Living above paradise
For many years, people would walk past the beautiful 19th-century building in Blindengasse, fascinated by its marble façade and imposing columns and wondering why this gem wasn’t roused from its slumber.
Von Elisabeth Hundstorfer
The only things to see were a few dust-covered typewriters in the windows of the former office equipment shop. It was all very mysterious … Today, the contrast is striking. The house has been beautifully renovated and we dropped by to find out more.
A new restaurant has opened on the ground floor. Aptly named ‘Das kleine Paradies’ (Little Paradise), it combines good food with good deeds. The four floors above the chic eatery in the listed former shop now house people who have fled from war and persecution. Since 2019, the building has been providing shelter, support and counselling for single mothers and their children as well as single women, LGBTIQ asylum seekers and families. Half of the 60 inhabitants are children.
Tralalobe is a non-profit association that has been helping people in need since 2012. President and founder Michaela Klein is the co-owner of the Austrian soft drink brand Almdudler. Andreas Diendorfer is the managing director, while Johanna Singer is in charge of the house and Eschi Fiege runs the restaurant. ‘The owner offered to renovate the building and let it to us at a market rent. We were involved in the planning and could adapt the individual floors according to our needs and those of our future residents,’ says Michaela Klein.
The restaurant offers a business lunch and evening dinner as well as snacks, coffee and delicious pastries in the afternoon; Monday is roast day. ‘We have also become something of a hub for NGOs,’ adds Andreas Diendorfer. ‘They enjoy holding their meetings in one of the most beautiful restaurants in Vienna.’ ‘Das kleine Paradies’ is not only a place for gourmets but also offers work for some of the residents. The tablecloths and cushions were sewn in the apartments above, and one young man has discovered his knack for cooking and is now undergoing training. ‘Our house is not a permanent place. Our focus is on intensive German courses and legal counselling to enable our residents to live independently,’ explains Johanna Singer.
How can locals help? ‘We can always use good-as-new bedclothes, towels and small electric appliances like kettles, mixers or toothbrushes, as these are the things that people tend to take with them when they move out.’ There is also a common room with a children’s corner waiting to be filled with life again after Covid. Volunteers who come to play with the children not only relieve the mothers but also help the children learn German in a playful way. As Johanna Singer shows us around the house at the end of our visit, we are greeted by very friendly people who are very happy to be here – and we are impressed by how excellent their German is after only a few months. It’s obvious: This is the Tralalobe culture of welcome!