MCoA - Vienna My Corner of Austria

My Corner of Austria: Will Stafford in Neubau (7th District, Vienna)

Will Stafford introduces us to “a village stuck in an urban metropolis, without the greenery!” that is Neubau – Vienna’s 7th district.

What brought you to your corner of Austria?

To call the 7th District, Neubau, ‘my corner’ could be deemed a bit of a stretch. Suspecting that there was more to life than the London grind, I took advantage of my father’s final diplomatic posting being at the British Embassy in Vienna to escape the big smoke back in 2012, naively thinking a solid C in a German A-level 7 years earlier would see see me through.

Ten years, six districts (14th, 10th, 2nd, 17th, 8th and now 3rd), seven flats (and numerous sofas) later and I am yet to live in the seventh, however in all the moves and traipsing over Vienna there has been one constant. Like a reliable friend through all ups and downs, the 7th has always been there for me. At first I gravitated towards Neubau in the search for more of an Austrian lifestyle, one that the tourist centric/fresh off the boat 1st district never could. Desperate to avoid the stereotypical Englishman abroad living in an Irish pub, I soon found the seventh and haven’t looked back since I started working there in 2015.

What tradition or custom is typical for your corner of Austria?

It didn’t take long from its inclusion in the city for Neubau to become what it is today; the forefront of all things cool, trendy, or hip. By the 1920s it was known as the ‘Filmviertel’ and while it may no longer by the centre of all things cinematic (although still a popular district for actors to live in), a stroll down Westbahnstrasse and Lerchenfelderstrasse will lead you past numerous analogue camera shops enjoying a resurgence of the analogue art – indeed Lomography has its offices nearby having been founded in the city – as well as the famous Westlicht gallery.

This is only one aspect of Neubau, the presence of the arts has remained strong, leading to the rise of trendy cafes and bars of all shapes and forms. This has lead to a diversity of cuisines that is almost unrivalled in Vienna. Neubaugasse is brimming with independent shops showcasing handmade crafts, intermingled with vintage clothing stores that highlight the district’s commitment to sustainability – Neubau was the first district to have a Green majority. And the locals and regulars are fiercely proud of these independent stores. When Dominos Pizza opened up next to the much loved La Pausa there was almost a constant queue outside La Pausa for two weeks! One could almost attribute Dominos arrival to enabling La Pausa to move over the road to a premise twice the size of their original shop!

What would you recommend to a visitor who was visiting to see and do?

As a visitor anywhere I always try and step into a local’s day and live life as a resident as best I can. Tourists often come to the seventh for Spittelberg Christmas market (easily the most gemütlich and picturesque Christmas market), the Museums of the Museumsquartier, the more niche Westlicht, or by accident from Mariahilferstrasse. But to live life as a seventh district local, one must embrace your inner flaneur. A visitor should just aim to saunter around, take an early coffee (and Tschick (cigarette!) – you can still buy them individually in some places) and read the newspaper somewhere, stroll the Neubaugasse, window shopping, grab a quick lunch at a quick lunch place, or take a long lunch at a restaurant; that is if you still have space after your brunch. Head to MQ, but not for the museums, but to watch the tourists rush around, to socialise over some pre-dinner/home cans, to try and make a beat on the MUMOK – but not enter it. If work troubles you, join one of the many digital nomads (proving once again that Neubau is always at the fore) who populate the many cafes, but make sure to get a good seat for people watching, its a hobby of us locals to watch the world go by, wondering how best we can help her along.

Where do you recommend to go to eat or to have a drink?

I visited Beruit in another life. There, they have two streets packed with bars and restaurants. For a night out one simply decide which one to walk down, the more popular of the two is Gemmayzeh. The 7th district is the Gemmayzeh of Vienna. You simply just have to walk into it to find somewhere to go, and there is a little something for everyone there. Cheap bubbles? Cafe Prosecco. Natural wines? Cafe Espresso. Austrian beer hall? Siebensternbräu. Trendy cafes, Austrian cafes where you can still smell the smoke on the wall paper, we have it all. The range of cuisines spans the globe as well, although I feel like we lack a sushi place – but maybe the fish doesn’t mix with the whole sustainability vibe…

Whatever the meal and (most) cuisines or trendy snacks are covered making it easy to satisfy almost every crowd and this is one of the joys of the place – even on a busy weekend day you can just hit one of the pockets, Zollergasse, Siebensternplatz or Burggasse and you’ll find a seat; and if not? the 6th district (Mariahilf) is just across the MaHü

How can your corner of Austria be reached (by car or public transport)?

Almost all roads lead to the 7th. It’s a short walk from the Ring and the first, meaning all the ring trams, the U3, the U6, the U2 (when it gets back up and running), the U5 (when it gets going!) and trams 46 and 5 all act as a frame around the district. And then the 49 tram cuts through it along with the mighty 13a bus (other buses are available, but none are so useful or reliable!)

Does anyone famous come from your corner of Austria?

A quick browse in Wikipedia reveals not many famous sons and daughters, who I recognise or know. Johann Strauss Junior – no introduction needed. Fritz Hochwälder – a famous playwright; Joseph Lanner – largely credited with taking the waltz from a peasant dance to high society and Fritz Muliar – the so called ‘people’s actor‘.

Not many may hail from the 7th, but they are drawn to it. Both Klimt and Wagner did some time here. Not being one for TV or tabloids, the chances of me recognising a modern Austrian celebrity are slim to none, however as a barfly in the 7th, I regularly see artist Deborah Sengl, musicians rossvanboss, Ankathie Koi, Voodoo Jürgens, 5/8erl in Ehr’n, some of Granada, Matthäus Bär (a children’s musician if you are looking to entertain the little ones in Deutsch), comedian/cabaret artist Mathias Novovesky as well as a large number of the cast from the Austrian Netflix series ‘Freud‘ (easy viewing but not the greatest – fun to watch and to test how good your Viennese is though!). Seems a substantial list, but I would only recognise half of them and the rest are pointed out to me, who knows who else I’ve seen!

To close…

In his second book ‘A Time of Gifts‘, Patrick Leigh Fermor recounts his time in Vienna in 1934 quoting someone as saying ‘Vienna combined the splendour of a capital with the familiarity of a village.‘ This may be said of many districts in Vienna, but as a creature of the seventh, I feel the seventh epitomises this. Some may find it depressing that Vienna has not changed during the intervening 80 years. Personally, I feel it has, but I am happy it kept a core value that sings to me. I may not have lived in the 7th, but maybe it is for the best. This way I can slink back to whichever district is my current abode and enjoy the anonymity a capital offers when village life gets too much.

Enjoyed reading this “My Corner of Austria”?

Will can be found in Neubau’s bars or out and about town. Check out his Instagram profile.

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