Tales of the Vienna Woods: how the most comfortable city in the world lives

Urbanists have their own ideal. All authoritative ratings put the capital of Austria in first place

Vokrug sveta tests Vienna, the most comfortable city in the world.

A warm breeze caressing the skin, the chirping of birds, a light splash of water, notes of lavender, mint, citrus make their way through the smell of fresh hay… And above your head there is a riot of colors and bizarre moving shapes on a huge ceiling-video installation by the famous avant-garde artist Pipilotti Rist.

The incredible impression is completed by the view from the huge, full-wall window to the Danube Canal, imperial Vienna, topped with the spiers of St. Stephen's Cathedral. In the spa area of ​​the SO/Vienna hotel, you want to stay forever: it's so cozy, entertaining and free. However, the city outside the window promises not to destroy this feeling: Vienna is now considered the most comfortable place in the world.

Tales of the Vienna Woods: how the most comfortable city in the world lives

For 20 years, the international consulting company Mercer has been ranking the quality of life among 200 more than cities in the world. And for the ninth year in a row, Vienna is the leader in this ranking. The second authoritative rating is published by the British magazine The Economist. Melbourne topped the list for seven years, but in 2018, the capital of Austria took the first place among 140 cities.

Test No. 1. Bicycle paths and attractions

Why is this city called the most convenient? At first glance, an ordinary metropolis. Yes, beautiful architecture, a successful combination of styles from the Middle Ages to the present. But who in Europe will surprise you with this?

Tales of the Vienna Woods: how the most comfortable city in the world lives

Acquaintance with any city is better to start, of course, from the center. The fastest way is by bike. Renting a bike is no longer a problem in Moscow, for example. Vienna, like many major cities around the world, has a public rental service. Citybike Wienallows you to find a two-wheeled horse in a hundred parking lots, and the first hour of riding will be free, the second will cost 1 euro, the third 2, and the fourth and following 4 euros (hereinafter, prices are as of 2019.  — Note by Vokrugsveta.ru).

But there is a “signature dish” in the Austrian capital — VELLO Bike: A foldable, self-charging e-bike created by local craftsmen through crowdfunding. This is how the latest technologies and a modern business approach met. Electric bike & nbsp; – a feast for the eyes! Beautiful, light, fast, compact: weighs only 12 kg, instantly and effortlessly folds to the size of a small suitcase, quickly runs along the bike path. And you can not think about recharging: he can handle it. Having rented it at the hotel, I go out into the street.

Yes, cyclists are free here. A huge number of bike paths, most of which are separated from the roadway and sidewalks. But even on the road, cars carefully let the cyclist pass. It is worth fearing only tourists who suddenly throw themselves under the wheels, while the Viennese strictly follow the rules and never cross the path of a bicycle.

Under the rustle of wheels and a light whistle of the wind – the speed is good, because on the Ringstrasse, considered the most beautiful boulevard in the world, there is a four-lane bike path! & nbsp; – admire the main sights of Vienna.

Here is the imperial Hofburg – a medieval fortress that became the residence of the Habsburgs, and now hosted the President of the Republic of Austria, – and the neo-Renaissance Vienna Opera, and the Parliament, reminiscent of the architecture of Ancient Greece, and the university building in the style of the Italian Renaissance. Here is the neo-Gothic City Hall, and here is the 93-meter-high Ringturm skyscraper, built in the 1950s. The Kunsthistorisches Museum invites you to the largest exhibition of Pieter Brueghel, and nearby in the Albertina – Claude Monet and Niko Pirosmani.

It captures the spirit from historical and cultural monuments, from green squares and parks, and from free and fast driving. Need to climb the bridge from the embankment? No problem! There is no need to go back to the beginning or drag the bike up the side stairs, just step up the electric power a little by pedaling back a couple of revolutions and enjoy riding the spiral climb designed for bikes.

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Test #2. Public transport and new buildings

And yet, as urbanists teach, the calling card of the urban environment is public transport. Residents and tourists in Vienna are transported by 127 bus, 29 tram routes, as well as 5 metro lines. Is this enough for a European capital?

Tales from the Vienna Woods: how the most comfortable city in the world lives

At first glance, quite. When cycling, I pay attention to the abundance of buses and trams and the absence of crowds at stops. In general, the city surprisingly learned to do without crowds, although the population is about two million plus several million tourists. For a Muscovite, the figure is, of course, ridiculous, but among the major cities of the European Union, Vienna ranks seventh. Looks like it's time to leave your “personal wheeled transport” and go down to the subway.

On weekdays, the metro operates from 5 am to midnight, and on weekends – around the clock. A ticket for one trip costs more than 2 euros, but it is valid for all modes of transport and until reaching the “final destination”, that is, with any transfers.

You just have to remember to validate, which is not easy, because there are no turnstiles we are used to in the Vienna metro! You come from the street straight to the train, no one checks anything. But the fare is paid for by everything, which is explained not by the “natural honesty” of the Austrians, but by the periodic “raids” of the controllers, through which not a single hare will slip through. For not having a ticket, you will have to pay a fine of more than 100 euros.

I have to go to the outskirts, to the destination station 25 minutes – an eternity by Vienna standards: the average metro ride here, according to statistics, takes 10 minutes. The train is very clean, which is not surprising: in Vienna there is a ban on eating on the subway so that the seats do not get dirty with ketchup or mayonnaise, and candy wrappers and packages do not lie on the floor. Fines, however, are not provided for unauthorized food, but residents almost without exception comply with the order. Still, here it is, “natural honesty”.

The train gently moves along the rails, and the landscape changes dramatically outside the window: instead of imperial buildings, there are fields and vegetable gardens, freight cars full of sugar beet are passing by. I arrived in Aspern, a former village that became part of Vienna in 1904, but did not change the rural way of life. Until now, vegetables and fruits are grown here, and also … they build skyscrapers. Yes, not simple, but wooden, as befits a village that considers itself part of a metropolis.

It used to be a wasteland on the outskirts and a sand pit. And the last three years of construction. The Austrians came up with the idea to build the world's tallest residential building made of wood – 24 floors. Coming out of the subway, I smell wood. Two buildings have already been built (six- and eight-story) and three floors of a “skyscraper” with the cheerful name HoHo Wien, the very future record holder.

The cleanliness of the building is amazing. Modern wooden construction requires the latest technology. Larch body panels are specially processed and prepared in advance at the factory, so that they can only be assembled at the construction site. In total, the complex will have five buildings – both residential and office spaces. And also a park, playgrounds, an artificial lake with beaches (the lake already exists, and the beaches will be equipped upon completion of construction). In short, a garden city! You can live and work without leaving anywhere. Comfortable! If you want to take a break from the latest technologies and turn to hoary antiquity, the city center is less than half an hour by metro.


Top 5 cities in terms of quality of life

1. Vienna, Austria
2. Zurich, Switzerland
3–5. Auckland, New Zealand
3–5. Munich, Germany
3-5. Vancouver, Canada

167. Moscow, Russia

174. St. Petersburg, Russia

* City life is evaluated according to 39 criteria, taking into account personal security, economy, ecology, socio-cultural environment (media, censorship, civil liberties), quality and accessibility of health care, education, transport, public services, housing costs, culture, climate and the likelihood of natural disasters.

Top 5 cities with comfortable living
(The Economist-2022)**

1 . Vienna, Austria
2. Copenhagen, Denmark
3-4. Zurich, Switzerland
3-4. Calgary, Canada
5. Vancouver, Canada

80. Moscow, Russia

88. St. Petersburg, Russia

** Cities are ranked on 30 criteria in five categories: sustainability, health, education, infrastructure, culture and environment.

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Test #3. Products and ecology

However, to be in the village, it is not even necessary to leave the center. I am convinced of this by going to the Gegenbauer vinegar factory. A typical merchant's house in the old Viennese district, built over a hundred years ago. Inside there is an ordinary shop, but with a huge number of types of vinegar (there are more than 70 of them: from grapes, apples, asparagus, tomatoes), as well as oils, juices, coffee of various varieties. On the side is a cafe, behind the counter is the owner, Erwin Gegenbauer. “We cook almost everything in the cafe with our own products,” he says and invites you to look … at the garden.

Tales of the Vienna Woods: how the most comfortable city in the world lives

We go deep into the building and find ourselves in the gallery of the courtyard, and there are rows of beds: pumpkins, tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, celery … In a wooden corral right in the yard, chickens cackle, and beehives stand on the side. And this is in the center of the European capital!

When Ignaz Gegenbauer, the grandfather of the current owner, founded his business in 1929 to produce canned food, sauerkraut, pickled cucumbers and other vegetables, things were different. But in the 1990s, Erwin refocused the family business on making vinegar, focusing on fine varieties and small batches, then he became interested in roasting coffee, experimenting with honey. And for the convenience of the experimenter, the main ingredients had to be always at hand, so I had to organize a farm right in my yard. And now Gegenbauer and his guests can enjoy nature without leaving home.

Tales from the Vienna Woods: how the most comfortable city in the world lives

Tales of the Vienna Woods: how the most comfortable city in the world lives

Tales from the Vienna Woods: how the most comfortable city in the world lives

Tales of the Vienna Woods: how the most comfortable city in the world lives

And I'm going to enjoy nature further – to the southern outskirts of Vienna. There, on the site of the former city dovecote, where postal birds were kept, there is a manufactory for growing … snails!

It turns out that snails are a traditional Viennese street food. In the center of the imperial capital, behind the Peterskirche church, until the 19th century there was a whole snail market. They prepared simple, cheap and satisfying food – baked or fried with cabbage stewed in wine; served as an appetizer – boiled or candied. In the 20th century, the tradition was forgotten, but in the 21st, a Viennese resident Andreas Gugumuk decided to revive the production.

Now on his land, beds of bushes covered with boards stretch for hundreds of meters. And on the boards, and on the bushes under them, and on the paths between the beds – hundreds, not a thousand mollusks. Taking a bucket of carrots, Andreas offers to come closer. Carrots – top dressing for snails, we scatter treats, and they happily “run away”. “Snails can be bred in large numbers with minimal use of natural resources,” says Gugumuk. “What do you need? Field, greenery, fresh air. We have plenty of that in Vienna.”

Fresh air is provided to the capital of Austria not only by the surrounding forests, municipal parks, but also by 700 hectares of vineyards located right in the city. I admire the sunset among the orderly rows of vines in the north of Vienna. A special pleasure is to walk here with the winemaker Rainer Krist, his family has been producing local wine for 400 years.

Tales from the Vienna Woods: how the most comfortable city in the world lives

“We must not forget about traditions,” says Reiner, “without them, we lose our roots. And what about without roots on the ground? We pick grapes by hand, carefully sorted. But it is impossible without innovation, this is part of the tradition: each generation brings something of its own. In my wine cellar, there are five “climatic zones” for ideal conditions for wine maturation, ancient oak barrels and modern steel containers.”

And Krist invites me to drink his wine in his heuriger , the name of the legendary Viennese wine restaurants with own winery, simple wooden tables and benches and the unique atmosphere of the best city in the world. Cities where gothic, classic, modern and avant-garde meet, Brueghel peacefully coexists with Pirosmani and Pipilotti Rist, and village life is organically woven into the crazy rhythm of the world capital.

Vienna, Republic of Austria

Area of ​​Vienna 414.75 km²
Population ~ 1,950,000 people
Population density 4,326 people/km²

Area of ​​Austria 83,879 km² (112th in the world)
Population ~ 9,000,000 people (98th place)
Population density 107.6 people/km²

Tales from the Vienna Woods: how the most comfortable city in the world lives

(1) St. Stephen's Cathedral
(2) Vienna Opera
(3) SO/Vienna Hotel
(4) Gugumuck Snail Farm
(5) Wooden Skyscraper HoHo Wein
(6) Winery Weingut & Heuriger Christ
(7) Gegenbauer Vinegar Factory

ATTRACTIONSSt. applesauce, sausages, apple strudel, Sacher cake.
TRADITIONAL DRINKS Viennese coffee melange, almdudler – carbonated herbal lemonade, beer, local white wine.
SOUVENIRS candied violets, traditional glasses for Viennese wine.

DISTANCE from Moscow to Vienna ~ 1670 km (~ 2.5 hours flight time)
TIME is two hours behind Moscow in winter, one hour in summer
VISA Schengen


The material was published in the magazine “Vokrug sveta” No. 4, April 2019, partially renovated in October 2022

Margarita No vikova

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