A rainbow city break in Vienna

 

It’s not just a single story. Vienna trip was a mixture of several vivid episodes. I decided to share this Vienna travel plot, provoked by the latest events in Orlando, Florida. The murder of 50 people in a gay bar, and 50 more wounded, all with gun shot injuries. Reading the comments afterwards, I realised how ridiculous is the suicidal habit of our society to divide people on right and wrong. As a tribute, I recalled my Vienna tour.

It was funny, vibrant, colourful, glowing and liberating. This trip to the Austrian capital was carefully planned as a quiet prolong weekend, devoted to museums and sightseeing. All those plans crushed, at the moment I arrived in Vienna and found my stay coincides with the annual Gay parade there. Accidentally, I became a spectator of the rainbow party, that brought lots of emotions, fever and free spirit not only to the participants, but also to the Viennese citizens and the tourists, passing by. 

I have not had much interaction with gay people. What I am aware of, especially after my experience at the gay parade in Vienna, they are same people like us, harmless and lovable. Living one foot out the society standards doesn’t make them monsters. I do not have any intention to play it someone’s lawyer. That’s why I’ll simply share my unexpected touch to the gay community in Vienna.

It happened exactly a year ago. There is a pre-story, so let me make you familiar with it. My mom lives more than 20 years in Greece. During those years, we did not communicate much. She missed my kids childhood and lost connection with our main lifetime events. We (she and I) took a decision to give it a push and to reunite. We agreed every other year, only two of us, like a tandem, to travel to an European city, picked by her. The idea was to spend at least 5 to 7 days together, without anyone else to interfere. Our first together trip was to Istanbul, Turkey and was quite successful. Two years later she was about to choose  another city for our next upcoming together tour. And she picked Vienna.

My hometown Rousse is located on the bank of Danube river, the same river Vienna is at. My city was always called “the little Vienna“, because of resemblance with the Austrian capital, mostly in the amazing Neo-Baroque and Neo-Rococo architecture, designed by Italian, Austrian and German professionals. Rousse looks quite different than the other Bulgarian cities. My mom was curious to visit Vienna and to make a comparison how alike the both cities are. It was an expected choice and here we go in June 2015.

June is supposed to be a warm summer month in Europe. The temperature should be around and even over 25 degrees Celcius. I guess Vienna was not aware of that, because the city welcomed us with a climate suitable mostly for late Autumn – cold (12 degrees C), rainy and windy. Unpleasant indeed, because the best way to explore Vienna is on foot. Well armed by umbrellas and raincoats we eventually did it.

The comfy hotel was right in the centre, next to the Rathaus (the house of Mayor of Vienna and city council chambers). Despite the grumpy weather, our mood was great and we were ready to explore every peculiarity of the city. That was my second time in Vienna, so I had the ambition to demonstrate my guiding skills. Late in the morning, two minute walk and we popped up at the large square in front of the Rathaus. Believe it or not, but the ugly weather did not interfere the square environment. All the Rainbow colours were waiting for us at the spot to warm us up.

We had no clue what kind of festival it is. It looked exactly like the holiday markets in Germany, I am so familiar with. White tents everywhere, plenty of bars serving drinks, smoky grilles, wooden tables and benches, plenty of coloured flags. The square was full of young, dancing and smiling people. My mom was a bit nervous, because of the crowd and was trying to keep as close to me as she can, holding tight my hand. We stopped at every stand. All people were so gentle to us and we get invited to try the variety of cheese, meat and desserts. Also at almost every step, we got a plastic cup of complimentary drinks.

It was crazy, radiant, shiny, funny, surrounded by great music and tons of laughter. My mom was fascinated how friendly the Austrians are. We crossed the square, watched the performers at the large stage and get drenched in the atmosphere. Then we left the square like regular tourists, moving further in regard to our travel programme for visiting some sightseeing.

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The next day the colourful square was full again, noisier and funnier. But now, on the second day, we noticed it’s not just a regular festival. Now I carefully read the slogans, paid more dipper attention to the bizarre dressed people and was surprised to find we are at a gay event. The square gathering was just a warm up round before the annual Vienna Pride Parade, which is the biggest event for the gay community. I forgot it happens in June. Such parade is organised simultaneously in most of the European capitals. It was perfectly arranged. The previous day we believed we are eating, drinking, entertaining for free by attending kind of a regular city fest.

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I cannot accuse the participants in anything vulgar. On the contrary. Excluding the weird outfit, the whole event reminded me an open city rock fest. Well.. my mom was a bit shocked, when she realised we might look like a gay couple there 🙂 She was kind of dizzy, frightened by the diversity and the odds, “glued” to me, trying to avoid the crowd… When the shock was gone, my mom was even able to make jokes about our presence at the gay fest. She thought the people at the square must have been really jealous of her, for having such a young girlfriend 🙂

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This second day we attended an extensive bunch of activities and competitions, everyone was welcome to be a part of. Everyone was welcome to join the agenda, regardless their sexuality.  Trendy restaurants provided refreshments. Live music at a big stage.  Lots of speeches in German and in English, regarding the gay rights. Presentations and invocations of 11045394_947584831952720_317576721760820380_nacceptance. I have to admit, I experienced a very well structured event, with no aggression or pornography. The participants were not arrogant, neither mean. Right before the start of the Parade on Saturday, I had the chance to talk to some of the gay community members. They were quite patient with my curiosity and questions. Seems like in Vienna the society tolerance is much higher and gays were not afraid of their sexuality revelation.

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I heard unbelievable life stories. I met a gay banker at the parade’s kick off. He confessed he won’t dare to dress up this way, neither expose his sexual orientation freely during the rest of the year. Even with the high society tolerance his social status and career would be in doubt. But during the rainbow weekend everything was allowed and he was here. Another case – a father of two daughters, realised quite late his sexual preferences. He said he was doing his best not to make his own kids feel embarrassed. A female couple, my mom’s age, live together for 32 years. They said they won’t give up on their feelings, which they call love. All those people let themselves declare officially how different they are just once a year, during the Rainbow Pride Parade. Out of those four Rainbow days, same people are kind of regular citizens and won’t be distinguished. In such a free spirit city as Vienna, most of the gays try not to emphasise, neither to challenge the other people’s tolerance by provocative behaviour. As I was told, the Parade is a time of celebration, to show up and announce they are not ashamed for who they really are.
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And who am I to judge them? I saw nothing wrong and nothing bad. On the contrary. They were open, friendly, let me intrude their world although I do not belong to. Their different sexual orientation doesn’t cause any harm to me, neither to my family, friends or loved ones. I was not frightened, was not wounded, their choice doesn’t make me feel miserable, neither insecure. My presence and future were not under threat just because they exist and are divergent. It was a peaceful colourful demonstration of their distinction. What the gay community finally accomplished in Vienna was to create a fantastic festive time for all the residents and guests.

So… I am going back to my sad reason for remembering Vienna, back to the point I started with. Killing someone who doesn’t make harm is not heroism. I cannot say anything bad against gays, but could do it against those who organised the massacre in Orlando. My vibrant unexpectedly ending trip to Vienna will always remain a bright moment, which made my day and shined through the ugly weather. This symbol of tolerance and acceptance turned my well planned programme upside town, to finally refresh my Vienna journey and to shape it into a rainbow amusement.

 

 

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