Vienna’s canal network was made world famous by the 1949 film "The Third Man". Harry Lime’s ride on the Ferris wheel, the film music by Anton Karas and especially the chase scene through the Viennese sewers are not only legendary for die-hard film connoisseurs.
The City of Vienna offers anyone interested the opportunity to visit the underground film locations as part of a "Third Man Tour".
The Vienna Channel Network
In 1739, Vienna was the only European city that had, at least within its city walls, a complete network of canals. Nevertheless, given the hygienic conditions, deadly epidemics and even cholera epidemics kept occurring, causing thousands of deaths. Vaulting all the streams and building two "cholera channels" that run along the Vienna River were the result. By 1850, a stable canal system for the whole of Vienna had been built, which is still being supplemented and modernized time and again today. The entire system has a length of 2.400 kilometers – the route from Vienna to Paris and back.
A city under the city has been created…
Meeting point for the Third Man Tour is at the Girardipark at Karlsplatz. Equipped with helmet and headlamp, off you go: Via the spiral staircase known from the movie "The Third Man", also called "Hollywood Staircase" by the sewer workers because of the often prominent visitors, you go down through the star-shaped manhole cover into the Vienna sewer system.
The first stop on the tour is one of the two Cholera canals, one of the oldest parts of the Vienna canal network today. Inevitably, a strong smell now makes itself felt – but it’s far less "intense" than one might think. A film projected onto the canal wall, however, makes it clear to visitors that the City of Vienna’s 330 canal workers have to endure far more odor pollution in their daily jobs. Entering the sewer network through the narrow sewer grates, passing dirt and rats, narrow pipes that want to be cleaned with a shovel at regular intervals, and the risk of rapidly rising water levels and gas loads are the daily bread of the workers.
For reassurance: The Third Man Tour is of course less rough, even a visit in sandals is quite possible.
Onward through the canal network to the next location on the tour. Light and sound effects turn the walk into an impressive journey that ends at the so-called "ambush chamber", one of the main locations of the legendary chase scene of Orson Welles, aka Harry Lime. However, filming was not only done here for the "Third Man", Falco also filmed here for the video to "Jeanny" and even Inspector Rex has already investigated here. It is not known whether these stars were as sensitive as it is said about Orson Welles: Allegedly, the latter initially refused to shoot in the canal. Only after the walls were repainted and then painted with Chanel No.5 had been sprayed, the actor declared himself ready for the recordings.
Also visit the vaulting of two former city streams. By the way, the fact that the water of the different streams shows differences in color is no imagination: the water coming from Ottakringen, for example, is clearly darker. Why? It is actually at the brewery’s sewage. On some days, a discreet chocolate scent is said to spread along this part of the canal – those who live in Ottakring know that this aroma can be traced back to the Manner factory..
As the last highlight of the tour, visitors are led down to the Vienna River, which flows underground in the area between Naschmarkt and Stadtpark. A gigantic vault holds the rivulet, which on rainy days grows into a raging river within a very short time. The specially installed lighting makes this sight a special experience for the participants of the tour.
Not only for film fans and tourists this tour is a real experience. The spooky atmosphere, underlined by the skilfully placed light and sound installations, captures visitors as soon as they enter Vienna’s "underworld". The information about the film shooting but also the history of the Viennese canal system up to the present are presented in an exciting way with short films and through the explanations of the tour guides.