Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

The Grey Danube

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 21st November, 2008

spiegelei_gebraten_de  I spent most of today in the Strauss Room of the Arcotel in Linz, Austria, at the Annual Assembly of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ). Picture windows looked out over the Danube, which was never blue, despite Strauss’s wishful thinking and indeed today was a particularly threatening shade of grey, matched by the heavy clouds that discharged rain, followed by snow. But the content of the day was worthwhile, including a long presentation and discussion this morning about Linz’s role as a European Capital of Culture next year. This would surprise anyone who knew Austria’s third city even 20 years ago, when it had a literally stinking reputation, thanks to all its heavy industry. But the place has been cleaned up and regenerated (there is zero unemployment, as a representative of the Upper Austria economic council crowed) and the place is full of cutting edge artistic establishments. Intriguingly, the city has decided to acknowledge its most notorious past fame as the adopted hometown of Adolf Hitler, an exhibition of whose ambitious cultural plans for Linz is taking place in the Castle. Whether visitors will be encouraged to visit Mauthausen is another matter, but Linz 2009 could be a welcome opportunity to help local people as well as the wider Europe face up to the realities of the not-too-distant past.

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