Rochusviertel – Flakturm and Schnittlauchbrot
The Grätzl: noun: (Viennese dialect) a neighbourhood in Vienna contained by subjective boundaries and a coherent identity
For me, it was love at first sight: the Rochusviertel. It’s quiet, green and so varied. Just ten minutes to the Prater, five minutes to the highway, and ten minutes home from the 1st District. The Rochusviertel is the area surrounding the Rochusmarkt. It’s bordered by Rennweg up to Schlachthausgasse, along Stadtpark and the Donaukanal. And this is where I lost my heart. To whom or to what? I’ll tell you.
The beautiful old Gründerzeit buildings – the Founder’s Epoch of the mid-19th century industrialists – stand along tree-lined streets and are mostly private apartments, and not offices. Parks seem to be everywhere: Arenbergpark on nearby Neulinggasse, for instance, is great for children and dogs in need of a walk. And every few blocks is another small square with benches, fountains and bits of green, like Karl-Borromäus-Platz, with its Jugendstil fountain from 1909.
Designed by Josef Engelhart out of marble and bronze, it is held aloft by 15 cherubs whose unwrapped nudity led a local priest to formally complain to the archbishop, demanding that they either be clothed or removed. In addition, he is said to have sued the priests who blessed the fountain. Happily, the beautiful naked cherubs still remain, teasing smiles from people who move in here on warm days, sitting along the edge of the fountain, drawing a hand through the water, or settling in, talking or reading on the benches that circle around.
It is hard not to feel at home in this intimate Grätzl, where cafés and restaurants are plentiful. Walking to the U-bahn station, I wave to the Chinese shop owner and stop to chat with the owner of my favourite trattoria. Yes, it is very international. After all, it is the embassy quarter (Botschaftsviertel). The diplomats appreciate the fine old architecture, the distinctly international flavour of the nearby Sacré Coeur, a private school, and the variety of the culinary scene.
And what a scene! A real insider tip is the Italian restaurant All’Italiana, with an open kitchen where you can watch your meal being prepared. Another blessing is the Lubin. This Croatian restaurant will fulfil every expectation offish lovers and connoisseurs of good service. Austrian locales that have long since earned their honours include the Weissgerber Stube and Café Zartl. At the Meierei (“dairy farm”), a summer institution in Arenbergpark, you can enjoy their speciality: Schnittlauchbrot (buttered bread with chives).
From flowers to food
Food and indulgence are recurring themes in this district, particularly at the Rochusmarkt. And what would the Rochusviertel be without its very own market? Originally a flower market, this is now a prime place for top quality fruits and vegetables, with a variety of meats, vegetables and fruit exceeds anything a supermarket could ever offer. Here I can find shank, ox tail, Marchfeld asparagus or Christmas Vanillekipferl from the Turkish shop (all year long) and end up at the Vinothek Arrigo for a first-class cappuccino or a glass of Pinot Grigio. The highlight of Rochusmarkt is the farmers’ market every Friday and Saturday morning. People stand in line to buy sausages, cheese, cake, bread, vegetables, fruit and flowers from farmers from Vienna and Lower Austria. This quality and freshness are worth getting up early for. When the clock strikes twelve, the stands are cleared and the “party” is over – time to skip across the street to Rochus.
The Rochus is always buzzing. Hipsters, pensioners, families, businessmen and students from all over the world sit next to each other, enjoying one of the two dozen varieties of breakfast, a lunch menu or simply a melange. Across the street, at the baroque Rochuskirche, there is much coming and going – like the Rochus Café, always full of activity. The close connection to the scouts, various discussion groups and the annual Parish Ball make St. Rochus an exceptionally successful parish.
Art is not only present in form of architecture or the University of Music & Performing Arts (Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst): Few people know that the Museum for Applied Arts (MAK) uses one of the two Second World War air defence towers (Flakturm) in Arenbergpark as a storage space for art works. You can view works of art in this Flakturm on Sundays. How cool is that?
A different form of art is presented at the Rabenhof Theater. Cabaret stars such as the Austrian trio MASCHEK or the German/Austrian staple of ORF, Stermann and Grissemann, give you food for thought and a bellyful of laughter.
Actually, I’ve found there is no need to ever leave the “green pastures” of this Grätzl. Especially now, when the Christmas decorations are up and Café Rochus has opened its Punsch stand, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Having preserved its traditions and its people, while welcoming curious newcomers, the Rochusviertel remains international and daring. It is the perfect symbiosis of the past and the present.
MAK Flakturm: Arenbergpark
Rochus: Landstrasser Hauptstrasse 55-57
(01) 710 10 60
Weißgerber Stube: Landstrasser Haupstraße 28
Trattoria Pizzeria aAll’Italiana:
Landstrasser Hauptstraße 71 (Passage)
Lubin: Hainburgerstrasse 48
(01) 713 36 83
Café Zartl: Rasumovskygasse 7
Rabenhof Theater: Rabengasse 3
(01) 712 82 82