Remembering Claudia Prieler, Vienna Will Never Be The Same Without You

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Claudia Prieler duringCherry Blossom season in Vienna

At the end of October 2022, we got the sad news that our long-time Vienna colleague, Claudia Prieler, had passed away. Claudia helped us start the Vienna UnTour in the late 1980s, making her our longest continually active UnTours representative. She met her last UnTourists in July 2022. One of her clients had a life-threatening health issue while in Vienna and credited Claudia with saving her life after Claudia helped her get the specialized treatment she needed to return safely to the US.

I first met Claudia in the 1980s on a train as I was taking a group of UnTourists from Salzburg to the Abbey of Melk. Claudia boarded the train in Amstetten and immediately noticed our group. Maybe because she wanted to practice her English, she struck up a conversation with me and with some members of our small group. My UnTourists were immediately impressed with her friendliness and knowledge. A year or two later, with Claudia’s help, we added Vienna to our existing Salzburg UnTour. Over the years, Claudia introduced me to her Vienna, the coffee houses, the theaters, the concert and opera venues, the gardens, and even her favorite wine pubs. Claudia had a busy life outside of her UnTours work. She was a sought-after photographer among Vienna’s cultural and political elite. She knew everyone from the Austrian President whom she had photographed to the tenor, Jose Carreras, to up-and-coming opera singers. Vienna was like a village for her. In 2019 when I last visited Claudia, it was fun to just walk around with her near the lovely State Opera house (her second home) and to see how many people greeted her. There was the recently widowed countess, the talented young cellist, and a former theater director. Even the doorman at the palatial Hotel Imperial greeted her like an old friend. Claudia published a number of books, the last of which was about the State Opera on its 150th anniversary.

At the Musikverein concert house in 2019
At the Musikverein concert house in 2019

Over the years, I met Claudia’s twin sister, Birgit and her family. Birgit would sometimes help when Claudia had an out-of-town assignment. For several years Claudia’s father, Norbert, drove our UnTourists on a wonderful tour of the Danube valley. At times, half of Claudia’s family seemed to be working with UnTours. Claudia and Birgit were especially motivated after meeting Hal and being inspired by his and the company’s values.

Claudia and Hal together at table with wine.
With our late founder, Hal Taussig, in 2008

Claudia’s funeral in November packed the baroque Jesuit Church in Vienna’s center. Her friends made sure that her last farewell was an occasion to remember. World-famous opera singers, a talented singer-songwriter, and a soloist on a baroque viola da gamba offered their tributes. Afterwards, the conversation and wine flowed for hours just as Claudia would have wanted. Family and close friends gathered at Claudia’s favorite wine pub (Heuriger) Mayer am Pfarrplatz.

A large crowd gathers outside the church to pay last respects
Last farewell at the Jesuit Church

As an artist, Claudia’s life was dedicated to finding truth and beauty in the world. As a person, she found great satisfaction in sharing her findings with others. At her funeral, the priest pointed out that Claudia’s art uncovered truths beneath the surface. It’s not a coincidence that she was also skilled at helping UnTourists see Vienna in a deeper way. At UnTours, we will miss Claudia deeply. She shaped our understanding of the world well beyond the city limits of Vienna.

Up close of cherry blossoms
Photo by Claudia

In lieu of flowers, Claudia asked for donations to an organization that provides housing for women in crisis situations. The organization is the Verein Autonome Österreichische Frauenhäuser. IBAN AT77 2011 1841 3644 3300.

We will continue to offer the Vienna UnTour in 2023 with the help of Claudia’s sister, Birgit.


  1. My husband and I had the genuine pleasure of having Claudia as our tour guide in Vienna this past May. We were also fortunate to meet her twin sister since Claudia was having some health issues at that time. Although, her challenges did not hamper our trip in any way, and we were blessed to enjoy both of their company. My only regret was that my husband and I were too tired from jet lag(from Chicago) to accept Claudia’s offer to join her and Birgit at the Vienna Opera House with prime seating due to her membership. She kept in constant contact with us and always had excellent suggestions on places to go, where to eat, and how to get there. Claudia frequently presented us with small unique gifts/mementos of her beautiful city which made our trip more meaningful and unforgettable. We realized that 5 days in Vienna was not long enough to enjoy everything she had to share, and she had so much to offer and share. Claudia in Vienna (was and is) Unforgettable!

    1. Thank you so much for these wonderful memories of Claudia. Meaningful conversations, unforgettable and so much to share is how we will remember her, as well.

  2. So very sad. We have taken a number of UnTour vacations including a two week trip to Vienna/Sachseln. Claudia was by far the best host we ever had. So very kind and helpful not only with the day to day but she arranged for us to attend an international youth music competition and met us there, while she was on the job as a photographer, and got us into a prime viewing position. She was so personable and kind and this will be a great loss for UnTours.

    1. We very much appreciate your kind words and thoughts. And we know Claudia’s family will appreciate them, as well. Our loss is deep, which is why we’re so grateful that her sister and family are excited to continue our collaboration.

  3. I’m able to take my first UnTour only this year, delayed by the pandemic. Your tribute to Claudia shows how loved she was. Thank you for introducing me to her. My partner and I will greatly look forward to meeting her sister, Birgit.

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