Nature and leisure paradise on the Danube
What would Vienna be without the Danube? Or the Danube without Vienna? Even though Vienna isn’t the largest city on the Danube, it has nevertheless been able to preserve its image as the “Danube Metropolis” – often a confusing situation for visitors to Vienna, as the waterway which flows through the city is actually the Donaukanal (Danube Canal). The Danube itself is three kilometres away from the city centre, beyond the Prater.
That was surely a mistake: “Nobody needs the useless Spaghetti Island!”Opponents of the Danube Island project in the Vienna town hall in 1974. Today up to 300,000 people make use of the Donauinsel on sunny weekends.
When it comes to recreation,
however, the Viennese could no longer imagine being without the Danube, because, right in the middle of this much-serenaded river, there is a twenty-one-kilometre-long island. The disparagingly nicknamed “Spaghetti Island” was laid out around 1970 as flood protection, despite fierce criticism, and turned the Danube with its strong currents into a true natural and recreational paradise for the residents of Vienna. Nowadays up to 300,000 people can be found enjoying the Donauinsel (Danube Island) on any sunny weekend: skaters and cyclists overtaking the joggers along the shore, swimmers and rowers gliding swiftly through the calm, cool water, taking care not to frighten the fish away from the anglers.
In the evening plumes of smoke rise seductively from the barbecues, and in the bushes deers, foxes and rabbits bid each other good night. And while others are going to sleep, the nature reserve Toter Grund (“dead ground”) is just coming to life: this surviving piece of natural floodplain forest lies untouched in the middle of the manmade island landscape – a perfect sanctuary for tawny owls and other owl species, and for rare breeds of bat. They’re not even disturbed when, a few kilometres further, the island becomes the stage for Europe’s largest open-air festival, the Donauinselfest: three days in June, free for all those who love concerts, donated by the City of Vienna.
Text: Verena Brandtner, Fotos: Christine Wurnig