The Da Vienna Code

I just recently finished reading The Da Vinci Code, the semi-controversial conspiracy theory thriller that swept America some nine years ago. It was a fluffy romp of wildly conspiratorial concepts - the "National Treasure" of the Catholic Church. 

What appeals the most however, is the scavenger hunt concept of the story. Who doesn't like a scavenger hunt? I LOVE scavenger hunts. For the past few years I have made a tradition of stealing all of my mother's presents on Christmas Eve and making her go on a scavenger hunt to reclaim them.

(The scavenger hunt is really easy to set up - Choose your hiding place in the house and select one object from that place as the first clue (ie: roll of toilet paper from the bathroom) and hide the clue in another place (ie: the pantry). Then take something from the pantry and hide it somewhere else, taking and placing new clues as you go. When the person does the scavenger hunt they start with an object they have to replace; when they find where it belongs they find the clue to the next location, etc.)   

On Saturday the sun was shining in Vienna so Jacob and I ventured outside for a walk through the first district. As much as we love exploring and walking around the city, it is funny how we can go for weeks without visiting some of our favorite spots in the city center - the gardens, palaces, and grand old shopping streets that attract all of the tourists. This time however, we were headed to our favorite park, the Burggarten. Walking through the park, we came across a large ornate door standing alone on a terrace. A sign on the door displayed a website and advertised an app to download to play the "interactive art installation scavenger hunt". 

For Jacob and I, those are magic words. We love public art installations to begin with, even more so when they are interactive. Combine that with a scavenger hunt? We are instantly sold. Jacob immediately downloaded the app (4Aces) and we read the instructions to begin the hunt. 

The first set of clues brought us to another door outside the Albertina Museum. Once at the door we were given a riddle to solve that revealed the key code which unlocked the door.


The keypad flashed a green light and we heard the click of the door unlocking. Inside the door we found a painting and the next clue. 


The clue led us downstairs to the fountain at the base of the museum, depicting Franz Josef I with six statues flanking the walls on either side of him. The answer to the next question lay in the fountain, which then brought us to another courtyard containing a door and a riddle. 


We weren't the only ones curious about the door, and had to wait patiently as people looked at it and attempted opening the door (in vain). You should have seen the look on people's faces as we punched in a key code and the door clicked open for us.

The clue from the door led us to another fountain on the backside of the Spanish Riding School, which contained yet another clue for our hunt. 


It struck me how many times I had walked past these beautiful fountains and sculptures without stopping to take a long look at them. That, I believe, is the beauty of city scavenger hunts - it combines all the best of history lessons and architectural appreciation into a game that brings a refreshing perspective and context to our surroundings. I would love to come up with historical city-tour scavenger hunts that tourists (and locals!) can do when they visit a new place. Now that would be a city tour I could get behind. 

The clue from the fountain led us to the Hofburg dome, then to the Swiss gate to decipher a name from the paintings at the top of the gate. 


Next was a statue in the Hofburg courtyard...


Before heading away from Hofburg and wrapping up the scavenger hunt back at the Burggarten. 


It is funny how every time Jacob and I walk through this city, we fall in love with it all over again. The city now looks very much like it did two years ago when we first saw it, and we still have to pinch ourselves from time to time that we get to call it home.