Both in the past and in the present, gays have played a prominent role in Vienna’s public life. Probably the most prominent homosexual in the history of Austria was Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736) who freed Vienna from Turkish siege and pushed the Ottomans back to the Balkans. But it wasn’t just on the battlefield that Eugene was surrounded exclusively by men; in private, he preferred to have intimate relations with members of his own sex – a fact well known even during his lifetime. Even so, he managed to build his career and expand his power base during the reigns of three emperors, and his strong influence on Vienna remains visible to this day. His summer palace, Schloss Belvedere, is an impressive example.
The last emperor served by Prince Eugene, Charles VI, is said to have had an intimate relationship with Count Michael Johann Althan III, one of the few members of the introverted and eccentric monarch’s inner circle. When Althan died in 1722, the grieving emperor recalled that they had ›loved each other intimately 19 years long, in true friendship‹. Under Charles’ reign, Vienna flourished, the Karlskirche was built, Schönbrunn Palace and the Hofburg were enlarged.
Austria's emperor Franz Joseph was plagued by headaches not only from the toils of government but also from his younger gay brother, Archduke Ludwig Viktor (1842-1919), known affectionately as ›Luziwuzi‹ among his friends. Luziwuzi had a reputation at court for his sharp tongue and his propensity to cross-dress. On one of his regular visits to the ›Centralbad‹ indoor swimming pool (today’s gay sauna Kaiserbründl) he quite literally touched off a public scandal, being slapped in the face by an officer who was none too flattered by his advances.
Other celebrities are the architects of the State Opera, the gay architect couple Eduard van der Nüll (1812-1868) and August Sicard von Sicardsburg (1813-1868). The field of music, so closely intertwined with Vienna’s history, also has its share of gay figures. The composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828) spent over two years living with his librettist Johann Baptist Mayrhofer who was known to be homosexual. Their affection for each other is documented in several song texts written by Mayrhofer for Schubert, as well as in an opera – unfortunately destined to remain unfinished – entitled ›Adrast‹.
The center of today’s gay scene in Vienna (Wien) is the ›Rosa Lila Villa‹ where gay tourists and natives can obtain information and advice on orientation-related issues. Café Willendorf on the ground floor is a modern place to eat, drink and get acquainted. The lion’s share of gay bars and clubs is situated near the Villa, in the district along Linke Wienzeile and Rechte Wienzeile.
Annual gay highlights in Vienna are the Regenbogenball and Rosenball in winter, the Vienna Bear Congress in spring, the world-renowned charity event Live Ball in May, the Queer Film Festival identities in June, the Rainbow Parade (Vienna Gay Pride) in July, and Wien in Schwarz (Vienna in Black) in October.
(Based on an article by Robert Kastl.
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