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Auf Wiedersehen, Vienna

Sep 5, 2023 | JMW News

Quite by chance I found out that I would soon have to leave the Jewish Museum and thus Vienna. I was shocked! I still am because who knows where they’ll take me? In the meantime I was able to find out that I’m going to start a return journey, since I’m not Viennese, but come from Altaussee. Technically I’m neither one nor the other. I’m on loan!

I’ve been hanging in the glass atrium of the Jewish Museum since 2013 – there’s a good view of the Viennese sky and a completely normal inner courtyard – and I’ve heard countless times how visitors were supposed to meet in front of the bicycle, or how educators prefer to hold, start, or end their workshops “at the bike.” A whole slew of political celebrities have been photographed with me – the results weren’t always perfect due to the backlight, but what is perfect anyway?

It’s certainly not my memory. I no longer know that Theodor Herzl would have learned to ride a bicycle with me or possibly on me, with the best will in the world. Or the fact that Arthur Schnitzler had supposedly been his cycling instructor. These cycling lessons are said to have taken place in the inner courtyard of the “Schneiderwirt” hotel in Altaussee.

I am a semi-racing bike and was made in Rüsselsheim, Germany. Adam Opel would later build cars, but he experimented with bicycles before that. In any case, Victoria Blitz is a resounding name. I have no brakes and no lights, so I wouldn’t be properly equipped for the Austrian road traffic regulations, and I won’t be riding around in the future either. But what will I do? It was announced that Altaussee will be part of the European Capital of Culture 2024 activities. Maybe they will exhibit me again? But as what? As Victoria? As Ms. Blitz? As Theodor Herzl’s bicycle? Is that really me? And where will they place me?

A lot of interesting things can be heard during guided tours: I was discovered in 2009. Research was being conducted for an exhibition about the “Alps” and the Jewish relationship stories associated with them, and I was found in Altaussee. People in Vienna were very enthusiastic, so I came and stayed on loan.

Now I know that Theodor Herzl and many of his contemporaries were downright fanatical cycling fans. The “Vienna around 1900” clique found cycling incredibly modern and chic. If you want to believe Herzl’s euphoric feuilleton essay in the Neue Freie Presse, Vienna was a really modern city in 1896. Because butchers here rode along the Ringstrasse on bicycles! In 1895 Karl Lueger was elected Mayor of Vienna for the first time. Modernity hadn’t come that far yet after all, did it? It would take until 1897 for Lueger’s definitive confirmation.

The fact is that Theodor Herzl wrote his much better-known text, The Jewish State, in 1896 and that he did not experience the founding of this state in 1948 because he had already died in 1904 in Edlach an der Rax – he passed away in a sanatorium, not on a summer holiday – I’ve known that for a long time, of course. Tours educate you tremendously. Will the museum curators hang something else in the museum sky instead of me? What could that be? Maybe they’ll just leave it be. With the light and the photos it was never that easy anyway. You can concede that objects shouldn’t be put in an exhibition just because of the photos.

Given the uncertainty of my further path, I started to ponder. Am I what I am, or have I become what I never was? Since my future is quite uncertain, and I don’t even know my next address, I will have a forwarding order set up. They probably won’t withhold that from me.

Maybe you’d like to write me? Maybe you know more than I do? If so, then you should write me in any case. It was very nice. It pleased me very much.