With Vienna’s abundance of historic stately homes, it’s a wonder no one had thought of the pop-up project Luftschloss Cobenzl before. Set in an 18th century chateau on Kahlenberg currently awaiting redevelopment, the name is a play on its German name and the idiom Luftschloss (literally “castle in the clouds,” but translates better as “pie in the sky”). It’s fitting: While the famous Café Cobenzl continues serving patrons with one of the most spectacular views of the city, the Luftschloss Cobenzl crew is making full use of the spectacular venue. Crowds flock to the sprawling grounds for an innovative mix of art centric events, with concerts, exhibitions and pop-up kitchens soothing away weekday woes. One of the most popular, Spritzer Thursdays, showcases local musicians while patrons lounge in hammocks, sipping wine from the vineyard next door.
But it’s biggest draw is its parties. On summer nights, revelers trek through the vineyards to the stately pleasure dome to marinate in techno beats, the warm glow of city lights twinkling below and cuddling packs of hipsters scattered on the slopes. On one such evening, a truly Dante-esque rave awaited us. The ascent to this otherworldly party zone came in the form of an atypical bus ride up Kahlenberg in the 38A, accented by boisterous laughter and boozy conversations. Once there, a near endless line greeted us; apparently every soul spends time in purgatory before entering paradise. While we waited for an eternity, drinks were sourced miraculously from nearby bushes – an example of the Wunderbaum (tree of miracles) effect, where cash-strapped revelers conceal stashes of libations in nearby bushes ahead of time. Manna from heaven! The pre-party went into full swing as the line inched forward, strangers pouring their hearts (and bottles) out from sheer boredom, making incoherent future plans and dancing to the tinny beats from amplified cell phones. Impatient uprisings were nipped in the bud by the omnipotent bouncers, St. Peters in jackboots who granted access at a maddening, glacial pace.
A midsummer night’s queue
Finally, we passed the pearly gates, finding a scene of hedonistic entropy spread before us: Party litter strewn about by uninhibited souls, sprinkled decay across moonlit manicured lawns. Before long, we received a polite plea for narcotics followed by a slurred request for a light. Yet the charm was undeniable: the contrast between worn, Old World architecture and club kid attire made for a lively vibe. Ready for our night of debauchery, we entered the ninth sphere: a sweat-steeped ballroom. The bass smacked us right in the chest, injecting us with the rush of sweet palpitating beats as crowds of bodies swayed in trance. The next challenge, ordering a beer, packed us in like sardines again before, finally, the main attraction: the queue for the outdoor bathrooms! Once again, fast friends were made in purgatory – while we waited, we conspired with a girls’ clique in matching red jackets, supportive and sassy like only drunk women in restrooms can be. The night escalated into a blur of dance battles, crying in hallways, lost Adidas slippers, dirty Kappa tracksuits and good old Viennese charm in the form of loud Oidas! echoing in the distance as we finally made our way back down the mountain. The land of the living was still blissfully asleep as the morning light graced the valley below. A bit mundane, perhaps, but at least there was no line for the U-Bahn.
(published in June 2018, updated in July 2019)