MCoA - Vienna My Corner of Austria

My Corner of Austria: Julia Benbow in Weißgerber (3rd district, Vienna)

Weißgerber: the whole spectrum from a little bit posh to slightly sleazy, with Hundertwasser in between.

1030 Wiendows
Wiendows – Julia Benbow

Introducing Weißgerber

Part of Vienna’s third district; Weißgerber is cuddled by the curve of the canal, topped by the Fluss, threaded by Landstraßer Hauptstraße, and cornered by Rochusmarkt. Wien Mitte sits in another corner, so the U-Bahn and Schnellbahn trains are plentiful. There’s the 1, and O trams and the 4A bus. It’s Vienna. The public transport is outstanding.  

What brought you to your Corner of Austria?

We moved here in 2017, 6 months after I had spontaneously applied for a job which evolved to be something interesting. We knew the city a little and chose the 3rd district initially because it was convenient.   

What’s it like living here?

This is an area that covers the full gamut of a bit posh, to slightly sleazy. By a bit posh, I mean that every middle-class need is catered for; food, drink, fashion, gym, yoga, ballroom dancing, pets. Of course, there’s the all-important interior design, including a very good framers, which for some time housed a portrait of what I’m certain was naturalist* Terry Nutkins in the window.

This could be a portrait of Terry Nutkins. But most probably not.
Terry Nutkins? The jury’s out…

*I had to look that up, I never remember the difference between naturist and naturalist, both seem plausible for either option.

The area around Rochusmarkt has become rather des-res. I remember an early experience of wincing, cringing, and Britishly gulping, as I handed over 30 Euros for a bag of mushrooms and some cherries at the farmers’ market. I’m not averse to a bit of posh and the mushrooms made a tasty risotto. I’ve returned from there with a full-to-bursting wheely trolley and empty wallet since. 

For slightly sleezy there’s Side-Step, which I learnt, under advisement, is not a place to learn dancing, more somewhere to experience a special kind of dancing. Under the railway line, a few side streets offer an open door and red curtain.

Aside from the Hundertwasser attractions, to which I will return, the area is a place where people live. We joke about never needing to leave the 500-meter radius. The routinely familiar faces lingering in the bars, suggest that we are not alone. Welcome to the Shire.

Radetzkyplatz is a hotspot and when spring comes, the scent of lilac on all corners is heavenly. I am content sitting on the square at Café Menta, people watching and scouting for dogs who might attract the attention of our dog, Ron. He is selectively, a lover and a fighter and you can meet him on Instagram at @ron_ski_beat. If I make it through Radetzkyplatz without seeing someone I know, it’s a rare day. On my way home from work, I wander down Löwengasse, nodding at familiar faces. Last summer, I moved from curious gaze to friendly smile with the matriarch who holds forth in Kolonitzplatz. When it’s warm enough to enjoy evenings outside, there’s a gathering of women who are waited on by a rock-band-t-shirt-wearing teenager. He lollops gently and makes sure the kids are safe, whilst keeping the mums refreshed with cups of tea from a flask.

It’s quietly multicultural around here. The businesses, the places of worship, the accents, the clothes, all indicate that Weißgerber houses a diverse collective. I say quietly multicultural because I’m a Brummie, and the multiculturalism in the West Midlands is definitely louder.

Birmingham is louder overall. Before moving to Vienna, I never imagined that an inner city could be so still. On Sunday mornings a gentle breeze through an open window, brings the clip-clop of the Fiaker making their way up Marxergasse. Sometimes we hear screams from Prater revelers, then there’s the heavy bass from concerts at Stadion and the Donau Fest. Right now, I’m listening to the wild Vienna winds, rattling the blinds, and whistling through the staircase of the apartment building. But really, it IS super quiet. Most of the time.  

What would I recommend to visitors?

The Hundertwasserhaus, brings the tourists, who, if they’re in smart, go to the more interesting Kunst Haus around the corner. It’s got a shady courtyard, so when it’s 35 degrees outside, it offers respite and a cool drink. Inside, the Hundertwasser paintings are gaudy, abstract and I like them. There’s usually a cool exhibition from a contemporary photographer on the top two floors of the gallery. Back on Löwengasse, the Museum of Fake Art is a tiny gem, with cheap entry and each picture has an engaging story.

Despite being grubbier than the guidebook photos promise, I am rather fond of the Hundertwasserhaus and enjoy looking out of our apartment windows to see sun rise behind the onion domes and the greenery of the trees that decorate the rooftop garden. The beauty of the tourists is that they ensure the local Ströck is open until 6pm, every day of the year. We never go hungry on a Sunday.

It’s quirky and creative around here and I have considerable affection for the curious window displays; both business and residential. Scroll my Instagram (@juliabenbow) and in amongst some travel photos, you’ll get my take on Weißgerber. One of my favourite “Wiendows”, is the teddy bear having an endoscopy, at the gastro clinic called Endomed. It took me two years to work out that it was pronounced Endo-med.

Where do you recommend for going to eat or having a drink?

Huge choice. I’m narrowing down the recommendations to the places we’ve visited the most:

  • Warenhandlung, Marxergasse. A waste free shop that has relationships with some of the fancy bakeries in the city, meaning you can avoid the cruffin queue outside Öfferl.
  • Heunisch & Erben, Landstraßer Hauptstraße. Huge and carefully curated wine list, including 90 different wines by the glass. Served by some of the best sommeliers. Eat fine dining or bar snacks. I crave menu items including beef tartare, chilikäseleberkäse and a shitake/kartoffel dish.  
  • Das Moped, Salmgasse. Casual bar, with a back room that looks like the set of a Ritchie/Tarantino movie, set in the 70s. Great value cocktails too. 
  • The Tube Station, Löwengasse. The main attraction is Barry, the kind and attentive landlord, who shares curious shots whenever England take a wicket in the cricket. I’ve had chilli beer, ginger mead, an applely-coconutty-cinnamony thing and mango lassi with Baileys.
  • Café Menta, Radetzkyplatz. Reliably open for a Menta Rolle, wedges and a Trumer Pils.
  • Frederico II, Krieglergasse. Reminds us of the Italian restaurants to which our parents took us as children, including the Limoncello that comes with the bill.
  • Kolonitzbeisl, Kolonitzplatz – family run, tasty, cozy and good value. 
  • Oishi, Löwengasse. – One simple reason – Crispy Peking duck pancakes. Like wot you get at home. Sort of. 

Famous Residents

The only famous resident that I know about is ex-Finance Minister Gernot Blümel. Mr Benbow and I always wondered if, for the police sitting outside his apartment, it was a cushy number, or somewhat tedious. Not exactly a resident but our other speculation is that President Van der Bellen gets his barnet coiffed around here. Of course, this is unconfirmed, but he’s been spotted in the ‘hood, in a quiet side street, leading to a Frisör (Taps nose – “when you knows, you nose”).

Enjoyed this corner of Austria?

Julia’s pictorial take on Weißgerber can be found in her Instagram account –(@juliabenbow – in amongst some travel photos!

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