According to Mercer’s Quality of Living survey, which ranks 221 cities in the world based on their quality of life, Vienna is the best place to live in (2010 and 2011). I’ve been to this beautiful city several times — to watch opera at the majestic Wiener Staatsoper, to attend a ball, or simply to enjoy its many cultural attractions — and it never disappoints. I find it very sophisticated in a grandiose way.
This week, lifestyle blogger Vanessa of “Windows of Vienna” is sharing with us her insider tips on Vienna and travelling in style.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I have been into the arts, tourism and organization my whole life. Living was always more important for me than having a high-profile job with a great business card title of my own. During my studies in graphic design, typography and silk screening, I worked as a consultant for a leading poster gallery specializing in American 3D artists, black and white photography and high-quality silk-screen prints, which offered me the best chance to combine all my interests. In addition, I could be in the middle of the fantastic old town of Vienna where I could share my love for the city with many foreign clients every day. So it came to no surprise that I remained there for two years as store manager after finishing my degree.
Busy seasons followed and I became Head of Catalog Production for an international travel company before I gave birth to my daughter, which was for me a turning point. I started with freelance projects in all kind of areas I was interested in. It was the perfect combination to be both a “stay at home” and “working” mom. The only thing you need: total control over your calendar.
How did “Windows of Vienna” come about and what was your inspiration?
“Windows of Vienna” has a long story. It is the result of all my interests and passion for the city. I started blogging or simply sharing information in the web in 2005. Coming from the print and publishing field, I believed there were much more possibilities on the Internet than sharing with words and pictures. As a committed member of the “Apple family,” I exhausted all the recreational equipments and applications Steve Jobs offered us. And just like that, my first blog was born.
Inside the iWeb, I created a website with my photographs and Austrian recipes. I also combined them with a video-podcast on iTunes for my friends in the American forum communities I frequented. They were quite anxious to make a real “Tafelspitz” or “Apfelstrudel.” Soon the site got too big and I would have needed to find sponsors to keep the project alive. That was against my belief in sharing and I let go.
Motivated from my first success, I started a new project with another passion of mine: the perfection of Hermès silk scarves and their countless ways to use. Besides the blog “All about Hermès,” where I collected everything you could find about the history and production (remember that there was no such thing back then from the company itself), I started to post “How to Knot – Guides” under “the Silky Side.” Furthermore, I started “Scarf TV” to better illustrate them. Scarf collectors from around the world were thrilled and I also loved to make little movies out of my scarves. After more than 50 episodes in two years, I found my copyrighted pictures and unique ideas on several new blogs all around the web, whose main interest was to establish a business with the clicks of a trusted brand name. Mine was always to share. I pushed the DELETE button and moved on to the next step.
I collected all my entries from six blogs, sorted out more than 2,000 posts and brought them together in a Viennese lifestyle magazine called “Windows of Vienna” in the winter of 2010/2011. Focusing on topics such as fashion, food, travel, DIY and, of course, silk scarves, my blog started to be regularly frequented by people who plan to visit Vienna or just moved to the city in search of hidden places and trusted stores. There are also those who visit who share the love for good food and cooking.
You live in the beautiful city of Vienna, how would you define Viennese fashion and style?
As beautiful as Vienna is and as clean and safe for our children to grow up in, you would hardly find a so-called Vienna street style. And Viennese fashionistas are never from Vienna. There are many beautifully dressed people in the city center, but they are mostly wearing global trends with brands you easily find in any high-end fashion street in the world.
Wealthy Viennese women, for example, wouldn’t dare show her money on the street. You would find her at private parties dressed up with her latest handbag or maybe at a ball. During the day, she wouldn’t show what her closet has to offer.
If there is a style you would associate with Vienna, maybe it’s the casual aristocratic look, sometimes expertly mixed in with actual trends: never too much, less is more, no brand names, and no screaming “it” pieces. Good quality is not always a must, but in any case, one piece is almost often handmade.
That doesn’t mean we don’t have talented designers. There are quite a few. For example, my favorite Viennese designer Karin Oebster with her avant-garde label KAYIKO has established her unique style among the Austrian creative scene and will be one of the main attractions of MQ Vienna Fashion Week on September 12-16, 2012.
Can you share with us some insider secrets on what to see and do in Vienna, for free?
One of my favorite places is no secret but it’s still a magical place: the Karlsplatz area. There are also the beautiful Stadtpark, Volksgarten and Augarten to enjoy the greenery and read a book in summer.
I also recommend taking a walk on the Danube river between Urania and Schwedenplatz during the blue hour or even later in the evening. If you are tired of walking, rent a CityBike (free for one hour).
After sunset, there are many locations with open-air film festivals such as Rathausplatz, which shows classic productions on a 300m² screen. On rainy afternoons, visit the Reading Room of the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) with more than 200,000 books and free WLAN. All children and teens under 19 years old have free access to museums.
On vacation, you often travel with your teenage daughter. I can just imagine that she has her own opinion. How do you organize your trip then … do you agree beforehand on where to go and what to do?
I am personally very well organized. Because of that, going abroad with my daughter has never been a problem. Until the age of 10, I didn’t discuss with her beforehand where we would go but I prepared her by reading children’s travel books about our planned trip and showed her as many pictures I could find. We also listened to CDs with the language of the country we’re visiting and learned a few words in advance. I always reminded her to make a list of what she liked best, and then we alternately checked one point from her list and one from mine. That worked every time without exceptions.
What’s your typical travel outfit?
I wear minimalist, casual and low profile outfits. The only luxuries in my bag are two or three scarves; depending on the destination, silk or cashmere. I also wear a beautiful watch on my wrist.
Lastly, what tips can you give to those travelling with a teenager?
Listen and take a no for a NO when your teenager doesn’t want to go on holidays with you. Sometimes a day off during the year can add more value than a week in a holiday club. Apart from that, choose a destination you both like or want to explore together.
I would like to thank Vanessa for taking the time to do this interview. I hope you enjoyed reading about her story as much as I did.
Until my next post … take care!
* Pictures courtesy of Vanessa