The Austrian capital bursts with epic museums, architecture and a musical legacy headlined by giants like Mozart and Beethoven. One guidebook described Vienna as an outdoor museum disguised as a city, but underneath its cultural sheen, the city founded by the Roman Empire has a twisted side that most tourists never see. The following are nine examples of how Vienna is actually weird as fuck.
1. Wiener Water
While in Colombia, I once asked a female market owner, "Quanto questa basil?" I thought I was asking the price of basil, but the herb is albahaca in Spanish, while the word for kiss is besos. Needless to say, the woman's response was not what I expected. Language can be a tricky thing, and this is especially true in Austria where you see signs for ausfahrt and the equally frightening "weiner water." Fret not, because the word that sounds like "ass fart" translates as "exit" (and that's not a dirty euphemism), and weiner water is actually just Viennese water locally sourced from the Alps. The word Wien is German for Vienna, so Wiener refers to food and drink from the Austrian capital. That's how Americans get the word "weiners" for Viennese sausages.
2. The "Make Mike Pence Cry" Museum
The rubber meets the Roe at the city's Museum of Contraception and Abortion, where heathen liberals can learn about landmark birth control moments, like the time the Zeppelin creator sued a condom maker for putting the airship image on its condom packages. The 1909 lawsuit failed to change the packaging, but the company had to drop slogans like, "Zeppelin rises above Lake Constance." Visitors will also learn that the German army issued guns and condoms to its soldiers during World War I, pig bladders once served as condoms and "rinsing the vagina" during male ejaculation was considered a "fairly good method of contraception." Photo credit: Museum.
3. The Toilet of Modern Art
Built in the early 1990s, Hundertwasser Village is a large artistic space that honors artist-architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who famously built an apartment house apparently imagined in an acid trip. The 1980s-built house inspired the surrounding village, and one of the main attractions is the village throne.The Toilet of Modern Art (TOMA) is a psychedelic mashup of textures, art and architecture that includes mish-mashed tiles, cracked mirrors and toilet stalls sure to make tourists dizzy. While this might sound like an odd way to honor the artist's work, Hundertwasser actually authored The Holy Shit manifesto and a guide for building toilets out of humus. Did your stomach just turn? Don't worry, that's humus—an organic component of soil—and not the hummus you spread on pita.
Photo credit: Flickr/erlebnishengst.
4. The Undertaker's Museum
In the 18th century, the emperor said reusable coffins (with trap doors on the bottom) would become the new law of the land. They didn't last a year before the law was rescinded, but the coffin itself lives on as part of the Vienna Undertaker's Museum. Located in Europe's second largest cemetery, the museum features oddities like undertaker cigarettes with the slogan "Smoking Protects Jobs" and an above-ground bell connected to the deceased should the dead rise again. The latter is for all those Christians who don't want to be trapped underground when the Rapture bell rings! Photo credit: Wikimedia.
5. The Wiener Gasometer
The Wiener Gasometer is the real name of living spaces that currently house nearly 2,000 residents. In ages past, cities often stored fuel in gasometers, but Vienna switched the script by storing a city in four of its 19th-century gasometers. After being taken out of use in the 1980s, the gasometers appeared in the James Bond film The Living Daylights and hosted several large raves, but Vienna ultimately decided to repurpose the giant gas tanks as an ultra-modern city with kickass apartments, office space, retail shops, a movie theater, a school and even a music hall that boasts a capacity in the thousands. A famously tight-knit community formed inside the gasometers, and bike tours are available, but this is probably not the best place to spark up a joint. Photo credit: Wikimedia.
6. Pathologic-Anatomical Museum Housed in an Insane Asylum
Built in the 18th century, the Narrenturm (or "Fool's Tower") was one of the first and largest insane asylums ever built, so this presumably makes it the perfect place to house the Pathologic-Anatomical Museum. While the mentally imbalanced have since moved out (to the White House?), a bunch of crazy shit moved in that's best viewed on an empty stomach. The collection includes a taxidermied nine-legged kitten, Swiss cheese-like syphilitic skulls, a Cyclops baby preserved in formaldehyde, the skull of a two-headed piglet and a preserved stillborn baby that people in 1827 thought to be a devil. This place is seriously fucked up.
7. Dog Shit Boulevard
In 2014, a person placed a little sign next to a pile of Lassie logs that translated, "Vienna = Dog Toilet," which may or may not have been connected to the "Together for a Dogshit-Free Vienna" campaign. Likewise, a story for the Poop Report (a real website) said a politician called for DNA testing dog droppings to hold the owners accountable, and activists encouraged locals to "count the number of Vienna sausages they see in the [span] of five minutes" and send the number to city officials. The most incredible move, however, came from a company that made English-language tourist maps given out for free at hotels and hostels. To shame the people on what must have been a particular bad stretch of pavement, the map renamed Stuckgasse Street as Dog Shit Blvd.
8. Bloody Rat and Hitler Signs
Austria's obsession with placards is epitomized by such classics as 1) where drunk Hitler puked, 2) where Mozart had an affair with mistress Tabbathy and 3) a bathroom sign that says, "Men to the left because women are always right."The city center features signs that prohibit Winnebago parking, while another sign features a blood-soaked rat and the claim that feeding the pigeons is as bad as feeding the rats. This bloody-rat claim is particularly ironic since Vienna's city hall is literally named the Rathaus.
9. International Sex School
Austrians might have a weird streak, but they can also be funny as hell, and this 2011 prank is the perfect example. Playing to a blogosphere that often fails to fact check, a political action group created a website and press release for the Austrian International Sex School. In the press release, Swedish schoolmistress Ylva-Maria Thompson said, "Our core education is not theoretical, but very practical… sexual positions, caressing techniques, anatomical features. And we teach people hands on." Housed in an 18th-century mansion, the world's first lovemaking university made headlines worldwide, and approximately 600 would-be students (i.e., ugly dudes) applied. Though hilarious, the letdown was huge. The activists created this elaborate prank to call attention to Austria's inequitable pension system. In the end, the prank was more about nursing homes than sex mansions.