Category Archives: City Centre

Ice World


Back in February 2011 I spent a few enjoyable days sitting around the City Hall square, here in Vienna, whilst H had fun on the giant ice rink that had been placed in front of the Rathaus. This year’s ‘Vienna Ice World’ kicks off tomorrow (20th Jan ’12) and lasts until the 4th March 2012. Here’s the link for more details.

I expect H will be dragging me down to the 7,000 m2 of ice on a regular basis. Here are a few pictures from one of last year’s trips to the City Hall rink:

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Filed under Activities for kids, City Centre, Entertainment, Sports, Vienna Life

Calm down before you choke on the dust and car fumes


Me: So it looks like there will be a lot of hot air and worst flying around following the decision of the Vienna state government to increase the cost of parking in the nine central districts within the Gürtel – the city’s inner ring road.

Mr. Angry: Well yes frankly when you’ve spent forever trying to find a parking space it’s extremely infuriating to then have to pay for the privilege and now it’s going to cost even more.  You can see the point can’t you? Plus the costs of other city services are going up significantly and we’re already one of Europe’s most expensive cities.  So we’ve got good reason to complain, haven’t we! I think people should be having a jolly good moan and express lots of heartfelt outrage about this…….we’d all agree on that wouldn’t we?

Me: Hmm…Well if we were talking about the city having to hike up the cost of water charges etc after years of holding back increases you might have a point. If you wanted to talk about the level of city debt and its consequences for services and prices you might have something to get your teeth into.  It is really all about politics and choice – past, present and future. By the way, if you really want to talk, rant, or even do something about such issues there is a rather novel, if modern(ish), solution…….go join a political party or at least give some time to a community or campaign group. All over Europe, engagement in political parties is (and has been for years) in decline and then people complain about the quality of politics and their politicians – sorry you get the politics you do or don’t invest in.

Mr. Angry: Okay…uh hmm….well I’m busy and anyway….it’s…it’s…Look this isn’t the point! We are talking about the ‘rip off’ increase in parking charges in central Vienna! You’re surely going to agree with me on that? It’s obviously wrong, disgusting and immoral!

Me: Vienna has one of the best integrated transport systems in Europe and if you don’t want to use the buses, trains, or trams that can frankly get you comfortably from one side of the city to the other in under an hour, well you could always use your bike and take advantage of the good (and growing) network of cycle routes.

Mr. Angry: But, but….but….Ah public transport also costs a fortune and anyway it’s not reliable! So what’s your answer to that?

Me: Well, where shall I start? Reliability: I’ve used the system heavily for about a year now, at peak times and off peak. The phrase that springs to mind is ‘highly reliable’, oh and often easier to get from A to B than when I’ve used the car to do the same journeys. In the past year I have been late for work once due to a train delay. On the few times the trams have delay my journey it’s generally been because of a car hitting or being hit by a tram. Expense: One cost in Vienna that’s coming down is the price of a year ticket for the whole public transport system – from next May the price will fall from its current 449 Euros to 365 Euros. By the way, if you don’t have a year or month pass but do have a season ticket for Austria Wien FC (or the other lot) you can travel free to and from the match. Real cost: It’s true that Vienna is one of Europe’s greenest cities and we may continually, in quality of life surveys, score as one of the top three cities in the world in which to live. However, we have our problems and some of the biggest (and lets ignore some of the other so-called problems some political party’s make up) are linked to cars. The city has an awful lot of them and it has real issues about air quality. Now this is not all linked to cars but heavily congested roads are a significant factor. The state also needs to do more about rising CO2 emissions.

Mr. Angry: Yes, no, but…..hang on, you keep saying you’re an English Liberal! So what happen to my right to choose to drive my car? Well what’s your answer to that then?

Me: Yep, that’s me an English Liberal – freedom, justice and fairness. I didn’t say you, me or anyone else should be denied the right to have or enjoy a car (or even cars). I do think that we should have the freedom to choose, enjoy, oh and be responsible for our choices. So in that spirit we can look again at the city of Vienna. The government provides, at some subsidy, an efficient and effective integrated transport system. The reduction in the year ticket price also has a fairness benefit to those in society with the least choice regarding travel and transport. You still have the choice to drive and park a car in the central areas or use an equally efficient (or better) alternative. If you choose for good or bad reasons to drive then the city seeks (on behalf of everyone) compensation for the cost of dealing with the consequences of your choice. All every reasonable and Liberal won’t you agree?

Mr. Angry: No, no ..NO!! You are just twisting the argument. I already pay my taxes and this is just government interference…and not very Liberal, free market and all that you talk about!

Me: Well recently on my blog I posted a rather good explanation of Liberal attitudes to the market. Let me quote it for you:  ‘Liberals believe that the market should be allowed to function without government intervention when it is succeeding and delivering including in a way that does not lead to socially unfair outcomes or exploitation; but when a market is not operating in either a fair or an open manner, liberals firmly believe that this is when Governments should intervene, to right the wrongs of market failure ……….’  In this case the true cost of using a car is not just road maintenance etc. It’s also the environmental impact now and in the future. Moreover, a distorted market that makes using the car cheaper than its real cost is a distortion that drives (excuse the pun) people into decisions they would not choose given full knowledge and real cost.

Mr. Angry: Bah!!! You just don’t like cars. Anyway, I’ve got to go. I’m late for my doctor’s appointment; they just don’t seem to be able to solve my breathing problem.

Me: Actually, I love driving. We just all have to take responsibility for our actions in a society where we are lucky enough to have freedom of choice. Hope things go well with the doctor.

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

Greens make big culture budget cut


The Vienna Greens have halved the city council’s funding of the annual Stadfest to around 450,000 Euro’s. The report in the Austrian Independent highlight’s that this particular city centre festival, which it describes as ‘a tradition-rich series of concerts, performances and readings…’ is organised by the opposition Viennese Peoples Party (ÖVP). They are said to be furious at the decision but that the event, which is held each summer, will never the less go ahead. The Greens have also announced a cut in the subsidies for Donauinselfest which is organised by their senior partners in City government, the SPÖ.  The article points out that the cut is some 100,000 Euro’s and that the event has previously been support to the tune of 1.5 million, but I’m unclear what this coming years budget will be.

The Greens themselves will now be organising their own event in the autumn of next year called the Wienwoche.

These regular festivals are extremely popular but coming from England I still find it ‘different’ that such events are organised by
political parties with tax payers contributing, particular given that political parties are state funded here. On the other hand, they generate entertainment and income for city residents and a lot of tourists are attracted to the city for these events.

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Filed under Austrian Politics, City Centre, Danube Canal, Festivals, Live performances, Music, Politics, Vienna Life

Summer in Vienna 2011 – Things I should really do (4)


Look’s like I’ll be spending time in the Rathaus Platz:

http://www.wien.info/en/music-stage-shows/city-of-music/music-film-festival

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Filed under City Centre, Festivals, Live performances, Vienna Life

Romanesque setting for Doomsdays


Sunday evening combined two of my favourite experiences – on this occasion I’m not referring to either Football or Austrian Wine. No, in this instance it was the chance to see a live performance and to have an excuse to wander around another interesting old building.

We were in the Ruprechtskirche one of the oldest (if not the oldest) church in central Vienna. The reason for our visit was a performance of Doomsdays by Konrad Rennert and Boris Hauf. Sitting in the pews of this small church provided a wonderfully intimate setting for the mix of readings and music that kept the audience absorbed throughout. Like the rest of the audience, I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and was for much of the time lost in the sounds and feel of the intertwined speech and music. This was despite the fact that Doomsdays was performed in German and I managed to glean only every third or fourth word. However, the rest of the audience did not face my linguistic shortcomings (most people seem to be happy to communicate in German or English, no matter what their mother tongue, and as ever put me to shame for my mono-linguistic limitations) and it was clear from the post performance conversations that those able to gather the deeper meanings of the piece were
full of praise.

The Ruprechtskirche is of Romanesque design and as such an unusual building in Vienna. R commented on the simplicity of the interior and how the church reminded her of churches in England. As the conversations about the performance moved from English to German I switched my attention to enjoying the architecture of this lovely building.

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Filed under City Centre, Live performances, Music, Religon, Vienna Life

The Canal, the bar and the beach


I recently took at stroll through part of Vienna’s 3rd District and along the canal to the city centre. Here are a few images I took along the way:

The area  I walked through was a mix of homes, shops, offices and factories. Some of the social housing in the area dates back to the First Republic, with many others dating from post war reconstruction. I understand the former properties are extremely popular. As in most parts of the city its worth looking up, when out walking, to see the range of building designs and to catch a glimpse of the roof gardens that can be found on many of the properties. The journey started outside the local theatre.

As in most parts of the city, when the weather is reasonable, public spaces were busily being used and enjoyed by people of all ages.

At this point the banks of the Danube canal are green and pleasant spaces with paths for walkers and cyclists with both groups sharing the facilities with joggers, dog walkers and fishermen. With major roads either side the area is not the quietest but is certainly a pleasant place for a stroll and again the experience is enhanced by taking the opportunity to look at the local building designs.

As you enter the central area of the canal you are confronted with a world of concrete, graffiti, buildings of various styles…..

…….and a car park….(no, it really is)….

……and space for deckchairs…..

….and boats with restaurants and bars…….

…..to accompany the food and drink you can also rest or swim……

……oh yes….and not forgetting the chance to spend some time at one of the canals ‘beaches’…..

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Filed under City Centre, Danube Canal, Environment, Theatre, Vienna Life, Wine, Beer & Food

Always look on the bright side of life


Month Pythons ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ plays on the speakers as I watch the skaters glide by.

I’m in the square outside city hall in the centre of Vienna. The area has been turned into a large skating rink supported by kiosks providing refreshments. H busy skating and enjoying the second day of the school holiday. One advantage of being a teacher is that I now share the same holiday schedule as my daughter.

The square here in front of the Rathaus hosts a range of events all year round. From Markets at Christmas and Easter through to summer cultural activities such as music and theatre.

This use of public spaces throughout winter, combined with Christmas card weather, makes living here at this time of year great fun if you’re a youngster or eternal teenager. However some Austrians I know ‘enhance’ these winter pleasures with a week or two in warmer climates 🙂

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Filed under City Centre, Vienna Life