Monthly Archives: August 2012

Richard the Lionheart was here!

I’ve driven past it many times and have also strolled around the town of Dürnstein – which sits below – but I had until the other day never walked up the hill to the ruins of Dürnstein Castle.

For those finding themselves in the picture postcard town of Dürnstein……

… and thinking of making the hike up the hill I say it’s worth it for the view along the river Danube and the surrounding villages of the Wachau region, but not for the ruins themselves.

There is little of historical interest in the site itself, which is disappointing for a castle that played host to Richard the Lionheart in his captivity.

While the steep path up is fine for those in ordinary shoes if you are comfortable traversing the mix of smooth stone and loose grave but even on a hot, dry day I’d recommend footwear with a decent grip – especially if you intend to climb around at the top.

If you don’t fancy the climb then you can simply join the many other tourists enjoying the chance to wander around the town before jumping back on their coach and rushing off to the next stop.

If you aren’t in a rush then I’d recommend spending a few days exploring the Wachau – which sits on either side of the Danube – with it lovely villages, terraced vineyards, and relaxing heurigen.

Personally, I love spending my time here eating and drinking, but cycling, walking and playing in the Danube are all available in an area only an hour or so from Vienna.


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Filed under Out and about in Lower Austria, Vienna Life

Looks like a winner for the Red/Green government

The equivalent to just over a quarter of Vienna’s citizens have bought an annual ticket for travel on the city’s public transport system. I wonder how that compares to other major cities around the world?

I’ve just been reading a report in the Austrian Times  that since May 2012 there are over 70,000 new pass holders, bringing the total up to a record breaking 450,000 people with an annual travel pass (myself included). The increase is linked to the decision of the red/green coalition, which runs Vienna State government, to reduce the ticket price from 449 Euro to 365 Euro. They also reduced the cost of a monthly ticket from 49.50 to 45 Euro, while increasing the weekly and day ticket prices. Additionally fines for fare dodgers were increased from 70 to 100 Euro’s and if it’s not my imagination the number of ticket checks have gone up.

As only 5% of all passengers prior to the changes opted for day tickets it is likely that the increase in annual passes brought will be reflected in the overall numbers using the system.

I’ve read various claims that Vienna’s fares are amongst the lowest in Europe with the average cost being in the region of 660 Euro.

The increasing numbers would appear to be a political win for the City’s red/green coalition. Particularly the Greens as the policy is seen as a direct consequence of their involvement in the State Government. More widely, any shift away from car usage (if this is indeed a consequence of this policy) in the city would be a welcome aid to efforts to tackle air quality and parking problems. Both issues that detract from a otherwise high quality of life that regularly puts Vienna in the top three ‘cities in the world to live’.

The City’s integrated transport system is view as one of the best in the world. The State Government is investing 475 million Euros this year, with total investment in transport infrastructure planned to reach 2.4 billion Euros by 2015.


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Filed under Austrian Politics, Environment, Green, Politics, Transport, Vienna Life

The beginning of the end for the Far-Right?

It’s been a summer of scandals and they have taken a heavy toll on the opinion poll ratings of Austria’s main Far-Right party the FPÖ.

Even as recently as May this year the main political story here in Austria remained, for many political commentators, the potential of the FPÖ to become the largest party following the general election in 2013. However, as I’ve previously blogged, early summer polling was showing the FPÖ not challenging for first but fighting to retain second place in the opinion polls. Moreover, polling data was again highlighting to ‘softness’ of a significant percentage of their support.

Now, as the summer draws to a close, the FPÖ has slipped into third place behind the (conservative) ÖVP in my running average of the last five polls. Since January the FPÖ has slipped back 5.60% and the current trajectory is firmly downwards. The decline in support has been linked to a number of scandals which are likely to rumble on for some time.

But this decline in support for the FPÖ, it seem, is about to be compounded by the arrival on the political scene of a new Party, lead (and financed) by Austro-Canadian millionaire Frank Stronach. The emergence of such a Party has been the subject of discussion for some months but during August Stronach has announced that he does intend to take forward such an enterprise and it will be launched on the 24th September 2012. Since his declaration he has already secured support from three existing members of the current Parliament – two from the right and one from the left of the political divide.

Currently polling as high as 9% in one poll, this ‘Party-to-be’ has been picking up support from the pool of voters who have been telling pollsters for some time that they would give their vote to a new/other Party. But polls are also showing that the ‘Stronarch’ Party is likely to strip away 1 in 5 of those who supported the FPÖ at the last election & half of those who supported the BZÖ. The later is important as the rise in support for the FPÖ has in a significant part been due to voters abandoning the scandal ridden BZÖ. Thus depending upon how many have already switched (and if the new Party remains attractive after it has been launched and maps out much more fully its position) the FPÖ could be facing a further decline in support of between 5 & 10 percentage points. What happens to the Party (which has a history of splits) and how much more support would disappear as it lost its status as ‘main anti-establishment’ grouping is an interesting question.

Table 1: Average of last five opinion polls

Polls GE 2008 Change
SPO 28.60% 29.3% -0.70%
OVP 21.80% 26% -4.20%
FPO 21.00% 17.5% 3.50%
Greens 13.20% 10.4% 2.80%
BZO 2.40% 10.7% -8.30%
Others 13.00% 6.1% 6.90%
Note 1: Pirates only   appeared separately in Gallup polls
Note 2: Stronach only   apears in Gallup & Karmasin polls
Note 3: Pirates/Stronach   incorporated into Others in above table until they appear in all polls
Pirates 4.80% 0.0% 4.80%
Stronach 6.80% 0.0% 6.80%
Sources: Gallup 25-08-12
Karmasin/Profil 25-08-12
Gallup 18-08-12
Gallup 10-08-12
Gallup 04-08-12


 Table 2
Polls Av Now Jan-12 Change
SPO 28.60% 28.60% 0.00%
OVP 21.80% 23.80% -2.00%
FPO 21.00% 26.60% -5.60%
Greens 13.20% 13.60% -0.40%
BZO 2.40% 4.80% -2.40%
  Others 13.00% 2.60% 10.40%

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Filed under Austrian Politics, Politics