Archive | December, 2018

“Guten Rutsch!” (~ “Good slide [into the New Year]!”)

31 Dec

Except that I have just read on the infoscreen of the Wiener Linien that it actually comes from a less-known meaning of the word “rutschen,” namely to travel. Bon Voyage into 2019!

The Italians are coming!

31 Dec

Actually, they’re already here. I went to two supermarkets this morning to get everything for dinner this evening and, in both, Italians were trying to communicate with the natives.

In the first one, a customer was trying to buy “brodo” (broth). She seemed, rightly so, rather skeptical when she was shown the bouillon cubes.

In the second one, the conversation at the cash register went like this:

Italian customer: Panettone?

Cashier: Nein.

Italian customer (in Italian): “No” you don’t understand or “no” you don’t have any?

Cashier (in German): I don’t understand you but no we don’t have any.

Italian customer: ?

Twenty years of voice lessons including Italian opera and a few trips to Italy allowed me to clarify: Non c’è la. [And benvenuta a Vienna. ;-)]

Christmas spirit

24 Dec

According to U.S. American standards, the Viennese can be a bit grumpy, but there are signs that they can get into the Christmas spirit, too.

There is a beggar who stands outside my door most days. Over the years, we have built up something of a relationship. It’s sometimes a bit fraught (for example when no matter how much I’ve given he wants more) but we have worked out a way of getting along and even built a bit of a relationship. He’ll be off to Romania to see his family for Christmas tomorrow so today is his last day at work this year.

His Christmas present to me this morning, as I went off to the supermarket for a few last-minute items, was to simply wish me “Frohe Weihnachten” without asking for any money, acknowledging that the banknote I gave him on Saturday was my final contribution. My little extra present was to pick up some sweets for his children along with my shopping. Walking up to my door, I saw one of my neighbors slip him a can of beer. As I handed over the sweets, I smiled and something “Something for the father, something for the children.” He smiled back.

In the words of Scrooge’s nephew: “… I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come around, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them is if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.” (Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”, Peter Pauper Press version)

Merry Christmas to all my readers who celebrate Christmas!

The Heart of Central Europe

23 Dec

Even though Austria’s empire is long gone (ended 100 years ago this year), there are still reminders that Vienna was the glittering multicultural, multilingual heart of that empire. A few days ago, I saw two men nipping across a wide and busy street, dodging between cars. One of the drivers stopped to let them go in front of him, and one of the pedestrians waved and said “Danke!” Then he saw the Bratislava license plates and added “Ďakujem!”

A typical(?) Sunday afternoon

23 Dec

Of course, this includes the Vienna Woods.

What was perhaps rather unusual was to find this horse with his handler very competently dragging the recently lumbered logs to the path, where they will, presumably, be picked up later.

Comings and goings

21 Dec

What a day! I wanted to get my pre-Christmas errands done today so that tomorrow I can do my bookkeeping and then I am on vacation. And I managed to get everything on my list done, plus one.

One of the first things Maylo and I did this morning was go to his vet’s. Her hours have changed and I’ve been busy, so I made one quick trip on my way home from work one day to pick up food for Maylo but had to go without him–and even in this digital age there are some things for which the physical beings need to be present. (I won’t go into details.)

I’m so glad we made it today. It was her last day of work before retirement. We might have missed her altogether and gone next year only to find an entirely new face and person there! We were able to say our thank yous and farewells and reminisce about December five years ago when we didn’t know if Maylo would keep his back leg after being hit by a car. (I always feel the need to say at this point that I was out of the country on a business trip when it happened, and Maylo was staying with people I know.)

On my final round of errands this afternoon, I found myself walking past a sewing notions shop (really, one of those specialty shops with every possible kind of button, thread, and clasp but with no fabrics). I’ve been going there off and on for years for those little things that can otherwise be hard to find. Remembering that I needed some Velcro, I stopped in–and discovered that the owner (a delightful, cheerful woman with all the expertise of an old-fashioned shopkeeper in Vienna) is also retiring. I’m glad I stopped in there, too, and was able to thank her for all her help over the years. I was also glad to meet her successor. I have been afraid for years that when she left, the shop would go.

But the title of this post is “Comings and goings,” which means that there is something new to report, too. A week or two ago I noticed a miniature shop called Deli Mediterraneo with Greek products. It is an exquisite, tiny shop with two Greek gentlemen who opened it on December 1. Although they also have expensive, truly gourmet things, they have some delicious olive oil, for example, at prices only slightly higher than the generic brand in my supermarket. And they let you taste them. Bliss.

I bought some Christmas presents there and promised to go back to pick up some things for the New Year’s Eve gathering I am hosting. I have already composed their back story in my mind. You may know that life in Greece is extremely difficult at the moment and has been for a number of years. My suspicion is that these two gentlemen decided to start over in a country where the economy is still in good shape. They were lovely and friendly, doing the best they could in the German they have learned, and I wish them all the very best. If you want to try out their olive oils or take a look at their cheeses and other products, then go to Alser Straße 39 (very near Humanic at the corner of Alser Straße and Skodagasse) and enjoy!

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception

8 Dec

The Trafik was closed this morning! I knew today is a holiday. When I woke up I suspected that was why I was able to sleep late on a Saturday. However, many years ago, the government decided to allow shops to open on Mariä Empfängnis so that people could do their Christmas shopping. That made me think our Trafik would be open, too.

Instead, disappointment was great. Maylo pulled me over with great enthusiasm right up to the door and then looked at me as if to say, “What’s happening? Where are they?” And I had to explain that they were having a well-deserved day off.

06 – Bahnhof Hütteldorf to Lainzer Tor

2 Dec

Well, I didn’t get the stamp in my Wanderpass today, even though it is Rundumadum stretch with a Stempelstelle but for that I was flooded with memories and had a really nice walk through the snow, too.

What happened is this: I set off relatively early this morning (for a Sunday) so that I could be back in time to clean up for a First Sunday in Advent celebration with friends. I went without Maylo because this stretch of the trail goes through the Lainzer Tiergarten, where dogs are not allowed. (I’m not sure Empress Elisabeth would approve of that—she loved dogs—but it is the case nonetheless.)

As I left the Hütteldorf station and crossed the bridge over the Wien Fluss (Vienna River) I saw a heron landing on the water among the ducks. While it’s not quite in the middle of Vienna, it’s still within the city limits. That made the trip worth it right there.

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I got to the Nikolaitor (St. Nicholas Gate), no thanks to the Rundumadum signs. I saw only one near the beginning. Luckily, I know the neighborhood. Not that it did me any good. As I drew nearer the gate, something stirred in me and I seemed to remember that you cannot get into this part of the Tiergarten between November and March. Sure enough, when I arrived I saw the sign with opening times:

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Some day when I have a moment, I’ll have to work out when I can actually go and get the stamp. This was too complicated for me today!

As I was trying to decide what to do—I really wanted a proper walk this morning—a woman all alone in a monster black Mercedes SUV stopped and asked if the gate was locked. I told her it was and she decided to go to Grinzing for her walk. She was nice enough to invite me along but I declined (“Never get into cars with strangers”), and I thought about the amount of gas she was going to use to get to Grinzing in northwest Vienna from where we were more in the south, where there were still plenty of beautiful places to walk, and marveled at the essential cluelessness of some people.

I considered getting on the S45 (commuter rail) at Hütteldorf and traveling that direction myself, and then I thought how this was a real chance to re-visit a part of Vienna I used to come to regularly and stopped coming to when I got Maylo (since he’s not allowed to go in). I remembered that you don’t have to walk through, you can also walk around the Lainzer Tiergarten, and that is what I decided to do. I hadn’t done it since my very first time when I ended up doing it by default because I managed to find the Tiergarten but couldn’t find a gate. (A lot of my discoveries in Vienna have been hit or miss.)

It was a beautiful walk (if somewhat strenuous in places—steep and slippery with snow) and in the beginning I saw very few people. Here is a montage to give you an impression:

As I walked, the memories came—like the first time I went in through the Nikolaitor and saw a huge wild boar within meters of the gate. I backed out and tried to pull the gate closed only to be hindered by the people on the other side trying to pull it open so that they could get out. I let them out and then took a second look. Was it really a boar I had seen? It was. However, it was a peaceful boar eating some hay that had been specially provided, and there were people, even families with children, watching him. I joined them.

That was not my only encounter with boar in the Lainzer Tiergarten. I once left the beaten track only to find myself unexpectedly at a feeding station. I was just getting ready to sneak away again when a boar came racing out of the woods towards me. Before I knew it, I was up a tree, lying on a branch, looking down at him. (Isn’t adrenalin a wonderful thing!) I looked down at him and he looked up at me rather perplexed, as if to ask “What are you doing up in the tree?” At some point, he realized I wasn’t there to feed him, got bored, and left again, and I climbed down and carried on.

On another occasion, I was walking with a cousin and heard the characteristic galloping of a boar, yelled “Boar!” and hid behind a tree. My cousin, not primed in the fauna of the Lainzer Tiergarten, stayed where he was and was unscathed as the boar galloped past us on a mission known only to him.

The one occasion when I actually was a little afraid was the time I was out taking a walk in the spring with a friend and her two relatively small daughters. We wanted to go to the Rohrhaus (a rustic restaurant in the middle of the Tiergarten and, by the way, the Stempelstelle) and had to go past two boar fighting each other in order to get there. That took some gearing up. We were fine, though. They seemed to be far too absorbed in what they were doing to give us a glance (thank goodness).

There comes a point on every walk when I’m on a new route when I start to wonder how much longer the trail is and whether I have missed a turning. This time it came after the Adolftor, when the path started to weave around a little. I was relieved to make it to the St. Veiter Tor and find an older gentleman there who knew not only the right direction but the names of the streets I would need to take. As we were chatting, I saw someone exit the Tiergarten by climbing over the wall and remembered that I, too, had climbed that wall, albeit at a different point. Many years ago I went with a friend, eager to show off this beautiful place, and didn’t realize that the gates are closed (or were closed) on Mondays. Having taken the U4 all the way out to Hütteldorf and having set aside the afternoon for the hike through this former Imperial hunting ground, we decided to climb the wall and go for a walk anyway. We then quite brazenly exited through the main gate (the Lainzer Tor), playing the foreigner card.

Following the excellent directions the old gentleman had given me, I found myself in the right place near the right bus stop, with only about three minutes to wait for the bus (which only runs every 20 minutes so that was nice). On past visits, I have always changed from the bus to the tram—probably because I didn’t have the benefit in those days of Qando, the app for the public transportation system in Vienna. Now, Qando told me that the 56B bus would also take me to Hietzing to the U4 but that it would be quicker than the trams. I thought it would be interesting to see a different route.

The 56B bus goes over Küniglberg, where I hadn’t been in years, and the trip woke more memories. I remembered a fascinating visit with students to the ORF (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation) production center out there as well as singing at the funeral of a mentor and friend at the Hietzing Cemetery. As we went past the zoo in Schönbrunn, I remembered that our panda twins, now aged two, were on their way to China today and felt a pang. Pandas are special no matter what, but for a panda mother to successfully raise twins, even with human help, is very special indeed, and now they are gone.

All in all, for a relatively short outing there was a lot going on!

Distance: ? (because I couldn’t take the recommended path, which would have been 7.6 km, I don’t know)

Time: About 1 hour 45 minutes

05 – Feuerwache Steinhof to Hütteldorf

1 Dec

Actually, I did this stretch last Sunday with a friend (which explains, perhaps, why I didn’t take as many photos as usual–we were too busy talking) and am only just getting around to writing about it. It’s been a very busy week!

Whether it was the fact that we were talking or really that there were some signs missing, we lost the trail a couple of times. We even had some trouble finding the starting point! Ah, well. At least my friend wasn’t troubled by this. 😉

It was a somewhat quiet walk. As the weather gets colder and grayer, fewer people seem to be motivated to go out. As before, one of the aspects that surprised me was that I have walked in that area several times but discovered new corners this time. There are roads back there that look like country roads–paved, but only wide enough for one car at a time. And there are lucky people who there in modest, one-family houses! Vienna the way it was for many decades before property developers got greedy here, too.

I was also surprised by this small lake (Silbersee) in the 14th district, serene in the middle of the woods, a bit of a hike up from Dehnepark. I wonder if one can swim here in summer.

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We both were struck almost speechless by this gem below, which seems to be a culture center with concerts and other events. We were not alone in being struck with it. I had to wait my turn to get this photo!

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Not far from this, we were reunited with the Rundumadum trail and found our way on to Hütteldorf. There we were quite taken aback to see hordes of police with what looked like riot gear standing along the road to the new Rapid football (soccer) stadium. I like watching soccer but perhaps not when it requires a full squad of police in full gear.

We made it into the station at Hütteldorf and thankfully made our way home unscathed.

Distance: Officially only 3 km, but we put in quite a bit of extra, partly through starting at Schloss Wilhelminenberg rather than at the Feuerwache, and partly through getting lost.

Time: 1.5(?) hrs of walking

Ice skating in Vienna

1 Dec

This interested me very much. I used to live near the Engelmann ice-skating rink, which is on top of a building. Apparently, it opened in 1909 and was the first open-air rink. Cool! 😉

http://unnuetzeswissen.eu/wien/erste-freiluftkunsteisbahn