. Why forbid love, when love is and should be free for all?
#3 Have a drink, or five, at Banes Bar
It’s a tiny dark little black hole of a bar, much like le 10 Bar in Paris, where one walks right into the years gone by, where love happens easily and nights are long. You will be enchanted by an enigmatic boss lady, her eyes so deep you could drown in them, whose hands are as graceful as Odette in Swan Lake as she fixes your drink. When she looks at you, one could almost see the thousand hearts she has broken, including perhaps her own. She is a beauty, there is no doubt about it. She looks 50, but to me, I sense a soul that has gone through a thousand years old of solitude. I always see the same few regular customers – one with a dog so cute, I fed him a bone and shared my wine too. And as I stumbled out into the street at 4am in the morning, I felt my heart soar into the early morning wind. Life is too transient to be taken seriously.