For me, the Austrian capital is the patio swing among the world’s great cities. In her, you can swing off stress and all sense of time. Time especially, given that Vienna is a city with an ancient soul. Leave out the official tourist attractions and take a stroll through the inconspicuous sensations of her inner districts, and you’ll know what I mean. Some cities have a gaudy, whorish beauty. Not Vienna. She is pure poetry, needs not a trace of makeup. Exploring her narrow streets peopled with characters from famous novels and running somewhere between the past and the present, you constantly encounter buildings bearing plaques telling you who penned which work of world literature in them – and lingerie boutiques. Are they somehow connected? Literature and lingerie?
Incidentally, Vienna is also good for a solo visit. In the birthplace of psychoanalysis, you don’t lie down on a couch, you go to a coffee house. Nowhere have I seen so many coffee house “self-therapists” immersed in their writing. Here, every man is a crime movie, every woman an unsolved case. Time dissolves like sugar in coffee, which always comes with a free glass of Viennese tap water. Good for the stomach, bad for business. But it speaks for the proprietors, who serve it all the same. The world’s best tap water. The most green areas. The most spacious housing. For years now, consistently, Vienna has ranked as the city with the highest quality of living. And should someday the end of the world draw near, then Vienna will be the last city standing, as Nostradamus is said to have predicted. Science and soothsayers usually have little in common but in this case, they agree.
Our columnist, Helge Timmerberg, an irrepressible globetrotter since 1969, writes travel books and contributes monthly to our magazine.