A Vienna restaurant blinds its diners

A Vienna restaurant gives its diners the experience of being blind by turning out its lights and employing blind waiters to serve guests.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

For several hours recently, I was without both eyesight and language.

Following similar restaurants in Paris, London, and Moscow, the “Vier Sinne” (Four Senses) restaurant in Vienna hosts “Dinner in the Dark,” where customers eat without light and are served by waiters who are blind.

I live in Austria and speak German fairly well, but I am not yet fluent. I wondered what it would be like to dine in a completely blackened room with 20 strangers, but no English.

Rarely in utter darkness, I found the experience at first alarming, if not frightening. The clang and clatter of dishes, pots, wheeled carts, silverware, scraping chairs, and voices created a storm of sound. I was quickly confused, unable to isolate words and sentences from the cacophony. I didn’t feel anything different in regard to the food, except that it was difficult to eat. No greater senses stood out. My ears were so assaulted, taste and smell didn’t get a chance to rise to the occasion.

But then I distilled my waiter’s voice. I heard him at a distance, making a group laugh, and then beside me, telling me about his job, his daughter, his hometown. I calmed to his stories as his voice became my eyes.

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