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In the Footsteps of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise

26 January 2017


With Before Sunrise’s Twenty-First Anniversary in Vienna, Experience the Romance for Yourselves as We Retrace the Footsteps of Linklater’s Film…

Twenty-one years ago, Richard Linklater released ‘Before Sunrise’ to worldwide critical acclaim. The story takes place in one day, beginning with two young strangers, Jesse and Celine meeting on a train, before spontaneously abandoning their journey to explore Vienna together. As the day goes by, their fondness for another grows, until eventually Cupid leaves us on a cliff-hanger. Throughout the day, they tease, debate and enjoy a splurge of romantic moments in the opulent streets of the city.

In the two decades since the film made its debut, hundreds of tourists have retraced the couple’s steps to experience a touch of timeless romance in the heart of the Austrian capital. Recently, we thought we’d see what all the fuss was about by spending an unforgettable day exploring all the places the film took us. Though, of course, the landscape has changed quite a bit since 1995.

Zollamtsbrücke Bridge and a Host of Surprises

As we strolled along the promenade lined with ivy-covered townhouses, we saw, reflected in the wonderful Wien River, the splendid Zollamtsbrücke Bridge. Stand in just the right spot on a foggy day and you can see the modern u-bahn train rattling along beneath. Regardless of the weather, the bridge is always abuzz with music… and as we strolled along the green ironwork, trumpet playing buskers entertained the crowds with a loud fanfare. Pausing amongst the throng, we saw the tips of the palaces rising through the low clouds as the sun beamed on through the mist. A real Kodak moment.

Finest Record Store in Vienna

Vienna’s fascinating music evolution is charted in Teuchtler Record Shop, which is among the best in the city for ‘diggin’ the crates’. Teuchtler has been selling records since 1948 and carries everything from second-hand vinyl and shellacs to jazz and Beatles original pressings. On arrival, we found CDs, LPs and promo copies from DJs; new and used. On prominent display is a t-shirt signed by Julian Casablancas +The Voidz, clearly a much loved piece of the store’s memorabilia.

We chatted music with the assistant who clearly knew his stuff and was happy about everything from underground jam sessions to Polka infused techno. The size and selection of the store will make every music lover’s heart race. His team are on hand to help visitors find the treasure they are looking for at a very fair price, even before they enter the shop. They also sell special ‘store’ t-shirts with the branded dog printed on them, so we snapped one up before they sold out. Upon leaving the eclectic bunker of music, we were soon humming together Kath Bloom’s lyrics ‘There’s a wind that blows in from the north…’ Thanks to record stores like this, Vienna has managed to stay on the pulse of a range of new and exciting music… and keep the city’s music lovers abreast of the latest independent releases, gigs and events.

A Jewel of a Coffeehouse

Coffee at the Café Sperl was the perfect cocoon to our chilly morning outside. Since the film’s release, the café has maintained its reputation as one of the most romantic coffeehouses in Vienna. In fact, it’s not uncommon around Valentine’s Day, to catch a glimpse of a marriage proposal taking place within one of its sheltered booths. We booked ours in advance, so that we could plan the day around the central location of this old-school caffeine dispensary. As soon as we settled down into our Jugendstil style haven, we switched off our phones in anticipation of the finest Viennese coffee and Schnitzel.

Here you can sip coffee against the backdrop of live piano music, and it’s as though the clocks stopped in 1880. The waiters are just as aloof, the menu still overwhelms experienced baristas and newspapers outnumber smartphones. Just as divine is the café’s interior, its walls lined with photos of the owner as a young man, its dining room still stuck in a lavish past, and designed by Ringstrasse architects, Gross and Jelinek back in 1880. Above our heads a marble frieze runs along the top of the walls known as the ‘coffeehouse cherubs’. After scooping every last drop of chocolate cream from our ‘Sperl Torte’, we downed a cool glass of water, and grabbed a newspaper before heading outside.

Romantic Cruise on the River Danube

For an unforgettable evening, we ended this magical day aboard the MS Dürnstein for a romantic dinner and cruise. Our evening started from Reichsbrück shipping centre, before slowly sailing down the glistening waters of the Danube. In the warmth of the salon, we watched the city in silhouette as four-course of sumptuous cuisine was served to our table under candlelight. After dinner, couples seeking a night of music can gather around the piano in the ship’s plush salon. All guests can also benefit from the insights of astrologer, Nadja Ehritz, who offers a personal look at the stars with SYMBOLON cards. Our every wish was anticipated with the warmest of greetings on arrival, and a glass of rose Champagne and rose petals served on the spacious deck. The indoor salon was perfect for escaping the cold while the large windows framed passing views of buildings like The Donauturm tower. It gave us yet another great perspective on the city of Vienna.

Before Sunrise: The Morning After

Well, it may have taken us 20 years to get round to it, but it was definitely worth the wait. Now that we’ve done it, it’s easy to see why so many people have been enticed into doing it for themselves. Especially when you can combine this romantic exploration of hidden gems with a five-star stay in one of Europe’s most exciting capital cities.

Image by Richard Linklater under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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Kaerntner Ring 9 A-1010 Vienna Austria, Tel: +43 1 515 80 - 0, Fax: +43 1 515 80 - 10, info@grandhotelwien.com