The five stations on Vienna’s newest stretch of underground line extend south some 4.6 kilometres (2.8 miles) from the old terminus of Reumanplatz in Vienna’s 10th district. This part of Vienna usually triggers a mixed reaction when viewed from afar, mostly because of its perception as a “worker” district with a high concentration of immigrants and scruffy shops. Indeed, stepping out here you could be forgiven for thinking you were in a foreign country (I am always in a foreign country). Yet, it is certainly a vibrant place, where many nationalities mingle and co-exist although pockets of original Viennese life remain, stubbornly immune to change. But it will never win any awards for the most desirable place to live in the number one city, even with one of its most authentic markets, the superlative ascetic beauty of the indoor swimming hall of Amalienbad and one of the best ice-cream parlours in the capital (if you can survive the crowds).
But with the extension of the U1 to Oberlaa, the 10th district beyond the more traditional areas of Keplerplatz, Quellenplatz and Reumanplatz – the basis for much of existing perceptions – is now suddenly within easy reach (before you had to take the tram 67 chugging up the Favoritenstrasse). And so here is brief a look at the five new stations, their surrounds and their meanings. With one or two Tschocherl (run down boozer with a clientele to match) thrown in for the thirsty, the adventurous and the daring.
Emerging above, you find yourself on Favoritenstrasse. To the north, on a clear day, you can see the Kahlenberg in the 19th district. To the south, a gentle incline towards the “Verteilerkreis”, Vienna’s second biggest roundabout after Praterstern. The street has suffered over the years due to the construction of the U1 which runs underneath and, as a consequence, looks forlorn and neglected. But this must make it ripe for a hipster/BOBO takeover anytime soon. I know it is possible because in the 1990s I used to hang around Old Street in London when it was just a bit far north from the “City” to arouse any interest. These days it is terribly trendy as a hub for all things technology, IT and something called start-ups so I am expecting this part of the 10th district to be renamed Siliconstrasse any time soon. On the positive side you are deep in Tschocherl country. So where better than AdlerBräu – the former Tschocherl legend Wostri (once the stinkiest pub in Vienna) at number 140. Or for the diehard dependent drinker, you could try Servus Du on the corner of Troststrasse and Rechbergstrasse, just across from the exit from the underground station.
Located in the middle of the traffic circle conveniently situated over the Favoriten Tunnel (part of the depressingly thunderous Tangente motorway) is the station Altes Landgut. It is named after an old restaurant demolished in 1900 and from this location, on the south facing part of the Laaerberg, you are 251 metres above sea level. This makes it one of the highest points of southern Vienna perfect as a lookout to spot marauding Tuks in the 17th century and, in the 21st century, marauding football hooligans from the home of Austria Wien football club just across the roundabout. The height makes sense when you realise that Altes Landgut is thirty metres below ground. This means it is the deepest underground station on the Vienna network including one hell of a long escalator for countryside folk to stand on the left as the true Wiener huffs and tuts from behind. On the south side we also get the gigantic summer swimming hellhole, sorry, complex that is Laaerbergbad and just down the road, the university campus of the FH Wien and its 4000 snowflakes. Best bet for a bit of Wienerküche (fine dining has yet to reach the giddy heights of this corner of the 10th district based on all my research) is Gasthaus zum Gölsentaler just back along the Favoritenstrasse at number 194.
My first thought on seeing the name for Alaudagasse was excellent, they have named it after a former Grand Prix World Champion and rival to superman shagger James Hunt. Instead, according to Felix Czeike in his Historisches Lexikon Wien, the naming of the original Alaudagasse (Alauda road) came about when some veterans of the Roman Legion “Legio quinta alaudae” founded a veteran’s village on the nearby Wienerberg. Famous for fighting Asterix and Obelix in Gaul, this particular bunch of conscripts bore a special crest on their helmet and were thus known as the “Lark Crested Fifth Legion” (the Latin name for Lark is Alauda arvensis).
This fact alone will make you the most popular participant of any Viennese company Christmas party this year, but hold onto your mini-schnizels, we are not finished. This station itself is dominated by the huge Per Albin Hannson Siedlung (Sieldlung means “housing estate”) located on the south side of the Laaerberg. Now I have never paid much attention to the place before although I have often wondered why the old part is perhaps the one place in Vienna I knew which also had the familiar feel of post-war council housing developments of the UK.
But since the extension of the U1 and the “fattening out” of the bus routes to make my life easier, I have, by due of the route 16A, become an expert in the streets stretching from the “Wienerfeld” to Himbergerstrasse. And a couple of things subsequently puzzled me: first, why did the bus pass through somewhere called Stockholm Square? And second, why was there mural on the side of a primary school of some Swedish peasants having a boogie on mid-summer’s night?
As it turns out, the housing estate is named after the former social democrat Prime Minister of Sweden, Per Albin Hannson (you can find a bust of him on the Stockholmerplatz across from the music school). After the war, under Hannson’s government, Sweden sent financial aid to Austria to help it rebuild, the best example of which and most visible legacy can still be seen in Vienna’s 10th district today.
The first part of the development, “Siedlung-West” stretching from the “Hannson Curve” on the Tangente Autobahn – although it didn’t exist then – was built between 1947 and 1955 and boasts over a thousand homes. At the time, it was based on the “garden city” urban housing principles of your typical Swedish city of Malmo or Gotheburg: small rows of terraced houses with back gardens or low rise blocks of flats with communal facilities, laid out between numerous open green spaces and hemmed in by narrow streets. It is a intriguing piece of urban history and worth a quick visit. All you need to do is hook up with the 16A, have a quick pootle about and enjoy all the sights mentioned, including parts of the Stockholmerplatz which are under Denkmalschutz (meaning they are “listed”). Of course, if you have made it out this far and perhaps even survived the delight of the Hannson shopping arcade, you will now need a drink. Best bet is Peter’s Pub situated between the stations of Alaudagasse and Neulaa (see below). Skol!
The “Laa” part of Neulaa has nothing to do with the nearby Laaerberg because it also features in other places names, notably Oberlaa, Alt Erlaa and of course Laa an der Thaya near the Czech border. Instead, from what I can glean from Mrs Barratt’s knowledge of old German, it means “swamp” or perhaps “bog” presumably because they are situated near rivers. All I can tell you is that Neulaa gives direct access to the third stage of the Hannson Siedling built between 1970 and 1974. Inside are five thousand flats and small homes making it one of the biggest social housing developments in the capital (October’s edition of VOR magazine, a glossy monthly tied to Vienna Transport, puts the number of inhabitants at 14,000). It is also home to the museum of Favoriten (the 10th district). For drinking see Peter’s Pub above.
There is the sprawling spa complex where all creatures of Vienna society can be found swimming on a rainy day, the landscaped park built for the Vienna International Garden show in 1974 (2.6 million visitors), and the sleepy, slightly shabby, BOBO free (for now) village of Oberlaa itself, a short walk from the underground station. However, with the arrival of silver monsters on wheels, the building of new flats is moving at a terrific pace although rumours have it that not all locals are amused. Evidence if ever you need it that infrastructural and economic investment is not always welcomed by all people fearing change, pushy inner district Wieners (actually, all Wieners) and the incessant march of property speculators and other reprobates. Fortunately there are a couple of decent places for a snifter and where the locals will eye you with suspicion (especially if you wear clothes that were made after Austria joined the EU in 1995). Personal favourite amongst the Heurige (wine taverns so beloved of Vienna) is Manhardt (see Taking The Whine out of Wine) or the Dorfwirt – the cosiest pub in southeast Vienna. Both are situated on the Liesingerbach about a ten minute walk from the underground station, but the buses 67, 17 or 19 might help the less sprightly or anybody raddled by a super-strength Spritzer.
© 2017 RJ Barratt