Strauß’s Privy

It didn’t really dawn on me until recently, after living in Vienna off and on for a decade, just how deeply seriously the Viennese take their musical legacy. In fact, it isn’t that it is taken seriously, but it is so much a part of life here that it takes on a series of forms, some imbued with a mordant sense of humor, which after all is quite Viennese.

On an evening filled with music a few months ago, I found my way out of the concert hall and into the Karlsplatz U-Bahn station at the Opera, where echoing all around me were the strains of the Blue Danube Waltz(!)

Descending to the Opernpassage, I was greeted by a costumed Imperial Palace Guard, indicating an attraction to my right. I thought, let’s have a look, conceding that tourist kitsch really is everywhere…

Exploiting Strauss is after all a Viennese trademark, so no problem. It took a moment, though, to realize that the fanfare was an effort to draw my attention to nothing more than a public toilet. Here one finds a public comfort facility “mit musik” reflecting a “classical” image of Old Vienna. While transforming the utterly mundane into a themed experience, Vienna has it all, high culture and the low…

– Egbert Sousé

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