National Geographic : 1923 Jan
VIENNA-A CAPITAL WITHOUT A NATION BY SOLITA SOLANO AUTHOR OF "CONSTANTINOPLE TO-DAY," IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE BANKRUPT Vienna has nothing left except an incomparable geo graphical situation on the Danube. Until recently one of the richest and gay est cities on the Continent and the center of Europe's oldest empire, she is to-day the capital of a few mountains and rivers that occupy a small corner of her former dominions. The dissolution of an im mense polyglot empire has brought ruin to Austria and put Vienna in pawn to the world. On the edge of a shriveled little republic of six million insolvents, Vienna has been waiting for a rescue party and living on alms. While waiting, her currency has dropped until now it takes many thousand of her twenty-cent pieces to make one American dollar. Surrounded by countries that are nurs ing ancient grudges against her, depend ent on them for nearly all her food and fuel, and with only worthless money with which to pay her bills-this is the fate which has brought almost unparalleled national misery upon a highly civilized people in a famous center of learning, art, and culture. MISFORTUNE HAS NOT ROBBED VIENNA OF HER BEAUTY Despite her tragic atmosphere, Vienna is still a beautiful city, with the cosmo politan charm of Paris. In area she can compete with London, for her limits em brace more than 105 square miles. The city, however, is not built up to its limits, but is surrounded by a belt of meadows and wooded hills known as the Wiener Wald, from which many of the beautiful trees have been cut down in the past three years of fuel shortage. The Danube, which has given Vienna her important commercial position, di vides into several arms after leaving the limestone hills above the city, and a pic turesque winding canal diverts some of the water through the northwest part of the town to the warehouses, filled with foreign food for the hungry population. No finer buildings can be found in Europe than in this city of the Hapsburgs. Several races labored at building Vienna for more than a thousand years, and the artistry of many peoples is represented here. The buildings are a record of the changing taste of western civilization. THE RING-STRASSE SURROUNDS THE INNER CITY Baroque architecture, which came to grief in Rome and to perfection in Vienna, has many brilliant examples, par ticularly in the Inner City. This is the oldest part of Vienna and is inclosed by the famous Ring-Strasse, a boulevard 187 feet wide, with double rows of trees, and built, like the old boulevards of Paris, on the site of fortifications which once ex tended for three miles about the core of the city. Within or on the Ring are the imperial palace buildings, the great Gothic cathe dral of St. Stephen, the celebrated Uni versity, the Parliament building - that Greek temple where the National As sembly of the Republic now sits - the immense twin museums, the Exchange Building which is the city's pulse, the Opera and the Hofburg Theater, all in a setting of linden and horse-chestnut trees, which frame the boulevard and avenues and line the walks of Vienna's lovely parks. Outside the confines of the Ring are many palaces, embassies, chateaux, mu seums, hotels, and handsome stone apart ment-houses like those of Berlin. In this splendid setting an economic up heaval has completely overturned every normal social condition and changed the destinies of all classes of the population. The workingman is now on top of the heap and will be provided for as long as the Social Democrats are able to make their governmental machine function. Next down the new economic scale come the titled aristocracy and the other upper classes who used to live by "un earned increment." Many of these have spent their principal since the revolution and have come to bitter poverty.