What’s it like to live in the city voted “the worlds most liveable city” two years running? What makes life different there, to here? Nigel Tottie calls in from Vienna.
I am usually up pretty early- around 6am thanks to the cats! After feeding them and drinking a quick coffee I either cycle to work along traffic-free dedicated cycle lanes (there is a huge dedicated cycle network in Vienna), or walk to the local tram stop and take the tram to its connection with the U-Bahn, which stops right outside the front of my workplace. Public transport is excellent in Vienna- a conscious decision by the City’s Green Party implemented affordable public transport as a way of encouraging its use. With an annual pass I can travel on all buses, trams, trains and the U-Bahn system across the city for only 1 Euro per day! Perfect for a Yorkshireman.
I work at the United Nations Headquarters building in Vienna so on a normal day will have meetings with colleagues of different nationalities. There is something very humbling about sitting in a meeting with my female colleague who switches effortlessly between English, French, Russian and Romanian depending on who she’s talking to! I have enough trouble getting some nationalities to understand my Yorkshire-accented English!
After work, and another cycle or tram ride home, we might go for a wander through the local vineyards to a Heurige, or take the tram into the City for a drink and some food. Austrians are very good at meeting over lunch and eating out – it seems like the whole place eats out in Summer! The city in summer is very lively – the Rathausplatz has events on all year round, from the Christmas markets, to ice skating in Jan and Feb (the biggest ice skating area I’ve ever seen!), Easter market, food festivals, film festivals etc! People are more indoors in winter, just because it gets cold, but still the Austrians are happy standing out on a December evening eating Langos and drinking Gluhwein.
In summer I will head out of the city on my bike on a couple of evenings and get in a loop of 2-3 hours with friends. It’s easy to get out of the city onto relatively quiet roads within a few minutes and I take advantage of it whenever I can. This also makes it easy to get out on the bike with the same friends on a weekend in the summer. In winter the nearest skiing (the Austrian religion) is only an hour away so I take advantage of that when I can (it’s addictive!).
The property set up is interesting. We are currently renting, but looking at buying somewhere at the moment (we’ve reserved an apartment which will be built at the end of the year). Rented property is plentiful and, in the Altbaus, cheap, as rents are fixed by the City Council (the rents don’t seem to have changed much since the 50s!). Public Housing is everywhere and doesn’t have the stigma that it can have in the UK – it is sought after and tends to pass down through generations – once you’re on the tenancy you can add your family and pass it down. It’s the same with private housing. There isn’t much to buy apart from new builds, as families tend to keep their housing and simply pass it on to the next generation. And ‘clean’ is the word – the Austrians take pride in it – the streets tend to be spotless and everything runs on time. If a tram or train is late by even 30 seconds they are on the speakers apologizing! It’s a far cry from waiting for the No.5 Bus in Huntington (we moved there in 2014) and it simply not turning up!
Despite so much that is great about living in Vienna, it does have its frustrations. The Austrians are incredibly bureaucratic and any interaction with city authorities or local government involves repeated visits to officials and lengthy written exchanges, all conducted in German (in my case, very bad German!). There is no NHS in Austria so the first question when visiting a doctor or dentist is always ‘how will you pay?’ And you have to love pork-based products (there are only so many Schnitzels or Wurst one man can eat in a lifetime!). So, on balance, I would recommend Vienna as a place to live to anyone who asks. But York is still home, and always will be.