Track, Vienna, News
Straight across the heart of Vienna, surrounded by the aura of the past.
- Space for togetherness
Challenge: 1 (Sandal)
Circuit: Old town including Josefsplatz,
Ballgasse, Stephansplatz and Schwedenplatz
Start point: Michaelerplatz (1010 Vienna)
Coordinates: 48°12'28.60"N, 16°22'1.16"E
Public transport: U3 > Herrengasse station
(5mins by foot to the starting point)
Urbs explore everything. This time it's the old town, the vibrant and powerful beating heart of Vienna. Teaming life flows through the arteries of the city and the multilingual soundscape, accompanied by the sound of horses hooves, gently penetrates into even the smallest side streets. A dash of mysticism flows through the forecourts and courtyards of historic buildings, ancient history sticks to the imposing walls and a whiff of past centuries flows through the heart's chambers. Until eventually it escapes through the valves at the Ring to be distributed to the surrounding organs, and there slowly evaporates.
This route penetrates deep into the old heart of Vienna, and with a bit of imagination past events and legends can almost be experienced. To achieve this effect it's a good idea to take a book of legends in your back pack, and dive in at the onset of dusk or when it's foggy.
Go to Google-Maps
At Michaelerplatz not only are there excavations, which allow a glimpse into the city's Roman past, but there is also the inconspicuous looking Michaelerkirche church. Appearances can be deceptive however, because beneath its arches you can find Vienna's creepiest crypt. The constant temperature beneath the earth here has mummified some of the corpses, and left them looking the visitors in the eye from their open tombs.
We carry on along Reitschulgasse to Josefsplatz. Here, step through the portals of the Augustinerkirche church, past the pyramid-shaped Canova monument – watch out for the gate to his tomb, in the realm of the dead – to Loretokapelle, which was moved underground in 1784. The door itself – painted with skulls – hints that the Viennese Brotherhood of the Dead were once based right here where you are standing. The adjoining ‘Herzerlgruft’ [Heart's Crypt] contains urns with 56 of the Hapsburg family's hearts inside. Back out in front of the church, we carry on along Augustinerstraße via Lobkowitzplatz into Gluckgasse, where you can find Kaisergruft at the end. If you haven't had enough of being underground, you can find the magnificent sarcophaguses that hold the mortal remains of the Habsburg's (without hearts and entrails). This most ostentatious of mausoleums is, surprise surprise, the tomb of Maria Theresia. Now we pass Neuer Markt – and turn into Donnergasse, then cross Kärntner Straße, to arrive in Himmelpfortgasse. Turning left here takes us to Rauhensteingasse.
Number 10 was once a building that bore the name, ‘Malefiz-Spitzbubenhaus’. Unfortunately nothing remains of it, and a temple to consumerism has taken its place. What irony, when you think that one of Vienna's grimmest prisons once stood here. Now we go left into Ballgasse, one of the most characteristic of old town side streets, where a mystical charm can still be felt in the walls. This is also true of the delightful courtyards of 7 and 16 Singergasse, and 3 Blutgasse (with balconies), which can be reached via Franziskanerplatz. From Blutgasse we now turn left into Domgasse, and go straight through the passage to Stephansplatz, and through a side door into the Cathedral. Too many legends to count surround this building.
The Devil was there at the construction of the north tower (still incomplete), and grimacing demonic water spouts grin from the facade. Inside, we find the stairs down to the catacombs on the left – this ‘city of the dead’ under Stephansdom, where you can still see holes for throwing people into the plague pits, among other things. In the northern tower you encounter the ‘Zahnwehhergott’ who you can pray to, to heal your toothache, and nearby in the Katharinenkapelle, the ‘Dienstbotenmuttergottes’ who is said to have saved a maid from damnation.
The ‘Hündlein Ohnefurcht’ [Dog Leash of Fearlessness] is also very interesting. It is located high up in the pulpit, and helped children conquer their fear and keep evil at bay. Out through the main entrance (a really big door) there are two horizontal bars – the Ellen [cubits] – that were used to check the amounts of purchases, and there is ‘05’ scratched in the wall to the left – the sign of the Austrian resistance to the Nazis. Another interesting feature at Stephansplatz is the legendary Stock im Eisen [Staff in Iron], a medieval tree into which hundreds of nails have been pounded for good luck, and the Vergilius Chapel, an underground crypt, which can be seen from inside the underground station. From there you can reach Rotenturmstraße, then Lichtensteg via Hohe Markt (in the middle ages, one of the city's most important markets and also a place of execution by hanging and pillory) under the Anchor Clock and through to Judengasse and on to Ruprechtskirche.
This is the oldest church in Vienna, erected around the year 800 on the site of the Roman city of Vindobona. Inside, it's very bare, but is very atmospheric, after all its walls are the oldest in the city to still be in use. Now back into Seitenstettengasse, then right onto Rabensteig.
There is something special about this corner, because it once lay right on the Danube, and because of a gentle bend in the river, dead bodies would regularly wash up and get tangled in the sheets of the local washer women. Now we carry on to the left into Fleischmarkt, then via Köllnerhofgasse and Sonnenfelsgasse into Schönlaternengasse. Here at number 7 we find the Basiliskenhaus of local legend. Turn right into Fleischmarkt at the end of the street and we are already at Griechenbeisl, one of Vienna's oldest restaurants, with the Lieber Augustin, a famous street performer and plague victim, in the basement ;-) And finally down the narrow Griechengasse to Schwedenplatz and now it's time to emerge from the past.
Michaelergruft guided tours
Monday to Friday, 11, 2, 3 and 4 o'clock
Saturday, 3 and 4 o'clock 1010 Wien, Habsburgergasse 12
Sundays and holidays after masses see
1010 Wien, Augustinerstraße 3
Daily from 10am to 6pm (closed on 1st and 2nd November) 1010 Wien, Tegetthoffstraße 2
Monday – Thursday 10am to 12am Monday,
Wednesday, Friday, 3pm to 5pm
1010 Wien, Seitenstettengasse 5
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