This time of the year…

November 16, 2011

It is this time of the year again where Vienna’s ice-cream parlours have put their shutters down for their customary winter break…

… while, early in the morning, the leaves on the trees and bushes are already covered by the icy dabs of frost…

… and it seems as if the morning mist was swallowing the upper parts of the city’s higher buildings.

In Vienna’s largest park, the Prater, water, trees and mist are doing a fine job at turning the world into the kind of melancholy autumn wonderland so dear to poets like Georg Trakl (1887-1914) or Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926):

Speaking of Rilke: As some of you will know, Kate Davies of needled posted one of his autumn-y poems, Herbsttag, on her blog a couple of months ago inducing a discussion on the respective merits of its various translations into English. Among the problematic points there was the question how to render the German word “Allee” which, technically, means “a road lined with trees on either side”. The problem here is that – as long as it’s lined with trees – an “Allee” can be any kind of road and even for Rilke’s original German-speaking audience the word may conjure up a wide range of images, from a small, deserted country lane to a bustling city boulevard (think the Champs-Élysées in Paris or Unter den Linden in Berlin). The first that came to my mind when reading the poem, was this…

… Vienna’s Prater Haupt-Allee, the main road across the Prater. Granted, with its broad band of asphalt and the COMECON-aesthetics* of its street lighting, it’s not a very pretty sight. But once you step into one of the narrower lanes that run alongside the central carriageway on either side…

… you’ll find that things start looking decidedly more, well, Rilkean:


Frankly, though, I always felt that when visiting the Prater, the further you venture away from the Haupt-Allee, the better. After all, before it became a park the Prater was the Habsburgs’ hunting ground created in the woodlands along the backwaters of the Danube. And even today there are still plenty of forest lanes and waterside paths to discover…



* Remember the COMECON? Ok, I probably wouldn’t if it didn’t get mentioned so often in Ian Banks’ Espedair Street

2 Responses to “This time of the year…”

  1. What a beautiful park. It’s not often that the cities we in other places think we will recognise are pictured in winter gloom. I now feel quite differently about Vienna. But then I’m a sucker for anywhere once the shutters are down and the sun has gone and the tourists have followed it.

    Fascinating take on the discussion at needled.

    • [c] said

      Well, personally, I believe that winter gloom is Vienna’s “default mode” and that November’s the time of year when the city is most itself…
      P.S.: I’d read your latest blogpost just before I went for that walk in the Prater and was therefore looking out for flowers all along the way, but a bunch of really withered chrysanthemums was all I saw in that department ;-) So, good luck with your challenge, I hope the British climate is more favourable for winter blossoms than ours!

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