Sunday, March 18, 2012

Gish and Guinness

Vienna has a long history of being home to some of the world’s greatest music.  Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, Brahms, and Schonberg all lived and composed here.  The list goes on.

It is easy to focus on these composers, as most of them lived just down the street from us, but today we ventured out to a broadening musical event—Vienna’s 13th annual “Internationales Akkordeon Festival.”

In the less-than-packed Filmcasino in the 5th district, we saw Lillian Gish in the 1928 silent film, “The Wind.”  At the front of the theater were two fine musicians, both women.  One was an accordion player, the other a versatile musician who played, at appropriate moments in the movie, a saxophone, flute, clarinet and/or other instruments that made horse galloping and train chugging sounds.

Lillian, "Wind"
After a few minutes the novelty of the moment wore off and we were absorbed into the film and lost in the story.  Lillian Gish was remarkable.  She heads out west, meets some bad guys, and ends up in a cabin married to one of the lesser bad guys.  “Why did you make me hate you?” she screams in the form of a wailing accordion and strained clarinet.  Two rivals for her affection shoot out the eyes of a stuffed owl, and a woman who is jealous of her dresses out a full side of beef hanging in the living room of her ramshackle cabin on the prairie.  She glares at poor Lillian as she wipes the bloody butcher knife across her apron.

Try to score that with an accordion.  The two musicians did a wonderful job, and the mellow sax solo peaked just as Lillian declared, “I love you.”

After the movie ended, the sax player declared, “Ich liebe Schmaltz.”

We were dismayed to discover that we missed “Tango Crash,” a zydeco group, but next week we are shooting for American Rosie Ledet & The Zydeco Playboys.   As the festival closes, we will be back at the Filmcasino as the same musicians (we hope) play us through the 1920 Douglas Fairbanks film, “The Mark of Zorro.”

This really is good stuff.

Beyond accordion music, another Viennese tradition we honored this weekend was St. Patrick’s Day.  Actually, the Viennese likely don’t have a clue, but Keir and I headed for our favorite darts venue, the Highlander Scottish Pub.  Sure, it says its Scottish, but James and everyone else who works there are Irish.

We went early, hoping to get in a couple games of darts before the rowdies from Ireland showed up.  However, James let us know there could be lots of drinking, but no darts, for the evening.  He gave us a couple of free St. Patrick’s Day hats, a couple of pints of Guinness (not free), and we settled in.

About halfway into our second pints, we took up a game I learned when I was a kid in Germany—flipping over and catching as many beer coasters as you can.  As a middle-aged Austrian couple at the next table cheered, Keir and I drove the numbers higher.  We tied at 21 coasters—not bad given the Guinness that was involved.  I remind everyone that Keir is 18, not that it matters in Austria.

The Austrian woman then tried, but only got to two or three.  We then turned to flipping the beer coasters up in the air, with the object being that they land on top of the glass of Guinness.  My skill at this game apparently has faded, but Keir got six in a row.   The woman across the way got one.

We were low on euros and about to call it an evening when James announced from the bar that the first four people who could name the capitol of Ireland would get a free shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey.  I rushed to the bar and proclaimed Glasgow, which we all know is in Scotland, but this was a Scottish pub after all.  James was disgusted, but the other barkeep thought it was such a stunningly dumb answer that I got my shot of Jameson.

Like the accordion music, it is really good stuff.


  1. Hi,
    my name is Simona and I am with the web research team at We are the world’s leading social network for expatriates, with currently 500.000+ members in more than 322 cities worldwide.
    I really enjoyed reading your fantastic blog and believe that expats in Vienna and around the world would not only - appreciate the entertaining content, but also benefit from the insights and perspectives you offer. Your blog really is a captivating read! This is why I would like to feature you and your writing in a designated section of , the Recommended Blog on Vienna. We have designed a link badge for placement on your blog and would be glad to hear from you directly via our questionnaire!
    I hope my proposal has piqued your interest. If so, please feel free to contact me via email: