The Misesian Sights: An Austrian Visits Vienna
I was on a combined "work" and play trip to Europe, but the inner nerd in me took over. The so-called work had just finished. My wife joined me and we were enjoying the sights (and tastes) of Vienna. That's when it happened. I broke out a folded up printout of the Mises.org "Misesian Must-See Places in Vienna" and the quest began.
For better or worse, my wife was along for the ride too. In the course of the journey I came across enough new information to justify updating the Mises.org website. What follows should help other "Austrians" find the Misesian sights in Vienna. Eat your heart out Rick Steves!
First on the agenda was Mises's apartment. Actually, those of you who know me won't be surprised to know that the watering hole of the Mises Circle was first on my agenda. It's just that I had to walk past Mises's apartment to get there. Easy to find at Wollzeile 24. Mises lived here from 1904 — 1934.
Not much of a sight though. Unfortunately his apartment building is gone. A post WWII building now stands at the address. Worth a two minute pause and a front and back photo. Luckily it's near the restaurant so it doesn't take you far out of your way to see it.
Rating: half star. (Yes, these are cardinal rankings.)
The Grüner Anker Restaurant was next, or so I thought. I arrived at Grünangergasse 10 without a hitch but found Restaurant Ma Creperie instead of the Grüner Anker. It was clear that I was in the right location (at least for a drink) so I snapped a picture and went inside. After my wife and I had a few glasses of Gruner Vetliner and made friends with the Russian bartender I asked to speak to the manager.
(Side note, Gruner Vetliner is the most important grape in Austria. It has a spicier finish than Californian white wines. Most still aren't that great — yes, I'm being a California snob — but if you taste enough of them you'll find some that are fantastic and unlike any American white).
The manger confirmed that the restaurant was formerly the Grüner Anker but that it had been under the present management since 1994. She was busy and didn't know too much of the history of the place but luckily the former owner, Johann Gluck III lives upstairs and she gave him a ring.
To my surprise Johann, his wife Brigitte, and his sister Maria all came down for a chat. I learned that the restaurant had been in his family for three generations. His grandfather ran it when the Mises Circle used to come in. Johann was just a young boy at the time so he doesn't have any memories of the group but he will happily tell you all about the history of the Grüner Anker and many of the people who have dined there.
He does have a guest book signed by many famous diners who visited from the early 1920s on. Music lovers might be interested. Unfortunately I didn't find any signatures from the Mises Circle in the book. He explained that if they were regular customers they were not likely asked to sign. He was impressed to learn of Hayek's Nobel Prize though. I guess Hayek would qualify as a famous person and get to sign now.
Okay, so to cut to the chase, when the Grüner Anker changed to the Ma Creperie it was remodeled and now serves an entirely different cuisine. Don't be fooled by the old brick walls with the imperial crest. They're old bricks but were just put in the restaurant a decade ago.
As Johann put it to me, "The entire place was remodeled. Virtually everything you see is different than what was here in the 1920s." Oh well, it is still fun to drink where the Mises Circle drank and to think of the songs they sang.
Misesian rating: 3 Stars.
If you get to chat with Johann it's 4 stars. (The Glucks speak pretty good English but bringing along a wife who speaks broken German is a definite plus if you can find one.)
Another day, another Misesian sight. After a long day of normal sightseeing, an email from Jeff Tucker confirming that he'd like a Mises.org article on the sights of Vienna gave me my second wind. We were off to find Mises's office at the Chamber of Commerce. This is where the Austrian Institute of Business Cycle Research was located and where Mises's private seminar took place.
I quickly ran into a problem. The address on the Mises.org website listed it at Stubenring 5-12. But the odd and even numbered buildings are on opposite sides of a large street and clearly aren't all in the same complex. Finding Mises's office was anything but apodictically certain (thanks Jeff). Stubenring 5 is an art museum, and according to the unpleasant man at the desk, "Always has been. Even in 1920." While he tried hard to sell me an admission ticket he wasn't much help otherwise.
Next up was Stubenring 12; currently some Ministry of Land. Usually it takes a court order to get me into federal buildings, but in this case, Mises's office and Jeff Tucker's "Look for the commemorative plaque placed by the Mises Institute in 1988" posted on Mises.org was enough to get me inside. My encounter was pretty much to be expected. The lobby looked (and smelled) like the 1970s United States. After confirming he "sprechen sie English" the security guard only seemed capable of repeating that this is the Ministry of Land.
"Was it once the Chamber of Commerce in the 1920s?"
Answer: "This is the Ministry of Land." At least it wasn't the Ministry of Love.
We had more luck in the building at Stubbenring 8-10. A helpful man at the door confirmed that it was once the Chamber of Commerce. I asked about the plaque and he sent me to one room. After a long conversation and a couple of phone calls I was sent to the 4th floor. A very helpful man in a marketing office figured out that I was only sent to him because most English speaking guests to the building go to his office — because he's in international marketing. However, he did figure things out for me. His building used to be the Vienna Chamber of Commerce. The building next door ("This is the Ministry of Land") used to be the Austrian Chamber of Commerce.
Nobody in the old Vienna Chamber of Commerce building seemed to know where the plaque was and I had had enough of government bureaucrats and didn't feel like trying to talk to the land-nazi next door again. I settled for snapping a picture of each building and moving on.
Perhaps the next Misesian visiting Vienna can get inside, find the plaque, and add a photograph and caption to this article.
Rating: 2 Stars for my trip, maybe 3 if I could have found his office and the plaque, and as high as 4 if I could have done it while avoiding any interaction with government officials.
From there we jumped on the ring tram to the University. Located on the Schottenring and even on my tourist map this was by far the easiest to find. I was pleasantly surprised to find a glass cut-out of all of the University's Nobel Prize winners in the main lobby. Hayek was prominently displayed among them. The inner courtyard threw a bit of a curve ball. It was under construction and half of the busts were covered up. After searching around and looking under the protective plastic I found the busts of Wieser, Böhm-Bawerk, and Menger. I could tell you exactly where they were but it's more fun to search and see the other busts too.
Rating: 3 Stars.
Other Misesian hangouts recommended on Mises.org included the Opera and the Burgtheater. I toured the Opera; it's pretty, but I don't recommend it. Though I was pretty sick of tourist areas by then, so my judgment is likely off. I never saw the Burgtheater. I don't know if Mises hung out in the Heurigens but I highly recommend them. They are a quick 20-minute trip north of the city on the U-Bahn and a bus and they are the product of tax freedom.
One of the Hapsburg Emperors allowed vineyards to sell their wine tax-free to the public on location. When he did, tons of wine taverns, Heurigens, sprung up in the wine region in northern Vienna. Dinner is cheap, music is good, and there are plenty of wines to taste.
I hope this guide is helpful to the next Misesian on a boondoggle to Austria if their inner nerd takes over and pulls them away from the main sights and cafes of Vienna.
Frommers won't have a list of these sights in their guide.
|Austrian Economist Photo Set (8x10): $20|
When not writing Austrian economics tour guides from 30,000 feet above sea level on an airplane, Benjamin Powell works as an Assistant Professor of Economics at San Jose State University and is the Director of the Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation at the Independent Institute. He is also an adjunct fellow of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute. Send him mail. Comment on the blog.