Hopefully I can be forgiven for thinking of Orson Welles’ The Third Man as I roamed through the cobbled streets of the Innere Stadt the morning after I arrived. Save for the occasional luxury hotel the city has changed very little from the days of the film. The riveting thriller, set in destitute post-war Vienna, begins with the narrator saying; “I never knew the old Vienna before the war, with its Strauss music, its glamour and easy charm.” Almost seventy years on I can attest to the fact that the “old Vienna” is very much the Vienna of today with its Baroque and Gothic elegance. It is easy to see from where the Viennese artists and intellectuals drew their inspiration – the city is a muse.
My first day of exploration began with Sunday Mass at St. Stephens Cathedral. Upon entering you are humbled by the majesty of its high columns and religious icons. As Mass began I was greeted by the music of Haydn made all the more transcendent by the wafting smoke from a swinging thurible. It is as close I think I will ever get to divinity and to the answers to all the unanswerable questions. But what better way to try than by visiting the former Viennese practice of Sigmund Freud? After Mass and getting lost along the way, I arrived at the Sigmund Freud Museum.
After reading of the importance Freud attributed to dreams and his depressing departure from Vienna on account of the Gestapo I decided that art would be my palliative. Vienna seems to have been established on the principle that a city can never have too many paintings. Many of its finest works are located at the Kunsthistorisches Museum – a palatial building beside the beautiful Maria-Theresien-Platz only dwarfed in grandeur by its priceless collection. After only an hour or two of gazing at the works of Titian I realised that it was dark. At four in the afternoon. So concluded my day of sightseeing, to be followed by my first day at the Austrian Economics Center (AEC).
Upon my arrival at the AEC I was thrust into the exciting preparations for the Center’s upcoming Free Market Road Show. The Road Show is supported by the tireless work of AEC Director Dr. Barbara Kolm, Senior Fellow Federico Fernandez, and Head of the Office Britt Schier. The Road show travels to thirty European cities promoting libertarian values by bringing together economists, politicians and business leaders each year to discuss current economic problems and propose solutions. In conjunction with Road Show preparations I will be writing a paper for the AEC’s Student Book Project over the next seven weeks. Following discussions with Federico Fernandez, I am currently in the process of sketching an outline for a paper exploring the troubling phenomena of an authoritarian resurgence in world politics and the proliferation of liberal democratic counter-norms. The AEC’s extensive library of libertarian literature will aid me in my research.
I am inestimably grateful to Ron Manners, Paul McCarthy, Kate Wagstaff, and the Mannkal team without whom none of this would have been possible.
Until next week.