Vienna shakes off fusty image as Eurovision carnival hits town

Fri May 22, 2015 5:49am EDT
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By Shadia Nasralla and Victoria Bryan

VIENNA (Reuters) - Vienna hopes the final of the Eurovision Song Contest will show a new liberal and light-hearted side to the opulent Austrian capital when the jamboree of glitter, capes and power ballads hits town this weekend.

Tourists associate Vienna with classic architecture, composers, traditional coffee houses and the Blue Danube Waltz, composed in 1866 - conservative images which the city is now trying to move beyond.

It has recently begun promoting its culture and imperial history to a wider audience including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) travelers with money to spend.

Hosting Eurovision, a kitsch contest popular with gay fans - and won last year by Austria's bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst - should give that strategy a big boost.

"I have not felt any dustiness at all. I think the liberal image fits, it's not artificial," said Ralf, 49, a German graphic designer with a nose piercing who spent more than 1,500 euros ($1,700) on his trip to Vienna to celebrate Eurovision.

"We know that in some people's minds Austria is still seen as fusty, boring and everything other than cosmopolitan," Ulrike Rauch-Keschmann, a spokeswoman for Austria's national tourism organization, told Reuters.

Vienna hit the headlines this year when the famous Cafe Prueckel ejected a lesbian couple for kissing in public.

Some conservative politicians in Austria cried foul last year when broadcaster ORF picked Wurst to represent the traditionally Roman Catholic country.   Continued...

Singer Maria Olafs representing Iceland performs the song "Unbroken" during the second semifinal, May 21, 2015. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger