20 Years in Vienna – Geocaching Nightwalk

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When I first arrived in Vienna in 2000, having visited the city frequently during my year abroad in Judenburg, I initially explored the city on foot and by tram a lot. Part of getting to know the city was done in my search for free entertainment while I didn’t have any work. I’d apply for jobs, and since I didn’t need to sit next to the phone waiting for it not to ring, I would jump on buses and trams and view the city from street level. I think possibly Jarvis Cocker’s excellent Wireless Nights podcast might have fired me on as I charged around town last evening.

It started with sitting on Ring Trams (the old 1 and 2 routes) and then as I tired of the grandeur, rather than do similar with a book to read, I would instead take any of the lines radiating from the Ring. I would often look at the transportation map and find an extravagant route and disappear off for a couple of hours. Oh to have the time now to do that, although I do take my eldest son out on trains regularly as an adventure.

Last night, with the children tucked up in bed fast asleep, and with my wife wanting to relax on the sofa for the evening, I headed out into town to pick up some Geocaches. I’ve started Geocaching more seriously recently, have briefly flirted with it in 2016. This year, 2020, it helped me get through lockdown, as I built finding Geocaches into my lockdown walks. I’m still a novice, with only medium double figures of caches found, and I tend to stick to low hanging fruits like urban traditional caches, but even the low-hanging fruits are proving useful in terms of ensuring that I get a decent walk.

Last night’s little walk started at Schwedenplatz, an easy place to reach, as it is a bus and underground ride from home. During the day my approach to geocaching is slightly scattergun, I find a starting point and then try to walk somewhere and pick up a few caches and go home. Last night I was a man with a mission, choosing 10 caches to try to get in a set order, focusing on ones in the city centre that are usually difficult to get in daylight, due to the number of people around. I would call the evening a success, finding 7 out of 10 of the ones I was looking for, with a couple needed maintenance. I’ll try other districts at some stage before long, as there are a lot in residential districts.

My itinerary took me to the Urania, then the Zollamtstrasse, followed by the Postgasse and then into the city through the Graben. With it being dark, I also had fun with the night mode of my phone’s camera. From the Graben, where I finally got one cache that had eluded me for ages, due to the fact that it was by a Fiaker stand, I weaved through to the Staatsoper, and then around the Ring, stopping at various places and onto the Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG), close to my office before heading into the 9th District to Liechtensteinstrasse and onto the Servitenviertel, with a brief photo stop outside the flat I lived in in my first year in Vienna. A lot of the bars in the Servitenviertel are still going that were there 20 years ago.

It also gave me a big insight/awakening, in terms of how reduced tourist numbers is impacting Vienna. Just off Kärntnerstrasse there were rough and ready notices in front doors about hotels being temporarily closed, and many of the kiosks also shut, including for example the stand on the corner of Krugergasse and Kärntnerstrasse, where I might have consumed a Pizzakrainer in days of gluttonous youth. The clubs around the Ring are all shut, and the trend is for people to sit in groups in parks – such groups were in evidence at Heldenplatz as well as Siegmund-Freud-Park.

A walk along through the Stadtbahnbögen would probably also show how the bars and clubs are struggling. The clubs that seem to come and go, reinventing themselves at regular frequencies are probably also unlikely to survive. Some seem to have tried to open earlier as bars, but whether such a strategy will work in the winter is questionable. People don’t have the disposable income at the moment that they did previously, which is probably what is seeing their consumption trends change.

Taking your drinks with you, once the reserve of teenagers is becoming more popular, the maths of is being simple – four cans of beer from the supermarket are about €5, which is now close to the going rate in city centre bars. A far cry from ATS 23 for a Krügerl on my year abroad, possibly ATS 30 in Vienna, or around € 3.50 during the mid-noughties.

Had I not been so tired, after my walking, I would have walked home when the Nightbus didn’t appear twice in a row, as I used to iny early days, where I felt money spent on taxis a very unnecessary expense.