Cavorting With Chaos

The Donauinselfest Puts Vienna on Hold as the Masses are Herded Out of Sight

Intimate contact with the hordes of the Donauinselfest is unavoidable as people walk and lounge on every spare bit of land on the island | Photo: Thfoyth/Flickr

The weather was cloudy as we walked along next to the 31 tramlines. Despite the epic storm of the previous evening and grey sky that hung unchanged like a cold wet cloth over the city, the tram was packed, and walking was the only way to avoid intimate contact with this motley horde of Viennese.

The closer we got to the Donauinsel, the thicker the crowds standing around chugging beers or mystery bottles of strange alcoholic mixtures. This phenomenon is in direct correlation to two other clear trends: the media’s obsession with youth alcoholism (aka Komasaufen), and the pressure on the almighty SPÖ to appease loyal voters – the readers of the Kronen-Zeitung. So they banned glass bottles in general and also hard liquor, even if it was brought in plastic bottles.

This basically meant that everybody drank the amount they had planned to consume at the party, before the party. One particularly determined group was surrounded by empty plastic bottles. After finishing the last drop of yellowish liquid (presumably vodka/red bull) they decised to wobble in through the barricades. Like a gang of drunk mimes hidden behind a giant glass pane, they slowly passed the checkers, holding their empty backpacks proudly into the air. Their next stop was the obligatory kebap, which they managed to eat only with great difficulty.

Somehow, people fumbled through the checkpoints seemingly all right, but five minutes later the alcohol would kick in, much harder than expected. Maybe it was the excitement, or the crowd energy. People were cheerful, drunk and confused.

As every year, the biggest problem is the fact that the Donauinselfest ends at Midnight. This is a blow to anybody in a mood to party, as well as to anybody who wants to get home. The public transport, running at full capacity, can barely keep up with the volume. The people waiting are drunk and impatient. Fights break out because somebody touched somebodies girlfriend in a tightly packed crowd. It doesn’t matter if it was accidental or not. Thus the mood went from happy go lucky, to nervous and impatient, to murderous rage. Just after neo-italo-disco legend Gigi D’Agostino stopped the three-hour “cheesefest” that he so gratuitoulsy captained, thousands of intoxicated, bodybuilding, suntan-lotion using, fake jewlery wearing “gentlemen” started arguing who had seen a certain girl first and thus had dibs on flirting with her. It was like middle school all over again, just with more fake tans and broken jaws.

Luckily some places surrounding the Donauinsel are not  connected with the madness, and stay open, happily presenting their licenses to the police. It is even luckier that these places are small and inconspicuous, passing unseen by the bulk of the crowd. Even better, on this particular night, a few of these places were hosting excellent parties.

The Wasserrutsche is a beach club with a water slide that was popular in the 80s. On the Neue Donau between the Donauinsel stops on the U6 and the U1, it is now is definitely past its prime. It lives off the people who walk by or lie in the surrounding fields, but rarely attracts its own customers. So the owners started renting the place out for events. This ranges from daytime reggae parties and congregations of hippies to hard-techno parties with the usual testosterone fueled clientel.

It is far more appealing to enjoy the spectacular fireworks of Saturday night lying in a field staring up into the sky, 300 meters away from the Donauinsel, than standing, flesh on flesh, in a crowd full of strangers.

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