Cablecar Whale

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Google Search ‘Austria plus whale’ and you get an assortment of disconnected images. But first, Google asks you: Did you mean: ‘Australia whale’? Because there are no kangaroos in Austria, and definitely no whales.

Click on ‘Images’ and you get: Hundertwasser’s ‘Save the Whales’ poster, Swarovski’s gold-tone Crystal Whale Pendant Necklace, and images of the Hungerburg Funicular Station in Innsbruck, designed by the architect Zaha Hadid.

When I saw the images of Hadid’s station, I knew instinctively that we have to visit the station and film there. It not only looks like a whale, if you film inside the station you can even get the Jonah-inside-the-whale story.

So, on a rainy Sunday we drove up the mountains north of Innsbruck and arrived at the station via narrow scenic streets. We didn’t know what to expect, but the station looked better than we thought. The station’s roof cover looks like the tail of a whale in all its glory. I don’t know if Hadid meant to symbolise a whale, why would she? A whale in the middle of Innsbruck? But here it was, a whale turning its back to the spectacular view across the city and valley below, as if its head was stuck inside the mountain.

It’s a touristic attraction. Like Jonah, people take the cable car up from the city below. They then take some photos. Some of them take the next cable car even higher to the next mountain top, then they come back down, take some more photos, enter into the station’s whale-like body and go down again. The whale cable car spits them out in downtown Innsbruck.

I’m not sure how many of them see the structure as a whale. The googled images were posted by a tourist who found the resemblance uncanny. For most of the people exiting and entering the station that Sunday, we probably looked like a film crew, shooting an ad campaign for some soft drink. This was, by the way, the reaction we got most often from people who watched us filming. Shooting commercials is apparently what people do, because you have to sell something to someone every day—it’s the Austrian way.

When we told onlookers that we were filming parts of Moby Dick, some asked: Moby what? And some, who had heard about the book or watched the movie, nodded ha-ha knowingly and went on with their business. The fact that there is a one-legged actor screaming in a public station seemed to them as normal as breakfast. This is where we arrived nowadays, all the world is a movie set and all of us are part of a commercial. (y)


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