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Conchita Wurst Soars to New Heights in Eurovision 2015 Opening Performance: WATCH

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Eurovision 2014 winner and gender-bending singer Conchita Wurst opened this year's Eurovision Grand Final with a soaring performance. The Austrian favorite ascended above the audience on wires before gracefully descending onto the main stage while singing the opening song "Building Bridges."

You can watch the stellar opening, AFTER THE JUMP

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(Bottom photo via Twitter)

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A Trip to Vienna For The Glamorous and Gargantuan Life Ball AIDS Benefit: Towleroad Abroad

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It’s one thing to hear about Life Ball, the enormous charity extravaganza that takes over Vienna annually to raise support for HIV/AIDS charities, but it’s quite another to experience it first hand. The over-the-top affair, including palatial parties and star-studded spectacles, attracts all sorts of guests, from the fabulous to the fringe.

Above all, Life Ball, organized by AIDS LIFE, is dedicated to supporting organizations that work with people who are HIV-positive or have AIDS. The annual event is the largest AIDS charity event in Europe. Its massive impact is fueled by the scale, grandeur and, yes, at times, rowdiness of the party that draws in the big names, big crowds and, most importantly, big dollars. In 2014, for example, Life Ball raised 2.3 million euros from tickets, drink sales, an auction and other events. (For more on Life Ball’s charitable impact, see our post here.)

We joined a small army of media, celebrities and drag queens venturing to Vienna last weekend to witness all of the Life Ball Austrian adventure for ourselves. Although we’re still recovering from a fab 48 hours in the capital city, we’ve got plenty of highlights to share.

The hills are alive with the sound of YAS GAWD, AFTER THE JUMP

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Vienna's Life Ball: The Impact After the Party

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Photo: Derek Storm

At a press conference before last weekend’s Life Ball in Vienna, AIDS LIFE Chairman and Life Ball CEO Gery Keszler described the primary effect of the massive annual party: “We’re making a loud scream for awareness.” We’ve already recounted some of the over-the-top antics that help that scream get heard by the 40,000-plus attendees of the Life Ball Opening Ceremony and legions of media, but Life Ball does a lot more for the HIV-positive community and those living with AIDS.

For starters, the hard-partying guests are doing their own part, as profits from the Life Ball cash bar go to supporting the net proceeds, thanks to donations from sponsors and restaurant partners. Additionally, ticketed events, VIP areas, an auction featuring a gown worn by Conchita Wurst, tickets to the Golden Globes and a trip to Paris help drive the funds generated. In 2014, the Life Ball raised 2.3 million euros.

Learn more about the organizations Life Ball is supporting this year, AFTER THE JUMP

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Vienna's Gay Traffic Lights are Staying Permanently: VIDEO

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(tlrd instagram - bobby hankinson)

Last week we reported that in advance of the Eurovision Awards and last weekend's Life Ball AIDS benefit, the city of Vienna changed its street lights so that they feature gay and lesbian couples.

Now comes word that the homo-traffic lights are staying permanently.

The AP reports:

Vienna Councilwoman Maria Vassilakou, in charge of traffic issues, says they will now remain. State broadcaster ORF quoted her Tuesday as saying they have already achieved cult status.

The right-wing Freedom Party says it will lodge a criminal complaint against Vassilakou for allegedly contravening traffic regulations and wasting taxpayers' money at a cost of 63,000 euros ($70,000.)

Watch a Euronews report on the traffic lights, AFTER THE JUMP...

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5 Things You Can't Miss In Vienna (Eurovision Edition!)

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This weekly travel column is brought to you by ManAboutWorld, an immersive digital gay travel magazine for iOS and Android devices from Billy KolberEd SalvatoKenny Porpora, and nearly 75 Global Correspondents.

In just a few days Vienna will be the envy of Europe when the 60th-annual Eurovision Song Contest takes over the city from May 19 (when the semi-finals begin) until the finals of May 23. Massively popular throughout Europe it’s less known in the U.S. If you’re unfamiliar, think of it as a cross between American Idol and the World Cup. Last year’s pretty bearded winner, Conchita Wurst, will host the green room. Check out her live, spine-tingling performance in this YouTube video of “Rise Like a Phoenix” from the 2014 Eurovision second semi-final. Contestants from 40 countries will compete to win this prestige singing battle. In an acknowledgement to just how queer this contest is, Vienna has even installed gay-ed up streetlights

Tickets for the grand show are sold out, but other performances may still be available. Check the website. There's also a large public viewing space, Eurovision Village at the Rathausplatz, with all sorts of activities planned, free and open to the public.

If you’re heading to Vienna for the contest or just to explore this gorgeous under-appreciated gem of a city, read on for our favorite five things this spring or download ManAboutWorld Magazine on iTunes (iOS) or Google Play (Android) for even more recommendations. 

1. Hotel Sans Souci Wien: Relatively new on the scene, the Hotel Sans Souci Wien combines modern sophistication Vienna-women-lightswith a refreshing touch of whimsy, from the YOO Studio-designed furnishings in shades of cream and purple to the clever, oversized Vienna-set selfies by Austrian skier-turned-art photographer Hubertus von Hohenlohe that adorn the lobby and many rooms. This 63-room boutique hotel serves up some serious swank without taking itself too seriously. 

2. Café Willendorf: Located in the fun, fabulous gay and lesbian center Rosa Lila Villa, Willendorf is a great place to kick off your evening with a nosh and to check out other visiting and local gays. Prices are reasonable, the food is great, and the small garden in the courtyard is enchanting. It's in the heart of the gay section with a mostly gay clientele.  

3. Schönbrunn Palace: You cannot know Vienna without understanding “Sisi,” the cherished empress. Visit her former summer residence, a marvelous baroque complex with a lovely park, the Palm House, the Gloriette and a zoo. You could spend a day here; be sure to take the “Grand Tour with Audio Guide,” which will lead you to the must-see highlights.

4. MuseumsQuartier: Formerly the Hapsburgs’ stables, this cultural center attracts visitors not only with its splendid contemporary art collection but also its architecture, a basalt lava cube on a historical plaza. You can almost not take a bad picture of this.

5. Café Savoy: Many of Vienna’s gay bars are clustered around the Naschmarkt area in the 5th and 6th districts. We love Café Savoy or its Imperial-era vibe and long history. This can’t-miss venue is super popular gay meeting spot. 

For even more insider recommendations in Vienna and for other destinations around the globe and in the U.S., get ManAboutWorld Magazine on iTunes (iOS) or Google Play (Android). Vienna's official tourism offers also offers gay-specific information.

And ManAboutWorld is now on the iPhone! Android coming soon. To download for the iPhone, click HERE.

Image credits: Top: LifeBall Conchita_Akzeptanz; Right: Vienna Lights; Bottom: Schönbrunn Palace

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Even The Traffic Signals Are Going Gay For Eurovision 2014: VIDEO

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6a00d8341c730253ef01a3fd05dc1f970b-500wiAhead of next week’s Eurovision, Austrian capital Vienna has made even the traffic lights gay.

Vienna will host this year’s musical extravaganza after Conchita Wurst’s (right) victory last year.

In celebration, the city’s traffic signals now feature gay and lesbian couples, some with hearts above them, reports Pink News.

A spokesperson for the city said the change came about to attract the attention of pedestrians and drivers in order to improve road safety and to “present Vienna as an open-minded city.”

Watch Conchita Wurst’s winning performance at Eurovision 2014, AFTER THE JUMP...

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