Postcard from Vienna - December 2007

Postcard

Postcard from Vienna

By Vivid writer: Christopher Lawson

Something's been happening to the once-staid Austrian capital. Globalised Vienna pulsates with hipness. It has become a thriving multicultural city with an uber-stylish club scene

Posted: 23/12/2007


Something's been happening to the once-staid Austrian capital. Globalised Vienna pulsates with hipness. While Joerg Haider's unappetising anti-foreigner views are now confined to the governorship of his Carinthian heartland, Vienna has become a thriving multicultural city with an uber-stylish club scene.

Overview of Vienna

Vienna: A changing city

At the Suedbahnhof, coaches from Zagreb and Belgrade regularly disgorge some of the 80,000 one-time refugees Austria took in after the 1990s wars in ex-Yugoslavia. Working migrants, doing the menial jobs the Viennese shun themselves, these integrated new Viennese head home at weekends.

Have lunch in a Turkish restaurant in the Naschmarkt. The shiny aubergines and enormous plums on display at stalls outside makes you imagine you're in southern rather than Central Europe. The poor brother of the Naschmarkt, the Brunnenviertel offers even lower prices. Find it in the 16th District of Ottakring near the Gurtelbogen, the main eight-track ring road which separates the city's rich, better-off inner districts from the outer ones and the former red-light area.

About two-thirds of the local population, attracted by the cheap housing, are Turks or from ex-Yugoslavia. Many artists call the Brunnenviertel home. Cultural activities flourish, especially in May and June, when, since 1999, thousands have enjoyed the annual festival known as Soho in Ottakring, which explodes with exhibitions, projects, music, film, performance and literature.

In 1890 the art nouveau architect Otto Wager designed a new city plan for Vienna, but only his urban rail network with its 400 arches was built. Six stations along the U6 underground line are still in use. Running along the underground, the Gurtelbogen now boasts music bars, open-air stages and clubs with live music. Over the last ten years it has metamorphosed, with the help of EU funding, into one of Vienna's most fashionable nightlife areas. Here are the principal hotspots.

The Chelsea offers Britpop and football. Drop into the Rhiz for local and international musicians, film and video presentations, DJs and electro music. A webcam and an mp3 stream allow you to hear the music at home, and check out the Rhiz patrons. At the B72, two floors with floor-to-ceiling windows, under railway arches, DJs play modern club music in an industrial sci-fi Bladerunner-like setting. All three have open-air stages. The Carina, another subway station club, an Otto Wagner original, and the Concerto, with three floors, a winter garden with hanging plants on the top floor and DJs from all over, also attract hundreds of students every night.

If you're not a 20-something, Vienna's countless cafes beckon. Venerable Hawelka's, patronized by writers, artists and intellectuals, lies not far from St Stephen's Cathedral, with its waiting droschkes, close to the Jewish Museum and the British Bookshop. You can sit here, soak up the atmosphere for as long as you like over a cup of coffee and read newspapers in several languages. Posters advertising concerts and lectures cover the walls.

Order the speciality of the house, Buchteln - rolls filled with plum jam - originally from Bohemia. When Josefine Hawelka, joint founder of the cafe, who used to bake Buchteln every day, died in March 2005 in her 92nd year, the mayor of Vienna delivered the eulogy. The butcher's daughter had become a legend. Her grandson runs the place today.

George Danzer's album

Hawelka's has been celebrated in song since 1975, when the late lamented singer-songwriter Georg Danzer had a hit with "Jo schau". A naked customer successfully upsets the bourgeois regulars:

Jo schau, so a sau, jossas nawas macht a nackerter im hawelka?

(eng:) "What's a streaker doing in Hawelka's?"

"You don't know who I am," he ripostes. "I'm the most elegant streaker in Vienna."

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