The Path of Everyday Revolution

The Protestwanderweg shows the way: from a house for gays to a headquarters for high treason

On The Town | Doris Neubauer | June 2013

The sites of the Protest Trail are all tagged to read on your smart phone (Photo: Doris Neubauer)

Are you looking for something?" The voice sounds less than welcoming.

Standing in the backyard of an apartment house in the 4th district, I immediately feel like the intruder I obviously am. "Is this the entrance to Planquadrat?" I say, trying to act self-confident and pointing to a locked door in the fence.

"How did you get in here?" the blonde now sounds more curious than harsh. "This is the entrance for the residents – the official one, to the park, is next door."

And in fact, the bright green sign reading "Planquadrat" can hardly be missed. It is surprising I was never here before – even more so, since I live in the neighbourhood.

Two men are playing table tennis, another one is chasing after his son on a bicycle; some women are moulding sand cakes with their kids – but this is not just any ordinary park. Founded 1977, Planquadrat is the only public park in Vienna which is privately managed and cared for.

As moviemakers Helmut Voitl and Elisabeth Guggenberger were in the process of producing a TV show about the problems of urban development, they talked to the locals about how they might take an active hand in improving their environment. The outcome was Planquadrat, one of twelve stops on the first Viennese Protest Trail that I am walking on today.

Founded by Zentrum Polis and author Martin Auer, its goal is to show the success stories of protest movements in Viennese society: "Without people who get involved, there would be no progress," said Dr. Patricia Hladschik, director of the Zentrum. It was a project originally conceived primarily to address high school students.

"According to studies, justice is one of the most important issues for young adults. So all the locations show the fight for more justice, democracy and human rights," she said. "It was important for us to demonstrate that some places we never link to protest were created through a revolution, like the parliament."

From strikes to leaflets, from pirate radio to chains of lights – the ways of protest are as diverse as the stops of the Protestwanderweg. "We pass by places every day without knowing their history," said Hladschik. "We want to provide a new view of the city."

Despite the name, the Protestwanderweg is not a hiking trail with a beginning and an end. From St. Stephen’s Cathedral to the Arena in St. Marx, from the Museum of Contraception in the 6th District to Stopfenreuther Au, site of an "ecological civil war", the locations are so widespread, it is impossible to do the walk in a day.

But there is a lot of help: At every stop there is a board with a "mobile tag" and a QR code, which gives you information on any smart phone about the location and its history.

"Through texts, movies and audios, the social movement that designed each place comes alive," it says on the website, currently available only in German like the rest of the project.

At Planquadrat, I search for these tags – without success. "All destinations are already online," Hladschik explained, "but so far, not all of the boards are attached."

I’ll have to come back then. Not only to Planquadrat, but also to the rest of the locations on the Protestwanderweg and revisit Vienna’s everyday revolutions.

Zentrum Polis

Martin Auer


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