8 May, 2023

What a marked difference in human behaviour - yesterday morning, we were in the calm streets of Vienna, where only cafes were open, as shops close on Saturday afternoons around 2pm and do not reopen until Monday morning. We arrived at Heathrow, and came home via the Elizabeth Line to Canary Wharf with its underground shopping mall, rammed with shoppers. Our own neighbourhood shopping centre in Greenwich, was similarly packed with traffic backed up around the one way system, and people spilling in and out of shops.

Don't be fooled to think that the Viennese don't enjoy shopping too, however they have managed to keep it to less that six days of the week. In fact, Vienna offers more shops than London, even though it is one quarter of the population, with scores of independent stores offering all sorts of goods and services.

Back in 2012, London's Olympic year, we were asked to create a walk that showed London at work - beside a visit to the public galleries of the Old Bailey law court and the Houses of Parliament, there were jewellers in Hatton Garden and tailors in Saville Row whom we could observe, however, practically every other Londoner working we could observe was either in a shop, a hair salon, a restaurant or glued to a screen. Last week, I started devising a similar walk in Vienna, but I wouldn't have had to take people very far, for in one street alone, I found a tailor, a repair shop, a dental laboratory, a cosmetic surgeon, a dress maker, a carpet weaver, a stone mason, three hair salons, a homeopathic chemist who was delighted to show us their remedy-making, a vet, two pet grooming salons, six cafes, two ice cream vendors (one of which was vegan) and the kiosk featured in the image above. And I had walked less than 500 metres. Vienna also boasts several Saturday markets, as well as one of the world's largest flea markets, plus the City government has now managed to pedestrianise or create shared spaces in all the streets within the inner-ring plus several key shopping streets. Cars are present but they don't intrude, and there are chains (even Starbucks) but they don't predominate.

What does this mean for those of us on foot? I have already commented in an earlier newsletter about the affordable and efficient public transport (€365 for a annual season ticket to all train, U-bahn, tram and buses throughout Vienna's metropolitan region) and how it creates an almost seamless journey experience with only very short mode changes on foot, however, it is the Viennese street environment that is considerably calmer (especially on Sundays) that makes it such an enjoyable walking experience. Almost every cafe has an outside space created in the highway, occupying the equivalent of a couple of car parking spaces, and many squares have underground parking beneath them, and streets where cars are parked, are tree lined and the parking is broken up and not a continuous kerbside line.

So if city walking is your thing, then Vienna is a must, but just like London, from now to the end of September, many of the key historic streets will be mobbed with crowds of tourists - on Sundays however, they are not shopping.

When you are next out and about on foot in your neighbourhood look out for the street trees, as we celebrate them this month with the Urban Tree Festival, and we will be showcasing new writing about urban trees on Sunday 20 May.

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New walking pieces

Upcoming events

10 May - 7 Jun, 2023 · 40 Bernard Street, London WC1N 1LE, UK
Led by award-winning sound artist Nikki Sheth, learn how to create your own soundscape compositions through this practice-led, audio-based course. Keep reading
12 - 14 May, 2023 · Online
A festival of free community-led walks for people to share stories about their neighbourhoods, discover unseen aspects of their communities, and use walking convers... Keep reading
14 May · Sun · 14:00 (UTC) · Lesnes Abbey Woods, Walden Close, Belvedere, UK
Listen to wild stories in ancient woodland guided by writers Bernadette Russell and Sophie Austin. Keep reading
17 May · Wed · 13:30 (UTC) · Mallards Pike Forest of Dean GL15 4HD
Creative Walk nurturing connection, creative thinking and mental wellbeing through a combination of time outdoors, gentle exercise and social interaction Keep reading
20 May · Sat · 15:30 (UTC) · Online
An “Invitation Only” event for shortlisted authors in the 2023 Urban Tree Festival writing competition, with VIP guests Anna Burton, David G Haskell and David Merle... Keep reading
20 May - 12 Aug, 2023 · Yangsi Road, Pudong, Shanghai, China
Multimedia Exhibition and Series of events Walking China: Stories yet to be told is a multimedia exhibition and collaboration with the Out of Eden Walk, a global st... Keep reading
21 May · Sun · 15:30 (UTC) · Online
The WRITE ABOUT TREES showcase event introduces the shortlisted authors of the Urban Tree Festival writing competition, and includes readings of their poetry and pr... Keep reading

From our network

Part of the work I’m putting together as part of my residency in Moskosel, in northern Sweden, I wanted to augment reality in a context that made sense as part of m... Keep reading
Day 1125 - Rehabilitation and 3.4 km drawing. Keep reading
In the second half of 2022, I responded to a call for an artist residency in the far north of Sweden. My proposal, a kind of sound walk, or audio-play, with individ... Keep reading
Day 1124 - Over and 1.5 km drawing.Gala and 1.7 km drawing.Excavation and 1.0 km drawing. Keep reading
Day 1123 - Gridded and 3.5 km drawing. Keep reading
First Sunday This Sunday so time for a convivial wander. We're back exploring the city and as ever the direction and pace will be set by whoever joins us. Free, al... Keep reading
73,866 lyrics. 103 artists. 50 albums. There’s no shortage of songs with “walk away” imbedded in the melody, concealed in the cadence. So many ways crooners beat rh... Keep reading

Stuff we found

Walking is the simplest and most natural thing to do, but its impact on our health and wellbeing is dramatic and far-reaching, says Anna Fielding Source: The walkin... Keep reading
The powerful Ukrainian inspired stories can be found at locations throughout Liverpool Source: Eurovision 2023 immersive walking tour of Liverpool City Centre – Liv... Keep reading
Street Art Links launched their first Maritime Walking Tours outside the Marina Hotel last Saturday.Titled ‘Floating Tours’, the programme offers visitors a walking... Keep reading
Richard Long in the Rijksmuseum Gardens is the 10th edition in this series of free outdoor sculpture exhibitions. The previous exhibitions in the Rijksmuseum Garden... Keep reading
Dublin’s city centre park joins Central Park and Regent’s Park in having a specially tailored Soundwalk composition designed to enhance the visitor experience Sourc... Keep reading

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