Monday, 9 March 2009

In Vienna

As we walked towards Michaelerplatz on a European summer evening when the days seem truly blessed and radiate with the resultant warmth and glow, the sounds of the cello wafting from a dimly lit third floor room of an old building gave us company. And we imagined enormous crystal chandeliers, faded red velvet and the smell of antiquity encompassing it all. We were still a few minutes away from the appreciative audience of mixed nationalities applauding the Chinese girl on her tiny piano, perched in the middle of the street close to a Dolce Gabbana outlet, paying homage to Mozart while young men and women in powdered white wigs and ruffled white shirts tried to entice us to attend a performance of The Marriage of the Figaro or Don Giovanni. Or so we believed for our knowledge of Mozart and opera begins and ends with these few words.

But that was still a little way off because we chanced upon a bookshop. The tiny bells jingling as we pushed open the door announced our entry to witness the closing seconds of a farewell scene. A man was putting on his coat and then he picked up his hat and brown leather suitcase and kissed the lady goodbye with the words, ‘I’ll be back the next time I am in Vienna’. Embarrassed at interrupting an intimate moment between friends we began looking at books but much to our disappointment they were all in German. So we picked up a couple of Moleskines and quickly paying for them exited from the same door as we had entered.

As I opened my diary a postcard fell off. Inscribed on it were the words SCHREIBEN followed by a poem in German and a name signed below: Emily Dickinson.

I looked at you as we stood on the roadside surrounded by the fragrance of freshly baked apple strudels and coffee and horses and recollected every moment since you handed me a little volume of Emily’s poems just before those terrible exams, with a ditty about Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim and life, ending with the words ‘she’s so you’. And then once again the cello started a new solo and we walked on to meet up with the cheering, applauding crowd. Imagining why people always want to come to die in Vienna.

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