GRÄTZL

METROPOLE - Vienna in English - - CONTENTS - By An­dreas Rainer

The Ber­mu­dadreieck is one of Vi­enna’s old­est ar­eas, with rich his­tory and a wild nightlife.

Omi­nously named af­ter the mys­te­ri­ous nav­i­ga­tional haz­ard that al­legedly claims count­less ves­sels in the Caribbean, Vi­enna’s Ber­mu­dadreieck (Ber­muda Tri­an­gle) is an ad­ven­ture, par­tic­u­larly on week­ends.

The joc­u­lar nick­name for the area be­tween Sch­we­den­platz, Marc-aurel-strasse, Ho­her Markt and Raben­steig was coined dur­ing the 1980s, based on tales of stu­dents and party an­i­mals who might dis­ap­pear there for days and af­ter­wards claim they couldn’t re­mem­ber a thing.

But young denizens are of­ten un­aware that their play­ground is one of the old­est neigh­bor­hoods in the city – in fact, it dates from the time of the Ro­man gar­ri­son of Vin­dobona, where the “philoso­pher em­peror” Mar­cus Aure­lius’ passed away in 180 AD. In more re­cent his­tory, the area was a prom­i­nent Jewish en­clave (hence the street “Ju­den­gasse”) with count­less ven­dors and shops spe­cial­iz­ing in tex­tiles. When busi­ness slowed down in the ’80s, the first bars such as Krah Krah and Kak­tus filled the void, turn­ing empty store­fronts into jazz clubs and wa­ter­ing holes and earn­ing the Grätzl its en­dur­ing rep­u­ta­tion.

AN­CIENT DAYS

The his­toric heart of the area is Vi­enna’s main syn­a­gogue the STADT­TEM­PEL, con­structed be­tween 1824 and 1826. At that time, only Catholic churches were al­lowed a pres­ence on the street, so many tem­ples, like this one, were squeezed in be­tween res­i­den­tial build­ings. Iron­i­cally, this saved the Stadt­tem­pel dur­ing the Nazi Novem­ber­pogrome: It couldn’t be torched with­out set­ting the ad­ja­cent build­ings on fire. Still, it re­mains un­der 24-hour po­lice guard today af­ter be­ing tar­geted twice in the late ’70s and early ’80s by Pales­tinian ex­trem­ists.

Lo­cated just a stone’s throw away is the equally ven­er­a­ble RUPRECHTSKIRCHE, erected some­time be­tween 796 and 829 and the

old­est church in Vi­enna. Also boast­ing the city’s old­est bell (circa 1280) and old­est stained glass win­dow (about 1370), fires, wars and the pass­ing of cen­turies have taken their toll, re­sult­ing in a hodge­podge in­te­rior whose stones them­selves tell a story. But this church bears more than silent wit­ness: St. Ru­pert’s nave hosts a reg­u­lar series of baroque and early mu­sic con­certs, and since 1972, the lower level is home to Vi­enna’s old­est jazz club, JAZZLAND. Ac­ces­si­ble from Sch­we­den­platz, the venue has hosted leg­ends like Roo­sevelt Sykes, Memphis Slim and Big Joe Wil­liams over the last 45 years.

WHEN IN VIN­DOBONA…

The city’s An­glo­phones have a haven in nearby PICK­WICK’S, a com­bi­na­tion café/bar/ book­store and video rental. Cozy and clut­tered, it serves An­glo-amer­i­can com­fort food and broad­casts sport events in English.

An­other must for lovers of the word is SHAKE­SPEARE & COM­PANY, which has sup­plied the city’s English-lan­guage literati since 1982. With books stacked to the ceil­ing at their tiny shop, their ex­cel­lent se­lec­tion and friendly ser­vice should be rea­son enough to get you off Ama­zon and into the end­less plea­sures of a real-world browse.

Just to the south is Ho­her Markt, a spa­cious square that was the site of ex­e­cu­tions un­til 1707, when a wooden mon­u­ment re­placed the gal­lows and pil­lory. The frag­ile struc­ture was even­tu­ally re­placed by the mag­nif­i­cent VERMÄHLUNGSBRUNNEN in 1725, an op­u­lent foun­tain with mar­ble stat­ues of Mary and Joseph be­ing wed by a priest.

Across the street is the RÖMERMUSEUM

(Ro­man Mu­seum), which doc­u­ments the ori­gins of Vi­enna as Le­gion camp. More than 30,000 peo­ple lived in Vin­dobona, erected to se­cure the north­ern bor­ders of the Ro­man Em­pire. Brows­ing through the ex­hibits, you’ll see that the first res­i­dents en­joyed liv­ing stan­dards not seen again un­til the 19th cen­tury – paved side­walks, a sewage sys­tem, a re­li­able wa­ter sup­ply, spas, tav­erns and even the­aters.

HIS­TORIC HANG­OVERS

But let’s face it: His­tory is all very well, but it can’t com­pete with the Ber­mu­dadreieck’s no­to­ri­ety as party cen­tral.

So let’s go and have a drink. The KAK­TUS bar is one of the Grätzl’s old­est dives, serv­ing hang­overs since 1980. Vir­tu­ally un­changed today, it makes a good liv­ing off its boozy rep­u­ta­tion. Sin­gles look­ing for ac­tion are def­i­nitely in the right place.

The BER­MUDA BRÄU mi­cro­brew­ery down the road has a restau­rant on the top floor, a bar on the ground floor – and a base­ment dance floor they call the “dis­tillery.” Skip the rest and make your way straight down­stairs, to a tiny room packed with peo­ple danc­ing to Aus­tro pop hits most na­tives would never ad­mit to know­ing by heart (although they do!). It reeks of sweat, sec­ond­hand smoke and the ad­ja­cent re­strooms, but in the right mood it can be leg­endary.

PHILOSOPH is the so­phis­ti­cated place to get ham­mered, pre­ferred by lib­eral arts stu­dents who are too high brow for the hor­mone-driven, more “vul­gar” dives of the Ber­mu­dadreieck. The at­mos­phere is laid­back and brainy, mak­ing it a great place to es­cape the sur­round­ing mad­ness – and pos­si­bly the only bar where you’ll stand a chance of im­press­ing that stun­ning doc­toral stu­dent with your take on Der­rida.

From Le­gions to Jäger­bombs, the Ber­mu­dadreieck is a liv­ing ex­am­ple of Vi­enna is as a whole: A place where high­color his­tory and a lively lu­nacy co­ex­ist hap­pily side by side. Some­times be­ing “lost at sea” is just the right thing.

1., Ho­her Markt 3 Tue-sun 9:00-18:00 (01) 535 5606 roe­mer­mu­seum.at 1., Seit­en­stet­ten­gasse 5 Mon-sun 19:00-4:00 0676 670 44 05 kak­tus­bar.at 1., Franz-josefs-kai 29 Mon-sat 19:00-0:00 (01) 533 25 75 jazzland.at 1., Seit­en­stet­ten­gasse 4 (01) 531...

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