Impressions of Favoriten
In Vienna’s Tenth District, Poles, Croats and Turks Mingle With Austrians, and Everyone Seems to Get Along Fine
It was still a few days before the Croatia and Turkey game; I wandered about my home district of Favoriten to get a sense of the mood of the fans. Just off the underground station U1 Keplerplatz where Favoritenstrasse has been closed off for pedestrians, I passed the Würstelstand Dana’s Hütte. This is a the local institution, and Dana the owner – a middle-aged Polish woman with long blond hair who has run the place for decades – was not the least shy about her allegiances, Austrian as well as Polish.
Behind the counter, Dana proudly wore a bib apron with the Polish eagle against a white background, while under the two large, green parasols, were Austrian flags standing proudly on the tables. Among her loyal customers are older, conservative Austrians and for those, she has provided a small LCD screen to watch the EURO games.
However the matches of Austria vs. Germany and Croatia vs. Poland brought the elimination of both of her heroes, and she and the 10-odd customers watching the games on TV that evening were dissapointed. But life went on, and Dana was back to her traditional white apron, no Polish insignia.
A few steps away and accoustically well within reach, is the Cafe Mokkado, which has a huge screen in their stylish Schanigarten. The Cafe was packed for every game, and I kept wondering why Dana’s customers did not spend the evening watching the games there; instead they chose to sit on uncomfortable bar chairs glued to a small 17 cm screen. No one really wanted to comment openly, but some studious eavesdropping suggested it was simply loyalty, and perhaps the special treats Dana provided with their beer. What those were was not entirely clear.
In this part of Favoriten, there were more Croatian and Turkish flags on the cars than Austrian. Also in the windows of houses and flats, these little flags seemed to be everywhere. So it was not surprising that the Cafe Mokkado had a very mixed clientele; Croats and Poles as well as Austrian fans were all intent on the screen, and everyone seemed to get along just fine. The mood was splendid, in fact, until the match Austria vs. Germany – when the stronger German team scored the winning goal. The faces of the Austrian fans turned grim as hopes of reaching the quarterfinals faded. Some left in dismay, shaking their heads.
A few days earlier as I had approached Reumannplatz (site of the wondrous art deco Amalienbad and home of Tichy’s famous Ice Cream Cafe), teenage boys were playing with a minature football between the tram tracks and people were rushing past with their shopping, young women dressed in yellow tops and short black trousers were handing out leaflets for a large online betting company. No EURO 2008 in sight.
However, as I turned off to Gellertplatz, a huge Portuguese flag greeted me from one of the upper windows of a backyard Gemeindebau. This district, which is no major attraction for foreign visitors, has its surprises, I realize, as I would not have expected Portual supporters here.
Overall, I realized, there is only moderate enthusiasm for the European Championships here, and discussion is more likely to center on increases in food and beverage prices than football results. Nevertheless, whatever the outcome of that night’s semi-finale between Germany and Turkey (Germany ended up winning, some say undeservedly), the some 7.000 Turkish residents had cause to celebrate, as their team has already had one of the greatest football successes in its history.