Archive for the ‘The Top 25 Vienna Legends’ Category

The top 25 Vienna legends#9 / „Mahlzeit”

I don’t do breaks when I am in the office. I just don’t have the time to. Sometimes I go to the nearest supermarket and try to get some rolls with butterkäse (which is a completely different story) or something small, which I then eat while working on.


Sometimes I meet colleagues on the way and two out of three times they say “Mahlzeit” to me. I guess, that there are colloquial sayings for “Enjoy your meal” or the like in every language. But it is a uniquely Austrian thing to say this as a greeting during the hours between approximately 10:30 am and 2:30 in the afternoon. And it makes me cringe everytime because it has the connotation of civil servantry and being old-fashioned. But there is an interesting story as to where the greeting comes from, and it has to do with civil servants.

The top 25 Vienna Legends: #8 / Cappuccino!

The Battle of Vienna took place on September 11 and September 12, 1683 after Vienna had been besieged by the Ottoman Empire for two months.

Why do I tell you that?

Well… one legend tells that, after the battle, the Austrians discovered many bags of coffee in the abandoned Turkish camp. The Viennese used this captured stock and Franciszek Jerzy Kulczycki opened the third coffeehouse in Europe and the first in Vienna, where, according to legend, Marco d’Aviano ( the Capuchin friar and confidant of Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor), added milk and honey to sweeten the bitter coffee, thereby inventing cappuccino.


The top 25 Vienna Legends, Myths and Rumours: #7 / Fin de Siècle Squatters


Once upon a time, the aged Emperor of k. & k. Austria-Hungary, Franz-Joseph I, decided to date leaders of the Social Democrat’s party for the first time after he had read an article in their central organ, the Arbeiter-Zeitung, about a squat in the capital. In a riot, revolutionary Social Democrats had occupied the President’s dais in a symbolic act by rapidly jumping over some banquettes.

He asked his minister: “Tell me, are these Social Democrat only young people, so fit to jump over those banquettes that easy?” – “No, Mylord”, the minister replied, “even old Social Democrats do jump over banquettes easily.” Astonished for just a moment, the Emperor ordered a civil servant to contact their leader Viktor Adler to send an envoy immediatly to proof the telling of his minister.

Source: Bruno Kreisky, Zwischen den Zeiten. Erinnerungen aus fünf Jahrzehnten (Autobiography), p.29

The top 25 Vienna Legends, Myths and Rumours: #6 / Prince plays secret gig at U4

Do we still contribute to the urban legends? Nobody seems to talk to me anymore…


In the early Nineties the U4 still was a decent, progressive disco/club on the verge between underground and mainstream. Acid techno was rolling and the heydays of Falco doing cocaine in the U4 were already gone. Gothics and rockers crowded the place, unless it was Thursday’s gay club or something special happened.

One of these special things I only ever heard about but never found any proof for, was that prince came over after doing a big stadium show in the Stadthalle to play a secret gig. That was a rumour going on before and it still is around. That was before he turned into a slave, then a sign and then a number. That would have been cooler than cool to see. Does anybody know anything for sure?

Another show around the same time at the U4, that I also missed, was by a young, hitherto unknown trio from Seatlle, WA, called Nirvana. When they came around the next time I made sure not to miss them.

Seems as if this entry is about the legend of the U4 as much as about the secret concert by Mr. Prince.

The top 25 Vienna Legends, Myths and Rumours: #4 / The State Opera and Edward van der Nuell

The State Opera and Van der Nüll

More than two years ago when I used to attend the German language class, my teacher told us the sensitive Viennese architect who masterminded the construction of the State Opera.

“Never criticise a talented Viennese…” She told us.

This was the time I learned of Eduard van der Nuell and his master August Sicard von Sicardsburg and the fate of State Opera, which was known then as Hofoper.

Van der Nuell was famous for his “exceptional ornamental and decorative talent.” Together with Sicardsburg, “They advocated an internationally open-minded and independent concept of the total work of art (Gesamtkunstwerk) without restrictions of style or norms, a very twentieth-century approach to architecture.” (Source)

Because of different styles associated in constructing the State Opera building, instead of praises what they heaped was a strong opposition from the public. They accused the team of Van der Nuell and Sicardsburg of having no style insinuating that they didn’t really invent anything new.

Although the building of State Opera also brought them critical acclaim from abroad, the last straw was Franz Josef’s dislike towards the building. It was rumoured that the emperor never favoured the architecture and even complained that it was an eyesore. Van der Nuell, who couldn’t handle the amount of flak he received especially from the Austrian emperor, committed suicide by hanging himself.

The emperor was so shocked after he heard the news of the ill-fated architect. From then on every time he wasn’t pleased with the new trends in art he was caught saying the cliched yet diplomatic phrase “Es war sehr schoen, es hat mich sehr gefreut ” to assure/please the artists.

A few months after Van der Nuell’s death, Sicardsburg died of a heart attack.

The top 25 Vienna Legends: #3 / Koloman

It is probably a stretch to call this an urban legend from Vienna, because back then there was no urban area to speak of, it is a historic fact and it all occured in lower Austria not Vienna. Then again back then Austria wasn’t much more than the stretch of land alongside the danube in the Wachau, Vienna and eastwards to the river March. Nothing you couldn’t drive down in two or three hours on a highway nowadays. Moreover it shows quite well how Austrians / Viennese tend to behave towards people. Finally it is the best legend I could think of under pressure, so here we go:


In the beginning of the 10th century the Babenberger Heinrich I. ruled the little stretch of land alongside the danube through the wonderful Wachau, which had little economic interest but a lot of strategic interest. In 1012 an Irish pilgrim named Koloman, son of a celtic lord, was held up in Stockerau. Because of his strange clothing and his language, which nobody understood, he was held for a spy from Hungary, cruelly tortured and executed. He was hanged on a tree.
His body hanged there for one and a half year without rotting. Finally, a hunter came along and wanted to check, but when he put his spear into the side of the body (remind you of something?) fresh blood poured out. So the body was taken off the tree and brought to the monastery in Melk, where it was buried.
But because wonderous things happened at the site of his death, a cult-following started to rise around the memory of Koloman and he was pronounced a martyr. He became a sort of patron saint of Austria (he was never pronounced a saint officially), which he remained until 1663 when saint Leopold become the patron of lower Austria. His patronage helps against bad weather, fire and epidemics.
St. Koloman in Salzburg is named after him and even nowadays if children aren’t behaving well, parents might say to them “…watch out, or Koloman comes.”

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