Vienna’s underground train (U-Bahn) began to take shape in 1968. That helps to explain why many of the stations look like this. Minimalist, clean, safe, and efficient, by all means.
The U-Bahn component of Vienna’s public transportation system alone is extensive, more than 75 kilometers in length across and around the city. The keen observer will note five U-Bahn lines: U1, U2, U3, U4….and U6. The lines are colored but the trains are numbered. Adding to the numerical mysteries is the fact that the U3 is the youngest of the lines.
The U3 line is deemed the “Art Line” of the system. (Obviously, the U5 is the Stealth Line.) Taking advantage of an otherwise cold and grey winter day this week I rode the rails of the U3 in search of the art.
At Zippererstrasse, school children across Vienna competed for the 20 winning art spaces that depict “Mobility in the coming Millennium.” The art definitely brightens an otherwise dreary station.
Further west along the U3 is Landstraße, a busy hub connecting to the regional trains and the separate airport line, and with a brand spanking new shopping mall on top (that is, naturally, closed for shopping on Sundays and holidays). For the longest time I assumed this wall was graffiti. Nope. It is intentional “playful and joyful depictions of animals” to contrast with everyday electronic life.
At Stubentor, parts of the old city wall have been incorporated into the station, but no mention was made of the pink paintings.
In 1972, while excavating beneath Stephansdom for the U3 and U1 lines, an underground crypt dating to the 13th century was discovered and is presented for visitors. Above ground one can view the outline of the crypt.
3 million hand-broken pieces of Murano glass went into creating the history of the universe since the Big Bang at the Volkstheater station. By far my favorite station in the entire system.
The terminus of my art tour was Westbahnhof. This station is noteworthy even without the addition of the “55 Steps through Europe” sculpture presentation on the evolution of Europe.
Westbahnhof was originally constructed and named for Empress Elisabeth, and was the connection between the Austrian and Hungarian empires. All that remains is a quiet statue of the Empress tucked in a corridor.
In 1938 the station had a new purpose, the movement of hundreds of (mainly) Jewish children to safe homes in the British countryside as part of the Kindertransport efforts. The woman responsible for moving these children to safety wrote in her journal that the Nazi Official in charge “gave” her 600 children and a short notice for departure, ostensibly assuming she would fail. She did not. Later, the station would also serve as the departure point for Viennese Jews being transported to Dachau.
The rest of the station’s history is somewhat predictable, at least around these parts. The station was nearly destroyed in WWII, and subsequently rebuilt in the 1950s.