In the Dark

Imagine you are blind.  Totally blind.  Every day is a new exploration.  The tiniest things are an obstacle to overcome.  How do you tell which money you are handing over?  How do you navigate pubic transport?  More so, how would you travel abroad and explore a new country?

Most of us take our sight for granted.  On holidays, we go from sight to sight, snapping away with our cameras, taking it all in with our eyes.  But what if you were one of those people that for one reason or another, was blind?  Well, this afternoon in Vienna, that’s what we were about to discover.

Vienna is currently playing host to an exhibition called Dialogue in the Dark:  Losing Sight of Daily Routine.  The point of this exhibition is not to see anything, with your eyes at least.  We have a small group of seven, five of us from the tour and two locals.  We are introduced to our guide Esther, and given canes to choose from.  Then the fun begins.

We are led through completely darkened rooms, you can’t even see your hand in front of your face, with nothing but our canes, our hands and our trust in Esther to get us through.  We are holidaying to different parts of the world – first we are in a rainforest in South America, then near the Andes.  We cross bridges and feel rocky outcrops under our feet.  Next we are in Peru, using our hands to feel shrunken heads and totem poles, speakers providing the aural backdrop of Peruvian chanting.  There’s also a boat ride.  We are guided to our seats, you can hear the ocean, and seagulls calling.  The boat starts up, it sounds like a fishing boat, and it rocks side to side simulating waves.  Off the boat, we finish up in a bar where we order drinks (real), with our money (real) all in the dark (very real).  Another, larger group joins us and soon, the bar is as noisy as any bar would be on a Saturday night – a very real glimpse into what a normal night out would be if this was your world.

This is the end of our trip, and we leave the bar back out into our vision intoned world, much more grateful for our sight.  Luckily we have that luxury.

This exhibition was absolutely brilliant.  An extremely eye-opening (no pun intended) experience, in which you have to rely on your other, now heightened, senses to prepare for what’s coming next.  Every step is filled with the intrepidation or anticipation of what’s about to ‘appear’.   The guides are either blind or visually impaired and there are exhibitions around the world.  For more information, head to the website http://www.dialogue-in-the-dark.com/.

Afterwards, Matt, myself and another group member Gill, head to the Prater.  The Prater is Vienna’s permanent amusement park.  It’s old-school quaint and there’s all sorts of rides and a massive beer garden in the middle.  So we finish our day in Vienna how it started….in the dark.

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