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My Vienna: Imperial Court Pavilion Hietzing (O. Wagner)

Above/featured: Facing east, a U4 train departs Hietzing station to terminus Heiligenstadt.

Along Vienna’s U4 metro line, a dark-domed white cube-like structure seems to float over the tracks between Schönbrunn and Hietzing stations. Most may not realize the building’s relevance to the history of the city’s first railway, the city’s rapid urban evolution into the 20th-century, and the railway architect’s eventual “break away” transition from historicism to modernism.

Vienna was going to look very different after 1890. The city undertook its second and greatest expansion, absorbing 6 outer districts and ballooning the total population to almost 1.4 million (almost doubled in 10 years). The city’s administration recognized the challenge of efficiently transporting people between its new outer suburbs and the inner city. In 1894, Vienna appointed architect Otto Wagner with the complete design and construction of the new Wiener Stadtbahn metropolitan railway. The railway saw the creation of four new lines: the Danube canal line (Donaukanallinie), the “Belt” line (Gürtellinie), the suburb line (Vorortlinie), and the Vienna river valley line (Wientallinie). Today, the city’s U-Bahn U4 and U6 lines and the S-Bahn S45 line operate electrified over much of the original routing.

The Vienna valley line brought track and construction in front of Schönbrunn, the imperial summer palace for the ruling Habsburgs. The rail line’s new Schönbrunn station was located at the northeast corner of the palace grounds. But at the grounds’ northwest corner, Wagner created two stations: one for the public, and one for the Habsburgs. Built for the inauguration of the city railway on 1 June 1898, the imperial pavilion was set aside for the emperor, family, and staff. Emperor Franz Josef I only used the pavilion twice, as he was reluctant (hostile) to accept rapid changes brought by modernity.

Wagner created a domed-building whose interior was furnished with floral and vegetal elements in the Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) style, a painting with a bird’s eye view of the city over Schönbrunn, a private suite for the emperor; and whose exterior included the uniform green and white colours seen throughout the entire rail network, glass and wrought-iron elements, and a separate portal providing a covered entrance for the imperials. Out of the many station buildings Wagner designed for the entire system, the imperial pavilion at Hietzing is most associated with the “historical” architectural style. The building is now a part of the city’s Wien Museum after successful post-war efforts to save and restore the structure.

The informal name is the “Hofpavillon Hietzing” (Imperial Court Pavilion Hietzing), but the building’s formal name is “Pavillon des kaiserlichen und königlichen Allerh枚chsten Hofes” (Pavilion of the Imperial and Royal Highest Court). In the images below are divided sections: “exterior”, “interior”, and “sketches”.


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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 Mekhitarists 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 fave dish 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: peek into city districts 1 to 23

Above/featured: Aspern lake at the Aspern Seestadt housing development in the 22nd district. At right in the background to the north are the Danube Tower and northern 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.


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My Vienna: Beethovenhaus Heuriger Mayer am Pfarrplatz

Above/featured: “Beethovenhaus” Heuriger Mayer am Pfarrplatz. Pfarrplatz square in Vienna’s Heiligenstadt, Döbling distrct (19.)

It’s a nation-wide holiday on the 26th of May (2022): Ascension of Christ (Christi Himmelfahrt). On a bright and warm late-spring day, people are out and about, and very few shops are open.

I’m halfway through my month-long stay in Vienna, and today, I’m in the city’s 19th district, Döbling, where in his time Beethoven spent many summers resting, composing, and contemplating life with total hearing loss. I’ve spent the morning wandering through the Heiligenstadt neighbourhood, including a visit to one of his summer residences that’s now a museum dedicated to Beethoven. Not far down the street is another Beethoven summer house that’s now a wine tavern or “Heuriger“. A hanging bunch of pine branches at the front door means this tavern is open for service, with food and their own wine on offer.

The Austrian capital city is home to the world鈥檚 largest 鈥渦rban vineyard鈥 and is the world鈥檚 only capital city producing wine within its city limits. There are some 600 wine producers; 400 individual vineyards; over 7 million square metres (75 million square feet) of cultivation space producing both white and red wines in a 80/20 split, respectively; and an average annual yield of 2 million litres or over 2.5 million bottles of wine. Most of the wine is sold for immediate consumption at wine shops and grocery stores, and at the city鈥檚 many wine taverns. The Mayer family has been making wine here in Heiligenstadt since the late 17th-century after the combined European forces successfully repelled the (second) Ottoman siege of Vienna.


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My Vienna: Schnitzel Love at Meissl and Schadn

“Schnitzel: das ist nicht nur nach den Umfragen das Lieblingsessen der 脰sterreicherinnen und 脰sterreicher. Das ist fast schon ein Religion, oder zumindest ein Kultobjekt, der Mittelpunkt eines heliozentrisch-kulinarischen Systems.”

Not only is schnitzel Austria’s favourite food, it’s almost religion, or at the very least, a ‘cult object’ (at) the centre of a heliocentric culinary system.

“Genussland 脰sterreich: vom Wiener Schnitzel”, by Gert Baldauf (ORF 2011).

The short wood mallet strikes with a thud.

Then, a second; followed by another.

The targeted slab becomes flatter, the fleshy disk gets thinner, growing outward with every thump. The shape is closer to circular, its size as large as a dinner plate.

The prep staff in kitchen-whites, in full concentration with their labour.

And that piece of freshly cut veal pounded thin will soon be breaded, and deep-fried to a crispy golden-brown.

That Wiener Schnitzel will soon be mine.


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Schleusenbr眉cke Wehr 1, Neue Donau, 22. Bezirk, Donaustadt, Wien, Vienna, Austria, 脰sterreich, fotoeins.com

My Vienna: 7 city views for free from modest heights

At the eastern limit of the Alps, the city of Vienna is built at the “low end” where the hills meet the Danube river, at a minimum altitude of about 150 metres (500 feet) above sea-level. Visitors to the Austrian capital city who don’t have much time but want a broad overview of the city will make their way to one or all of the Donauturm (Danube Tower), Riesenrad (Ferris Wheel), and Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral). Each of these landmarks requires the price of admission to get up high in the sky.

For other views at more modest heights, you’ll see there are options, especially because I’ve set foot in all 23 of the city’s districts. Below I highlight seven locations; all are free (zero charge) to access. All but one are well outside the inner city for the opportunity to explore other city districts and to gain a better sense of the physical size of the city.


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Eisfuchs, Eis, ice cream, Neubau, Wien, Vienna, Austria, 脰sterreich, fotoeins.com

My Vienna: Eisfuchs specialty ice-cream in the 7th district

Above/featured: Eisfuchs, at Neubaugasse 31 – 1 Jun 2022 (X70).

I’m on a 4-week stint in Vienna in late-spring/early-summer. Days are getting warmer, and I’m search of “Eis”. There are no shortage of ice cream shops in Vienna; trick is finding a really good one.

Out of their many recommendations, my host has pointed out Eis-Fuchs (“ice fox”), a small ice cream shop in the 7th district, known to residents local and across the city, but little recognized outside of Vienna.

That’s my kinda place.

All of their ice cream is made “in house,” and while they’ve got a list of favourites, they have a selection of “seasonal” varieties, which are made in small batches which last from a few days to a week or two. My favourite flavours are “Cheesecake Marille” (apricot cheesecake) and “Tarte au Citron” (lemon tart). The dessert is rich and creamy, and the fruit provides a refreshing tart edge.

With the 2nd visit, I promise the woman behind the counter I’ll visit more regularly. At the next visit, she nods at me in recognition and we chat a little about the ice cream: the variety of flavours and their production. With my final visit, I announce with some regret that my time in Vienna is ending, and I must return to Canada; I leave the shop with a double scoop of deliciousness.


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