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This summer, our social media feeds are filling up fast with our friends, family, and those we follow showing off trips and long weekends to far-flung locations. And most likely you’ve got a destination getaway planned soon, too, that you’ll inevitably post about, maybe add the location, and insert a relevant hashtag in the comments section, too.
But we’ve all been there, or at least witnessed, how disconnected you can feel, constantly tapped into getting the right picture, angle, or filter, rather than truly experiencing a sunset or dinner. So this season, the Vienna Tourist Board is encouraging visitors to the city to put down their phone, step away from the hashtag, and truly live in the moment.
Whitewall caught up with Helena Hartlauer, manager of media relations at the tourist board, about Vienna’s bold campaign’s message.
WHITEWALL: How did you arrive at a need for a digital detox in this moment?
HELENA HARTLAUER: Our fast-paced world, that is supposedly fueled by hyper-connectivity, perpetuates the idea that we need to be tapped in and online at all times to maintain relevance. The rhythms in Vienna are rather slow paced compared to global mega cities. The richness of experience we see, smell, touch, feel and hear, in Vienna can really only be fully enjoyed in an analog manner.
Likewise, our global connectivity can be more appreciated if there is contrast in time offline. From that head space, it is much easier to experience art through our own eyes, music through our own ears, tastes with our own mouths and textures with our own hands. Constant seeing through a phone “lens,” observing a perfected, often highly staged world, such as social media and web often offers us, can dull the richness of our own experience, because we can stop really seeing and simply accept the concept we anticipated…That being said, we are not knocking social media. Vibrant photos and posts lead to millions of visitors to Vienna… but they pale in comparison to the unique experience we can have where we are, when we are fully present.
WW: What impact—positive or negative—do you think our digital devices and devotion to sharing on social platforms has on the enjoyment of travel?
HH: Social media has changed the way people travel, in both expansive and constrictive ways. People can share their impressions easily, promote beautiful destinations, offer interesting insights and share personal experiences. But what about rich experiences that aren’t aesthetically “like-able”, that can’t be translated via a tiny picture? Do we stop seeing if only looking for “frames” when we are constantly digitally tapped in?
We sometimes feel the urge to see and share as much as possible, to show our relevance. It is therefore possible to ‘chase’ the perfect shot or sight etc., and this behavior can hinder our enjoying the actual moment, with all our senses, and an appreciation of the temporary nature of any point in time.
WW: By inviting tourists to stash their phones and live in the moment, what experiences are you hoping visitors to Vienna will have?
HH: The hope is that beyond visiting and enjoying cultural points of interest and museums, visitors truly enjoy the moment in that actual moment, from breathing the fresh air in Vienna’s city vineyards, to having a glass of Viennese wine overlooking the city it was produced in, to observing the ducks in the pond of Stadtpark to savoring their Schnitzel before it’s become cold, to discovering that perhaps they like an artwork next to the one mentioned in every guide even better than the most iconic one, and so on… the idea is that it is up to each visitor to discover.
We curated a selection of “moments” instead of just locations or “sights” in sync with the campaign.
WW: What are some of the must-see exhibitions on view this summer in Vienna?
HH: Kiki Smith’s “Procession” at the Lower Belvedere is great, and features dozens of dynamic works while highlighting the social & political shifts and changes which inform the artist’s work. “Vertigo” at mumok, is an immersive dive in the op art of the 1950s and 60s, purposefully leading us to sensory overload, testing our boundaries of comfort vs. discomfort in a presentation that sparks lively discourse. “TAKEOVER: Street Art + Skateboarding,” utilizing the temporarily closed Wien Museum is a fantastic way to make use of the empty museum, which has been emptied in preparation for renovation and expansion. Over 20,000 square ft have been turned into a playground for street art and skateboarding—two subcultures that appropriate unused areas and challenge our understanding of participation in public space. Vandalism or art? Visitors decide. Sensing a theme of personal interpretation and lively Viennese discourse yet?
WW: How do you suggest visitors enjoy the city’s over 50% green space?
HH: Stroll in the hills of Nussberg, our vineyards, which produce incredible wine within city limits. See and smell the rose gardens in the Volksgarten, which offers over 400 types of roses. Visit the Botanical Gardens that run adjacent to the Belvedere Palace that offer over 12,000 types of plants, herbs, flowers and cacti—an ideal way to cool down on a hot summer day between visiting the sights while staying outdoors.
WW: What’s a hidden gem of Vienna – not always on the top of every must-do list?
HH: Rent a boat or paddleboard on crystal clear Old Danube and perhaps take a swim. Have a late-night savory snack at a Würstelstand, our classic sausage stands, with all the fixings, dotted around the city they take street food to the next level. Go full circle on a free ride with the paternoster in city hall building.
WW: Are there any new restaurants, bars, hotels, or shops we should be aware of?
HH: The Andaz, designed by Renzo Piano, with its amazing AURORA rooftop bar has recently opened and is a great cocktail scene, especially after work. BRUDER restaurant, a brotherly collaboration that has proved wildly popular, features creative cocktails, organic wine, naturally fermented regional ingredients, and flavorful fare within a very welcoming atmosphere. The Chapel, a hidden bar, features inventive cocktails, dimly lit ambiance, and is often packed and very fun.
WW: What’s a must-have summer meal and cocktail in Vienna?
HH: Standard drinks in European summer include a Weisser Spritzer (white wine with sparkling water) or Soda Zitron (a refreshingly tart amount of freshly squeezed lemon juice with sparkling water, usually in a large carafe). Summer meals that are seasonal to the peak ripeness of their components like Chanterelle Goulash or Asparagus salad (asparagus season runs until end of June) are consistent crowd pleasers.