The Time that Didn’t Fly in Vienna


We were giddy with excitement. There was just a half hour to go until noon, when the Ankeruhr (Anchor Clock) was set to reveal all 12 of its Viennese personalities, complete with music to match. We were still in Stephensplatz, in the heart of old town Vienna, so with a twist and turn of the map to face the correct direction, we were off to find Hoher Markt.

Unsure of what it would look like, I was slightly taken aback to see it hidden between two buildings (on what I would later learn was a bridge that connected the two) and smack dab in the middle of a construction site.


I pleasantly cropped out the construction site for you; you're welcome.


I thought it was cool that the hour was displayed on the top of the figure’s head, in Roman numerals, and an arrow at the top of the numeral indicated the minute, which moved as the figure crossed from one side of the clock to the other during the hour.


Checking my watch, I saw that it had taken us a whopping 5 minutes to reach the clock. Seems we were there slightly early (a trait inherited from my father; the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree). Surveying the area, I saw a group of people standing with their backs against an adjacent building. Where they there to see the clock “show?”

Sunglasses – check. DLSR cameras – check. Backpacks – check.

Tourists it is.

We dutifully took our places next to them, giving each other silent high fives for our luck in staking out a prime location. Just as we were setting our cameras to the “continuous picture” mode, I looked up in horror to see a large construction crane swinging metal right in front of the clock.

“No, please, no!” I breathlessly whispered, “They couldn’t have done this an hour ago?”

The rest of the waiting crowd shared my sentiment, as the consternation jumped from group to group and swelled as the time ticked closer and closer. Waiting seemed doubly tedious with the stares and annoyed glances from the Viennese, eager to get on with their day and away from the tourists.

I  glanced at my watch: 11:59. 

“This thing better get a-moving. Any minute now…” Just then, in the nick of time, the crane delivered its load and backed away, leaving us tourists to breathe a sigh of relief.

The digital flash of light on my watch showed 12:00. We collectively leaned forward, cameras at the ready, waiting.

This was the time when you could have heard a pin drop, had there not been a cacophony of construction and traffic noises.


12:00:30. Nothing.

12:01. Nothing.

12:03. Nothing.

I was beginning to doubt whether I had gotten the time right. “It was 12, right? Not 1? Maybe they only do shows in the summer?”


“Oh gee, this is going to be very disappointing if nothing happens,” I thought with such drama reserved for job offers or other such important things.






And 5 minutes after 12:00, the show began. (Evidently this apple fell very, very far from the tree) The mood in the air was such that a chorus of applause could have rang out at any second, but we were too busy focusing our cameras.



Thanks to my settings, my camera was happily snapping continuous pictures in rapid succession, only the clock wasn’t moving so rapidly. Had the figures been whipping across the clock at the speed of a pitched baseball, the pictures would have turned out great. (I had assumed it to move a little faster than literally a snail’s pace, but you know what they say when you assume…) When I realized I was taking 50 pictures of the same figure, I turned off continuous mode in defeat and accepted my fate of manual mode.


12:00 - Joseph Haydn


1:00 - Marcus Aurelius


2:00 - Charlemagne


3:00 - Leopold VI and his wife, Theodora, Princess of Byzantium


4:00 - Walther von der Vogelweide, Medieval poet


The first five figures were great: different music for each, shiny costumes, the excitement of what the next character would be. But after the first five, things began to get a little old. It was more of, “I’ll wait till the figure is in the middle of the clock, snap a picture, then wait a full minute for the next figure.”  (prepare yourself for a slew of pictures)


5:00 - King Rudolf von Habsburg


6:00 - Meister Hans Puchsbaum, architect of the Viennese cathedral, Stephansdom


7:00 - Emperor Maximilian I


8:00 - Mayor Johann Andreas von Liebenberg


9:00 - Graf Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, war general in the 1680s


10:00 - Prince Eugene of Savoy


11:00 - Empress Maria Theresa and her husband, Emperor Francis I of Lorraine


After a quarter of an hour, the 12:00 and 1:00 figures appeared on either side of clock, resuming their positions as the clock went silent. Though I was happy to have “crossed it off” my list, I was more happy to get the heck out of there.

After all, we had a Sachertorte waiting for us…


What’s one unexpected thing that’s happened to you on while traveling?



2 thoughts on “The Time that Didn’t Fly in Vienna

  1. Okay, this is SUPER cool, I totally would’ve waited around to see this. Will mentally note this as something fun to see in Vienna!!

I'd love to hear your thoughts...please share!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s