Vienna is undoubtedly the world capital of swelling. All we need to do is to just look at the town’s desserts, the flummeries, at which every good cook automatically clicks her tongue in praise – it’s incredible what all rises and expands here; makes wheat muscles to swell, in serviettes or out of baking dishes. Or, to listen to the sounds that know how to produce the autochthonous here: Viennese is not spoken in the strict sense of the term; rather, the language gushes out of the people and wraps their bodies up in a creaking, groaning and squealing sweater knitted of adventurously entangled nouns, verbs, adjectives and sounds that are unrelated to any word-group that the non-Viennese are familiar with.
Who's amazed that Christmas shopping is taken extremely seriously in such a city. Sure, Strasbourg has its Gothic Cathedral and is considered the cradle of the Christmas tree and happily called «la capitale Européenne de Noël». But Vienna’s digestive tract absorbs everything Christmassy into its innards and then spills everything grandly out of its pores in Vienna-night style. In the inner districts there is definitely no place, except at the Oriental-occupied Naschmarkt, where kiosks do not stand cheek-by-jowl in rows. Even the Maria-Theresien garden gets a Christmas market – and everywhere there are busloads of people being hauled in, worthies who then proceed to jostle in clusters, with glowing eyes, through lanes smelling of soap and incense. During Advent, 60 per cent of the city’s humidity consists of mulled wine mist – and the country’s lambs don’t exist except in the form of warm winter slippers. «Magic Vienna» is the slogan of the tourism industry given that English is the lingua franca nowadays even around the Hofburg – but, of course, current-day Viennese does not deny itself the chance to spill a foreign word such as «Magic» pleasantly out of its mouth.
As things of a plump form swell better, Vienna naturally treats itself to some balls in this season. There’s no shop display that’s not jazzed up at this time with a few fir trees and glass balls, no shop-front over which a beamer does not make glass balls dance around – and in St. Stephen's Cathedral a gospel choir from Döbling or Liesing makes the balls float in vocal form through the nave 240 times a day! But by far the most powerful balls hang over the Rotenturm Road in the inner city: glass globes, as big as trucks, made of what appears to be a felt-like material. During the day they glow a dark red in front of you – and at night, due to the lack of lighting, they transform into black masses that dangle dark and almost a bit menacingly over the people. The longer you look at them, the more they act like black holes in the light-hungry drive of this city – and suddenly it becomes clear that this must be the spot where Vienna can swell out of itself like a wad of dou.
First Publication: 6-4-2014