Austrian Adventure – My Eurovision Experience

Having been a fan since Helsinki 07, when I was a cute little eleven year old kid, I knew one thing as soon as I realized that, for the first time in my life, I didn’t have to be anywhere during late spring this year: I would go to the Eurovision Song Contest 2015. I wanted to be sure to experience the full live Eurovision madness before I could risk losing part of my interest in the process of growing up, I wanted to see it with the eyes of the Contest-obsessed late teenager me. Knowing this, Austria winning was great for me for various reasons – I could sleep for free as my mother has a few friends in Vienna, it would be in a country whose language I understand perfectly, it wouldn’t be too far (imagine I’d have had to go to Yerevan!) and flights wouldn’t be the 500 CHF plus journey it would have been if Pollapönk had brought it to Iceland, but a cheap and convenient one-hour-trip available at least four times daily. So, it looked like a pleasant and easy start for my Eurovision live experiences, but losing my ESC virginity (before my “real” one – nothing I’d have expected to happen!) turned out to be quite an adventure anyway…

I arrived at Saturday evening, a week before the final, but that barely felt like being there as nothing Eurovision-related happened to me, but I already got to spend a funny evening with the daughter of my host at a local bar, located opposing something that apparently was a “gay sex club cinema bar”. I preferred not to find out what exactly that meant. So, the “real” start to my journey, the moment I really felt like being there, was the Red Carpet event. If you regularly check MfE, you might already know what I learned there, but you wouldn’t know about the people I met apart from Martin F. Meet the Russians without a flag (they ended up tieing blue, red and white jackets together, which was at least more creative than their 2014 postcard), the Spanish, who tried to get a hello from nearly every performer (and succeded quite a few times) and the people that reminded me why I am not a member of the Swiss OGAE. In general, I often tried to avoid being too visibly Swiss with the exception of Opening, second semi final and final, where I was wearing a flag around my neck. Swiss fans were simply too Swiss for me, with their usual reactions to every Swiss they meet and, for fans, surprisingly much of the “performance before song” attitude of the Swiss public, and generally making me question whether they know that it’s not 1985 anymore.

The true loss of my ESC virginity didn’t happen until Monday though. The first jury semi was my first of two times in the hall, in the company of two Australian girls, a bunch of Dutch fans, a Russian and a Ukrainian living in Vienna who didn’t understand the system of random fake qualifiers (I think their Belarussian friend didnt have a nice ESC – apparently one of them already texted her saying Belarus was through because Uzari & Maimuna were among the fake Q’s) and tons of other crazy people enjoying themselves. Suddenly Moldova became enjoyable. Suddenly I didn’t really mind Serbia anymore. Suddenly Polina came across like she was supposed to all the time even for me. It was such a brilliant experience that I couldn’t wait for Thursday to come, when I would finally come back to the hall. But I had no clue that it would get even better once the next day was there…

Tuesday used to be the day it all really took off, but for obvious reasons, this wasn’t the case this year. As I couldn’t spend my whole day with Eurovision stuff, I decided to tick off one more point on the tourist list and go to the Prater, take my round on the ferris wheel and drink a coffee before taking a look at the other attractions with their cool mix between oldschool and hightech amusement park. However, that plan got disturbed in the coolest way possible – as I was at the coffee drinking part, many people with Lithuanian flags showed up. What I expected to be fans turned out to be a Lithuanian-Latvian press delegation, with Monika, Vaidas and Aminata in their middle! After watching them having some fun with bumper cars and getting more-or-less friendly told by a Lithuanian journalist that they don’t have time for photos, I tried my luck with the Latvians – no trouble at getting a pic with Aminata at all! And luckily for me, Vaidas was occupied with an interview a bit longer than the rest was willing to wait, giving me an opportunity to take a pic with him as well. Only Monika was too quick at hurrying after her delegation for me. In the evening, it was time for some public Eurovision viewing, on a filled Rathausplatz, but before I got to feel Slovenia’s generosity: Simply hanging out by their stand in the Eurovision Village gave me a t-shirt, a flag, a CD, two info booklets and a photo with Maraaya! It was a great warmup for a party evening in the middle of the Georgian diaspora group, who loved me as soon as they saw my Georgia pin I got and heard of my love for Nina and her song. What a great evening that was… and there were still a few to come.

Wednesday for example. Not a spectacular day like Tuesday, but nice enough, with concerts of the Big 5 (highlight: Guy Sebastian’s acoustic version of Tonight Again) and the only moment Italy felt like a possible winner to me, plus the man with the most stupid job in the world: The ORF guy who simply had to run after the artists to hold an umbrella over their heads. That’s a job I wouldn’t want! However, as I said it was a rather unspectacular day on the ESC side, and nothing special on the sightseeing side either (although I have to say that Vienna’s House of Music is pretty cool) so why not proceed to Thursday. The day I saw the second semi-final in the hall, and the day where I met: Even more Swiss people I wouldn’t really want to be associated with, three I wouldn’t mind being associated with, the British drunks behind me, the real Golden Boy, and, after leaving the hall, Red Panda Girl (if she reads this for some reason, sorry I called you a raccoon!) and her boyfriend, two more very friendly Russians that listened to Hunter of Stars, which didn’t really help with my bad NQ feelings. You might call me crazy, but that’s part of why I didn’t feel like going for a drink with them afterwards.

It was also the reason for an early bit of PED on Friday – there wasn’t much to do (even the ESC village program didn’t really make me want to go there) and we were already out, and the things I did on that day were rather depressing as well, unless you’re really into Greek ruins and mediaeval weapons. A good day to go out for a drink in the evening, and learning that for a Swiss, Vienna has ridiculously low prices and that Swiss ones are a good way to shock the three lovely locals I was going with. Now most people reading this might already know that you pay cheap alcohol the next day, and I was no exception – after a rather weird and long journey home, the next day had to greet me with pain and tiredness. At least I had a good excuse to stay at home, join the madness of an ESC board hours before the final (and I thought I wouldn’t be too active in Vienna…) and watch Formula 1 with my host. Of course not too long, there was still a final to be watched!

And so I headed out to the Village around two hours before the big show was about to start. For one last time, I got to eat the surprisingly good food of it. For one last time, I saw the flag seas of Georgians and Armenians, and Romanians that were absent on Tuesday. For one last time, I got to fight for my spot in the crowd – which made me feel so uneasy that I had to leave about 15 minutes before it was finally nine. Trying to cure the sudden near-sickness feelings, I met the boyfriend of Red Panda Girl (just noticed I never asked for their names…) again, but lost him in the crowd as soon as we could say hi, as I was more busy with trying to recover fast enough to avoid missing the opening. Luckily, I was able to get a spot in a pretty good place thanks to some probably Armenian guy fighting his way back as well and allowing me to follow him. I ended up just behind the Armenians, who were just a little too fond of their flags (I wouldn’t have minded waving, but holding them up so that they block the view constantly is rather annoying) next to two Austrian girls who nearly started a fight with them. Not that it was the only fight nearly started this evening – Armenians raising their flags at Elnur, booing him and giving him the finger with the brilliant explanation “He’s from Azerbaijan. They hate us!” were the rather funny start for what followed later and was not that funny. Eurovision nationalism showed its ugly face with the performance of Elhaida Dani, which caused Albanians to climb onto the “stage”, raising Albanian, Kosovo and nationalist flags and making rude gestures towards Serbian fans in the crowd who didn’t really help it with tying their flags to a Russian one. Thankfully, security could force the guy off the stage, but as he disappeared in the crowd (and the flags were still there) it didn’t seem to make a big impact…

I had to leave the crowd once again before the voting, this time because after three hours, my throat was desperate for a bit of water, so I used the interval act to get some and ended up watching the voting from back where I ended up, next to two nervous Swedes. From there, an interesting effect had been witnessed: On Monday in the hall, Sunday at the ceremony and Tuesday and Saturday in the village, Polina Gagarina had been greeted with a friendly and big applause – in case of Monday and Tuesday it was the second-loudest after Serbia, and I guess they didn’t fake it in the village. But suddenly, as the possibility of her winning got bigger and bigger, 25’000 on the Rathausplatz started to turn against her, cheering loudly at any low points Russia got as it opened a possibility to catch up for Sweden. Thankfully, only a few lonely boos could be heard out there. But just after the crowning of Mans Zelmerlöw, the square was filled with Swedes waving their flags and singing Heroes again, celebrating Eurovision the way it should be in my opinion again after it went down the ugly road in the last minutes. What a schizophrenic experience Eurovision can be sometimes…

While everyone headed out for partying, I started to feel the consequences of cheap alcohol, not enough liquids on the night, a too big crowd and a room that wasn’t easy to get dark – getting tired and feeling uneasy I was on my way back home with a group of two Swedish and two British girls who had the same way to their party. I had thought about joining them but eventually preferred the thought of a bed. As some of you probably know though, the Messageboard makes it nearly impossible to go to sleep after Eurovision – we have a ton of analysis to do after all! Which would have been much more fun if I hadn’t discovered my country couldn’t beat San Marino, Portugal or out-of-tune Iceland despite my support. The rest of my Vienna experience was a much calmer affair, with a visit to the Natural History Museum, some more sports watching with my host, a day trip to Bratislava (including a broken pair of headphones, unfortunately), changing host and place to live, visiting the Time Travel thing I was recommended by the Russian/Ukrainian ladies I met after the jury semi and finally, the quest for some Sachertorte that found its ending at the airport. After all, it was nice to come home again as well.

Those ten days have teached me many things, but mainly one thing: I should go to Sweden in 2016 again. It’s definitely worth it.

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