At the Heart of Europe
Several towns contend over the honor of being the center of Europe: Suchowola in Poland, Hildweinsreuth in Bavaria, Rakhiv in Ukraine, Krahule in Slovakia, Frauenkirchen in Burgenland. And then Vienna – the lazy, the beautiful, the unparalleled.
Six Steps Towards Perfection
Vienna is more than a city: it has become a state of mind. Who wouldn’t like to live here?
But before reaching this state of grace, my favorite urban paradise had to tick through a few historic steps.
A) It all began with an obscure law, passed in 280 B.C. by an obscure Roman emperor – Probus (276-282 B.C.) – which allowed grapes to be grown outside Italy. Ever since, wine has been influencing the Viennese’s outlook on life. To this day, Vienna is the only metropolis in the world with vineyards on city land: around 2.7 square miles of vineyards and over 200 heurigen, taverns where they sell “this year’s wine”.
B) Act two – enter a Babenberg duke, Leopold the 6th, “The Glorious” (1194 – 1230), who turned Vienna into a first-rate cultural capital.
The Habsburgs did not come to the throne until 1282 and, for over 600 years, they made more love (arranged marriages) than war to build and consolidate their empire; it is to them that the Viennese nowadays owe 90% of their fabulous inheritance.
C) In 1529 and in 1683, the Turks besieged Vienna, infesting the city with a product which remained inextricably bound to the Viennese lifestyle: the coffee bean. You can have coffee in 2,178 cafés.
D) Around 1900, particularly in Vienna, capital of a decadent multinational empire, the new century meant the dawn of a new era. Writers, painters, philosophers, researchers, architects or composers would influence the 20th century from their homes in Vienna. Freud, Mahler, Klimt, Wittgenstein, Schiele and many others are considered to be modern classics.
E) In 1986, the “university obscenity” was the “in” thing. Nudism and genital sexuality shocked the public and shattered taboos. Günter Brus, Otto Mühl or Valie Export are the main protagonists of the “Wiener Aktionismus”, which would stretch the borders of Viennese tolerance.
F) According to the Mercer studies (Quality of Living Survey), Vienna is, year after year, one of the cities with the highest living standard in the world.