Hitchhiker’s Guide to Austria – Vienna

City Blog in Vienna

There are so many travel blogs all over the internet, telling you which cities to visit in Austria, and which overpriced-yet-not-so-great-hmm-I-should-have-spent-my-money-on-something-else tourist attractions to book. As an Austrian, I have been to many beautiful cities and I want to share some unusual or lesser-known places that are options for those of you who are on a small budget while staying in Austria.

Good Night Vienna! 

Vienna is famous for its fascination of death and all that is morbid…it’s no surprise the movie “The Third Man” is set here. One unusual way of getting your first glimpse of Vienna is to watch this famous 1949 movie in one of Vienna’s oldest cinemas – the “Burgkino”. For fifteen years, the film has had a permanent slot in its program with three showings per week.

The plot is about life in Vienna after the Second World War – the city is split up between the Allied forces hunger and disease are rampant. If you want to experience an unusual city walk, grab a map and visit the places shown in the film –  Palais Pallavicini, the church of Maria am Gestade, the Reichsbrücke bridge, the Wiener Prater amusement park and the canals of the river Wien. And if you are looking for an extra adrenaline boost, take the walk through the small, and picturesque alleys at dawn while playing Anton Karas’ famous movie theme on your phone.     

Speaking of gloomy places to visit in Vienna – you really should make the trip to see the Central Cemetery (Zentralfriedhof) with over 2.5 million graves – that is more than the city’s living population which makes it one of Europe’s largest cemeteries. You could have a stroll through its park-like areas and look at graves belonging to famous musicians like Beethoven, Strauss and Falco or even important politicians. A good way of getting there is tram number 71. When someone from Vienna says “Er hat den 71er genommen” (“He’s taken the 71”), they are metaphorically referring to “the end of the line” or the Zentralfriedhof Cemetery – this made the tram line 71 a euphemism for death. During the 1940s there were even three coaches reserved only for the dead! Creepy, right?

Because of its location and size, the cemetery is also a natural habitat for wildlife. It is not uncommon to see deer or hare nibbling on roses laid down on the graves. Some people also come here to feed the tame squirrels which are all called “Hansi” and often eat nuts straight out of your hand. Just make sure you don’t get bitten!

The Zentralfriedhof has also got its own song. The Austrian band EAV wrote the song “Es lebe der Zentralfriedhof” (“Long live Vienna’s Central Cemetery”) in which the dead are celebrating, drinking (obviously) and dancing through the night – spooky! I don’t know what makes the Central Cemetery so interesting. Maybe it’s the peace and quiet or the fact that parts of it look much more like a park than a cemetery.

Transport

We briefly touched on public transport in Vienna. Getting around the city is very easy; you can use all the trains, buses and trams within the city limits by purchasing one ticket. Depending on how long you will be staying, you can buy a – 24, 48 or 72 hour-ticket. If you want to see a lot of beautiful buildings like the parliament or the Burgtheater theater, use the trams number 1 and 2 for a complete ride around the magnificent Ring boulevard. Oh, and when you want to sound like a Viennese, call them Bim – according to the Austrians that’s the sound they make.

Snacks booths

No trip to Vienna is complete without visiting a traditional Würstlstand (a snack booth serving mainly sausages). Please though, under no circumstances order a kebab there – you will get a lot of irritated stares. The Würstelstand is something sacred for the Viennese. It is one of the rare places where class difference is not important. At these small booths, which stand out like a beacon in the night (sometimes quite literally because they are the only place where you can get beer and food at that time of night) you can watch high-ranking bank directors chatting with blue collar workers and, of course, tourists desperately trying to order something in English or very broken German. If you don’t want to spend lots of money on tickets for the opera or theater, just visit one of the many Würstelstand booths – you will get good entertainment for the price of just sausage.

 

Fabian

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