experiences

Adventures in Vienna: A Poorly Planned Pilgrimage

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My must-see list for my recent trip to Vienna raised a few eyebrows among my friends. They could understand wanting to see a performance in the Spanish Riding School, but when it came to visiting the grave of one of my intellectual heroes, they thought I was a little crazy. Perhaps you will too. But it was a meaningful trek and made me happy.

Nobel Prize winner F.A. Hayek is buried in a cemetery outside Vienna and I spent a lot of time planning ahead when and how I would get there.Walking was about an hour, public transportation 50 minutes, or I could take a 20 minute cab ride for about € 25.

Because time was scarce, I went with a cab. Initially the driver was not thrilled to have to take me out there and tried to set a fixed price and when that failed, secure a return journey. He must have warmed up to me during our conversation though, because when we arrived at the cemetery he seemed genuinely concerned about my plans to “just walk back” and insisted I write down information about how to catch the local buses instead.

Halfway there I started wondering how I would find Hayek’s grave once I was there. This was the one flaw with all my planning. I hadn’t found a picture of his tombstone or coordinates of where it was located. I hoped the cemetery would have a map or signage where the famous graves were located.

Friedrich Neustift am Walde Vienna

When I got there, there was a map, but no list of who was buried where. Oh well, I was in for a hunt!

And though not ideal, I’d faced the challenge before when looking for Adam Smith and David Hume’s graves in Scotland. So I decided to start walking down the main path looking on either side in the hopes I’d be lucky. If not, I could go row by row. But 10 minutes in of fairly brisk walking, uphill, I hadn’t even made it halfway down the length of the cemetery. I might be in for a long afternoon and unfortunately the wind was picking up and storm clouds were rolling in.

Friedrich Cemetary Nuestift am Walde

Then I saw a guard house farther up the hill with another map board. Maybe this one had locations marked? As I was looking, the guard came out. I immediately ran up and excitedly asked him if he could help me find a grave.

He spoke and understood no English. I was hopeless at German. After talking at each other for a few moments I had the idea of writing out the name I was looking for.

I wrote “Friedrich Hayek” and hoped for the best.

The guard looked puzzled for a minute and pointed at the name and then at the ground. Unfortunately for me the cemetery was called “Friedhof” so he assumed I was looking for the cemetery  but he wasn’t sure what the “Hayek” was for. I desperately tried to remember what the German word for first or last name was since I’d seen it on my hotel forms but drew a blank. He indicated I should write the date, which I just happened to remember the year Hayek had died.

He went inside the guard room and he grabbed an old ledger from 1992, leafing through the entries until we came to the H section. We both scanned the page and towards the end I saw the hand-written name and exclaimed excitedly.

The man read out loud “Professor Dr. Friedrich Hayek” and broke into a smile, turning and patting my cheek as if to say, “you weren’t crazy!”

He then painstakingly copied down the coordinates and drew a map of exactly where to go to find the grave. Neustift am Walde Map to Hayek Grave

 

I practically bounded down the hill, finding the site with no problems. It was good I had help, because I’d already passed that row. The stone was just too far down to read. For anyone wanting to go, his stone is located in Group 1, in the first row on the Group 7 side.FA Hayek Gravesite Neustift am Walde

It was so amazing to be there on the hillside and pay my respects to one of the men who had done so much for freedom. Definitely one of the highlights of my trip!

Keri Heels First Travel FA Hayek Grave

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Living for the little (and big things) that make life so fun, especially mistake deals and crazy last minute weekend mileage runs across the world. www.twitter.com/klatravel

4 Comments

  1. Terry

    March 22, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Just a thought that you might want to put your findings here:
    http://www.findagrave.com/index.html

    or here add photos of the headstone:
    http://www.gravestonephotos.com/index.php?r=1&width=1024&browser=1024

    I’m sure it would be appreciated by others.

    • Keri Anderson

      March 22, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      Thanks! will do

  2. sriki

    March 22, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    WWII history guy here. I might be going to Vienna this summer and plan to go visit this very place (if I can convince the wife). Thanks for the info.

    PS: You think have checked this out. But, in case you haven’t, take a look at this video. Pretty awesome (There is round 2 video also)

  3. Dom

    August 12, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    Congratulations on being persistent. Thanks for your story and the account of your initial difficulties. I was there with you !

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