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Vienna versus Dublin

July 23, 2009

I love both places, each charming in its own. However, the intensity of attending school in Dublin, and the fact that I live 20 minutes away from town rather than being right smack in the middle makes it really hard for me to see much of Dublin, except for the short hours I could squeeze in between work and studies (and the fact that I was really behind in my reading, thanks to being over-committed to trying to do too many things at the same time while also not doing much work in the 17 days that I was back home in Malaysia). The intellectual stimulation is great (not to mention being in Europe with its long intellectual tradition that is still strong to a certain degree, even if there aren’t as many great and famous scholars left after the second world war).  While playing the role of a tourist, I let the visual sights which I have to help all the ideas which I have collected in the course of the workshops to sink through.  At Dublin, I only had time to look at the streets, some shops, the grand Trinity college and a hurried view of its old library with its musty smell of books (including the Book of Kells).  Vienna however, was a different tale, as I get to spend at least two weeks there as well as experience the lifestyle of an average Viennese (except for living in the dorm bit). Dusk comes early and twilight only appears from 9 pm onwards. Most shops and some cafes are closed at night, though restaurants and performance places remain open. It’s now off-season at the opera houses, though there are troops of private performances of Viennese most famous (and most commodified) composers, nothing new of course. Even Strauss and Mozart had had given private performances.

The memory of the Hapsburg empire looms large in the minds of tourism peddlers, and you can certainly pay a lot of money to see the interior of Austria’s still unforgotten past. Yet, in our seminars and talks on Austria’s intellectual history, we also know that the Hapsburg in its twilight years represented the excesses and repressiveness of an old regime that was unwilling to acknowledge change and also the right for access to information (not that they will tell you too much of that in the tourist-centric museums. For that, I suggest getting a membership with the Austrian National Library at 10 euros a year, and 1,80 euros a day to access their national archives. However, unlike bilingual Ireland that uses its old Gaelic tongue together with English, Austria is a proudly German-Austrian (note that I use the hyphen to denote the difference) consciousness that do not always like to acknowledge that not all their tourists are German speakers (except for those who specifically CATER to tourists).  Of course, Austria is very different from Germany and this is not easy to explain unless you have either been to Austria or Germany.

Today, I saw Wittgenstein’s house. I missed an architectural tour organized by Wien Universitat just so that I could see his house, and also go to the riverside (Brown Danube). Of course, I would love to spend more time exploring the archives of the Vienne libraries, but this is hard during summer because most close really early, except maybe for the National library. More importantly, I wanted to say that, twice in a row, at two different parks; one being the one adjacent to the Hofsburg Imperial Palace and the other being next to the river Danube; I’ve been inspired to think more about my work. Now, they are scattered in scraps of paper, waiting for me to arrange them nicely in a pad or in my laptop. But, I have to say that I am really excited about an idea that I have, which I will blog about (not the idea itself, but the process of working through that idea) in my Epistemic Circus blog.

I hope I can soon distil some inspirations and ideas I have had gathered in the last few weeks in gloomy, rainy Dublin and the sometimes hot, stormy and fair weather of Vienna.  Moreover, I should also talk a bit more bout my experience of seeing Mayerling and Baden, the rolling woods of Vienna and its underground mine.  And atmosphere that soothes and calms the mind really gets one thinking, even if one has to sleep in a room with neither fans nor air-conditioning in the extreme heat of the summer. No wonder most people like to spend as much time outdoors as possible. I would too, if I could read my stuff without porting my laptop all over the place.

I took this picture while sitting on one of the raised seats specially erected for its summer performance arts outdoor screenings

I took this picture while sitting on one of the raised seats specially erected for its summer performance arts outdoor screenings

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