My husband and I just returned from a three week stay in Vienna, the first time to return after my husband's being assigned to a diplomatic mission there in 1976. No matter where we travel, I much prefer experiencing the culture of a country as much as possible as a non-tourist. I found an apartment to rent through a sabbatical exchange right off busy Alser Strasse in the 9th District, with excellent transportation very close by. We bought a transportation card at the monthly rate and used it multiple times daily, for trams, the U-Bahn, and buses.
Many things had changed during our long absence from this spectacular city. When we were there before, Vienna was very much an international city because of its permanent location for any number of international assemblies. There were very few tourists there. Now there are streams and streams of large groups of tourists, bus loads of them with a tour guide, going through the First District at record speed. Not the way I personally want to enjoy a city! Very little English was spoken, even in the First District, and now there were few we met who didn't speak at least some English. And most restaurants provided a menu in English if requested.
I had read many comments about the grumpiness of waiters, especially in the First District, although we didn't encounter that at all. They were very focused on their job and very efficient at it, but a smile to them always got a smile in return. They were unfailingly polite and attentive, just as they always had been before. I had to wonder if people were reacting to the fact that in Vienna the waiters didn't approach your table with "Hi! I'm Shelly and I will be taking care of you today!" ? :-).
We went just everywhere, starting with a D Tram ride to our old digs in Nussdorf, where we found our old apartment, now converted to commercial use. The shop where I used to buy my fresh poultry was sadly gone and replaced with a car repair establishment. After walking around and taking pictures for a bit we had a lovely meal in the garden of Zum Renner with lots of locals but nary a tourist in sight. We returned to Nussdorf to a heuriger, also well attended by the locals, for our last evening in Vienna and a teary farewell once again.
The city was still being brought back from the intense bombing of WW II and now soooo much more has been restored to its original splendor. The beautiful Albertina is one shining example which we enjoyed immensely. Nor was there much "Sisi" intensity before! The lady of that day was Maria Theresa. The Kartnerstrasse and the Graben were filled with venerable Viennese shops and have been replaced with Chanel, Valentino, others of that caliber, but also some much cheaper chains. Fortunately, Loden-Plankl is the same and in the same location and they beautifully restored my much-loved but battered loden cape which we had mailed them before we left. My husband bought a hat which is now rarely wants to take off and I bought a beautiful Austrian made wool challis scarf with a tapestry weave which I know I'll enjoy for many years.
The tram system is as it was but of course the U-Bahn back in the day was no more than a giant hole in front of St. Stephens. I much preferred taking a tram when possible as I liked the views from the windows. And the new low entrance trams made getting on and off much easier, although I have a fondness for the old trams which were still very much in use. We were but 3 tram stops to Schottentor and went all over Vienna from that hub.
The nasch markt was much changed, and not for the better in my estimation. But it was the only disappointment I encountered.
So there are but a few observations of changes in Vienna that we encountered!