What a whirlwind. I couldn’t believe that I was to attend a real ball. I mean, I wasn’t in Cotillion, I hardly went to any dances in high school and Prom was really a lot of fuss over nothing. But, I was so excited for a real, high society ball in Vienna, Austria.
After hemming my dress with shocking success, I was ready to go. But then I realized: I never even thought about what how I would do my hair or what jewlery I would wear or how my makeup would look. Of course, these are minor details in relation to actually having a dress to wear. Oh well, at this point I was just ready to go.
Regardless, dressing up is always fun in a group. We fussed over each other’s dresses and took pictures to last a lifetime. Getting dolled up after a stressful day at school was the perfect way to let go and have some fun. And, of course what would a pre-ball party be without a photo shoot?
After all that fun was over it was time to leave. we bundled up in our winter coats, gloves, and scarfs and were on our way. What better mode of transportation to a classy ball than public transportation? Who really needs a horse-drawn carriage or a car? So here we are, in floor-length ball gowns, clambering onto the U-Bahn to attend our very first ball. At least we took off our long gloves so we didn’t look too ridiculous. One thing we didn’t think about: wind from the train approaching. My roommate, Heidi, was a little overprotective of hers…
Not only were we a spectacle on the train, but we also decided to go all out and be American tourists, taking photos on the ride. Totally worth it…besides we’re getting used to the way everyone in Vienna stares during everyday travel on the U-Bahn; it’s accepted.
After finally getting on our way, we realized we had no idea where we were going. I mean, we knew the general area and the building, but we had no idea where to go inside. Our solution? Follow the Viennese couple on the U-Bahn, wearing a tux and a ball gown, from the train to, hopefully, the ball. Who knew that eight people wouldn’t be very stealthy in their stalking skills. Oh well, lesson learned. But, we arrived at our destination…and what a destination it was: The Hofburg Palace.
Expensive cars were pulling up to the main entrance as we hopped over puddles through the square. Women in beautiful dresses and men dressed in tuxedos surrounded the front doors. We hopped around them and entered the building to be greeted with a beautiful baroque interior. Large chandeliers hung from the ceilings, the marble floors shone under our wet shoes and the intricate decoration on the walls made it feel like a dream. We rushed as fast as we could to find a spot to see the opening ceremony, but the place was packed. We stood, crowded among others who desperately wanted to see the spectacle that was the debutantes and their escorts performing the first few waltzes before the dance floor was open to the public. It was beautiful; a sea of white and black twirling around the beautifully lit marble dance floor. The live orchestra playing waltzes, my favorites by Strauss, sounded impeccable and filled the room. Finally, when the debutantes were finished with their presentation, the announcement was made for the opening of the ball and the first public waltz was played. Couples from every corner of the spectator’s seats flooded onto the dance floor and began their first waltz. The flow of colored dresses, white gloves, and black tuxes filled the hall with delight.
Aside from the main ball room the ball included smaller themed rooms including a Jazz, Salsa/Tango, Folk, and a Modern room downstairs where many younger people hung out. I explored everything, trying some folk dances, which include a lot of stomping, some swing and jazz, and even some salsa. We all had fun dancing together to all different kinds of music. Who needs a gentleman to dance with you when you have awesome friends?
Something I learned: everyone goes to these balls. They are open to the public as long as you purchase a ticket. Each ball in Vienna during ball season has a different theme, hosted by different companies or Universities in the city. I had a conversation with my German professor and her husband early in the evening and saw many other people from my program, including professors and administrators. There were people from all over the world and of all ages; there was something for everyone.
For me, the highlight of the evening was dancing in the main ballroom. My friend Myron and I waltzed together to the big band playing a rendition of “Hello Dolly.” I couldn’t pass that up. It was wonderful, although my waltzing skills are enormously sub-par.
Aside from dancing it was mesmerizing to sit and watch everyone else dance. There were couples of all different dancing skills; some were incredible, others were laughable. But the point of the evening was to have fun, not to be the best dancer in the room. Much later in the evening, around 2am, the traditional “line dancing” began. We had perfect seating to watch everyone attempt the dances. They were similar to square dancing, with the announcer shouting instructions over the mic so everyone could participate. It was fun to watch couples gallop down the line in between songs, a tradition to see who can get the farthest down the line and back before the announcer begins instructions for the next song.
After a tiring, but amazing evening, we left the palace, grabbed a taxi, and rode home. We were in bed by 4am and not looking forward to the next morning when we would all be taking our intensive German finals and then early the morning after that when we would leave for Germany. Exhausted and happy, I fell asleep immediately, not even to be woken up by two of my roommates arriving back at our apartment after 5am. I still can’t believe I attended a Viennese Ball. It was all I imagined it to be and more! I can’t wait to attend another one in the future, because I truly had the night of my life.
Oh, and in the main lobby near the entrance a race car was on display just waiting for me to take a picture. That one’s for you, Papa. I couldn’t resist.
Until next time! Bis später!