Notes about my ‘hood – lockdown in Vienna’s 19th district
When I last posted, in late February of this year, I was unaware that I would be going into lockdown for seven weeks, and now as I type in lateish May, that it still feels like lockdown, even though restrictions were lifted three weeks ago on 1st May. On Wednesday, 11th March, work advised us that with effect from Friday, 13th March (beware the Ides of March?) we would be working in shift mode, with three days in and three days from home, until further notice. On 13th March, as I had my first day in the office with only 50% presence in my department, the instruction came through that we would go into full home office / remote working from that evening.
On Saturday 14th, the last day of many shops being open until the total lockdown (except for banks, supermarkets and chemists), I frantically scurried around the 19th district to stock up on various items that would be in short supply once the shops shut – after all, who knew for how long they would shut. I went to Pagro, and picked up chalk for my children to allow them to draw on the terrace and assorted art supplies. As well as a book of Sudoku puzzles and crosswords to get me through any boredom, in case we got cut off from the outside world due to technology failures.
While the mantra was very much “Stay at home!” although not in the way that the British government ambiguously communicated the same message, I knew that for the foreseeable future that my horizons would not extend much beyond my part of the 19th district. Parks were shut to make things more difficult, and so I found myself doing street walks and going through those parks that were not closed, but where they merely requested no loitering. For our little people, the playgrounds were to remain shut until 1st May, and we are mightily relieved to have use of the playground about 50 metres from our flat, which remains very scarcely visited.
During the seven weeks of lockdown, I didn’t use public transport, other than to transport a bottle of gas for our barbecue on our terrace. The freedom of cooking outdoors, making burgers at home, having a steak and enjoying food was an important part of lockdown in terms of helping us to get through it all. We live in a bit of a “takeaway blindspot” and there was nothing on mjam and lieferando that could convince us. Fortunately, Pars, a long-standing Persian restaurant, did contactless delivery and we had two excellent meals from them, and Figl’s also did us a great Schnitzel dinner to give the cooks a break. Fortunately my Instant Pot proved great – I used it to make hot cross buns, gallons of stock, roast lamb,curries, chilli con carne and various soups.
We live towards the western end of Hutweidengasse – the end close to Börnergasse (at the end heading out of town). We are lucky to have a police station on Börnergasse, although this means also that the police cars often whizz past the front of the house and onto Kratzlgasse when scrambled. Fortunately we have a Spar, a large Merkur, a Hofer and a Billa in walking distance, as well as a Bipa. The Billa and Hofer are both close to a large housing estate (the Gräf-und-Stift-Gründe – built in 1980-1) on the site of the former Gräf & Stift Anlage, where Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s car that he was in when assassinated in Sarajevo may well have been assembled.
The housing project that contains our flat is on the site of former nursery gardens of the nursery, Fassl, which is still a family-run business. And next to us, we have the Alfred-Auer-Park, which is really little more than a path through from Hutweidengasse to Weinberggasse. On the other side of the park there is an old people’s home, the Fortunapark, that does have the advantage of having a pharmacy close to us. Otherwise for the nearest pharmacy, we have the Krim Apotheke on the Krottenbachstrasse, about 7-8 minutes walk, opposite the Hugo-Wolf-Park.
Krottenbachstrasse is served by the 35a bus route, which runs from Spittelau (U4) to Salmannsdorf. This is the bus route that we use to ferry our little people to their kindergarten in Neustift am Walde, best known to many in Vienna for the “Neustifter Kirtag” in the middle of August. We try to get out of town during the Kirtag, when everyone descends on Neustift and gets sloshed. If there are elections in the early Autumn it is also a festival of flesh-pressing, with the new Bezirksvorsteher particularly guilty as charged.
Since the late 1980s, Krottenbachstrasse has also had an Vorortlinie (S45) Schnellbahn station, which is on the line from Handelskai to Hütteldorf. The station is an easy walk down the entire length of Hutweidengasse and onto Obkirchergasse (or three stops away by bus). Obkirchergasse has a range of shops – which seem to do comparatively brisk trade compared to other shopping streets in suburban Vienna. As the lockdown was lifted, my first action was to take my son out for a train ride – he had had seven weeks at home, didn’t really understand why and after initially finding it a pleasant break from kindergarten, he missed playgrounds, ice creams, bus and train rides.