City Trail 12

Grave news pop-pickers. If it wasn’t bad enough being cruelly expelled from the top spot of the Economist Global Liveability Index in 2021 after it became clear the clown cars in the first district had survived the first, second and third waves of Covid, another recent survey from consultant Kearny, entitled the “Global Cities Report”, has Vienna languishing at the rather unassuming place of number 25.

The source of this scandal is a study which dubiously attempts to rank the most powerful and influential cities on Mother Earth, placing New York at the top followed by London and Tokyo. As a Londoner (of sorts) born in SE18 in a two up, two down tiny terrace with no bathroom, I spent my pre-school years in influential city number two. Only to return post-university for a further five-year stint prior to answering an advert in the London Evening Standard from the Vienna Chamber of Commerce appealing for migrant workers to move to the sunlit uplands of central Europe, with promises of hitherto unfathomable levels of life quality.

And although now, many years later, as I approach two country parity (next year I can legitimately claim to be half-Austrian; the half without the lederhosen), I still feel an inescapable and enduring emotional connection with the capital of England. Although strangely it also means that when I am stressed and feel the need to raise my voice or express displeasure, it is still possible to discern a linguistic echo of that formative south-east London twang as the contortion and contempt flow forth. Indeed, picture it, if you will, a faux Cockney Wiener in full throat, enunciating with an unmistakable: “Mate! Gey, Oidaaah, doo fackin’ foal Trot’al!

Speaking of emotional bonds, I bring news of a new city walking trail (Wanderweg) in my neck of the Vienna dream. But just before we go there, an important fork in the road: the German verb “wandern” is one of those words which provokes much discussion in attempts to best translate into English. Is it walk, hike or trek? (Answer: all of these.) but whichever word you choose, your Austrian interlocuter will never be convinced. So just tell them that the word most commonly used expression in Britain is peregrination and then stroll away, with jaunty Bitte, schön.

Anyhow, this new trail (SSW 12 from now on) is a 22,9 km yomp embracing parts of the 10th and 23rd districts (mostly) although one should remember by “new” they mean that it simply combines well established existing paths (some more informal, I admit) and some stretches of tarmac. As such one should not expect a spectacular scenery. No, this trail is clearly designed for the urban enthusiast. One who can derive pleasure from social history, urban planning and the architectural indifference of warehousing.

However, it was clearly inspired by my musings on the subject of walks and where to find them (and avoid other people) as we lived through the first lockdown in 2020 (I knew I had one fan in city hall). Indeed, why else would one of the prized city walks pass along the grittier side of the number one city, famous for its ubiquitous light industry, parked up lorries from eastern Europe and abundant examples of the last resting place of empty Red Bull cans, unless someone had not championed their very existence in another setting?

In any case, SWW 12 is almost unique in that it is only the second city trail (two of fourteen – there is a 1A and 4A) which transgresses into nearby Lower Austria (the other is SWW 6 just south-west of the Maurerwald in the posh part of the 23rd district). Just as a side note, there is an Upper Austria but we try not to mention them after they elected three representatives from the MFG (“Menschen – Freiheit – Grundrechte” or “People, Freedom, Basic Rights”) to the provincial parliament in September. The MFG, not to be confused with the BFG (this is Austrian Education Minister, Dr Heinz Fassman) is at the heart of the anti-vaccine, anti-Lockdown, anti-mask movement in Austria and broadly stake their claim in the so-called “Querdenkers”. It’s a difficult word to translate because it could have several meanings. On a literal level, it means “lateral thinkers”, but my suspicion in the case of the MFG is that it is rooted in a fear of the tyranny of the majority and has more to do with asserting individual rights. Not so much libertarianism but more contrarianism. Or as my late grandmother from SE18 would have put it, arguing the toss (in Cockney-Wienerish; “Yea fackin’ blödah Tossa, Oidaaah!

Anyhow, back in the real world, the generally accepted starting point for SWW 12 is at the north-east corner of the Wienerberg which you can reach by taking the tram 11 from Reumannplatz in the 10th district. Although another possibility would be to take the number 1 tram from the city to the final stop adjacent to the Water Tower on the Raxstrasse (and then a short walk to the start). Or alternatively (stay with me) you could hook up with the bus 15A from Meidling where a ten-minute ride will take you to the Twin Towers and then it is just a short walk down to the hill with a quick pit-stop at the Billa Plus on the way to grab a ham or cheese roll.  

Awaiting you is the Wienerberg nature reserve which regular readers will know were once the former clay pits and brick making enterprise during the heydays of the Hapsburg monarchy (owned by the fabulously wealthy, Baron Drasche). There is still a street and park named in his honour (in the 23rd district) although my efforts to secure the rights to the title of Baron have seemingly been scuppered since the Brexit deal, where the only current legal option left is to take up Austrian citizenship. Unfortunately, given the waiting times to process applications down at the migration customer relations emporium in Vienna, it is probably just easier to wait for the UK to rejoin the EU in 2031.   

Fortunately, the view from the top of Vienna Mountain is enough of a distraction, otherwise, on a sunny day, you might be tempted by the real versions in the distance in Lower Austria (see here). So better not linger and instead head left across the top and then down through a wooded path which will bring you out at the Neilreichgasse. Here you get the chance to see some serious post-war housing developments accompanied by the comforting hum of the infamous “Tangente” motorway which is tucked away behind a huge wall last seen separating East from West Berlin.

Keep going, and eventually you will cross the motorway in all its glory before taking a sharp right as you enter the Per Albin Hansson housing estate. From here, head south towards the Oberlaastrasse and the Liesing Stream where, if you lucky you may catch sight of a Kingfisher, or at best, an exiled Brit with a pair of binoculars and a look of perpetual consternation.

At the stream, turn right following the signpost (you can’t miss it because the SWW12 has more signs than public portrayals of the party leader of a failing Communist state) and head back towards the 23rd district and Inzersdorf, tracking the existing walking and cycle path as far as the Neilreichgasse again but this time below the motorway to your right. Then a quick left and onwards through the small Hans Dunkl Park, and then you are set for the longish (mercifully flat) trek towards Vösendorf and Lower Austria (it takes approximately 45 – 60 minutes from there).

Once here you can have a quick pootle through the Schlosspark (the castle even has a moat) and then it is time to whack out your vaccination passport for a spot of refreshment at the Schlossheuriger run by Lower Austria’s candidate for “Lower Austrian most likely to look like he should have a starring role in an American daytime soap”, cookbook writer and local mayor, Hannes Koza.

It is possible at this point that you are fed up with walking and I cannot tell a lie, the trip back to the Wienerberg is a hefty part of the rest of the trail. And so there would be no shame missing the part through the village high street, back across some fields adjacent to the Südautobahn, along the Richard Strauss Strasse (past the sex sauna offering free Covid jabs and 30 minutes “recovery” with the host of your choice), ignoring the Golden Arches, past the back of another Billa, through Draschepark, under the Tangente, over the little bridge avoiding the Troll, through the small tunnel back into the 10th district, across the Triesterstrasse, along a few paths of the western part of Wienerberg near the Budo Centre and the golf course / cuntry club, and back to where it all started when the sun was still shining and you could still remember the reason you came to this part of Vienna.

No. No shame. Outside the Schlossheuriger you can catch a bus to the Badenerbahn station of Vösendorf-Siebenhirten (the one just before Shopping City if you are heading out of town) or even a little bit further to hook up with the southerly reaches of the underground line U6 and witness one of the fastest growing residential districts of Vienna (surpassed I am told only by Seestadt).

And so kom’ schon, yea verdamte Kearney Muppets! Power? Influence? Geh, bitte! We have clown cars, Oida!

© 2021 RJ Barratt