By: Sarah P.
I lived in the 2nd district (Leopoldstadt) my first year in Vienna. At the time, this didn’t mean much to me. I knew that I had easy access to the school where I work and, conveniently, to the city center. I knew I lived in a predominantly and historically Jewish neighborhood (my building also houses a synagogue). And I knew that living in a corner apartment on the first floor of an eight story building is like living in a cave. I didn’t realize how important it was to me to see the sky from my apartment windows until I couldn’t.
When I wasn’t completely exhausted from adjusting to life and work in a foreign country, I explored my neighborhood. Over time, I realized that a friend and co-worker lived relatively close by. I say “relatively,” in reality, it was about a 20 minute walk. She was always a bit mystified as to why I would want to walk versus take public. But walking to her apartment is how I discovered Karmelitermarkt. To get to her apartment building, I had to walk across the market square.
The name literally means “Carmelite Market” and is named after Karmeliterkirche (Carmelite Church) a few blocks away – it was originally located in front of the church. However, by the early 1900s the market had outgrown its allotted space and moved to its current location. It’s still casually called Karmelitermarkt though because after five failed attempts to rename it, the city finally gave up.
Karmelitermarkt is one of the oldest markets in Vienna, and I have to admire its resilience – the market has been around since the late 1600s, has never been officially named, and was completely destroyed in WWII.
I wish I had an amazing life-altering memory of buying something meaningful and magical the first time I walked through the market – but I don’t. It’s an open-air market and a farmer’s market on the weekend. It has about 80 stalls, and you can find anything from horse meat (don’t ask me, it’s an Austrian thing) to artisan breads and cheeses. Karmelitermarkt is just one little corner of Vienna that’s quietly going about its business (literally) as it has done for hundreds of years and occasionally, I stop by.