Two weeks into my study abroad, I attended my first ball at the Hofburg Imperial palace. For the past few days, you could hear the rumblings of excitement rising through the halls of the IES Abroad Center as students prepared for their first ball of the season, the Technical Univeristy of Vienna’s ball. Until this night, a ball was something that most of us had only dreamed about or seen in movies.
Driving through the tall arches of the Hofburg’s gates and stopping in front of the jaw-dropping marvel that is the Hofburg Palace, was a breath- taking moment all on its own. As soon as you enter the palace, you are greeted by red carpets, endless chandeliers, and men and women dressed immaculately. I remained slack jawed most of the night staring at the beautiful gowns of every woman around me.
At 9pm, the opening ceremony begins and the debutants, all in white, enter into the large ball room, the center of attention. Everyone crams around the outskirts of the room and I manage to snag a spot in one corner. A long procession proceeds and the debs begin the first dance of the night. Everyone else is welcomed to join soon after and for a moment you have to just take it all in---- being in a palace, hearing Strauss played by the orchestra, and the elegant motions of the Viennese twirling around on the ball room floor.
The Technical Univeristy’s ball at the Hofburg was not only limited to waltzing. In the many rooms of the palace, each had its own vibe. You could tango and salsa in the Spanish room downstairs or go listen to Skyfall sung by an acapella group in the chandelier room.
For ladies worried about what to wear to a ball, I would suggest bringing an old floor length dress from home (or 3). If you don’t have one, you could rent one for about $100 or you could buy one for about the same price at a department store called Peek & Cloppenburg (the German version of Macy’s). During ball season, an entire section of the fourth floor is dedicated to ball gowns. Even if you already have a dress, I would go just to admire the beautiful gowns (and try on 1 or 2) and pretend you’re in a fairytale.
Caution: wearing a pantsuit/jumpsuit is a definite faux pas for balls. Austrians have not jumped on the Hillary Clinton fashion trend and will turn you away if you show up in anything other than a floor length dress. (this happened to my friendL)
For guys, renting a tux will cost you at least $150 (yikes!). Unless you have a tux to bring from home, bring a dark suit, white button up, and black bow tie and see if you can get away with that. This will vary from ball to ball but I think dark suits (even from H&M) are generally acceptable for guys. It was allowed at the TU ball.
Ball season is alive and well in Vienna. With so many options, I plan to go to at least two more: the Rudolfina Redoute (a masquerade ball) and one TBD. Although I did not make it to the closing ceremony (at 5 am), attending a Viennese ball was an amazing experience. If ever given the opportunity to go to a ball, say a thousand times, yes.
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<p>April is a junior at Harvard University studying Neurobiology and Astrophysics. When she is not in the lab or looking at the stars, she likes to force her friends to listen to the Hamilton soundtrack, get away to the beautiful beaches of Southern California, and plan spontaneous trips. April is studying in Vienna, Austria this spring to drink lots of coffee, learn some German, and finally learn how to Waltz.</p>