The Yppenviertel – A Tradition of Hospitality
Grätzl (Viennese dialect) a neighbourhood in Vienna contained by subjective boundaries and a coherent identity
Venturing into Vienna’s “outer districts” can hold a special sense of adventure, or even bring the feeling of going back in time. The Grätzl around the Yppenplatz in Ottakring is just such a place.
Crossing the Gürtel into the 16th District, you are in Ottakring; more specifically, you are in Neulerchenfeld, a village founded in 1703. At that time it lay just outside the Linienwall, an outer wall built around the city after the Turkish sieges in the late 1600s. With no space for large fields, most people lived off small gardens producing herbs and fruit.
In the late 1700s, a tax was imposed on foodstuffs in Vienna, but the villages beyond the outer wall were exempt. Obviously the outside markets could sell their wares more cheaply. Business boomed. In Neulerchenfeld, the Brunnenmarkt was founded. Still a bustling center of neighborhood commerce, is one of the oldest and longest outdoor markets in Europe, and in Vienna, second only to the Naschmarkt.
This tax exception also meant that restaurants were also cheaper. Since Neulerchenfeld was easy to reach, lying just outside the city walls, by the end of the 18th century almost everyone ran a Gasthaus: Of 150 buildings, 103 had a license to run an inn. And if they’re not as many now, you can still sense the welcome behind every door.
As the No.2 tram crosses the Gürtel, the Weinhaus Sittl, “Zum Goldenen Pelikan” appears on the corner to your left, the first sign of the old village. The two-storied yellow building dates to before 1740 and is the last of the original Neulerchenfelder inns. Here, time has stood still. The main dining room is still dominated by a huge old black stove, the interior unchanged since the 1950s. Out back is a giant chestnut tree shadowing a pleasant small garden, where you can eat well and cheaply: Prices hover below or around €10.
One block up Neulerchenfelder Straße is the Brunnenmarkt, reaching off to the right and left as far as the eye can see. Immediately the market’s Balkan flair takes over: Indeed, demographically about a quarter of the Ottakring population was born in South-eastern Europe, with 15% from the former Yugoslavia, while another 8% are Turkish.
This market is for daily shopping, with fruit and vegetables, butchers and fishmongers, cheese stands, and a few specialties from other places, especially Turkey. Produce is fresh, prices are good, and the crowds reasonable.
Turn right on the Brunnenmarkt, but don’t linger. Our goal is the north end of the market: Yppenplatz, the heart of Neulerchenfeld. The Platz was named after Baron Simon Peter of Yppen, an officer in the Austrian army. In the early 1800s, his military drill grounds were here.
Behind the market stands are plenty of restaurants, many Turkish. According to locals, one of the best is Lokanta Oase, “the taste of Anatolia”. It opens for breakfast at 6am.
The jelly pavilion, Gül bakery and the An-Dos
Yppenplatz hosts a farmers’ market on Saturday mornings. This is where Johanna Staud began selling vegetables and fruit in 1947, from which she and her family built the famed Staud’s jam company she still runs with her son today. Anyone who has fallen in love with this select Viennese brand, with its easily recognizable eight-sided jars and lids printed with famous Austrian art, will be amazed to discover that the factory is just up the street, on Hubergasse.
Little more than a lean-to in the space where a building once stood, it seems as if jam is made day and night: When it’s dark, the rooms are lit with eerie blue flourescent lights. Staud’s jam is not only on the shelves of Viennese grocery stores, it can be bought around the world. I have found it in shops from New York to Tokyo. On Yppenplatz you can find Staud’s Pavillon, open only mornings (8am–12:30), whose dark green shelves are lined with row upon row of jewel-like jars of jam and pickled vegetables – all well worth a special visit.
On the south side of Yppenplatz is Gül Bakery – open a miraculous 24 hours a day, and always fresh bread coming out of the oven. Would I love to live upstairs!
In the middle of the square are Café An-Do and An-Do Fisch. Both are popular but pricey, at least for this part of town. The café’s menu has a slightly oriental tinge, and An-Do Fisch serves a broad selection of Turbot, bream, gurnard, sea bass, three kinds of oysters, mussels… Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends.
But to be honest, the Platz is ringed by restaurants, more than can possibly be described here. Reflecting the inter-cultural atmosphere, the Café Club International, besides having great breakfasts, is the home of the Association for the Integration of Immigrants. And the Brunnenpassage, at the east end of the Platz, is an international social centre, with free events or dance classes nearly everyday.
By 5:45 in the afternoon merchants on the market begins to pack up, and by 6:30 it is empty. Evening has begun, and the park on the west side of Yppenplatz is full of people: Mothers sit with babies in prams, soccer players fill the “ball cage”, voices shouting out in many languages, while around the edges, long walls explode with exuberant graffiti. Seemingly tolerated, a friend from the neighbourhood says that the images change regularly. One of the kids tells me that the sprayers are there at dawn.
I leave fantasizing about a warm spring day, when I’ll get over to this side of town at 5 in the morning to watch them at work, pick up some warm ekmek at Gül, and then at 6, a cardamom coffee at Lokanta. Watch the market open, and back to the 1st District in time for work. What could be better?
Friedmanngasse 14, Tel: (01) 409 81 67
Café An-Do and An-Do Fisch
Brunnenmarkt Stands 169 and 161
Café Club International
Shop: Corner Brunnengasse/Schellhammergasse
Factory: Hubergasse 3