Leopoldstadt is Vienna’s 2nd district and one of the more interesting of the districts I’ve investigated so far. Way back in the 1600s Vienna’s rabbi was instrumental in forming a Jewish community in the “suburbs.” A couple of decades later, Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I espoused his hatred for the Jews and turned a blind eye to the destruction of their community. They regrouped and renamed the community “Leopoldstadt.” How’s that for an in-your-face? The revitalized Jewish community thrived as part of Vienna until 1938. Now, along Tempelgasse one can view an impressive mosaic memorial to the Leopolstädter Tempel destroyed during Kristallnacht, and the white pillars which mark the location of the original temple.
Within Leopoldstadt stand two Russian-built flak towers, both of which were no match for the bombings during WWII. Huge swatches of Leopoldstadt were destroyed; the area now is home to immigrants (and their amazing ethnic grocery markets, a main reason for my wanderings) and younger persons for whom the inexpensive if not necessarily aesthetically desirable post-war real estate is a draw, as well as a revitalized Jewish community. I like the district; its authenticity and even the rough edges (in parts) make for a pleasant diversion from the sterile culture that is Döbling.
Along the Danube Canal at an eastern edge of Leopoldstadt lies Mexikoplatz. Mexico was the only country other than the Soviet Union to denounce the Anschluss in 1938. Since that time Austria and Mexico have maintained friendly relations.
St. Francis of Assisi Church dominates the square with its red towers and basilica-like appearance. It was built to commemorate the 50th year of the good Kaiser’s reign and so is also called the Kaiser Jubilee Church.
The architecture combines that of the Rhine region in Germany and Romanesque styles; I have to admit that I’ve never heard of the Rhene-Romanesque style before.
Within the modest church is the Art Nouveau Elizabethkapelle, so named for the Emperor’s murdered wife, Elizabeth (Sisi). Elizabeth was the first Protector of the Red Cross, so the organization solicited substantial donations to decorate the chapel with gold mosaics and marble walls after her death. The Empress, in the background, is portrayed with Byzantine features (the chapel was locked, so I could not move in closer for a better photo.)
My toes tired and my arms abundant with camera and groceries (I resisted very little at a Russian grocery I found), the final mission before heading home was lunch in the lovely Karmelitermarkt.
But no Pferdegoulasch for me. I opted for a bowl of roasted garlic and potato soup at a sunny outside table where I could enjoy the sights around me.