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

UnTours Staff Vienna

January 11, 2023 by Brian Taussig-Lux

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.