German Matters

Red Vienna

Flats as diplayed in the Jewish Museum in Vienna
Flats as diplayed in the Jewish Museum in Vienna

It is difficult to sum up my impressions and also, on a short holiday, to get a complete impression anyway. I am constantly aware of how poor my knowledge of German is -especially on the spot. A few days ago, I wandered into what seemed a gemutlich place to eat and found it was basically, a bar. Also I was confronted with an unfortunate fellow, probably a bit lonely, who had a pronounced bodily tick and spoke about five sentences that I could not understand. These also were delivered in a pronounced Austrian accent. The whole area seemed somewhat run down and some places, at least this one, was not prepared for custom. So despite an Irish pub, a purple-lighted peep show and other unusual places, there was nowhere serving what I had thought to be ordinary Austrian food. Obviously when travelling, one should give up expectations, in order to actually discover what really is there.

Cafe Central where Trotsky planned the Revolution
Cafe Central where Trotsky planned the Revolution


Actually, the outside of a hostelry can be quite confusing,as until you enter, there is no way of telling if you are in a beer keller, a coffee house or a wine bar. I suppose this could be fun unless you are in some degree of need for some particular type of produce. Unlike Berlin, which has many Italian restaurants, Vienna seems in short supply. I thought I saw Greek but it turned out to be Green; vegetarian requirements seem fairly well catered for. There are several Chineese and other asian establishments and in general they serve very good food.

Fast food, faster profits.
Fast food, faster profits.

However big chains like Wimpy and MacDonalds are taking over in huge shopping complexes which are designed, it seems to be to cater for the very young. So Capitalism and fast food and quick money making dominate in glass complexes built over roads carrying speeding traffic. So far, I have heard almost no live music except for two quite good rappers in amongst the trams. Not many little bars like in film noir so far. There is a freedom over sexual mores and over smoking, however. I liked the Kafka Bar where nice soup and beer were accompanied by what sounded like an Anton Chekhov play in German which I could not understand. However, Cafe Central was as elegant as expected, no one was playing chess or writing novels, however. Surely there is someone playing a zither hereabouts!

The discovery of the Jewish areas has been fascinating and the bookshops are amazing. Books that you need fluent German to read; Walter Benjamin, Karl Kraus and Habermas to mention just three. Both in the Leopold, which is showing films from the 1930s and in the models of housing projects in the Jewish Museum you catch a glimpse of the advanced movement of socialist Vienna, There are some You-Tube clips on this and much on Wikipedia. The smiles on the faces of the children in swimming pools, clear evidence of their health and a feeling of optimism. All this before Britain had the NHS.{Must look up Peckham anarchist project once again.) Crushed by rural reaction and the artillery fire from the Nazis.Today, the news from the UK is the election of a UKIP MPAbsolut und völlig verrückt und dumm!

By penwithlit

Freelance writer and radio presenter

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