On a recent trip to Vienna, I found myself wandering the streets of the Innere Stadt late at night. I was struck by a certain incongruity. Everything above eye level was German to the core: its language, its architecture, and its ever-present tributes to great kings, princes, composers, and artists. Yet at street level, storefronts, kiosks, and conversations expressed a wide variety of languages and places of origin.
Vienna’s multiculturalism is no accident. For most of the second half of the 20th century, it was the gateway to the West from the Eastern Bloc. In the 16th and 17th centuries, it was where European Christendom stood firm against the advance of the Ottoman Empire. The city became great as the capital of the Habsburg Empire, which included a wide variety of ethnic groups and nationalities.