Archive | December, 2012

Thank you for your attention

14 Dec

An announcement over the PA system at the tram stop this morning reminded me of another change in Vienna. At some point the Wiener Linien (public transport authority) realized that they were really irritating their passengers by finishing their announcements about delays, for example, with the phrase “Wir danken für Ihr Verständnis” (word for word: “We thank you for your understanding”), to which some more vocal Viennese would respond, “You don’t have my understanding.” These announcements occur ever more frequently now as traffic and mechanical problems interfere with the smooth running of busses and trams. No one is very happy about that, but at least we no longer have to consider whether the Wiener Linien have our “understanding” or not. They have changed the last phrase to “Wir danken für Ihre Aufmerksamkeit“–“Thank you for your attention.”

No dogs allowed

11 Dec

From a park in the 4th district …


The picture is clear. The nice touch is the text: With the exception of those dogs whose owners clean up after them. 🙂

13A bus

11 Dec

Below is a sign of a big change in Vienna. The 13A bus, which used to travel between Alser Strasse and Südbahnhof and has been an important part of my life in Vienna (it has always carried me from my living quarters of the moment to somewhere I wanted to go), now travels between Alser Strasse and Hauptbahnhof. The route is the same, but Südbahnhof was torn down a few years ago and an enormous central train station was built in its place. This opened a week or two ago, witness the sign on the 13A bus.


Christmas shopping

6 Dec

I was out doing some Christmas shopping this afternoon in what was supposed to be sunny weather.



For the First Sunday in Advent – Vanillekipferln

2 Dec

One of my favorite books by Eva Ibbotson is The Morning Gift, a story, one could say, about Jewish and other refugees living in unaccustomed poverty in Belsize Park after the annexation of Austria to the German Reich in 1938. There is a scene where a long-awaited rental piano is finally about to be delivered to the Berger family, who have been saving up for it for months. To celebrate the mother, Leonie, bakes Vanillekipferln, typically Viennese cookies for Advent and Christmas.

Ibbotson writes, “The piano was expected in the middle of the morning, but Leonie had been up since six o’clock, cleaning the rooms, reblocking the mouseholes, polishing and dusting. By seven o’clock she had begun to bake and here she was destined to run into trouble.

“Leonie was relatively indifferent to the arrival of Heini’s piano, but Ruth was bringing her friends to celebrate and that was important … If her husband had been with her, Leonie would have found it difficult to provide suitable refreshment, for the food budget was desperately tight, but the absence of the professor – much as she missed him – meant that they had been able to eat potatoes and apple purée made from windfalls Mishak had collected on his rambles and save.

“Leonie accordingly had saved and bought two kilos of fine flour … had bought freshly ground almonds and icing sugar and unsalted butter and the very finest vanilla pods – and by nine o’clock was removing from the oven batch after batch of perfectly baked vanilla Kipferl.

“At which point her plans for the morning began to go wrong. Leonie wanted Mishak to stay and meet Ruth’s friends – she always wanted Mishak – but what she wanted Hilda to do was go to the British Museum and what she wanted Fräulein Lutzenholler to do was go up the hill and look at Freud.

“She had reckoned without the power of the human nose to unlock emotion and recall the past. Hilda came first, stumbling out of the bedroom in her dressing gown … Fräulein Lutzenholler, her fierce face tilted in disbelief, came next, carrying her sponge bag  …

“By the time the scent of freshly ground coffee came to blend with the warm, familiar scent of the thumb-sized crescents, it was clear that not only would no one voluntarily leave Number 27 that morning, but a great many others would come …”

Vanillekipferln (adapted from the Kronenzeitung Kochbuch)

180 gms butter; 70 gms peeled and ground almonds; 50 gms of sugar; 2 egg yolks; 210 gms of flour (as fine as possible); powdered sugar; vanilla sugar

Beat butter, almonds, sugar, egg yolks, and flour together quickly and thoroughly. Let dough rest for one hour in a cool place. Roll the dough into “snakes” about as thick as your thumb. Cut the “snakes” into small pieces (7 – 8 cm long) and bend the pieces into crescents. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 180°C until they are a light golden color. Mix the powdered sugar together with the vanilla sugar. Then roll the still-warm cookies in the sugar mixture.

Delicious with coffee, as Leonie served them.