Friday, 2 August 2013

Strike a Light

Vienna to the short-term tourist looks a bit like a perfectly ordered fairy tale world. It is perfectly ordered, in a way, but it isn't fairy tale exactly. The various more unsavoury aspects of city life exist in Vienna just as they do elsewhere. However, rather than trying to get rid of them, the Viennese arrange things in what I think they regard as a perfectly sensible - well-ordered, you might say - manner.

Thus, prostitutes are permitted - or ignored anyway - provided they ply their trade exclusively on the Gürtel, so that driving along there at night you are often confronted by a woman whipping open her fur coat to reveal she has nothing else on, except a pair of very high heels. Similarly, a blind eye is turned to drug addicts provided they do their dealing in the Karlsplatz or Kettenbrückengasse underground stations.

Perhaps as a result, the two stations - Karlsplatz and  Kettenbrückengasse - attract quite a few peculiar types. When we lived in Vienna our apartment was between the two stations and it was hard to decide which to choose, as most days there were fairly nightmarish scenes taking place in both. The Karlsplatz station though was darker and somehow more grimy and unbearable so, provided I was using the U4, I tended to go for the  Kettenbrückengasse option.

One afternoon having made this choice, I boarded the train and found myself in an empty carriage. I sat down and then, just as the doors were sliding shut, I was joined by someone else. Despite the fact that the compartment had no-one else in it except me, the new passenger walked straight over and sat down on the seat next to mine. Once settled, he pulled a packet of matches from his pocket and began lighting them and then dropping them, one by one, still flaming, onto the floor at my feet.

I was reminded of that incident when I went to the cinema on my own earlier this week. I was just thinking how lucky I was to have a completely empty cinema to myself, (tempting fate, in other words), when the door creaked open and a hunched, bearded figure shuffled in and looked about him. Having taken in the rows upon rows of empty seats, he came and sat in the seat beside me. Perhaps this unnerving experience skewed my view of the film, which was called In the House. I wrote down what I thought of it here.

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