Archive | October, 2018

A new corner of Vienna

26 Oct

Somehow I find myself avoiding my usual corners of Vienna, like Neuwaldegg or Nussberg. They’ve been so crowded recently that I’ve hardly enjoyed my walks there with Maylo. I think it’s great that so many people are out in our beautiful fall weather getting some exercise and fresh air. I just don’t want to share the space with all of them. It isn’t very restful.

Today, on the Nationalfeiertag (celebration of Austria’s neutrality clause after the Second World War), Maylo and I followed up a tip from another dog person and took the U1 out to its new (to me) terminus, Oberlaa, where there’s a clinic / spa with thermal waters.

 

My ancient (1988) Baedeker’s Austria tells me that the Kurzentrum Wien-Oberlaa is a “spa treatment establishment” opened in 1974, a date that doesn’t surprise me as it showed up constantly on the various signs in the Kurpark. The site was the scene of the Vienna International Garden Show in 1974, and a number of attractions in this 860,000-square-meter green space, like the sculpture on the Rosenhügel or the Japanese garden, date back from that year.

 

Unlike many of Germany and Austria’s spa towns, Oberlaa does not seem to have a long history of people taking the waters there in spite of the fact that they, according to my Baedeker’s, have one of the strongest and hottest sulfur springs in Austria. (I figured out about the sulfur without Baedeker’s help. You smell it the moment you get out of the underground station.) So it’s not very traditional but they wasted no time in establishing two things essential to any Kurort: the park and a famous patisserie.

The park, true to Kurparks everywhere, is a carefully controlled environment suitable to people being treated for various maladies. There are paved paths, railings, lots of benches to rest on, carefully tended flowerbeds and lawns, and completely tamed bodies of water. It’s also suitable for people staying for several weeks at a time, providing different attractions like a petting zoo, restaurants, different kinds of gardens including an allergy garden(!), and, no doubt, somewhere a gazebo for concerts on fine days. We wouldn’t want people to get bored while they’re being treated!

 

Maylo and I didn’t make it to the patisserie, Kurkonditorei Oberlaa, but we wandered about the park and enjoyed ourselves, catching the impressively clean and quick U1 back into town when we had had enough.

Our excursion has inspired me to start a new practice. I’m going to try to get around to all the underground stations in Vienna to see what is there, focusing especially on those stations I don’t go to regularly. Look for more under the tag “U-Bahn stations”.

A note for my readers not familiar with the Austrian concept of Kur. A Kur is a stay, usually about three weeks, at a nice, although sometimes somewhat clinical, hotel at a place with special springs where various medical conditions are treated. Several of my friends have been on Kur for intensive physiotherapy. It’s almost de rigeur after major surgery. And sometimes it is prescribed simply because people are feeling run down. It sounds like something for rich people and did use to be. The aristocracy of Europe used to run into each other at Kurorte all over Germany and Austria and similar places of healing in Switzerland (those sanatoriums!). These days, though, it is prescribed through the national health system here and patients pay only a tiny daily rate based on their income. There’s something (else) to be said for social democracy.

This means that a Kurort is a town with such an establishment, a Kurpark is a park attached to such an establishment, and a Kurkonditorei is a Konditorei or patisserie especially associated with such an establishment, essential because the Austrians, on the whole, have never been all that good at denying themselves the pleasures of life if they could help it.

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At it again

7 Oct

Austria cleaned up at the EuroSkills competition (for people learning trades and crafts) for the fourth time in a row with a total of 21 medals. Russia (a rather larger country than Austria, if I may point that out) came in second with a total of 19. The Russians did have more gold medals (nine to Austria’s four), but still. I’m so glad there are still countries that promote and reward the trades!