Besides signalling a joyous end to the aughts, the new year brought much to celebrate for gay and lesbian lovebirds in Austria when a new civil union (techinically registered partnership) law went into effect January 1, granting legal recognition and rights such as alimony and pension inheritance. According to Michael Gigl, Director North America of the Austrian Tourist Office, while much of the country has long been welcoming to gay and lesbian tourists despite its heavy Catholic population, it's something to celebrate that a coalition of the conservative Austrian People's Party and more liberal Social Democratic Party agreed to officially sanction same-sex unions.
What better way to celebrate than with an LGBT tweak on another traditional institution: the Viennese ball.
For a glamour-clad waltz with diversity, the Rainbow Ball (January 30) offers up a formal alternative to the codified trappings of traditional heterosexual offerings. Less formal affairs with drag-ball matrons include the The Rose Ball and The Wallflower Ball, both held the night of the famed Opera Ball (February 11). While the Rose Ball is more a glitzed-up nightclub spectacle within the framework of a ball at the Palais Auersberg (indeed, many come here as an afterparty to the Opera), The Wallflower Ball is more a homegrown party for an alternative mixed set at Club U within the Art Nouveau Otto Wagner Pavilion. Organized by H-a-p-p-y, one of Vienna's gay community organizations, the dress code is mousy and beige and the most inconspicuous ball-goer is awarded a prize at midnight.
Unfettered from the traditional winter ball seasonand off-the-wall decadentthe Life Ball will be held July 17, with a red-carpet fashion show on the steps of the Rathaus (City Hall) and a late-night masquerade in its stunning baroque interiors. It's Europe's largest HIV/AIDS fundraiser and one helluva party . . . if you can get a ticket. Luckily, Jim Sherman did .
For general Vienna trip-planning info, including our top hotel picks, click here .
Tourism Vienna also has an excellent gay microsite with a wealth of trip-planning resources.