Guest post by Jan Gavino
The year’s end sets a melancholic mood. The year’s beginning, just the same. Why? An icy cold winter creeps in. When one looks outside of the window, one finds an almost empty street. A lone, close-to-silhouette passerby, whose sad face stays focused on the cold and slippery pavement, is not an uncommon sight. Trees show off their unsightly leafless branches. The dim light of day lurks in its thickest cloud like a shy bird in its densest thicket.
And then one begins to dream of summer, hot sun, and a refreshingly warm walk along a luminous white sand beach. This dream, though, gets hidden in a snowdrift. Whiter than white, snow conceals one’s most colorful wishes. Dreams unfulfilled. Emotions turn into ice, solid but brittle.
Yet with Vienna, there is more to its winter than meets the eye.
Compensation may be a fitting statement. Vienna’s impressive architecture, however, coupled with its world-renowned music is, indeed, more than that. Centuries-old Vienna preserves its landmarks, masterpieces, and the majestic beauty of its former empire. Take a walk around the Ring Avenue. Gigantic museums, historical parks, public squares with statues of imperial figures, the state opera, its breathtaking national library, its largest university, its premiere fine arts school, one of its neo-gothic churches, the parliament, a theater with three centuries of history, an observatory along a rainwater canal, a collection of palaces, widely known five-star hotels, the 19th-century red-bricked stock exchange, the intricate gothic city hall- all along one famous avenue.
And yes, the Viennese Ice Dream, a trilogy of iceskating spots built in front of the city hall at year’s start, is worth mentioning!
Frozen mechanically, the nearly 2-acre ice rink has a quarter of a million meters of cooling hose under it. This larger rink is situated directly in front of the magnificently architectured city hall. All of a sudden, the night bustles with music and brightness like that of summer. The city hall becomes alive, because of the changing colorful lights on its facade.
On the smaller beginners’ rink, one can almost hear a musical or a concert performance coming from the imperial theater directly right across the avenue; well, one could, but in fact, only in one’s imagination. As it were, Beethoven, Mozart and Vivaldi performed there, while a freshman skater holds on to a life-sized penguin help-skate.
The fast, meandering ice track through the park with lit-up trees and paths make for a dreamy and charming experience. This year plenty of innovative, heart-shaped, imported lanterns dangle in the leafless branches of one tree. To add to the Viennese flair, violin-shaped lanterns adorn another one with finesse.
Wiener Eistraum, as it is called in German, warms the hearts of couples celebrating just anything. One experience worth trying is that of a wintry night to remember. A fine dining at a famous hotel along the Ring, combined with a slow ride on a horse-drawn vehicle, the Fiaker, or just on a street car named, not Desire, but Bim (‘tram’, in the local language), which goes round the Ring Avenue, will do the job.
A short nonskating stop at the Wiener Eistraum will complete the night. A mug of punch gives bodily warmth. Nevertheless, this place called Wiener Eistraum imparts even more.
In here dreams might go unfulfilled. But in this part of the world, life’s worth is a reality.