Death – a booming business
When the Viennese say “He’s taken the 71“, they are metaphorically referring to “the end of the line” or the Zentralfriedhof (pronounced cen-Trail-freed-hof) Cemetery, which really means that the person has died. The Zentralfriedhof is one of Europe’s largest cemeteries. Beethoven, Brahms, Johann Strauss Sr. and Jr., Schubert, and 1980s pop icon Falco are all buried there. Mozart also has a monument in the cemetery, but he is buried in an unmarked grave in St. Mark’s Cemetery. Apparently, death in Austria is big business, and for some strange reason the Austrian funeral industry is said to be largest per capita in Europe. Austrians plan quite openly for their eventual demise, reserving burial plots, designing headstones, and joining the Death Association that ensures someone eventually shows up and pays the final bill.
Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts
Established in 1692, Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts has over the years successfully thrust forth scores of talented youths onto the world’s artistic arena
Yet the leading training center for artists for more than 300 years, the oldest art academy in Central Europe, is famous for rejecting a young painter by the name of Adolf Hitler back in 1907.
Of the 128 applicants that applied that year, Hitler was one of the 100 who failed.
But who can blame the academy?
Not everyone shares Hitler’s taste for entrance exam themes like “Expulsion from Paradise,” “Building Workers,” and “Death.”
But say if he did get accepted, would that have changed the course of history?
For starters, Hitler would’ve spent a good 6-7 years creatively expressing himself through art
Perhaps even resolving inner conflicts, improving interpersonal skills, managing problematic behaviors, reducing negative stress, and achieving personal insight
Then maybe, just maybe… that would have tempered his desire for war and averted the holocaust.
Empress Elisabeth “Sisi” of Austria
What do you think of someone who weighs herself up to three times a day, who drinks the juice of half-raw beefsteaks squeezed into a thin soup and takes regular steam baths to prevent weight gain? Sounds a little obsessive don’t you think?
But that’s exactly what the beloved Empress Elisabeth “Sisi” of Austria used to do
It’s rumoured that the longest serving Empress-consort of Austria might have been anorexic.
After she turned thirty-two, she stopped sitting for portraits, and wouldn’t allow any photographs of her to be taken, so that her public image of thee eternal beauty… would remain uncontested.
At 172cm, thee unusually tall Austrian monarch became a slave to her own beauty and image
Even after becoming a great-grandmother at the age of 57, Sisi became even more preoccupied with her slenderness and put herself on a milk and eggs diet and exercised daily to keep her weight under 50 kilos
The European Capital of Classical Music
Apart from being the European capital of classical music, Austria has been an important center of musical innovation.
Many 18th- and 19th-century composers were drawn to this cultural centre – Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert just to name a few
Born in Germany in 1770, Ludwig van Beethoven lived most of his adult life in Vienna, Austria.
He battled deafness starting at the age of 26 and he composed some of his best-known works while profoundly deaf—including his Symphony No. 9 in D minor, with “Ode to Joy” as its final movement.
Born in Salzburg, Austria, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a child prodigy who had the gift of a perfect memory.
At age 6, he performed for the Empress Maria Theresa at Schönbrunn Palace and composed some of the most enduring classical compositions in musical history including: The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute, and many symphonies and masses—including the unfinished masterwork Requiem, which is still shrouded in mystery.
He was buried in a pauper’s grave in St. Mark’s Cemetery in Vienna, and his remains were never identified.
Austrian composer Franz Schubert, is one of the music’s greatest lyricists, was nicknamed Schwammerl (Little Mushroom) by his friends because he was just five feet tall, and contemporary pictures show him as being dimpled and pudgy with a snub nose and sensitive eyes, peering from behind thick glasses.
Ferdinand Porsche, founder of the Porsche automobile company, was born in Mattersdorf, Austria, in 1875.
He’s best known as the designer of the powerful Porsche 911 sports car that became the ambassador for his company.
Although the company was founded in 1931, Porsche did not begin to manufacture cars until nearly a decade later.
Instead, the company offered motor development and consulting services.
Porsche is also known for designing the first Volkswagen automobile, at the direction of Adolf Hitler.
The company also contributed to the design of Tanks during the Second World War.
But nothing compares to the Porsche 911 – the most popular machine from the Porsche factory
Introduced in 1963, the car has remained in production, with newer generations featuring fresh upgrades.
A notable upgrade was the switch in 1998, after more than three decades, from using air-cooled engines to water-cooled engines—a change that remains with modern Porsches.
The Burial of ancient Austrian aristocrats
Can you imagine going to 3 different cemeteries to honour a loved one?
Apparently that’s how it is with the ancient Austrian aristocrats from 1278 to 1918
The bodies of the Hapsburg Emperors were not buried like other people in one place but at three different burial sites.
As a necessary part of the embalming process, their organs were removed to prepare the bodies for display before the funeral.
So their intestines, kept in copper urns were buried in St. Stephan’s Cathedral.
Their actual bodies were buried in the Imperial Vault at the Kapuzinerkirche (Cuppachino ker-sher) (Capuchin Church),
while their hearts were buried at the Augustinerkirche (Au-goostina-ker-sher) (Church of the Augustinians).
Arnold Schwarzenegger or “Arnie”
He was the governor of California from 2003-2010; and is a member of the Kennedy clan by marriage.
Nicknamed the “Austrian Oak” and the “Styrian Oak” in his bodybuilding days, Arnold Schwarzenegger or “Arnie” is one of the world’s best-known Austrians who starred in the Terminator and Predator action film series, among others.
Arnie began weight training at the age of 15.
He won the Mr. Universe title at age 20 and went on to win the Mr. Olympia contest seven times!
Arnold Schwarzenegger has remained a prominent presence in bodybuilding and has written many books and articles on the sport.
But if you prefer watching his movies than reading his books
Why not rent his breakthrough film this weekend?
It was a box-office hit back in 1982 – the sword-and-sorcery epic called Conan the Barbarian
And when renting the dvd, remember to check out the sequel as well!
All this week on Globetrekker we celebrate Austria’s National Day and we’ll do well to honour those who have made significant contributions to make it the great nation it is today
Viennese psychiatrist Sigmund Freud is best known as the founding father of psychoanalysis, which has heavily influenced modern psychology as well as other domains of science and culture.
Gregor Mendel was an Austrian monk who became famous for his garden experiments with pea plants.
His experiments became the basis for the science of modern genetics, and he is known as the “father of modern genetics.
In direct opposition to war and violence, Czech-Austrian pacifist and novelist who wrote Die Waffen nieder! or “Lay Down Your Arms!”, is one of the leading figures of the Austrian peace movement.
Austro-Hungarian Baroness Bertha von Suttner was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905.
It used to be that little boys were castrated before they reached puberty to preserve the purity of their unbroken voices.
Sadly, only a tiny fraction of the children mutilated this way even made it onto the stage
When Austria’s Emperor Maximilian I… founded the Vienna Boys’ Choir in 1498, he replaced castrati with young boys whose voices had not yet broken, creating one of the world’s most celebrated choirs.
Equally celebrated… is the von Trapp family choir
Who inspired Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1959 Broadway musical The Sound of Music
The memorable 1965 film version was set mostly in Salzburg, Austria
And it tells of how a young novice nun, Maria became governess to the widower Baron Georg von Trapp’s seven children and finally married the baron himself.
Together, they formed a family choir in the mid-1930s but had to flee Nazi-occupied Austria in 1938 and continue their career in the United States, settling in Stowe, Vermont after the Auschluss (unch-loous).
Mozartkugel or Mozart Ball
Mozartkugel or Mozart Ball are a fine brand of Austrian chocolates which originated in Salzburg, Mozart’s birthplace.
It was originally known as the “Mozartbonbon”, and was created by Salzburg confectioner Paul Fürst (fee-ast) in 1890 and named after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Since then, similar products have been made by other manufacturers, with a variety of similar recipes.
Some are hand-made and others are industrially produced.
But thee original recipe for Mozartkugel is as follows:
First, a ball of green pistachio marzipan covered in a layer of nougat is produced.
This ball is then placed on a small wooden stick and coated in dark chocolate.
The stick is then placed vertically, with the ball at the top, on a platform to allow the chocolate to cool off and harden.
Finally, the stick is removed; the hole that it leaves behind is filled with chocolate coating, and the ball is wrapped in tin foil.
The balls remain fresh for about eight weeks at room temperature.
Hey it’s Lynette Tan and all this week join me as we globe-trot to the European capital of classical music, Austria to find out
why ancient Austrian aristocrats had to be buried in three different cemeteries
how the famous chocolate Mozartkugel or Mozart Balls are made,
why little boys were castrated before they reached puberty and many many more intriguing fun facts
Tune in to Globetrekker this week from Mon to Fri, 12 to 1pm on Expat Radio 963XFM – your home away from home