Tag Archives: changes in vienna

More or less unheard of in Vienna

28 May

Generally speaking, you can drink alcohol where and when you like in Vienna (and you don’t need a brown paper bag). However, there has been so much violence at Praterstern recently, much of it alcohol-inflamed, that alcohol is now forbidden there. Drastic times, drastic measures.


New Mayor

26 May

I just feel I should report that after 23(?) years Vienna has a new mayor. Dr. Michael Häupl departed on Thursday and the new mayor, Dr. Michael Ludwig, has taken up the reins. Just FYI: It’s not a pre-requisite that you be called Michael to be mayor of Vienna. The one before Häupl was named Helmut … However, it does seem to help if you have a PhD.

May Day 2018

1 May

Many years on I still can’t get over it–public transportation is running today. My first year in Vienna I was invited to lunch by friends. In plenty of time, I went to the bus stop only to find that public transport wasn’t running because it was not only a public holiday, it was the First of May and therefore Labor Day, the day we celebrate by not working. In those days, the Social Democrats had an absolute majority in Vienna (“Red Vienna,” after all). They mainly represent blue-collar workers (“Arbeiter” or laborers) and tram, bus, and train drivers count as blue-collar workers. They were freed from work until 2 p.m. so that they could enjoy the parades and other festivities. On that day I walked to lunch.

How times have changed. The Social Democrats have not had the absolute majority for many years. I know there was a lot of corruption in the party. Some of the most spectacular bankruptcies of the 1990s (I’m thinking particularly of the supermarket chain Konsum) were due to the mismanagement and corruption of people closely tied to the SPÖ (the Austrian Social Democratic Party). At the same time, many of the aspects that year after year take Vienna to the top of quality of life rankings are thanks to the Social Democrats–the great public transportation, amazing cultural life, super public facilities like swimming pools and skating rinks, humane public housing, low crime rate, and perhaps that most fantastic institution, the Vienna Woods. There is little hope that the new “turquoise” and blue government (a coalition of the new branch of the Conservatives and the right-wing nationalist Freedom Party) will carry on those traditions. How times have changed, here as elsewhere.

Holiday Opening Hours 

2 Jan

I went off today with some doubt to one of the public universities where I teach. I needed to pick up exams to grade, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get in. I suspect many years ago, when I first arrived in Vienna, that the university would have been closed through Three Kings Day (January 6). Today I used my key card and got in with no trouble. From the lights visible in offices I could even see I was not alone. Quite a surprise for me.

New park benches

11 Jun

This was the sight that greeted me this morning on Maylo’s walk:

new park benches_2015-06-11

And true to form I was immediately a bit sad at the passing of the old benches and contemplative about what the change really means. Some may say that I’m reading too much into it, but I see the new style of bench as a response to two not very positive changes in Vienna over the last five years or so.

Change #1: A year or two ago I noticed that benches were disappearing from the parks. My assumption is that they were being stolen (they usually disappeared overnight) and that the new benches are a countermeasure. Understandable.

Change #2: There are more and more (homeless) people sleeping in the parks. The Austrian social system used to provide so well that you saw very few. All kinds of factors–including budget cuts and immigration–are contributing to a larger population of homeless. It may not be so visible in the photo, but the new benches are quite a bit shorter than the old benches. This, of course, makes it harder for people to sleep on them. I have very mixed feelings about that.

When changes like this come I think about the movie “You’ve Got Mail”, specifically the scene where Kathleen Kelly’s bookstore has finally succumbed to the Fox Books megastore and she is waxing philosophical about it. She says something like, “Some people would say it is an tribute to the greatness of this city, how it keeps reinventing itself, but the truth is my heart is broken. Something I loved is gone and no one can ever make it right.”

Halloween in Vienna

19 Oct

halloween_20141015This sign made me think again of a client who, about fifteen years, was lamenting the fact that the concept of Halloween was invading Austria. “After all,” she said, “we already have Fasching [Carnival].” Still, where there is buck or euro to be made …

In this case, however, there is the chance to win some euros. The only word you need to have translated above is “Gutschein”–in this case it means “voucher”–and you get the picture.

Hotel Imperial

14 Sep

Last week Franz Welser-Möst stepped down from the State Opera House. This week another farewell was reported, just as significant if somewhat more peaceable. Michael Moser, the head concierge at the Hotel Imperial, who himself occasionally uses the old-fashioned word Portier, is retiring after 31 years. Originally from the Austrian province of Carinthia, he has worked half of his life at the Imperial (link to website below), and seems to be perfect concierge material–no surprise there, given the hotel’s reputation. In his interview in the Kurier (sadly I couldn’t find it available for free online) he talks about service, discretion, relationships of many years with the many prominent guests, and the need to know Vienna and what is going on in the city inside out, especially in the days of the internet when guests can do so much research themselves.

In an earlier article he said, “‘Gibt’s nicht’, gibt es nicht”–that is, “‘Doesn’t exist’, doesn’t exist” if you’re concierge at such an establishment. He mentioned that he has a annual membership at the Albertina and the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien (the Museum of Fine Arts in Vienna) and goes to the opera or theater about 50 times a year–“Because I like it, you understand. Not because I must.” He may go because he likes it, but it also means that when a guest asks him, for example, if the staging of an opera is modern or traditional he can answer. Not to be able to do so would be very embarrassing for him, he said. He also makes a point of finding less prominent spots and events in Vienna so that he can give guests special tips, like when the lilacs are blooming in the St. Marx cemetery (where Mozart is buried in a paupers’ grave) .

He may be retiring from life out front at the Imperial, but he will still be turning up regularly. Apparently,he’s been collecting menus, newspaper articles, funny stories from guests, and so on over the years, just tossing them into a box in his office. He is now going to take some time to sort through the 40 or so boxes he has assembled and bring some system to them. “Not for my sake and not for the sake of the Hotel, but for future generations,” he said, “so that they have something to laugh about.”