Vienna and Beyond*
In several rankings Vienna belongs to those cities that qualify for top positions:
- According to Mercer’s annual Quality of Living Survey, released in 2015, Vienna is for the sixth time the highest-ranked city globally before Zurich, Auckland, Munich and Vancouver. The survey is based on a questionnaire for executives living as expatriates. Almost forty factors were evaluated in categories such as economic, political, cultural, social and natural environment, medical and health considerations, public services and transportation, consumer goods, housing, recreation, and schools and education. It’s the fifth time in series that Mercer Consulting Group ranked Vienna first compared with some hundred international metropolises.
- The UN Habitat Study “State Of The World’s Cities 2012/2013 – Prosperity of Cities” ranks Vienna as most successful and prosperous city in a comparison of 70 metropolises. Besides quality of life, the dimensions productivity, environmental sustainability, infrastructure and equity and social inclusion were considered. The overall prosperity index is the highest for Vienna. Helsinki and Oslo share the second place.
- The “Innovation Cities Global Index 2014” of the Australian agency 2thinknow compares several hundred cities as to their innovation potential. Vienna takes place 6 after San Francisco-San Jose (Silicon Valley), New York, London, Boston and Paris – thus place 3 in Europe.
- In a Smart Cities ranking published by Boyd Cohen, Vienna belongs to the top 3 in Europe after Copenhagen and Amsterdam.
Anyway, outside Vienna – which is at the same time a municipality and a province – there are also towns in the province of Lower Austria that are worth visiting.
“aspern Vienna’s Urban Lakeside” is one of Europe’s biggest urban development projects. Take metro U2 from Karlsplatz to end-stop Seestadt and have a look (take trains with destination “Seestadt” only).
The Vienna University of Economics and Business moved during winter 2013/2014 to a new campus. The Campus WU is claimed to be one of the largest university building sites of the world. Renowned architects like Zaha Hadid to name only one were part of the project. Go and visit the campus. It is open to the public. Take metro U2 from Karlsplatz and get out at stop Messe-Prater.
In the vicinity of the so-called UNO-City (take metro U1) – the United Nations headquarters was a project of then chancellor Bruno Kreisky – you can see architect Dominique Perrault’s DC Tower 1 (Donau City Tower 1) which shall be accompanied by a smaller one that shall reflect the structure of the facade of the first tower. They have already qualified for the LEED Gold status green building certificate after energy and sustainability requirements of the European Commission for planning, construction and maintenance and are striving for the Platinum status. The tower’s height is 250 m, which makes it the highest building of Austria. Technically, a pendulum of more than 300 tons was installed in the core hanging from the top-most platform 5 floors down to dampen the swing-out of the building caused by wind forces and limit it to a range of 60 cm and a period that is a tenth of normal swinging length. Buy a ticket for € 9,50 and get by one of the world’s fastest lifts (every day from 10:00 to 17:30) to floor 58 and have a look from the sky terrace. There is also a sky bar.
Close to the metro stop you can find a building which is used as a catholic church (“Christus, Hoffnung der Welt”). This Donaucity church was designed by Heinz Tesar. The building’s outside appearance is not presumptious and it provides you with a nice atmosphere when you are inside. In particular, the way the light finds into the inside is outstanding.
Another church that is very different from usual Christian churches is the Kirche am Steinhof built by Otto Wagner, a Jugendstil church. You can visit it every Saturday from 15:00 to 17:00 or every Sunday from 12:00 to 16:00.
One of the most convenient bars opened some years ago at the top of the Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom. It excels with an almost 360 degrees panorama. It’s called Le Loft Bar. The ceiling is kind of an installation designed by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist. When night is falling, you see the ceiling illuminate your way to the hotel from far outside. Take metro U1 to stop Schwedenplatz and cross the bridge over Donaukanal.
If you never have heard about the urban politics in “Red Vienna” (controlled by the Social Democratic Party) in the time between the two world wars, you should visit the Karl-Marx-Hof. It’s close to metro stop Heiligenstadt (U4) also an easy ride from Karlsplatz. The social democrats taxed the rich and from that tax they built residential buildings for the poor. The flats were for the first time equipped with an inside water toilet. At the same time Austrian architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky invented the Frankfurt Kitchen – a way of furniture adjusted to rationalising operations in the kitchen (in Austria called “American Kitchen”). Schütte-Lihotzky joined the Communists and the resistance movement.
Austria’s “MIT” is the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria). It is located in the province of Lower Austria, in Maria Gugging which belongs to Klosterneuburg close to Vienna.
It was founded after long discussions between scientists, political representatives and others. One of the initiators was Anton Zeilinger, worldwide renowned quantum physicist (in the media associated with “Beaming”), now President of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Eventually, the IST was established by the federal government of Austria together with the provincial government of Lower Austria in 2009. There were also private sponsors like Peter Bertalanffy, a relative of Ludwig von Bertalanffy, the father of General System Theory.
The focus is on natural sciences and mathematics. The German philosopher Jürgen Mittelstraß militated as President of the Austria Science Board against the integration of social sciences and humanities.
The IST is structured along self-contained working groups. The President is Thomas A. Henzinger, an Austrian computer scientist who worked before at the UC Berkeley and the EPFL in Lausanne.
Since the government made long-term pledges of subvention, there has been public criticism stating, in particular, that parallelisms and elites would be funded at the cost of state universities.
The site where the IST resides was formerly used as a mental hospital founded in 1885. After WW II Austrian psychiatrist Leo Navratil instigated patients to produce pieces of art. You can visit the Museum Gugging in the vicinity of the IST. Take the tube U4 until the end stop Heiligenstadt and change to bus 239 directed to Maria Gugging and get off at the stop Art/Brut Center and IST Austria. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 to 18:00.
Eat and drink
What Viennese people eat traditionally in the morning with butter and jam or with ham or as an aside with other dishes are rolls (“Semmeln“). Every bakery produces its rolls in its way such that rolls taste differently. The best rolls in Vienna can be found at Joseph’s. If you happen to have time for a breakfast at any time of the day, just visit Joseph’s Bistro close to the U-Bahn stop Wien-Mitte/Landstraße. If you happen to walk down the City, drop by the small outlet in Naglergasse and buy a “Schinkensemmerl” – a fresh roll filled with ham and horseradish. Joseph’s complies with the timely trend towards regional and organic food in a modern style.
The Essl Museum is located in Klosterneuburg, a town adjacent to Vienna, and is reachable by a free bus shuttle from Vienna City at Albertina (vis-à-vis the State Opera). The bus ride takes about 20 minutes. Karlheinz Essl was Austrian entrepreneur and founded the first Do-it-yourself-Market in Austria (bauMax – suffering from its expansion to Eastern Europe). He established a collection of modern art produced, in particular, by Austrian artists. He built his own museum. The building was architected by Austrian architect Heinz Tesar. bauMax wanted the State to buy the whole collection. Otherwise it were in danger of going bankrupt. Now the collection is secured for the future. The private foundation of the Austrian entrepreneur family Haselsteiner (construction sector) holds now 60 % of the newly founded Sammlung Essl GmbH.
Krems is a lovely town one hour ride from Vienna. If you decide to go there, you should make a day trip. You will have free entrance to a lot of exhibitions (the Karikaturmuseum Krems; the Kunsthalle Krems with various exhibitions; and the Ernst Krenek Forum, a museum about the Austrian composer Krenek). Every hour there is a train. See how to get there (in German only, but more detailed and including useful links). The Karikaturmuseum Krems plans an online exhibition related to Charlie Hebdo for spring.
St. Pölten is the capital of Lower Austria, the province surrounding Vienna. It has a remarkable new festspielhaus with excellent performances in dance and music. Given the high-speed railway connection with new tunnels you can easily reach St. Pölten in 24 minutes (OEBB).
Wiener Festwochen theatre plays and one performance
The Wiener Festwochen, established in 1951, is a European art festival held every spring. Around our Summit days many plays are performed that have a connection to the Summit theme. Among them:
- Henrik Ibsen/Simon Stone: John Gabriel Borkman (Akademietheater)
A play about the quest for meaning after the financial crisis (in German)
- Yevgeny Grishkovets: Farewell to the paper (MuseumsQuartier, Halle E)
That play from Moscow speaks of the present-day information and communication flood (in Russian, with German consecutive translation)
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky/Frank Castorf: Die Brüder Karamasow (F 23, Zusammenbau)
Today, the border line between two Europes – one shaped by Rome, the other by Byzantium – has shifted from Berlin to the Dnieper where a bloody civil war is going on (in German)
- La Resentida/Marco Layera: La Imaginación del Futuro (brut im Künstlerhaus)
A Chilean theatre collective plays with the suicide of President Allende, imagining different possible futures (in Spanish, with German surtitles)
- Lara Foot: Fishers of Hope. Taweret (MuseumsQuartier, Halle G)
The South African writer and director from Cape Town lets her characters talk about hope as the binding power of African communities (in English, with German surtitles)
- Evan Webber/Frank Cox-O’Connell: Ajax & Little Iliad (Schauspielhaus Wien)
Two plays about war: Ajax commits suicide, verses of the Little Iliad are given new dimensions in the face of the Afghanistan war by the two Toronto artists (in English)
- Kettly Noël: Je ne suis pas noire (Künstlerhaus)
That performance by choreographer Noël visionises a world without barriers in which skin colour is irrelevant and identity assumes a new meaning (in French, with German surtitles)
- William Shakespeare/Ivo van Hove: Kings of War (MuseumsQuartier, Halle E)
That Amsterdam play reveals the mechanisms that are at work in time of political crises (in Dutch, with German surtitles)
Elfriede Jelinek: Die Schutzbefohlenen
Who is ready to skip the floating summit on Saturday, can try to get a ticket for the most recent play of Austria’s Nobel laureate in literature, set in motion by Michael Thalheimer in the Burgtheater. The performance will start on 7 June at 19:00. The play is about refugees seeking asylum. Jelinek intertwines this political issue with the tragedy “Die Schutzflehenden” by Aeschylus. Of course, in German. See here.
A topical issue. More than 1.000 refugees lost their lives on their way to Europe over the Mediterranean this year.
* These recommendations reflect the opinions of Wolfgang Hofkirchner. They are subject to his personal taste and need not to suit your taste. He accepts that there is a diversity of tastes. His hope is though that some of you might find his recommendations helpful. The same holds for political evaluations uttered here. They are the personal evaluations of Wolfgang Hofkirchner.