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Between Schönbrunn and Karl Marx Hof

Because of a wedding I spent a few days in Vienna and used the opportunity to revisit some spots that expose the contradictions of twentieth century Austrian history: Schloss Schönbrunn, the magnificent summer castle of the Habsburgs, and Karl Marx Hof, a well known complex of city houses, built in the Thirties for ordinary, labour people. Both are impressive but what a world of difference!

Because of a wedding I spent a few days in Vienna and used the opportunity to revisit some spots that expose the contradictions of twentieth century Austrian history: Schloss Schönbrunn, the magnificent summer castle of the Habsburgs, and Karl Marx Hof, a well known complex of city houses, built in the Thirties for ordinary, labour people. Both are impressive but what a world of difference!

The castle was built to show off the power of the imperial dynasty and the feudal society it represented. This world fell apart in 1918 - Austria was on the wrong side during World War One - but it left a lasting impression on the architecture of Vienna. The council estate on the other side of town was built by social democratic city administrators who identified themselves with the young republic and formed the core of the very strong socialist movement of Vienna.

Many of their modern design buildings look like forts and this is less of a coincidence as it might seem. There was a real threat from the conservatives that refused to accept the rise of the left. They used violence to suppress their opponents and Karl Marx Hof was once even bombarded with artillery. The left was not strong enough to resist and right wing forces led the country towards unification with Nazi Germany.

After 1945 Austria became a modern democratic country (social democrats and moderate conservatives took the lead), but at a cost. Just take the U4 from Schönbrunn to Heligenstadt and you will be forced to remember.

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