It was all so much simpler then. Back when we were innocent, when we treated each other with respect, communicated without smartphones and buildings were built to last. Sure it was. In memory, we merge reality with idealized editions of the past and repackage it into nostalgia. It may be one of the strongest, most powerful emotions of the collective consciousness. The refrain, “früher hätt’s des net gegeben” (this would never have happened back in the day) is used jokingly by plenty of Viennese, but there is an essence of truth to what we project back onto “the good old days.”
We examine Vienna’s versions in our Cover Story, seeing how we conveniently forget the negative and enhance the positive, reliving memories in the blurry comfort of knowing we are part of that world. “Thank god our brains do that,” Opera Ball Director Maria Großbauer told me in this month’s Melange interview, discussing the positive effects of nostalgic practices like ball season. Even neurologists are getting closer to understanding the way our mind fools us, as we outline in our science feature. Nostalgia is also good for business.
From the success of Netflix’s Stranger Things franchise, to retro trends in fashion and photography, brands have made good money targeting us with reminders of childhood. Not to mention the one brand we all know: Vienna. The city combines the nostalgia of various eras, from Biedermeier to Bruno Kreisky, from fin de siècle to Falco, there’s a golden age for everyone.
In our profiles we’ve spoken with Florian Kaps, the Austrian who saved Polaroid from extinction, with Oliver Braun, head of the legacy confectioner and hotel owner Gerstner; with Matti Bunzl, guardian of Vienna’s urban narrative at the Wien Museum, and with Thomas Brezina, author of the wildly popular Knickerbocker Gang books of the 1990s and Tom Turbo, the talking bike.
The business of nostalgia is perhaps most visible in the luxury industry and among the super stars in Vienna is Lobmeyr, the purveyor of chandeliers and glassware and one of the most celebrated master workshops in Austria.
With all this gazing into the past, what remains of living in the moment and dreaming and planning for the future? We visited the Technical Museum, where everyday objects show how past generations imagined the present day. We look into nostalgia vs. reality and retro trends around the world in our Quotes & Stats.
As expats, we ascribe a certain magical happiness to our homeland, but what if, as for so many displaced people, that homeland has been taken away? Stefan Zweig tapped into nostalgia for his famous The World of Yesterday, yet never came to terms with the soul-killing reality of his exile to Brazil.
Europe’s largest displacement and genocide has, in fact, left only a tiny Jewish community in Vienna and we’ve looked at how its members are facing the challenges of communicating stories and values to the younger generation and how they are understood by society at large. The city is also celebrating the legacy of Leonard Bernstein who took on Vienna’s Nazi past and changed musical history, ultimately becoming eternally bound to the city and its music.
As the year comes to an end we turn our attention from the past to the future, with family gatherings, celebrations of the New Year and, for many, some days off to dream about adventures and experiences to come. Staying in Vienna this holiday season? We’ve got you covered! From theater and concerts to dining and nightlife, there’s plenty to do.
So before you start tearing up with fond memories of winter wonderlands past, take a
moment to revel in the magical present. When the weather gets cold, head for the nearest Punsch stand to sip on something warm, and find all the rest of Vienna at a stand near you.
Prost, Prosit Neujahr and…
don’t be a stranger,