Going Green: Public Parks in Vienna - Part I
For some peculiar reason that I never really understood, Viennese believe that they live in a particularly "green" city with plenty of parks and public places that allow outdoor activities. In fact, compared to other cities of Vienna′s size (around two million residents), there are very few parks - and those that you find are usually on sites where bombs blasted a building to the grounds in WWII.
The only proper outdoor destinations are the Vienna Woods, for which you have to drive for some 30 minutes only to face thousands of Viennese that you might have attempted to escape from in the first place (at least I find that annoying); or you go to the Donauinsel (Danube Island), where even more Viennese gather. But let′s go through what parks we have got in a more systematic manner.
1.) The Volksgarten - People′s Park
This stretch of green consists of a former mall (not a shopping centre, but a site where troops would practice marching) and a site previously occupied by a bastion, which was demolished by French troops following the Napoleonic Wars. It consists mostly of grass, a few trees and tons of tourists, as it connects the Heldeplatz Square with the Burgtheater.
There is also a rose garden, a temple and other formal features and follies. In its current shape, the Volksgarten was designed by Peter von Nobile around 1820, who also opened a coffee house here. The café became rather famous as a venue for live waltz, often conducted by the two rivals Peter Lanner and Johann Strauss Jr.
2.) Burggarten - Court Garden
This park was - like the Voksgarten - covered in the articles on the Hofburg. It echoes the story of the Volksgarten insofar, as it similarly occupies the site of a bastion that the French demolished. The Burggarten has more trees and distasteful monuments than the Volksgarten, alongside with a butterfly house and Viennese youngsters to whom the Burggarten is a preferred site for smoking weed. Both parks are rarely sites where you would want to spend more than a few minutes during a sightseeing trip.
3.) The Rathauspark - City Hall Park
The park in front of Vienna′s city hall was designed in 1863 by Rudolf Siebeck. There are plenty of trees in the Rathauspark and - as I have mentioned in the article on the City Hall itself - some interesting statues. In winter, it is transformed into a sophisticated ice rink. Throughout the year, it is used for changing events - be it concerts, fairs or open-air exhibitions. Nonetheless, it is not really a park where you would go just for the "outdoor experience".
4.) Stadtpark City Park
Now we get to the real parks - the Stadtpark is rather famous, mostly due to its wild array of distasteful statues commemorating celebrity Viennese such as Johann Strauss Jr. There are artificial creeks, nice landscapes and tons of Japanese taking pictures of the Strauss memorial. The Stadtpark, too, is popular for smoking weed. On contrast to the Burggarten, however, it also has some decent park-features.
This makes it the only "proper" park in Vienna′s city centre - a real oasis that people go to for a few quiet moments. The Kursalon buildings stages frequent concerts that are expensive and very touristy, staging mostly Strauss and his contemporaries.
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