December 14, 2009

Choose your destination: Iran or Austria

Iran may not seem like an appealing place to visit, given that it continues to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. Last week, protesters at university campuses in Tehran burned photographs of the country’s current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The protests were a continuation of the pro-reform movement that came to life after the disputed presidential elections in June. Early this week, state media announced that authorities had arrested several people for these actions. However, there crimes went deeper still, said the government: protesters also allegedly destroyed photos of the country’s revered founder, Ayatollah Khomenei. All this is happening while the IAEA and the international community negotiate with Iran over its controversial nuclear programme.

But there is more to Iran than these headlines would indicate. Despite some oppressive conditions, Iran is a colourfully contradictory place full of picnics, nose jobs and kids on dates.

You can get a glimpse of Iran in “Culture of Contradictions.”

Or you can opt for Austria instead.

Because the IAEA’s headquarters are in Vienna, Austria and Iran have more in common these days than one would normally expect. It was in Vienna where the IAEA and Iran worked out a deal for Iran to send uranium outside the country to be converted into fuel rods for its civilian nuclear energy programme. But of course, there is so much more to Vienna than IAEA and UN offices. And it extends beyond apple strudel. Vienna, a vibrant city of beautiful and bizarre architecture, is also marked by death.

You can tour the dark history and morbid traits of Vienna in “Death Becomes Her.”

Of course, nothing is stopping you from checking out both places. Continent-hopping has never been easier.

Next week: Traipsing around the northwestern parts of the US.