“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between”,
Mozart once mentioned. I love to believe this was a thought cultivated by his life line meandering in between the sumptuous city walls of his Vienna, Austria’s majestic capital. A city distinguished by a richness in architecture shaping the echo of local history’s grandness, dragged forward into the future of our own current world. Buildings that merely form the notes of an elegant song, the music being composed by the culture flourishing on the streets among all this material splendour. A culture bringing forth men such as Beethoven, Freud and Gustav Klimt, who at their turn re-establish and redefine what Vienna means, soaking the city further in its own graciousness.
Praising words I’m poetically feeding you like sugary hot cakes, not taking away one major objection: Vienna is expensive. So goddamn expensive. It’s like all that gold in those constructions still needs to be paid off by means of charging excessive prices for basically anything you might ever need in life.
An impossible location for your next budget getaway… or is it?
No no, calm down, I’m not implying you should just instantly break the law and stealthily sneak in when no one’s watching (although I absolutely hold no moral objections against that: art belongs to humanity… and illegal shit gives life more flavour). Outside of the quotation marks I’m merely informing that Vienna’s art in fact can be free, also for the well-behaved. Most of the cultural big shots have a free day or time period when all cash registers are demonstratively closed. The AZW is free *(Architecture Centre Vienna)*Wednesday from 5-7PM (students only – or people with a fake / expired student pass, wink-wink) and the Kunsthalle Wien observes a pay-as-you-wish-policy on Sundays, for example. If you plan your visit well you can leave your wallet at home entirely, as every first Sunday of the month a whole bunch of them open their doors to the public free of charge (including the Wien Museum, Römermuseum and Otto Wagner Hofpavillon). And if you plan it ridiculously, obsessively well you might even be there on the 26th of October, Austria’s National Day, when all museum’s entrance prices are tossed out of the window entirely.
Then there are also those that are always free, such as the Geldmuseum and Bezirkmuseum… a fact that obviously causes some healthy suspicions, strengthened by the looks of their websites. And, of course, if I haven’t sucked up on the city of Vienna enough already: [cliché] the whole municipality is an open air museum in itself [/cliché].
Wonderful concepts attract wonderful people. And cheap-skates, like us. Truth told, I really do wish the owners of ‘Der Wiener Deewan’ were my friends, because creating a pay-as-you-wish-restaurant undoubtedly promotes you to the elite of altruistic humanitarians everyone has a fair share to learn from. Besides a delicious buffet of Pakistani food (incl. vegan options), this admirable eatery also embodies a more political angle. Afzaal Deewan, a former asylum seeker himself, not accidentally included the slogan ‘pay as you wish – stay as you wish’ on his website… A national discussion firing up more fiercely than ever on the streets of Vienna, both in word and image:
First image partial translation: “It’s no stream of refugees. It’s a sum of many individuals […] who determined to take their future in their own hands. […] People, who have nothing to lose, but everything to win. It’s not a crisis. It’s a war. […] A war, its impacts now intruding the civic comfort zone, questioning the excessive concentration of money and privileges. The State and dominant economy attempts with claws and teeth to protect your interests, by means of billions of Euros spent on barbed wire, deportations, fortifications, military equipment and border guards.[…]” … Then zoom in on that sticker portraying refugees being deported, titled: “Have a nice trip… because it is our country.” Ouch. Not okay, Austria!
Other excellent options for your daily dose of pretzels and sauerkraut are the ethnical Brunnenmarkt, where inflation stood still, and the more-touristy-so-more-expensive Naschmarkt. Flush it all away with my favourite non-alcoholic drink of all times, only available in Austria: Almdudler!
Some alert readers might have been wondering whenever I would bring up the one sole thing everyone must do in Vienna: visiting the opera! There’s simply no way around it. And no, my man, not even your tight budget will serve as an excuse this time. Believe it or not, you can actually choose whether you pay 3 or 150 euro for an entrance ticket. A choice simply determined by whether you might or might not object to standing the entire performance.
I don’t. Hell, it’s my time of the day to slide in that butt-and-quadriceps-training I saw on some pathetic YouTube video one time. (Just realized it’s a very curious sentence when you stop reading after the word ‘butt’… okay don’t mind me, continue with the article).
So how do you get it done? Let’s start with the absolute highlight: The Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera). It seems hard to believe you can attend a performance in the world’s most renowned opera for 3 or 4 bucks, but you just gotta take my word for it. 80 minutes before every performance the standing-tickets go on sale, and to make absolutely sure you get in be an extra 60 minutes earlier to join the line, because the secret is definitely out. It’s not the best passing of time with (in my case) an outside temperature of -6, but it’s aaaall gonna be worth it. This is theatre in its purest form, presented in a downright knee-weakening beauty of a building. Budget Bucket List check!
Bit scared for the big bad city? Well, come on then, out of your shell! Make some friends! The internet made it a tad easier for you asall you have to do is send a kick-ass Couchsurfing-request to the person you think you would hit it off with the most and hoppa, there you go: Not only you got yourself some amazing company, you also got a free couch to crash on and a local tour guide to show you what’s beyond those lame Lonely Planets. I ended up with Vienna’s best, if I might say: The Austrian-Kurdish globetrotter Shamo, lighting up every night with both his personality and hashish… every inhalation looking more and more like Serj Tankian from System of a Down.