Remembering the Dorotheum auction house in Vienna

Today in Manila, living a Travelife, I was reading a past weekend edition of the International Herald Tribune, when I chanced upon an advertisement of the auction house Dorotheum.

Dorotheum is an auction house in Austria with its headquarters in Vienna and satellite operations in key Austrian cities like Linz.

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It’s been around since 1707, but I don’t think it’s in the league of Sotheby’s as it handles way more minor sales and auctions — although it does heavyweight sales as well.

But the small item auctions just make Dorotheum more fun.


Remembering Dorotheum made me recall the winter I spent in Austria many years ago, way before I had a Travelife, although I was already living a Travelife.

I spent a few weeks in Vienna, and an ambassador’s wife very kindly took it upon herself to be my hostess in the city. She and her friends took me to all the smart cocktail parties and dinner parties, including to a lovely affair at Schonbrunn Palace.


Vienna in the winter is a pretty formal place, by the way.

Local society really dresses to the nines in glittering dresses, furs, pearls and diamonds. Or at least, this was the norm back then. I don’t know how it is now.

In fact, I remember being forced to buy a couple of rather showy dresses which I hardly wore again, just because my Viennese friends deemed my usual travel dinner party wear of black dresses and pearls as “too underdressed.” One friend even brought a spare set of jewellery to lend to me when she picked me up for parties.


There was a party practically every night in Vienna. And when there weren’t any parties, the ambassador and his wife took me out to dinner in some of Vienna’s best restaurants. I had so much fun in this city, living a Travelife.

It was during a fancy dinner party near the Vienna woods that I found out about Dorotheum, from some stylish Viennese ladies.

Apparently, this was where the local aristocracy brought their family heirlooms when they were in need of cash. At least, this was the story back then.



Heirloom pieces on auction? Oh my goodness.

The very next day after the dinner, I excitedly searched for the nearest Dorotheum and found it.

Fortunately, the main auction house is right in the center of Vienna, a short walk from my hotel, past Demel’s, which is my favourite tea shop in Vienna.


It became a ritual to have hot chocolate at Demel’s before going to Dorotheum. Demel’s had a way of classifying diners back then, by the way. If you were famous or a local regular, you usually got a table on the ground floor. Everyone else got directed to the second floor.

I went to Dorotheum everyday, so enjoying just looking around and attending the auctions, and then occasionally buying something.

This was a small-time auction scene, I have to stress.

I think some items went on the block for as little as the equivalent of 300 euros back then, and this is where I found some lovely vintage jewellery that I still have to this day.


Today, thinking about my forays into Dorotheum, it amazed me how I managed my way through getting information about the auctions, to registering for the auctions, getting a paddle or a number, and then actually participating in the auctions.

Everything was in German as Dorotheum then was very much a local thing.

I don’t remember seeing any other foreigners, and English was not an option here. Luckily, I got everything right somehow. I never made a mistake with my bids.

But, as you know, where there’s a will, there’s always a way. Especially where shopping is concerned in a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.

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