31. July 2012
Underground with Mozart & Co
A new tourist attraction takes visitors underground where they can listen to Mozart, experience a model air raid shelter or run with the rats. wieninternational.at editor Sandra Schäfer joined a small group of bold visitors to find out what this new attraction has to offer.
Whereas it has long been common in English-speaking countries to be greeted in museums by life-size speaking dolls, photographed next to them or guided through an exhibition designed on the ghost-train principle, the German-speaking world lags behind somewhat with this type of historical museum experience. The gap has been gradually closing in the last few years, however. Following on from Madame Tussauds and the Vienna Airline in the Prater, the 1st district now has a museum experience that presents history and historical personages in a new fun way. As I have no objection to a bit of fun as a change from my daily work routine, I set off in great anticipation for an audience with Franz Josef and the rest.
Dinosaurs, rats and pigeonsI made my way through the crowds of summer tourists on Michaelerplatz, arriving five minutes later at Vienna’s latest tourist attraction, Time Travel Vienna. I had to wait a while until our group of ten people had assembled for the 50-minute journey back into the history of Vienna. We set off down steep steps to the former wine cellar of the Salvatorian monastery. While the time machine was being made ready – or so our guide told us – we waited in front of photographs of famous Viennese figures, who began to converse with one another in smooth Viennese dialect. Sigmund Freud had relatively little to say and it would have been nice if Mozart had followed suit. As he uttered “Jesus Maria” in a somewhat effeminate and alarmed Schönbrunn German at the soundtrack of exploding bombs, I thought the same and walked with lowered expectations in the direction of the modern 5D cinema.
Our guide asked us to fasten our seatbelts for a journey through two thousand years of cultural history. In fact the journey began much earlier with prehistoric dinosaurs. With shuddering seats and 3D effects we were then propelled forward to the Roman era. Some of the group might have been thinking that they should have brought warmer clothes with them because the wind that blew into our faces here was quite strong. The next episode catapulted us into the midst of a medieval plague. With a group of rats we clambered over the timbers of what was to become St Stephan’s Cathedral to observe the Turkish siege in the company of pigeons. This was soon over and we were then ushered to an imperial audience, in which Maximilian I, Maria Theresa, Franz Josef and Empress Elisabeth gave a humorous rendition of their family history. After a short music lesson including the history of the waltz, we continued towards the war years. Locked in a bunker we heard Schuschnigg’s speech, the tramp of military boots and the sound of bombs exploding. On this occasion the site was authentic, because the wine cellar had indeed served as a refuge during the war.
From war to kitschAfter a mini-episode on post-war history, in which our guide related some interesting anecdotes, we set off together with a German film tourist family on a horse-drawn carriage for the final section. Looking down over the roofs of the city we learnt about the sights that Vienna had to offer. This part of the journey, no doubt included to encourage visitors to see other tourist attractions, was without doubt the tackiest part, except for the museum shop with its unimaginative Mozart teddy bears and Klimt kitsch.
I climbed up the steps again with mixed feelings, wondering whether I had been overcritical. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. The tour was built up too much around the attractions rather than providing an overall picture. It would also have been nice if there had been more focus on other aspects of Vienna’s culture. Vienna has a deserved reputation as a music centre, but why was there nothing about Jugendstil or writers of the calibre of Arthur Schnitzler, who are also an important part of Vienna’s cultural history? Or even a mention of Dracula who was, after all, based on Maria Theresa’s personal physician Abraham Van Helsing? There were some good ideas, but the Viennese version of a museum experience still leaves something to be desired. Better to head for the Prater amusement park – not that there’s much new there, either, but the atmosphere is certainly better.
Time Travel Vienna
Opening hours: 10.00 to 20.00 daily
Admission: adults €18.00 / reduced €8.00 to €17.00
Time Travel Vienna