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Mobility in the time of the corona virus

15 Mar

Yesterday I picked up A4 paper at Libro, as announced in yesterday’s post, and, I must confess, I picked up something else–a bicycle helmet.

I’ve been meaning for a couple of years to replace mine, which is over 25 years old, but the truth is that for various reasons I haven’t been riding my bike. Now, though, even with the relatively empty trams, I’ve been thinking I might want an alternative form of transportation.

I had already gone to the sports store near me a month or so ago to look and get some information, and yesterday I decided the time had come to act.

At the cash register the woman in front of me in line was buying a city scooter. The process was taking some time–the salesperson was making some adjustments for her–so I started a conversation. (This is something I ordinarily wouldn’t do in Vienna as it is frowned upon but seems more acceptable under these exceptional circumstances.)

I pointed to the helmet I was buying and said,”Are you thinking in terms of alternatives to public transporation, too?” She opened up, telling me that she wants to make sure she can check in on her elderly parents without taking the tram and would prefer to get to work that way, too. (She is in a job where her presence is required.) Then she pointed to the bike helmet and said, “I don’t like riding on the street so I’m getting something I can use on the sidewalk.”

By then her scooter was ready to go. She rolled away, and I finally purchased my helmet.

Somehow I have the feeling that, before this virus is under control, I’ll be getting done a number of things that have been on the back burner for quite some time.

On today’s to-list: Get bike out of cellar, pump up tires, and take bike for a spin.

A city in corona mode (and I don’t mean beer)

14 Mar

Greetings from Vienna in an “Ausnahmesituation”. (I’ve just realized I am not sure of the English for that. “Ausnahme” is not as strong as “emergency” but it does tell us that it is certainly not business as usual. LEO tells me it means “exceptional circumstances”.)

So how has the coronavirus so far changed how we live and do business?

One of the biggest changes I see at the moment (other than the fairly empty trams ;-)) is that, as the ORF website put it this morning, “Nichts mehr ist selbstverstaendlich” or “We can’t take anything for granted anymore.” The ORF has been sending out updates every hour or so instead of every few days. From hour to hour the situation changes.

Yesterday St. Anton and Panzauntal were put under quarantine. This morning a ski resort in Carinthia, Heiligenblut, was added to the list.

The universities switched to online learning last Wednesday. As of Monday, schools will be closed.

A few days ago, indoor public gatherings of more than 100 people (and outdoor gatherings of more than 500) were banned. (Vienna without concerts–otherwise unimaginable!) Yesterday we heard that as of next week restaurants and so on will only be open until 3 p.m. and night spots will be closed until further notice. Most stores will be closed as of Monday, although (luckily) for the time-being supermarkets, pharmacies, and banks, among other exceptions, will stay open as usual. (More about the supermarkets in another post.)

Many employees have already started working from home. As of next week it will be more. (I’m wondering how well that will work with the schools closing and am glad that I “only” have a dog.)

Of course, all of these measures are being imposed by the government. I will say openly that I am not a fan of the current chancellor in general, but I feel the Austrian government under his guidance (as well as the City of Vienna government) is responding well–clearly, calmly, unequivocally, and willing to make what could be unpopular decisions.

There have been calls for solidarity, a very special word in European politics, not just because of the Solidarity movement in Poland, and apparently people are responding. In a city where, in many cases, people are only on nodding terms with their neighbors, we are being encouraged to look out for older people and others who are especially at risk, and offer to run errands for them. Exceptional circumstances, indeed!

This will not be my only post on the subject, I’m sure. In fact, I’m creating a special coronavirus tag. But I need to go now. I got my groceries at 8:00 this morning but have realized that I need more paper for the printer if I’m going to be working from home, and Libro (office supply store) is presumably one of the ones that will be closed after today.

May my readers be of good health and cheer through these exceptional circumstances!

A glossary

4 Mar

For a long time I’ve been meaning to write up a glossary for the Viennese concepts I find hard to translate. This seems like a good time to get started. (I’ll add to this as I go along.)

Magistratsabteilung or MA – a city office responsible for a specific task, e.g., the MA 48 is the city sanitation office.

Melange – a kind of coffee typically made from espresso, hot milk, and milk foam. Anyone who has ordered a melange knows, however, that this is not carved in stone. (In fact, it’s somewhat disputed.)

Schmäh – a special kind of Viennese humor that should come with a winky emoji.

Trafik – a small store with a special license to sell cigarettes, tickets for the public transportation, and lottery tickets, for example. The practice started after the First World War, if I remember correctly, to create jobs for wounded veterans.

A new corner of Vienna, and a new idea

2 Nov

It is (still) autumn and for me, after so many years of living according to the academic calendar, it is (still) the time to start new endeavors.

In my last post, I said I’d like to start exploring the neighborhoods around underground (subway / metro) stations I don’t know. Rather without meaning to, I seem to have started a second project along the same lines. I have done two sections of the Rundumadum hiking trail, the trail that takes you through Vienna’s “Grüngürtel” or “green belt”, and am thinking I’d like to walk the whole thing.

Stay tuned and keep an eye out for the dedicated tag “Rundumadum”.

Three Kings 2018

6 Jan

Just went out with my dog and discovered a large group of Japanese tourists walking around looking somewhat at a loss. It’s Three Kings today and a holiday in Austria  and therefore the shops are closed. Poor things. Their tour guide doesn’t seem to have taken that into account.

Holiday Opening Hours 

2 Jan

I went off today with some doubt to one of the public universities where I teach. I needed to pick up exams to grade, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get in. I suspect many years ago, when I first arrived in Vienna, that the university would have been closed through Three Kings Day (January 6). Today I used my key card and got in with no trouble. From the lights visible in offices I could even see I was not alone. Quite a surprise for me.

Vienna time

14 Nov

Some of my readers know that I have been in the U.S.A. for a few months now. Shortly, I will be heading back to my life in Vienna. It’s been a wonderful time here and I am also looking forward to going back.

I’m looking forward to going back partly because of a photo a friend sent of the vineyards in Neustift magnificent in their autumnal splendor, but it was also helped by a drive to visit friends outside of Boston yesterday. I realize that along with Hall’s concept of monochronic and polychronic time and Levine’s studies of the pace of life there is another aspect of time not yet researched (that I know of)–when the periods of high activity are vs. the periods of low activity. I assumed (having now internalized Viennese time in a way I wasn’t aware of) that my hour and a half drive on Sunday morning at least would be restful. (I was mentally prepared for a Sunday afternoon rush hour.) I thought people would be enjoying a quiet Sunday morning at home with family, the newspaper, and a nice breakfast. Imagine my shock when by 10 a.m. the traffic was only slightly less heavy and fast than on a weekday. (The drive back late Sunday afternoon was completely overwhelming to someone who avails herself of public transportation wherever possible.)

The other side of this is that I’ll be going to the supermarket today and expect to have an easy time of it. This is something I try to avoid in Vienna as a lot of people go on Monday because the stores are closed (thank God) on Sundays. My experience here over the last few months tells me I’ll probably have an easy drive and short lines at the cash registers. Many people did their shopping yesterday instead.

Different periods of high activity and low activity …