National Geographic : 1968 Jun
National Geographic, June, 1968 mountain rises 6,808 feet, with snow enough for skiing in June. You also see into the steppe; 45 miles eastward lies the great plain shared by Hungary and Czechoslovakia. And in a way you can see into the past why this city of the river, the mountains, and the plain became a seat of power, and as much of a melting pot as New York. In the time of Christ, Roman legionaries built a fort here to discourage incursions by Germanic tribes from the north. Charle magne's horsemen passed downriver in A.D. 791, to crush the powerful Avars. Twice, in 1529 and 1683, the armies of the Moslem Turks flooded from the east as far as Vienna. Both times the city withstood their onslaughts and the starvation of the siege, until relieved by the combined forces of the Christian West. As for the melting pot, that resulted from Vienna being a seat of empire for centuries, drawing people from much of Europe. The Count of Habsburg, who until 50 years ago reigned here as the Emperor of Austria, was also King of Hungary and Bohemia, of Dal matia and Croatia-and ruler over many lands that today lie in Italy, Yugoslavia, Po land, Rumania, and the Soviet Ukraine. Now you see why Vienna's palaces are named not only Liechtenstein and Schwar zenberg but Pallavicini and Esterhdzy, Kin sky, Lobkowitz, and Wilczek; and why any representative list of Viennese-cabinet min isters, telephone subscribers, streetcar con ductors-will reflect a similar mixture. Love of Titles Survives the Years Today not only the old names survive, but many old values as well. You can see that in the daily governmental gazette, the 265-year old Wiener Zeitung. The imperial double eagle was dropped from the front page in 1918, when the last Habsburg emperor abdi cated. A single-headed eagle now surmounts the announcements of medals and crosses and titles, bestowed by the President of the Aus trian Republic: Hofrat for the bureaucrat, Kommerzialrat for the businessman, Professor for writers and artists. But now, just as then, who could love his new title more than does a Viennese? Only his wife, who by the grace of common courtesy is now Frau Hofrat or Frau Professor. What about the emperor's dashing officers, in tunics of white or powder blue, in trousers of scarlet? Those glorious colors still glitter nightly on the stage, in operettas by Strauss or Lehar or Robert Stolz. But wait, come along to the military tattoo near the Ring and observe a genuine young Leutnant of today. He salutes a comrade and his lady, smiles, faintly clicks his heels, bows, kisses the lady's hand. The uniform is plain and gray, but all the old dash is there. Grim Days Came Often to Vienna There is something else to keep in mind, however, something somber. In the 50 years since the emperor's departure, Vienna has witnessed a succession of disasters. After the first World War came hunger, ruinous inflation, depression. I remember men making little speeches in streetcars, to tell of having exhausted their unemployment bene fits; then they would play a harmonica and pass down the aisle in hopes of a few pennies. I remember my mother fetching me from grade school in a panic: Civil war had broken out that morning, and around the neighbor hood tennis club the Social Democrats, or Reds, battled the Christian Socialists, or Blacks, with heavy machine guns. Hitler came, bringing despair to many in Vienna, but hope of work and stability to many more. What followed was a regimen of brutality and fear-and World War II, with Viennese dying in the uniforms of Nazi Ger many. Hardly a family was left untouched. I learned that toward the war's end a man I had known died by his own hand, afraid of a reckoning for what his outfit had done in Russia. In Vienna's great gray prison I visited the chamber where Nazis decapitated men and women for hoarding food, for listening to the Allied radio, for making a joke about Hitler. Near the drain where the blood ran down, bronze plaques list hundreds of names Smatlak, Obermaier, Padaurek. The plaques list no Jews. Most of the Jews of Vienna who did not emigrate in time were transported Like a statue springing to life, a Lipizzaner stallion lifts from the ground in a courbette before the Austrian flag; another rider and mount seem dwarfed in the vast hall of the Span ish Riding School. Descendants of horses brought from Spain four centuries ago, Vienna's white Lipizzaners step to music with intricate promenades, graceful pirouettes, and soaring leaps. To visitors, they hold center stage in the city's rich repertoire of entertainments. KODACHROMEBYGEORGEF. MOBLEYANDJOHNE. FLETCHER© N.G .S .