Even if he hand’t been playing his instrument, he would have stood out from the crowd on the Graben, one of the most famous streets in Vienna. Formally dressed in a classic white shirt and black trousers, tall in all in stature and with ruffled, dark flowing locks, he held the casual passers-by in his thrall with the intensity of his performance. His body swayed, shook and convulsed, as if an anguish spirit had taken possession of his being and was wrestling with itself.
He had set himself up in the doorway of the Salamander shoe shop and people seemed afraid to go near him. Certainly nobody dared stop to inspect the shoes. Perhaps it would have been all too mundane, too crass, too disrespectful, to study shoes while he was in the throes of passion. Or maybe his presence was so strong it needed ample space to fill it. So people sat on the banks in the middle of pedestrian mall, solemn, silent, watchful (except for those studying their mobile phones: insert rolling the eyes emoji here).
He played with his eyes closed, or perhaps he was vision-impaired, it was hard to tell. Sometimes his hair got in the way. But the possibility that he might be blind somehow made the sense of sound more important. Perhaps this was his way of connecting with the outside world.
The Graben is one of Vienna’s most interesting streets, not just for shopping but for its historical monuments, such as fountains and a lavish trinity column known as the Pestsäule, erected to honour the victims of a plague.
Walk down it and you will soon spy Vienna’s most famous church, St Stephen’s Cathedral.
And maybe, if you are lucky, you will spy the violoncellist playing in a doorway. TTW
Bernard O’Shea travelled at his own expense. More at Vienna Info. Photos © Bernard O’Shea.