The Book: J. Sydney Jones, VIENNAWALKS (revised edition). Henry Holt trade paperback, 1994. Good condition; front cover is loose, spine is creased.
First read: 1995
Owned since: 1995
No April Fool's post today -- I toyed with the idea of inventing a fictional book, but I'm too busy this week. And while I love the silly, I can't stand practical jokes. Most April Fool's jokes cross the line.
Anyway, when people talk about their favorite places to visit, or where they'd most like to return, Vienna tops my list. That is partly because Vienna is a magical and haunted place; partly because I saw it with Sue and Thomas Schulz, two of my favorite traveling companions; and partly because of this book. (And maybe partly because of some genetic memory; Celts were among the first settlers of prehistoric Vienna, and moved north later.)
The subtitle of this book explains it all: "Four intimate walking tours of Vienna's most historic quarters, with maps, photos, and a select list of restaurants, hotels, and more." It's part of a fantastic series that covers dozens of cities around the world; a year or so later, Sue and I walked around Chelsea, Kensington and the City with LondonWalks, because ViennaWalks was so good.
ViennaWalks lays out four walking tours of the city, in chronological order. The first, "The Stones of Vienna," starts at the Stephansdom, takes you back in time to the Vienna of Marcus Aurelius, and then forward through the Second World War. Late in the tour, Jones takes the reader by a building that now serves as yeshiva and synagogue in the old Judenplatz -- "it has a police guard day and night," the guidebook says, and we saw them, two men with guns and a large dog. T.S. Garp's beloved Franz Grillparzer was on the Judenplatz too, at least in spirit -- he lived and wrote in an apartment at Judenplatz 1.
A weekend was not enough time to spend in Vienna; the opera wasn't performing, the weather was marginal, we never even got to the Kunsthistorisches Museum. We did see the KunstHaus Wien, aka the Hundertwasser Museum, which is cool not only for its contents but for its design. Hundertwasser objected to straight lines, right angles and flat surfaces, and the museum has none.
Someday I'll go back in good weather, and see the Prater and the opera and the trees in leaf. I'm hanging on to this book until then.