Guaranteed to make you smile even if you’re allergic to fur: 15 animal facts from Vienna that are …well, a bit odd.
1. Cats With Your Coffee
The cat cafe trend has arrived in Vienna’s 1st district and is called Cafe Neko. All 5 furry inhabitants of its otherwise strictly minimalistic interior come from the Vienna animal shelter and are listed on the menu with their birthdates, breed and character traits. The idea and the cafe’s owner come from Japan, which explains the bilingual German-Japanese menu.
2. Kung Fu Pandas Made in Vienna
The Schönbrunn Zoo is proud to be breedling giant pandas naturally, when other zoos rely on artificial insemination. The Vienna born Fu Long, Fu Hu, and Fu Bao are currently in zoos in China. Fu Ban and Fu Feng are twins and you can still visit them at Schönbrunn.
3. Elephant Poo for Your Flowers
For €5 euro per 5-liter bucket you can get “elephant joy” for your garden or balcony plants, daily between 1:00-5:00 pm at the Schönbrunn Zoo. Roses in particular seem to thrive on the exotic manure. Go figure.
4. Kangaroos to Remember
Don’t kangaroo souvenirs from a land without kangaroos strike you as a bit odd? The “No Kangaroos in Austria” slogan helps drunken tourists remember there were no jumping kangaroos on Mariahilferstrasse, and CNN reporters brush up on their geography skills.
5. The Black Unicorn that Jumped Over Simmering and Left its Tooth in the Treasury
Historically speaking, the black unicorn on the flag of Vienna’s 11th district Simmering and the narwhal tusk (tooth) that you can view in the city’s Imperial Treasury are not related. The first has its origin in the unicorn emblem of Kaiserebersdorf, which was an independent municipality till 1891. The second was acquired by the Habsburgs in Poland in 1540 and thought to be the horn of a unicorn. In truth, the fictitious unicorn owes its mythical existence to the narwhal.
6. Beehives on the Terrace
5.000 beehives and 600 beekeepers live in Vienna. Urban beehives thrive on the terraces of the Town Hall, the State Opera, the Secession and the Museum of Natural History as well as the Art History Museum, the 25hours Hotel, the InterContinental, Hotel Daniel and Hotel Wimberger. The Town Hall donates its honey produce to charity.
8. Do, a Deer, a Rooftop Deer
Antlers are popular in Austria, but a whole deer on a roof? The deer statue at the corner of Taborstraße and Karmeliter Square reminds people that till 1911 the building was called “Zum goldenen Hirschen”. Small difference: the deer is green, not gold.
9. The Cow that Played Backgammon With the Wolf
A cow with eyeglasses and a wolf are playing backgammon on a house facade in the Bäckerstraße 12 in Vienna’s 1st district. The fresco dates back to end of the 16th century and is presumed to be a parody of the tensions between protestants and catholics. It disappeared behind facade plastering toward the end of the 18th century and was restored to its original look in 1987.
10. Rabbit in the Box
The historical monuments’ protection authority allows Albertina’s famous Dürer painting of a hare (dated 1502) out of the box twice within a period of 5 years – to the very max. Last time it was shown at the Treasures of the Albertina exhibition in 2014 and the big Dürer Exhibition in 2016. Till the next showing, you can view the colorful bunnies inspired by it at the museum shop.
11. Camels Allowed
Did you know that next to sheep, goats and chickens, you’re allowed to keep camels in Vienna? Provided you have enough space in your backyard, I guess.
12. Hunting Allowed
Designated hunting areas in 11 districts in Vienna are the city’s response to wild boars destroying gardens and posing a serious threat. Recently, the Austrian special forces (Cobra) had to intervene in the 22nd district. Chased by wild boars at Lainzer Tiergarten? This British diplomat’s advice might help you keep your cool.
13. Dogs at the Opera
Assistance dogs for the blind or disabled are allowed since 2007 at the Opera Ball, the famous yearly society event at Vienna’s State Opera. Another Vienna dog fact: The most famous dog linked to the city was a German Shepherd named Rex that starred in a ‘90s Austrian police series. In one of the episodes, he helps save an Opera singer’s baby. That’s probably how close he got to the Opera.
14. Goats Staring at Garbage
Mountain goats living – and thriving – on mountains of garbage? Actually, the 22nd district’s Rautenweg dump boasts mountains of ash from waste incineration plants, and humus soil. The Pinzgauer goat breed was threatened by extinction till the city found this creative way to protect it (and do some clever marketing around it).
15. Hold Your Horses
The Spanish Riding School’s Lippizan horses fall prey to a common color misconception: they are gray, not white. Like all other gray horses, Lippizans are born dark and their color becomes lighter with age.
As for Vienna’s carriage horses (Fiaker), despite activists’ protests, they have been wearing “horse poo bags” for over a decade now. Recent animal welfare measures ensure that horses get every second day off and do not work if temperatures reach above 35 degrees Celcius (95 degrees Fahrenheit).
All image credits belong to the author.