Rendezvous in the shared space zone

04.03.2020

Adrian from London, a tall and handsome 45-year-old unmarried man, visited a congress in Vienna. It was spring, warm and sunny. For Adrian it was more important to spend several consecutive days in Vienna, the city of his childhood and youth, than attending the congress. His parents used to work there in the field of science and when they found out about his journey, they invited him to stay with them and showered him with suggestions of places and people that he absolutely needed to see. Days before the congress Adrian already tried to picture how Vienna might have changed. He also realized that his heartfelt desire was to visit in particular the part of Josefstadt (the eighth district of Vienna) where he grew up.

Journey back to childhood

As soon as he had fulfilled his professional duties, Adrian set out for the eighth district. Excitedly he strolled up Josefstädter Straße, which runs through the small, bourgeois district from east to west, and it warmed his heart when he came past the shop windows and houses that he had already known since he was a small boy. Even the tram bells seemed to jingle extra loudly specifically for him.

Turning into Lange Gasse where he used to live with his parents, the low baroque houses with their round doors were still there and the restaurant around the corner had gotten a fresh paint but didn´t lose any of its cosiness. Amazing how silent, old houses could have such an effect on you. Somehow, a mix of emotions was arising in him, what he experienced then up until today – a big and strong feeling that brought tears to his eyes.

New cobbles

When that feeling had subsided a little and his breath had calmed down he looked around a little closer and realized that Lange Gasse had in fact changed quite a bit in the meantime.

Cobblestones instead of asphalt, a significantly smaller number of cars, plants. A small café with coloured tables and chairs directly on the pavement. The entire alley was paved from one side to the other at one level, therefore resembling a square rather than a street or anything in between. Somehow, it was now much quieter here, almost like a village alley. Astounding. Adrian would have very much liked it if he found everything how it was 25 years ago but he actually thought that the changes benefitted the alley and made it even more beautiful.

The girl in the café

There was the house which he had entered and left daily in the past. The door was the same. When he was a pupil, it was the place where he would quickly eat the fizzy sweets that he had still left before going up to the flat.

And at this same door he was standing like a whipped dog after he had gone out with a girl for the first time, with Julia, his big love, to the "Café Strozzi" right around the corner. Because contrary to his expectations Julia let him know that he was too tall for her and that she didn´t want to meet him again. Instead of letting her know his opinion, he was sitting still, feeling ashamed, and even paid for her apple juice. He should have never met Julia to begin with because since then, somehow he was almost traumatized as far as women were concerned. Or did he only talk himself into believing that?

The old neighbour

Adrian searched the interphone for the name "Wranek". He hit the bell. A man´s voice answered.

"It´s me, Adrian. Is it you, Stefan?"
"Adrian? That Adrian?! "

The two childhood friends were embracing each other, grabbing each other by their shoulders, making fun about their appearances and walked arm in arm from the hall to the living room. They had a lot to talk about. And there was only little time because Stefan had plans for the evening. When Stefan finally led Adrian through the flat, they also had a look into the former playroom where they had spent so many fun hours together. Now it was the room of Stefan´s daughter Lilly.

What about Adrian and kids? First of all, a woman would be needed for that.
"Have you still not recovered from Julia?" Stefan joked.
"Do you want to get rid of me?" Adrian responded, "let´s better speak about something else."

Zone raises hope

Stefan did him that favour and changed the topic. "What do you think about the new shared space zone?"
"About what?"
"The new shared space zone, the transformed Lange Gasse."
"Aah… yes, I think it´s great, really great."
"You don´t believe how much persuasion was needed in order to realize this project. People worried that they wouldn´t be able to get to their houses with their cars and that they wouldn´t find parking places anymore."
Adrian opened the window.
"When a citizen survey was conducted 56 percent voted for the shared space zone." Stefan had a big smile on his face.
"The transformation was really successful", Adrian said and carefully watched the events in the alley. "Who knows, maybe I will meet a woman to share my life with in this shared space zone. It could very well be…"

A glass of apple juice

"You know what?" Stefan said, "I´m going to meet my friend Sarah down there at the Greek restaurant. Come with me and I introduce you. I have the feeling that you might possibly like each other." "Tonight? No no, that´s not what I meant." "Come on, it will surely be fun." "For you maybe. No, no. Today I don´t feel like it, today I want to fully bask in the past."

"Adrian! You are in the shared space zone! Here even car lovers treat bike lovers with respect, and vice versa! In the shared space zone, things are possible which you can only dream about in other places! So you shouldn´t let this opportunity pass!" Adrian laughed. "You are still your own old self, Stefan. Let me hug you. I´m in!"

At 6:50 pm, Adrian and Stefan sat down in the restaurant "Trilogie" and already ordered some drinks. Ten minutes later Sarah was entering the restaurant and it didn´t last long until Adrian had the feeling that he would love to invite this woman to a glass of apple juice.

 

Interesting links to the story

Location of the shared space zone Lange Gasse – wien.at Vienna City Map

Shared space zone Lange Gasse (German) – walk-space.at
Lange Gasse new: Shared space zone offers more space for pedestrians (German) – wien.at
Shared spaces in Vienna (German) – walk-space.at
Shared space zone, pedestrian zone and residential street (German) – Mobility Agency Vienna

City of London

Meeting destination Vienna – Vienna Tourist Board

Historical information in "Wien Geschichte Wiki" (Vienna History Wiki):
Lange Gasse (German)
Josefstadt (German)

Drawing: Sandra Biskup
Text: Simon Kovacic
Translation: Doris Nicht