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Posts tagged ‘My Vienna’

My Vienna: Armenian Mekhitarist Community (since 1810)

From outside, the buildings don’t look particularly special. But they tell a tale of extraordinary migration: beginning in Armenia and ending here in Vienna’s 7th district, by way of present-day Turkey, Greece, and Italy.

At the corner of Neustiftgasse and Mechitaristengasse is a set of buildings for the Armenian Mekhitarist Congregation.

If I’m in the city for a month, my curiosity demands to learn more. Through e-mail and by phone, I inquire with the monastery’s contact person about a visit, and I’m instructed to join a group of Americans for a guided tour.


Armenian Mekhitarists

The Mekhitarists are an order of Benedictine monks of the Armenian Catholic Church founded by Mekhitar Petrosean from Sebaste (now Sivas). Since 1810, the Mechitarists established (a second) headquarters in Vienna, whose modern presence includes monastery, church, museum, and a library containing the world’s third largest collection of Armenian manuscripts.

Understanding the sustaining power of the printed word to a fragile culture, Mekhitar and the order’s monks created a complete dictionary of the Armenian language. The first volume of the “Dictionary of Classical Armenian Language” (圆员諏猿曰諓諗 諃员諈钥员远缘员諉 约缘远請諕曰) was published after his death in 1749, and the second volume appeared in 1769. In 1837, the New Dictionary of Classical Armenian Language was published, whose contents have now been digitized.

With my love of books since childhood, I’m regularly on the look for (sources of) old manuscripts, which is obvious in the images below.

By tour’s end, I have a few quiet minutes for a couple of questions.

Q1. How many Armenians are there in Austria?
A1. With a total population of almost 9 million, Austria is home to about 8000 Armenians, of which about 5000 live in Vienna.

Q2. Who was Deodat/Diodato?
A2. Diodato was an Armenian merchant whose birth name was Owanes Astouatzatur. He is credited with opening Vienna’s first licensed coffee house in 1685. Today, that location happens to be occupied by another café with a memorial plaque inside.


Mekhitarist Timeline

•   1701: Mekhitar of Sebaste (1676–1749) establishes congregation in Constantinople (now Istanbul).
•   1706: Move to Greece’s Methon; new monastery established.
•   1717: Move to San Lazzaro, one of Venice’s islands.
•   1773: 2nd group breaks away from Venice, establishing monastery in Trieste in the Habsburg empire.
•   1775: Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa’s “Privilege” guarantees Armenian colony with permanent status.
•   1805: Napoleon seizes Trieste as French territory; Trieste’s Mekhitarists flee to Vienna.
•   1810: Habsburg Emperor Franz I grants Triestine Mekhitarists permission to settle in Vienna.
•   1811: Mekhitarists establish presence in Vienna’s St. Ulrich.
•   1811–1873, 1889–1898: Book printing press by the Mekhitarists in Vienna.
•   1837: after 1835 fire, new construction designed by Josef Kornhäusel begins in Neubau.
•   1874: Site expansion includes new church, also by Kornhäusel.
•   2000: The Venice and Vienna chapters reunite into single Mekhitarist order.


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Leopoldsberg, 19. Bezirk, D枚bling, Wien, Vienna, Austria, 脰sterreich, fotoeins.com

My Vienna: 1 capital city, 4 Danubes

Above/featured: Southeast view from Leopoldsberg in the city’s 19th district. Visible are the waters of the Old Danube, New Danube, Danube, and the Danube Canal. Photo, 1 Jun 2022.

Vienna loves the Danube so much that the city now has four water features with the label “Donau”.

  • Alte Donau (Old Danube)
  • Donau (Danube)
  • Donaukanal (Danube Canal)
  • Neue Donau (New Danube)

All of it is thanks to the regulation of the Danube river after the city of Vienna and the surrounding region had to put up with frequent flooding. Vienna embarked on works of flood-control engineering in two major periods of construction: 1870 to 1875, and 1972 to 1988.

Once a former arm of the river, the Old Danube is now a closed body of water, a crescent-shaped lake that’s been cutoff by the 鈥渓inearization鈥 of the Danube. A former natural arm of the river, the Danube Canal was regulated for the first time around 1600. Most visitors will encounter the Danube Canal which is best integrated with the city with the appearance of multiple road and rail crossings and the canal’s reach with 7 of the 23 city鈥檚 districts. The Danube river proper was completely regulated and straightened during the second engineering period, which also saw construction of the New Danube as a secondary flood channel in parallel with the primary river.


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Mayer am Pfarrplatz, 19. Bezirk, D枚bling, Wien, Vienna, Austria, 脰sterreich, fotoeins.com

My Vienna: 20 food spots from A to V

B盲ckerei, Beisl, Caf茅, Heuriger, Imbiss, Kneipe, Lokal, Restaurant.

Whatever your choice or preference, there’s no shortage of places for a sip and nosh in the city of Vienna. Over a period of 30 days, an extended stay in the Austrian capital city provides plenty of opportunities to try something new, though truth told, I also prepared a lot of food in the apartment …

I describe below 20 food visits in Vienna, for all the tasty bits including Döner, falafel, finger sandwiches, horsemeat, ice cream, pastries, raspberry torte, roast pork, Shakshuka for breakfast, Viennese veal schnitzel, and shwarma Syrian-style.


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My Vienna: Habsburg favourite Tafelspitz, at Plachutta Hietzing

What appears to be a plate of slow simmered beef is anything but 鈥渟imple鈥.

Tafelspitz is a dish with a lot going on,鈥 said Austrian chef Kurt Gutenbrunner to the New York Times in 2002. 鈥It鈥檚 hot, cold, spicy, creamy, crunchy and soft.鈥

Eaten daily by Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph I (1830-1916), the dish is well-known among Vienna favourites. Among members of the Jewish community of the time, the Tafelspitz was a beloved symbol of assimilation in late 19th-century/early 20th-century Vienna.

Reading about the description for Tafelspitz brings about a sharp childhood memory of a soup made by Mum. Tender chunks of chuck roast, accompanied by carrots, potatoes, celery, shards of ginger root, and often with apple to provide extra sweet; cooked slow and simmering in a huge pot on the stovetop for hours. The resulting soup was a meal on its own, or served as a final course at dinner.

Plachutta is well-known among the Viennese for making some of the best Tafelspitz in the city. A big Plachutta is located centrally in the inner city, but I head west to the city’s 13th district for their original Stammhaus location in Hietzing. It鈥檚 fitting somehow that the Hietzing location is close to the Habsburg summer palace at Scho虉nbrunn.

The images show a wonderful spread with the Tafelspitz dish with my choice of the Tafelspitz or rump steak cut. I started with the long slow simmered soup broth, ladled out into a bowl with big chunks of egg frittata. And provided within a bowl of soup are the specific details of family: nourishing, caring, satisfying.

After a section of slow-cooked bone is presented, I spread the soft gelatinous marrow onto slices of toasted dark bread, topped with salt and pepper. Next, slices of moist tender slow-cooked beef are laid onto a plate, along with crunchy fried potatoes, creamed spinach, apple-horseradish sauce, and chive sauce.

Certainly, I paid a little more for the meal, but the Plachutta Tafelspitz was a great dining experience, providing a new memory of Viennese cuisine, combined with a family memory of Cantonese-style home-cooked food.


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My Vienna: an outsider’s view, from 1 to 23

Above/featured: Aspern lake at the Aspern Seestadt housing development in Vienna’s 22nd district. Visible in the background to the north are the Danube tower and the city’s hills. Photo, 7 Jun 2022.

From early-2002 to mid-2003, I lived and worked in Heidelberg, and I travelled to Vienna at least six times across all seasons for collaboration work between MPIA and the University of Vienna. Unfortunately, I didn’t own a camera, and I have zero images from that time. “Oiiida.”

After a 15-year pause, I returned to Vienna for one week in May 2018 for the 100-year anniversary of Vienna Modernism. I brought 2 cameras, and I made a few photographs here and there. I’ve always needed more, and four years later in May 2022, I stayed in Vienna for four weeks.

The historic bread- and pastry-making company, Anker, once had a motto known among the Viennese:

Worauf freut sich der Wiener, wenn er vom Urlaub kommt? Auf Hochquellwasser und Ankerbrot.
To what do the Viennese look forward after returning from vacation? Spring water and Ankerbrot.

For all of us who’re visitors to Vienna, I put forward the modified question:

Worauf freut sich ein(e) Besucher(in), wenn man nach Wien kommt?
To what does a visitor look forward in Vienna?

There are many answers for many people. There’s art, coffee, Jugendstil, music, wine; these are only five in a lengthy list. Vienna is more than a desirable visitor location; the city reclaimed the top spot in the The Economist’s EIU Global Liveability Index for 2022.

I got to explore at least one point of interest in each of the city’s 23 Bezirke or districts. Not only did I spend a lot of time in the inner city or 1st district, but I also made my fair share in the 6th, 9th, 18th, and 19th districts. Below I provide from each of the city’s 23 districts a couple of personal highlights which may be of interest to both resident and visitor. There are more interesting locations, about which I’ll describe separately in future posts.


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