It is estimated that you are filmed an average 306 times per day in London, by CCTV. This is a trend which is yet to take off in Mitteleuropa.
‘Vienna would be great, if it wasn’t for the Viennese’.
In Austria, the capital city is known for its grumpiness and melancholy, and you get a sense of this while walking the streets. Locals seem introverted and full of angst. British people laugh more and take life less seriously. They stand up to drink outside pubs, so that the good cheer is more visible. British people wear fewer clothes in all seasons. They are also considerably fatter than lean and health-conscious Austrians.
I still feel a little like a tourist in my adopted home, which is a feeling I like, of still being surprised by many details. Vienna is a safe, and fairly flat city. There is more wind than in London, meaning the air quality is better. Lots of London buildings are made in red brick, whereas the primary colour in Vienna is grey. The Viennese pass each other on the right, but in London everything is more chaotic. In law-abiding Austria, the locals rarely cross roads on red lights, which the British do all the time (it is actually illegal to do so in most of Europe, and people are sometimes fined for this in Vienna). In my old home town, I rarely bump into anybody I know, whereas this happens regularly in compact Vienna.
Even if Vienna dubs itself the home of music, and people all around the world have a soundtrack in their heads when you say the name of the city, still there is very little music on the streets. In London, you continually hear loud music from buskers, cars, shops and open windows. The Viennese are much more likely to complain to police about noisy neighbours than Brits.
Both cities are beautiful and dramatic and much-photographed. And both have interesting layers of architectural history, right back to the Romans.
Though the weather in Britain is not as foggy or rainy as people around the world believe (and London is drier and warmer than the north and west of the country), Vienna has much more interesting and satisfying seasons, with snow in winter and hot sunshine in summer. In Vienna, many people walk with sticks, for greater exercise, which I confess I find quite ugly. It takes some of the fun out of strolling, reducing it to exercise.
Cycling is more common in Austria, and certainly cooler, than in Britain. And there is therefore more tension on Vienna pavements between stressed cyclists and tourists unfamiliar with cycle lanes. Beware psychopaths on cycle paths! Beware also that Vienna is – surprisingly – the dog shit capital of the world. Smoking is much cooler in Vienna, even amongst younger people, and so you smell it much more than in London, where it is a marginalised and embarrassing habit. On balance, I would rather walk through London than Vienna, but the contrasts are also part of what makes strolling both cities such a rich experience.
On the longest day, 21 June, we are making a people’s march through all 23 of the Vienna boroughs, to make connections and explore the city in a new way. It should take about 14 hours! Such a walk would not be possible in enormous London. Please join us, if you are in Vienna that Sunday.
Author: Eugene Quinn, Walk21 Vienna Ambassador Founding member of space and place Vienna, Austria