Vienna - Come the time of balls and waltzes

Palaces, long dresses, tuxedos and waltzes: the most important Viennese season is that of the fabulous balls.

Latest edition : 01 January 2015

Since my childhood, I dreamed of taking myself at least once in my life for Sissi, the famous Austrian Empress.

Waltz on the arm of an elegant gentleman in one of Sissis castles, the Hofburg in Vienna. As years went by at full speed, it was high time to make my dream come true!

First step: succeed in obtaining two tickets for one of the balls, the season of which opens on December 31 with the Emperor's ball. The choice is wide with no less than 450 balls which run until the end of March. I chose, at random, that of the cafetiers, one of the most popular (between 5,000 and 6,000 guests flocking there!) Originally it has been organized for the benefit of widows and orphans.

If today it is enough to reserve your entry, at the time, you had to be invited to have the right to buy your ticket which allowed to walk in the beautiful rooms of the imperial palace. As long as you buy a ticket in time! It is also better not to lose the small map of the place given at the entrance to enjoy all the musical entertainment of the night.

To be sure you have a good view of the evening's performances, it is better to be there when the doors open at 7:30 p.m.

Our hotel being only 500 meters from the Hofburg Palace, we decided to go there on foot. Mistake: try to run across the main boulevard in Cinderella's shoes while elegantly holding your long dress and the evening clutch. A horrible little noise freezes my blood: I stepped on my hem! Fortunately an alteration service operates at the venue. Saved!

Going proudly up the stairs covered with a red carpet on the arm of my husband (being careful not to step on the hem again), flashes crackle. Each couple is photographed to immortalize this moment. Sissi's spirit hovers in the air!
It remains to look for a strategic place to have a clear view of the parquet floor of the great ball room. The wait is long, especially since seats are scarce and had to be reserved with the purchase of the ticket.

After an hour and a half of trampling on the spot, the festivities begin with a bang.

A torrent in black and white flows from the doors: the students of dance schools in Vienna make a graceful entrance and their emotion can be read on their faces. But the famous "beginners" are not all very young: with relationships (and a little money?) some couples have managed to afford this great moment!
Time goes by and there are stille more coming, it's interminable .... Nobody closes the door?

The show goes on with the guests of honor, decked out in medals, the Austrian national anthem, speeches, the European anthem, operetta arias, Polish opera ballet performances, marches, polka ... It's magnificent.

The animations follow one another while the "people" wait quietly but with sore feet. It hurts in my new dance shoes before having even sketched a single waltz step!

At 11 pm, the venerable master of the prestigious Elmayer dance school and great organizer of the ball, Professor Thomas Schäfer-Elmayer, finally launches the magic formula “Alles Walzer” which frees the rank and file and allows everyone to set off on the dance floor.

It's a real melee, the hundreds of couples absolutely do not respect the rules that reign on each dance floor and which allow you to dance without stepping on each other ... But whatever, we waltz, finally, and I disregard nudges in my back and stilettos on my poor foot!

To try to escape the crowd - but there are everywhere - we take out the little plan to try to reach one of the other rooms where  orchestras make the amateurs dance to more modern rhythms. Sitting on the steps of a ceremonial staircase, a few hungry people are enjoying a Viennese sausage, being careful not to stain either a tuxedo or a dress. In Vienna, we dine before going to the ball (on site, you can only snack on small dishes).

If the floors are so crowded that it is difficult to dance, there are also many people in the vast imperial corridors.

"The Viennese come to the ball to walk to see who is there and to be seen, to discuss business too, explains one of the organizers by revealing some facts. Because if the imperial palace is a prestigious and dream place for a ball, the organization is expensive and complicated: the rental of the palace for 24 hours costs between 700,000 and 900,000 € with flowers, orchestras, technicians, taxes, etc. The little profit generated is used to organize artistic events in the cafes to animate them and allow them to survive.

But already the stream of elegant women is heading towards the large ballroom for another highlight of the evening: the public squadron. A big mess! Rare are those who understand the figures and since people do just about anything, I give up!
Outside, an impressive line of taxis wait to bring the first dancers home.

As for the “real ones”, they stay until 4.30 am, then get into a cab to end the night, and start the day, in a Viennese café.