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Talking Location With author Sylvia Petter – VIENNA

14th March 2020

TalkingLocationWith… Sylvia Petter, author of All the Beautiful Liars

Walking Vienna with Katrina Klain

Sylvia PetterKatrina Klain is the protagonist of the novel, All the Beautiful Liars, the fictional memoir of Katrina Klain, an Australian expat trying to make sense of the puzzle of a past in which family stories are embargoed or embroidered.

Although Katrina Klain spent time in Sydney, Geneva and Madrid, a great deal of her time was spent in Vienna, either fictionally or in reality.

When I was studying translation at the University of Vienna in the early 70s, UNIDO, where Katrina Klain got her first job, was located just behind the Rathaus, Vienna´s town hall, and the International Atomic Energy Agency used to be up on the Ring near the Opera House. Today, both UN organizations along with others have their own UNO City, as it is called, on the U1 underground line and visitors can participate in guided tours there.

Katrina Klain was a bit of a ‘flaneuse’ who loved to wander the streets of Vienna. If you’re a walker, you can eschew the tram and explore on foot the Ringstraße which showcases famous buildings from different periods, such as the Opera House (neo-Renaissance), the Parliament (Greek style), the Rathaus (neo-Gothic), the University (high Renaissance), to name but a few. You´ll be able to detour off from the University of Vienna, for example, to see the interior courtyard of the main building where busts of scientists and researchers grace both sides of the Aula. Recently, women scientists also have been added.

Sylvia Petter

Photo: Corinna Geppert

Then wander down past the Stock Exchange to the modern Ringtower near the Danube Canal where you can walk along its banks of artistic graffiti and outdoor bars – there’s even a swimming pool on a barge bar called Badeschiff up near the Urania, a public observatory. I´m sure Katrina would have loved the area.

Photo: the late Anton Martin

You can take a tram from Urania on to the Riesenrad and the Prater, stopping off near the Kunsthaus where there´s a permanent Hundertwasser exhibition and a downstairs café filled with hanging plants.

Sylvia Petter

Photo: the late Anton Martin

Not far from Urania is Schwedenplatz and the U1 underground. You can walk up the hill at the end of the Bermuda Triangle and its various bars where patrons have been known to disappear, and go past the Synagogue to the oldest church in Vienna, the church of Saint Ruprecht, where there is also a good view over the canal to the second district. Do turn into Sterngasse where you will find the only exclusively English-language bookshop in Vienna, Shakespeare and Company Booksellers. I´m sure Katrina would have loved to see her book, All the Beautiful Liars, on its shelves. It is my favourite bookshop, and they’ve even hung me inside.

Photo: Shakespeare & Co

Through to Neuer Market and St Stephen´s cathedral a stroll into Graben and off to a small street on the left will bring you to Trzesniewski’s where they serve delicious canapes with a small glass of beer or wine.

This would make a good break before turning into Kohlmarkt for some exclusive window shopping before enjoying coffee and cake at Demel’s. Or you might even walk back past Graben and, behind the church of St Peter, find the Gösser Bierklinik that my own grandfather ran in the twenties and where Katrina probably dined with her uncle Harald.

Off to the left after Demel´s and Michaelerplatz at the back of the Hofburg, you might see horses of the Spanish Riding School in their stalls, before you stroll back to the Opera House. The café at the underground hub of Karlsplatz and Oper where Katrina would go to scribble her poems disappeared for several years, but recently reappeared with an added bakery outlet.

Photo: Sylvia Petter

At the Belvedere Palace on the Prince-Eugen-Strasse just off Schwarzenbergplatz and the Ring, you’ll find paintings by Egon Schiele and you can have a Mélange in the café there, just like Katrina did. If you want more of Schiele, there’s a permanent exhibition of his work at the Leopold Museum in the MQ – Museums Quarter, which will bring you not far fom the University where you may have started out.

There’s always something new to discover in Vienna, and it’s with good reason that it continues to be voted the most livable city in the world. I´m with the experts on this because it’s the city where I live to the full my fiction of home.

Thank you to Sylvia for her wonderful insights into he city!

Catch Sylvia on Twitter  and of course you can buy her book through the TripFiction database!

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