National Geographic : 1968 Jun
Mayor Marek stroked his mustache and said amiably, "I warn you, I get mad at peo ple who think that all we do in Vienna is play waltzes and eat schnitzel and strudel. We have a quarter of the Austrian population and we turn out nearly half the national product. We work!" I assured the mayor that I had seen the great petrochemical plant on the road from the airport, the gigantic breweries, the grow ing harbor on the river. Each day I awoke to the clanging of hard-working garbage trucks. Mayor Marek said: "We're building a new plant to burn the garbage in. Out will come steam to heat three hospitals. We build a lot. Seventeen percent of our dwellings were de stroyed in World War II, and housing is still scarce. But we also build for the spirit. Each municipal housing project sets aside 1 percent of the cost for works of art. We encourage every school child to learn to play an instru ment, all the way up through the conservatory, entirely free of charge." The mayor looked out through the great window and mused about the Viennese spirit. "The songs we love to sing usually end cheerfully, but with a touch of melancholy, a thought of death. That's part of the Viennese character. Our native optimism, our sense of irony, our notorious skepticism-all this helps us accomplish the most formidable tasks, by seemingly not taking them too seriously." Why Most Viennese Refuse to Move Nine out of ten Viennese live in apart ments. Nearly half of them live close to a little factory or two, primarily in the tightly packed districts around the Inner City. To change this is the formidable concern of Architekt Georg Conditt, in charge of city planning. In the 7th District, called Neubau, I had examined a typical block: 160 yards square, a hodgepodge of 41 buildings and 31 court yards, with 29 small factories and workshops. A printing plant, two carpentry shops, a garage repairing automobiles, factories turn ing out enamelware and wrought iron. Herr Conditt said: "Imagine the noise! The odors! The guerrilla warfare between tenants and factory people! The complaints to the authorities, the hairsplitting decisions, the exasperation all around." Would the factory people consider moving? Hardly. Where else would they pay so little rent, at rates set long ago? Nor would the tenants budge. How could a man abandon the little restaurant down the block, where he meets his cronies for cards on Saturday 754 mornings? And his wife: Could she leave the place where she knows the tricks of every shopkeeper, and all the gossip? No, in Vienna one does not move. One stays loyal to the neighborhood, where one feels at home. Why, some districts even evolved their own varia tions on the Viennese dialect; and mothers in the 10th District, Favoriten, have been known to tell their sons that no good can come of marrying a girl from Simmering, the 1lth. And yet, in Herr Conditt's view, hope lies in precisely such mixed marriages: "Say he's from Josefstadt, the 8th. She's from Meidling, the 12th, and it's a choice of waiting three years for an apartment in either district, or taking one now in the less-built-up 21st, in Floridsdorf. That's across the Danube! Siberia!