Once again the international consulting firm Mercer gave Vienna top marks and made the Austrian capital the most liveable city in the world for the tenth time in a row and I personally can confirm that this city is worth living in. (Mercer 2019) In the six years I have now been living here I got to know and love the city more and more each day and by now I see myself as a whole hearted Viennese. Especially the grumpy residents, the tidiness and order are what I love about this city. It’s mostly quiet on the public transport and punctuality and rules are essential for the Viennese people and their daily lives. But behind this tidy and neat facade there are some places which break out of this norm. One of these places is the Brunnenmarkt. Brunnenmarkt is the biggest street market in Vienna, (and) one of the biggest of its kind in Europe, and it has a lot to offer.
When I entered the market for the very first time I was intimidated by its hustle and bustle. For me it seemed like a big chaos, vendors were shouting at each other and it appeared to be a mess. But the more I visited the market the more I got to see the diversity of people and food and therefore, the lovelier it got for me. Because I live close to it I am now a regular visitor and customer of this market.
Today is one of my shopping days and I’m planning to take a closer look at the hustling of the market. Before that I did some research and found out that the Brunnenmarkt was established in 1786 as a little street market around a well and developed into the huge and diverse trading place it is today. (Pils 2020) This was really interesting for me because I never thought about this place having such an old history.
When I enter the market I take a deep breath and immediately smell all the amazing spices mixed with fish, raw meat and vegetables. It’s nine o’clock in the morning. Whereas for the old established Viennese the day already started a few hours ago, the vendors of the Brunnenmarkt are only setting up their stands and still seem a little sleepy. Vegetable boxes are being piled up, fish poured into the basins and I hear butchers chopping the meat in the background. Bakers heat up their ovens and Kebab vendors are preparing the vegetables for lunchtime.
As I am one of the first customers of the day the vendors are a little irritated and not really ready yet to sell their produce so I decide to take a seat at a Turkish café which overlooks the market. While I pleasurably sip my coffee I am watching as customers are slowly arriving and the bustling is ready to start. A singing Frozen doll is dancing on the floor next to me, the vendors are shouting at each other and people are ordering their first tea of the day.
Minute to minute the bustling gets more intense, the shouting of the vendors gets louder, the people haggle with each other and the heavenly scent of freshly made Manakish becomes irresistible. By lunchtime the familiar hustle of the market is on its peak and it feels like I’m in an Arabian Souk. The wonderful scents of spices, the loud vendors, the playing children and the scolding parents give this place this amazing feeling I really love. This chaos which has its own rules gives me a warm feeling and brings back memories from my travels through the Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt.
I’m talking to Saad, a young man in his 20s, who is sitting at the table next to me. He tells me that he is from Syria and the son of one of the stand owners, which is why he spends a lot of time at this place. What he loves the most about Brunnenmarkt is that it reminds him of home and it’s a little getaway from the Viennese stiffness.
Finally it’s time for me to get into all the bustling and do my shopping and haggling to get the best prices for the best produce. Amongst others I pass by a Nigerian butcher, an Egyptian fish vendor, and a Lebanese baker and enjoy the diversity of this place. I leave the market with a full shopping bag, a freshly made Manakish in my hand, and a big smile on my face. Happy and on my way home I think about the things I could observe for the past few hours. Even though this huge market seems really chaotic and messy at first it has a certain similarity to the tidy and neat Vienna. This chaos has its own rules which are obtained by everyone and rules are something the Viennese appreciate a lot. In my opinion places like Brunnenmarkt contribute a lot to the fact this city is considered the most liveable in the world.
Pils, Susanne (2020): Brunnenmarkt. Online: https://www.geschichtewiki.wien.gv.at/Brunnenmarkt
Mercer (2019): Quality of City Living Rankin. Online: https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/Insights/quality-of-living-rankings