Dialogue in the Dark in Vienna
A tour in the darkness
On the Freyung, in the middle of Vienna’s 1st District, a special exhibition has been offered for many years, an exhibition in which there is literally nothing to see – really nothing at all – just darkness. Nonetheless, there is so much to discover, feel and hear – the Dialogue in the Dark.
Yeah, you just have to go along with it. Personally, I needed a very long time before I was willing to give it a try. An hour in pitch darkness. Will you lose your bearings? Might it be disturbing?
With a bit of a queasy feeling, we seek the entrance. It’s located in the inner courtyard of the Schottenstift. There, a rather nondescript staircase leads below ground. An interesting entrance! We pay for the tickets we reserved. A reservation is definitely necessary, since a maximum of eight people are admitted per group. By chance, we get a “private tour” for only three people.
The lady at the register gives us a quick briefing. We’re given blind sticks and slowly walk into the exhibition room while getting accustomed to the darkness. We turn three corners and it is pitch black. Our tour guide is Esther, who has been blind for 20 years and will take care of us for the next hour, since those of us who can see are completely helpless here.
Concentration is immediately there and our senses are heightened. You can feel how the ears and the hands take on commands. Later, we’ll smile at ourselves for having kept our eyes open the whole time in a vain effort to find a spot of light anywhere. It’s probably just a reflex.
At first, we walk along a forest path with suitable, pleasant sounds. One hand always feels its way along the wall – that works pretty well. Later it gets loud. We make our way into the city and now it’s getting uncomfortable.
We soon also hear the group ahead of us, in which there’s a lot of restlessness and everyone is talking at the same time. Esther briefly raises her voice and asks everyone to calm down, for, she insists, if you stop concentrating you lose your bearing and that’s the worst thing that can happen to a blind person.
We run into trash bins and try to go shopping. Crossing a street seems nearly impossible. My respect for blind people who can get around the city safely grows immeasurably. The clickety-clack at traffic lights – the sound indicating a green light at zebra crossings or crosswalks – is barely audible given all the background noise. Give it a try sometime at a heavily trafficked crosswalk downtown.
At last – a coffee
To top things off there’s a drink at the Dunkel-Bar, the Dark Bar. Esther skillfully serves coffee, the cash register speaks and we pay using the money we had counted in advance. Otherwise we’d have stood zero chance of finding the right amount.
After an hour, we’re free to see daylight again and are impressed by this experience. The Dialogue in the Dark will remain in our memories for a long time to come and I recommend that everyone give it a try.
Dialogue in the Dark opening hours:
TUE – FRI: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
SAT: 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
SUN: 1:00 – 7:00 PM
Address: Schottenstift, Freyung 6, 1st courtyard, basement level, 1010 Vienna
Reservations available by phone at: +43 1 890 6060
Price: 18 euros per adult, 13.50 euros for students
Tours are also available in English and several other languages.
On Friday and Saturday evenings, “Dinner in the Dark” is on offer. A new program is “Breakfast in the Dark” on selected Saturdays. A reservation is necessary for both programs.
The best way to reach the Dialogue in the Dark from the Schick Hotels Vienna is by foot, or your take the U2, station “Schottentor”.