Vienna is a city full of stories, secrets and hidden treasures. Like an open-air museum, the city is full of endless attractions one can’t miss! But behind the scenes, in the hidden courtyards and narrow alleys, another side of Vienna can be seen – a secret Vienna!
Secret Vienna is a Viennese tourism company devoted to the exploration of the city’s hidden gems. We offer a large variety of tours and experiences about various fascinating and unusual themes. We work only with licensed tour guides and currently offer over 30 different tours in 6 languages – English, German, Italian, French, Russian and Hebrew.
We invite you to use Metropole’s special code: SVMetropole2018 and enjoy a 20% discount on your next secret tour in Vienna! Book tours on secretvienna.org
THE LUCK OF THE CHIMNEY SWEEP
A large sign depicting a chimney sweep juts out over the street with his ladder and flue brush at Wipplingerstraße 21, just next to the Hohe Brücke in the 1st district. While the real thing can still be seen around town regularly, this representation actually has nothing to do with clearing soot – disappointingly, he is merely a logo for the licensed lottery Company Hohe Brücke, which belongs to the Austrian Lottery Foundation. But even corporate mascots have a few secrets to tell: Why would a lottery have a chimney sweep as a logo? It’s because that profession has long been considered a bringer of good luck in Austria – something you generally need to win the lottery!
This goes back to the Middle Ages, when life was organized around fire and chimneys in the winter, for many the sole source of light and warmth. While chimneys provided comfort, they also presented a constant danger – if they weren’t cleaned regularly, toxic gases and spontaneous fires could break out, often with fatal consequences. Wives, therefore, constantly nagged their husbands to clean out the chimney, but this was difficult and often hazardous work for the untrained. Hence, it was considered great luck if a chimney sweep happened to be walking by who could do the work professionally and for a relatively small fee. The danger would be gone for a while, your wife would stop pestering you and you didn’t have to risk life and limb by climbing on the roof – an excellent and lucky solution!
But it wouldn’t be Vienna if the venerable chimney sweep didn’t have the Kaiser to thank for his reputation as well. The story goes that the k.u.k. chimney sweep responsible for maintaining the imperial chimneys at Schönbrunn Palace once overheard a plot to assassinate the emperor while cleaning inside a shaft. He alerted the Imperial household, thus foiling the plan and saving his liege. Is this story true? We don’t know, but it helped cement the reputation of chimney sweeps as bringers of luck and good fortune in the minds of the Viennese!
THE BLACK SPANIARDS
If you’ve taken trams No. 37, 38, 40, 41 or 42 from Schottentor, you will likely remember the name of the first stop: Schwarzspanierstraße (Black Spaniard Street). The peculiar name stems from the 1620s, when members of the Order of Saint Benedict came to Vienna and built a church and monastery close to Schottentor (Scottish Gate, itself named after a cloister founded by erroneously identified Irish monks). Completed in 1639, this church unfortunately did not survive the second Ottoman siege, but a new one was built in the 1690s.
At some point in the late 18th century, the order moved out, and the church has served many others since: providing spiritual succor for soldiers, storehouse for the imperial army, conducting Lutheran and Russian Orthodox services and, in its last reincarnation, serving as a dorm and event location.
However, the only part of the church remaining is the façade – a bomb hit it in 1944 and the rest could not be saved. But why “Black Spaniard?” Very simple: The first Benedictines who came to Vienna were from Spain and wore black habits. Therefore – similar to the Dominican monks that gave the London neighborhood Blackfriars its name – people referred to them as the Black Spaniards!
THE BLACK SPANIARDS