War Torn but Still Tourist’s Mecca

By Irv Mandell

British General Richard L. McCreery,
Russian Marshal Ivan S. Konev, and
General Mark W. Clark on the dais.
More than anything else, Vienna is like a beautiful woman--like a beautiful woman with a shiner. Vienna is charming, alluring and glamorous, but its beauty is spoiled temporarily by the marks of war.

The blemishes are not unrecognized by the city's natives; they are still infinitely vain about their city, but they are also sad. Self appointed guides will hustle you from one famous but damaged showplace another which still stands in all its prewar loveliness. And tears of sorrow change quickly to prideful enthusiasm almost as fast as they whisk you from rubble to unscathed relics.

Wherever you go you find interest--for just as you may be attracted by a pretty girl with a black-eye you, find Vienna's battle scars, have added in a strange way to its interest value.

Take a look at Vienna beginning at St. Stephan's Cathedral. The Cathedral's interior is burned out. There are three stories as to how it happened. One is that it was caused by firebombs, another that the Russians were responsible. And the third that SS troops did the job before they escaped from the city.

One of the favorite sights of the city is the Drei Mäderl Haus--inspiration for an operetta by Franz Schubert! It has been preserved exactly the way it was when it was one of Schubert's favorite haunts.

The Opera House, also burned out, is being rebuilt and a 10 per cent tax has been levied on all amusements to help pay for the new building.

american bar
GIs nightclubbing with their Austrian girl friends.
Typical Viennese music still manage to provide a melodious contrast to swing arrangements now emitted from the Hofgarten Cafe where nightly GI dances are held, as well as counterbalancing the popular Russian songs that glare forth from Red Army billets.

Vienna's famous Philharmonic Society holds several concerts each month but because of the food shortage they discovered it was impossible for them to practice and give Concerts at the same time. It is reported that when they tried both, several of the musicians passed out from exhaustion. Now they practice only on days on which they do not have to give an evening performance.

The food shortage has created a tremendous black market in the city. The profiteers have taken over the park near the Karlsplatz subway station and from dawn until curfew practically every known commodity is brought and sold at fantastic prices.

Russian soldiers carrying their back pay in suitcases.

Cigarettes, regardless of brand or nationality bring as high as 100 dollars a carton. A pound of butter will fetch a like amount and sugar and coffee can be sold at any price the hoarder may demand.

Although the shopping district was practically untouched by bombing and shelling, the shelves are bare. It is impossible to purchase anything except the meager food ration anyplace but in the Karlsplatz black market.

The exorbitant prices have forced many to give up their most precious possessions in order to buy food. Gold wedding bands, many of them a last remembrance of a husband killed in battle, are offered to anyone who will pay enough to buy a slice of bread.

There is very little coal in the city for heating purposes and at the rate trees are disappearing from the famed Vienna woods it is almost certain, unless something is rapidly done to alleviate the situation, that only a bare field will remain. All day long steady procession of persons can be seen carrying heavy loads of small logs on their backs from the woods to the city.

The Four Power Military Police (American, Russian,
French, British) patrolling the International Zone.

At present the Russians are in full control of the city with the other Allied troops as "guests." With the French, British and Americans, they have quartered the city.

Only the Russians still carry arms and for the most part the several armies are living together on a friendly basis. MP patrols consist of a representative of each nation who makes a colorful picture as they ride through the streets in jeeps.

The American soldier seems to be the most popular among the civilians. Almost every dough off duty bas a gang of children tagging along at his heels and there always are plenty of girls at GI dances.

Practically all of the citizens of Vienna agree on at least one thing‑‑they promise that the city they love will be among the first to return to its prewar glory as soon as occupation restrictions are lifted and enough food and clothing are made available.

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