In Vienna there’s ten pretty women
There’s a shoulder where death comes to cry
There’s a lobby with 900 windows
There’s a tree where doves go to die
One of my favourite Leonard Cohen songs leads me to think to my time in Vienna and wonder if I saw the things he describes there. Pretty women were around, of course, like any European city, but I saw many more in Prague. A shoulder where death comes to cry is way too metaphoric, and I saw many trees, all of which could have been the last resting place of a dove.
The lobby with 900 windows could have been Schönbrunn Palace.
Sex. Death. Alcohol. Longing. The themes of that Cohen tune infiltrate the history of the Hapsburgs, who threw up this palace on the banks of Wein to humble the French Bourbons to the west and and the Turkish Ottomans to the east, their imperial rivals. The Hapsburgs’ greedy, jealous eyes roved over Europe, the Catholic hammer of Protestantism, marrying strategically, their spectacular triumphs and equally spectacular disasters filling the pages of history.
Nothing is left of the Hapsburgs past glory now. Their homeland is a humble little republic people associate with skiing and beer. Nothing remains except this palace which reminded me so much of Take this Waltz I couldn’t stop singing in my head as I walked through its gardens.
I found out this week Leonard Cohen is making another tour and coming to my city in April. The 78 year old just won’t quit and I won’t miss my chance to see him live for the first time. And if he plays that song in 3/4 time, I’ll think of Schönbrunn, and Vienna, and for a second I’ll be back there, surrounded by the old Hapsburg ghosts, 900 of them, each with its own window, staring out at the world of the living.