A Thinkwellian’s 3 City Trip Itinerary: Jeremy Thompson
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As we enter week 14 of working from home, we’re continuing with our fictional travel series, where we’ve invited a few Thinkwellians to research places they would want to visit on a fictional, whirlwind business trip to three cities around the world. Last month, we heard from writer Sara Biel as she explored Toronto, Canada; Dublin, Ireland; and Seoul, South Korea. This week, we’ve asked Jeremy Thompson, a writer in our Content Department, to head off on his fictional business trip to Vancouver, Canada; Melbourne, Australia; and Vienna, Austria. Let’s see what he would experience in these cities…
I have a soft spot for classic amusements. They quite literally don’t build them like they used to, and I love to compare the different technologies and philosophies of how to design a roller coaster or dark ride from 50 to 100 years ago. Vancouver is home to a 1958 vintage wood coaster at their Playland park, creatively named “Coaster.” It’s one of only two coasters in the world that still uses the original single-bench, articulating vehicle design that was the inspiration for many super-flexible modern roller coasters trains. That’s my must-do.
Apart from that, I’ll probably just try to eat as diverse a swath of the city’s cuisine as I can find. Eater.com is a good resource for navigating the local culinary scene in a way that’s both forward-looking and inclusive. Plus they’re not afraid to tackle larger political or social issues facing restaurants in their city.
I also use Atlas Obscura quite a bit to look for any unusual places nearby. The more obscure and spontaneous, the better. I found a “doll hospital” when I was walking around Lisbon last year and it was like walking through a horror movie mash-up of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the Chucky movies. “This is the plastic surgery ward,” the guide informed me with complete sincerity. I loved it. Who knows what else I’ll find in Vancouver.
As a similarly sized city in the anglosphere world, I expect my time in Melbourne will be quite similar to my previous stop in Vancouver, with the added fun of a heaping amount of jetlag. I’ll keep my sightseeing to a minimum to concentrate on whatever the project assignment is… but if I do have a bit of free time while I’m not in a somnambulatory state, Melbourne is home to the world’s second-oldest roller coaster, and the oldest continuously operated roller coaster.
The Scenic Railway at Luna Park opened in 1912, where it’s one of extremely few left in the world that still operates with an on-board brakeman to control the speed, as this was before modern safety features to lock the train on the tracks. That’s how rides back in those days were “interactive.” Normally the brakeman will run the coaster at a conservative speed… but if you tip them extra they know exactly how fast they can let it fly before they risk a derailment. Now that’s a real thrill!
I’m lucky to have visited Vienna when I was in college, so a lot of the sights that would be on my list I already got to check off. Most notably the Wiener Prater, which is essentially the European Coney Island where vendors all compete against each other to devise the most over-the-top insane carny rides to sell more tickets. It also has the “Riesenrad” Ferris wheel that Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten rode in The Third Man. However, there was one less famous destination I didn’t learn about until after my original departure, which would instantly make my top priority on a future trip: Haus Wittgenstein.
The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein helped build this house in the 1920s, which is still there today as the cultural department of the Bulgarian Embassy.
Wittgenstein was one of the more colorful 20th-century philosophers. He wrote his first book (Tractatus) from the trenches during WWI, declared he solved all of the philosophy with it, and went on to become a schoolhouse teacher in the Alps. Later in life, he released a second book (Philosophical Investigations) that largely refuted his first, but between that period his wealthy sister hired him to help build this house in Vienna.
Wittgenstein took to the project. He said of this house, “I am not interested in erecting a building, but in presenting to myself the foundations of all possible buildings.” He drove the leading architect to exhaustion with demands, like raising an already completed ceiling by 30mm so the room had the exact proportions he wanted. They went years over schedule, and when his sister refused to pay for more changes he bought a lottery ticket in the hope to finish it. When it was finally done, it was so austere that no one wanted to live in it… Wittgenstein included.
It’s a tragi-comic story, really. I myself went to school for philosophy so that I could design theme parks. The story of this house, about pouring one’s philosophy into a built space you can inhabit and breathe the air around you, as well as hopelessly chasing a vision of perfection that has never existed before, I think speaks to some level of how we all hope to see our lives reflected in the projects we undertake. Nobody should want to emulate Wittgenstein’s quixotic quest, yet that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have the ambition to at least dream what our own personal Haus Wittgenstein might look like, whatever form that may take.