Punsch & Pirouettes: Skating at the Rathaus

Coloured Floodlights Sweep the Sky as Vienna Celebrates a Fantasy Winter That Never Was

On The Town | Konstantin Borolev | March 2007

We were wandering around aimlessly through the first district. A good friend returned to Vienna for a couple of months and wanted to spend some time with us, his old school friends, before venturing out to aid a struggling Central Asian republic. He wanted to remind himself of the contrast between European and American lifestyles. So, the three of us went for a walk on one of these eerily warm February evenings.

As we crossed Heldenplatz, we noticed lights cutting through the sky above the Rathaus. Instantly we were drawn to it. As we walked up we remembered: There was an ice skating rink set up, lit by countless lights, and enveloped in music.

The rink was not your usual "go in a circle until you are dizzy rink" but had paths leading through the park, connecting bigger spaces; it had a more organic feel to it.

A group of young guys were chasing each other on the ice, closely watched by the security staff. They criss-crossed through a bunch of beginners, wobbling around, enjoying themselves. The Punsch-Hütten lightened the mood with warm mugs of spiced glühwein, as well as open sandwiches and home made pastries. We paid the 3€ entrance, rented skates for another 6€ and off we went.

Just then the DJ decided to blast some especially cheesy tunes, something by DJ Ötzi. The more intoxicated ice skaters started yelling along enthusiastically and attempting to dance, landing promptly on their behinds, laughing hysterically. Teenagers were busy flirting with each other, sliding around in groups, while the more luckier ones slid around in couples. The Rathaus looked spectacular that night in the purple, blue and red lights, that seemed to fold us into the cozy, familiar atmosphere on the rink. We didn’t have the stamina to stay out too long – skating seems to use forgotten muscles you never need for anything else – and went for a Punsch, before slowly heading out to watch a ridiculous Thai martial arts movie involving sacred elephants and eating cake.

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