Catching up with old friends – Nostalgic nights out

A couple of weekends before Christmas I always meet up with an English friend, who is probably my longest standing English friend still living in Vienna. Despite the length of our friendship, we see each other very infrequently, and again this year, with family life and work (in his case), we realised that we had not seen each other since our last meet up. Since the U3’s last extension in 2001, we have always met somewhere along the line, as we live at opposite ends of the line. And we find a quiet bar or two for a drink and some food. We’ve been to some great places and some others less worthy of mention over the years.

The U3 is an exceptionally interesting line, each station and its surrounding area being like a different slice of the Viennese cake, even though apart from at Ottakring and briefly close to Erdberg, it is otherwise fully underground. From Ottakring, it goes from the 16th district, into the 15th district and then through the 7th and into the 1st district, and then through the 3rd district and out into the 11th. Its route shows Vienna, or more accurately the Viennese, from a large number of angles – from the super rich in the city centre, through to those who are “Just About Managing”. Of course given that so much is underground, only by leaving the stations on the surface do you really get to see the amazingly divergent conditions.

This year we met up at Zieglerstrasse, in the 7th district, and tried out a place called “Der Fuchs und die Trauben” – I’d not been there before and it was suggested by my friend. We had a bite to eat and a beer, and it was very good – a lot better than last year’s location out in the 11th close to Enkplatz – and then popped along to “The Brickmakers”, another place that I was told about, by my former colleagues, but had yet to visit. The beer was good although a bit hefty on the wallet, so my friend and I decided to head on to one last place – Cafe Voodoo on Siebensterngasse, a place I had not been to for many years. It was a treat, although not for the lungs, and an institution – it was gearing up to celebrating its 30th birthday, which in terms of a bar is a pretty legendary performance, given the number that come and go in about 2-3 years, and it was on a list of Tschocherl that recently got sent to me. There is a certain security about sticking closely to the U3 as with the advent of the 24 hour U-Bahn service at weekends, you always know there is a way out of where you are – particularly when some of the places in the darkest recesses of the city shut at 11pm at the latest (sometimes to be able to open again at 6am).

I have also come to love the U3 for some of the bars that I have come across close to it, even though with every year that passes, my friend and I feel more out of touch with Vienna’s nightlife, but this makes us ever more grateful for the Tschocherl that still grace the city, meaning that there is a life beyond sports bars, sanitised pseudo-Irish bars and themed places, that one of my colleagues now laments in his new life in South-East Asia. Granted the purpose of a bar is different for everyone – I enjoy catching up with a friend or a small group of friends rather than going to after work drinks and any other event intended to act as a social way to get people to talk about their work to each other. As a lot of our closest friends live locally in the Döbling or the Cottageviertel, there is less obligation to plan any get together – we’ve never had to go out on a fixed night and with many of us either not having children, or having children of a studying age, there has been no need to organise childcare to facilitate going out.

Some of my British friends that I originally met over here, and who for a while used to meet around once a month in a bar called Katie Daly on Neustiftgasse about 20 years ago, with both the bar and the friends long since gone from Vienna. The friends however are planning a reunion here in early 2018 (this has had to be planned a bit more, given that many are no longer in Europe even). As the “last man standing”, of course I have to find out where a group of mid-50s to early-60s men can go for a good catch-up, and also try to find a suitable place for after hours drinking. We used to have some boltholes in the 15th by the Westbahnhof, but the years have passed and most of those are unlikely to have made it into the 21st century. I sort of hope that the exercise book that was my encyclopaedia for all things Viennese might somehow have a bar or two that are still around that might fit the bill, although I doubt it.

Back in the old days, there were some bars that we could only ever find when we had had a skinful, and barely ever could remember the name of. Some have been gentrified (or at least I reckon they have been as I can’t find them) or are full of well-heeled 20 somethings slurping cocktails, while others have been knocked down and become swanky restaurants – a case in hand being the Merry Monk. We used to fall into the Merry Monk in the middle of the night and leave long after the sun had risen following a lock in, usually having gone there after a trip through the Dreieck, although we all know our limits and that we no longer want to do the walk of shame out of the Dreieck ever again – particular given that we are now twice, if not three times, as old as the average clientele.

In 2018, I’ve set myself a target to have a night out in every district, to try to unearth a few new hidden gems – watch this space for more.

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