Bombs

27 Mar

One thing that strikes me is how many reminders of the World Wars there still are in this part of Europe. Beyond the memorials, there are daily reminders that 80 years ago or so (or just over a hundred years ago) mines were being laid and bombs were being dropped.

There’s an article in today’s Kurier about the bomb squad, whose responsibilities include defusing bombs left over from the wars. Apparently, the squad gets three to four calls a day(!) to take care of old explosive devices.

It reminded me of the time, only three years ago or so, I almost missed the last Vienna-bound flight out of the Cologne airport because the highway was closed and traffic was being rerouted to give a wide berth to the site where an enormous bomb from the Second World War was being defused.

That reminded me of the story a German client told me. His company was in an area of Germany where a lot of bombs got dropped randomly as the RAF planes were on their way home. (This, apparently, was a common practice on both sides. I’m sure there’s a counterpart in the U.K. that defuses old Luftwaffe bombs on a daily basis.)

When my client company was breaking ground for a new plant, they came across one of the bigger bombs and called in the bomb squad. This, of course, delayed progress. When the (U.K.-based) parent company wanted to know why the project was no longer on track, my German client, with some relish (there were some of the usual tensions between parent company and subsidiary), relayed the information that they had been delayed by a British bomb. The head office was attuned to the irony of this and took some of the pressure off.

How easy it is in this peaceful Europe to forget that the E.U. grew out of a desire to never fight neighbors again. And how helpful to have these reminders.

A blackbird’s song

18 Mar

There’s a bird whose song I’ve been delighting in on our morning walk. He sits on an old TV antenna atop a roof and fills the morning air with what sounds like rapture.

I thought he was a thrush but also, thinking of Romeo and Juliet, considered that he might be a lark. I even wondered if he might be a nightingale.
This morning I decided to find out so I checked out the bird songs from all those birds, and a few others, on YouTube. (Technology is good for some things. ;-)) None of the songs seemed quite right. Then YouTube suggested the song of the “Amsel” (blackbird) and that was it! 🙂 Wikipedia then informed me that a blackbird is part of the thrush family (as is, I believe, the nightingale), which made me feel I wasn’t entirely wrong.
A nice way to start the day, including having a bit of time this morning to go down this particular rabbit hole. 🙂

March 13

13 Mar

One year ago today was the last day I stood in a seminar room facilitating a workshop with any sense of freedom. Even then the Romanians in the group were very distracted by the thought that they might not be allowed to fly home or would have to quarantine for two weeks when they got there.

Afterwards, I sat with a colleague in the otherwise empty bar at the seminar hotel. We did our usual after action review, interspersed with unsettling tidbits from a population biology course he had taken as an undergraduate, enjoying a drink in public for what we thought would be the last time for several weeks. (Ah, the innocence!)

Then we gathered up our things and went our separate ways to make sure we had food for the next few days, not knowing what the lockdown, due to start the following Monday, would bring.

Those memories highlight two facets of a year of pandemic in Austria that I’ve been thinking about quite a bit as we neared this anniversary: that what seemed unthinkable and almost insurmountable (two weeks of quarantine???) have become part of our daily lives and that no one I know foresaw how long the pandemic would go on or was prepared for the uncertainty. (I don’t number any epidemiologists among my friends.)

A year ago Austria acted quickly and decisively and had low numbers to show for it. Now our numbers are bad, although not quite as bad as the rest of Central Europe, and our vaccine rollout is pathetic. It’s anyone’s guess when life will regain any of its pre-pandemic freedom.

At least spring is coming!

Viennese birds

4 Mar

Caption: Viennese birds

Bird on the left (in Viennese dialect): Worms used to taste better.

Bird on the right (also in Viennese dialect): Everything’s going to hell. (Literally, “Everything’s going down the creek.”)

(For those who don’t know, the Viennese have the reputation of taking delight in complaining a lot.)

Viennese Coffee Houses

27 Feb

“A Viennese coffee house is where time and space are consumed but only the coffee appears on the bill.”

Hope they open again soon! (But safely.)

Switching from work-from-home back to normal

12 Feb

“And what makes you think that going from working from home back to normal could be a problem for me?” 😉

A joke for Vienna insiders

4 Jan

(Floridsdorf is the 21st district and lies “transdanubia”.)

A particularly Austrian solution

20 Dec

Seems a particularly Austrian solution to me. It is against the law for descendants of aristocratic families to use their titles and has been since 1918. The maximum penalty? 14 cents. 🙂

The Main Problem for Viennese

14 Nov

From Helmut Qualtinger, author, cabaret artist and more.

“The problem for every Viennese: One can’t bear it in Vienna anymore–nor anywhere else.”

The Second of Three Days of National Mourning

4 Nov