Archive | The many faces of Vienna RSS feed for this section

Vienna City Marathon (VCM) 2022 – tidbits

24 Apr

As I look over my notes, scribbled while watching the marathon on TV, I’m not quite sure to begin. Perhaps at the beginning. 😉 I missed it, sadly, but the event was opened with speech from Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen, who emphasized the themes of this year’s marathon: joy, togetherness, and peace. (He was also reponsible for the starting signal, which worked, thank goodness, even though the bell fell off the can. [Sorry if that is not the correct terminology. I hope you can picture it nonetheless.]) The themes were highlighted by some of ORF footage, including an enormous “Stop War” banner on Stephansdom and a “Stand with Ukraine” banner on the Burgtheater, where the race ends.

As always, the commentary focused mainly on the first man, the first woman, the first Austrian man or, in this case, men, and the first Austrian woman. And as usual there was a lot to say what with giving running histories and personal interest stories — that the winner of the men’s race, Cosmas Matolo Muteti, placed 5th in Berlin in September 2021, that Vibian Chepkirui, winner of the women’s race, was defending her title, that one of the top Austrian men, Timon Theuer, has had a run of bad luck, which continued in this race as he fell and injured his hip at eight-kilometer mark and gave up finally because of the pain at about the 32-kilometer mark, that his pacemaker had planned to bow out at about the 30-kilometer mark but felt great so just kept going and crossed the finish line in 19th place. In fact, Muteti also commented that he could feel it was a really good day for him and so sped up to pass the leader, Oqbe Kibrom of Eritrea, who ended up coming in third, and so managed to cross the finish line first and with great panache.

As usual, I went down to watch the top runners go by at the stretch near me and was sad to realize I had missed the top men runners. (Boy, they must have been fast this year!) I made it just in time to see the leading Austrian man, Lemawork Ketema, go by and then Chepkirui, who was at that point still clearly in the lead of the women’s race. I waited about 15 minutes to see if the first Austrian woman would go by, but there was no sign of anyone. It turned out there was no top runner and, in fact, there was some question at the end as to who the fastest Austrian woman was. It turned out to be Anna Holzmann with a net time of 3:03:59, about a minute and a half faster than Carola Bendl-Tschiedl, the first Austrian woman to actually cross the finish line. (The start, as you can imagine with over 30,000 runners, is staggered.)

The men’s race was close at the end and exciting. The women’s race had me shouting at the TV it was so thrilling. Chepkirui was in the lead but Ruth Chebitok was catching up so fast and running so well that it really wasn’t clear if Chepkirui would find enough left inside herself to stay in the lead. She did, however, and, perhaps because of the pressure from Chebitok, broke the course record (Nancy Kiprop’s record) with a time of 2:20:59. Chebitok came in four seconds behind her. It galled me that although there were interviews with three of the men (the winner, the first Austrian, and the pacemaker who completed the race) there were none with the women, in spite of that spectacular run. Of course, there could be other reasons than unconscious bias for that omission — Chepkirui was clearly exhausted at the end or perhaps she doesn’t speak English and they didn’t want to spring for an interpreter — and then again it could be unconscious bias. ORF take note!

In any case, it was a Kenyan day. Out of the six top runners, the three men and the three women, five were Kenyan. And the Kenyan fan base went wild (see photo of my TV). I also thought it was lovely that in the photo session after the award ceremony Muteti, who had done his victory lap wrapped in a Kenyan flag, shared that flag with Chepkirui (other photo, from the ORF website).

For more info:

https://wien.orf.at/stories/3153155/

https://www.vienna-marathon.com/

And I have put the 2023 VCM into my calendar already — April 23rd!

A peace tree

27 Mar
In front of a school in the 18th district

As spring comes in full force to Vienna we continue to keep our Ukrainian neighbors in our hearts as the war rages on. Schoolchildren in the 18th district were inspired to express their desire for peace and their solidarity with Ukraine in this way.

With many thanks to my friend Petra for the photo.

A photo of Maylo (by special request)

24 Nov

All 5 kgs of him on the banks of the Donaukanal a week or two ago.

20 & 21 – Wagramer Straße to Brünner Straße

21 Nov

It seemed like a good idea to get in a couple more stretches of the Rundumadum hiking trail before we go into lockdown again tomorrow (even though we will still be allowed to walk outside with close friends for purposes of physical and psychological recreation) so off we went.

The weather was suitable for November, as you can see on the photos–a gray, slightly melancholy day–and it was a good day for walking. This is a mood I love in Vienna, like a physical expression of the melancholy underlying the lighter side of life here. It’s not all waltzing and champagne, or concerts and cakes, especially not in the middle of a pandemic.

The Wiener Linien (public transit authorities in Vienna) rather fell down on the job today as they did last time, at least as far as the busses went. We arrived punctually at Süßenbrunn train station to catch the bus that was to take us to the starting point of our first stretch. It never came. On the other end, we arrived at the bus stop with about five minutes to spare and waited almost 15 minutes. That one never came either. What with walking from Süßenbrunn to Bettelheimstraße and then from Erbpostgasse to Stammersdorf, I estimate we covered 10 km today, about 1.5 more than intended. Thank goodness for good shoes!

Like the last few stretches, these were flat, with small ponds. (The swimming pond for Gerasdorf bei Wien looked especially inviting–or would in summer.) There are still signs of agriculture, including some vineyards :-), and we saw quite a few horses, yet there was also a lot of building going on, the cranes quite visible on the horizon. Given my tendency to pessimism, I did wonder how much longer there would be any fields left. All the more reason, I suppose, to enjoy them while one can.

At Gerasdorf we crossed the state line from Vienna into Lower Austria. One moment we were in Gerasdorf, the next we were in Gerasdorf bei Wien with the blue and yellow logo (I don’t know what else to call it–it isn’t the coat of arms) of Lower Austria. A small, mostly attractive, town, very quiet on a Sunday morning. There were a few people about, mainly walking dogs, but no cafés or restaurants open, even though they don’t have to close until tomorrow. About the liveliest place was the “Hundezone,” a rather bare and not overly large rectangle of earth clearly delineated by a chainlink fence. Outside were acres and acres of fields and other green areas. It seemed a bit senseless to me, and we didn’t go in.

The next stretch went along the Marchfeldkanal (canal) for a long stretch. We enjoyed the crows and magpies and got into an interesting discussion on the–as any student of German knows–often senseless gender assignment of different creatures or objects. Magpies and crows are feminine (“die Elster” and “die Krähe”) while bird as a generic term is masculine (“der Vogel”). Larger birds of prey like the eagle are, apparently, more typically male, a point my (male) hiking companion seemed to take greater exception to than I did.

As we got closer to Brünner Straße (the road to Brunn or Brno in the Czech Republic), the landscape changed slightly. It became more wooded and slightly, but only very slightly, hillier. The bus stop was opposite a rather garish industrial structure in the middle of what was otherwise fields and woods, closed, of course, on Sunday. Given that the bus did not arrive and the next one was scheduled for an hour later, we were happy that there was a nice little path running along the road that took us to the tram in Stammersdorf.

Trail 20

Distance: 3 km

Time: 45 minutes to an hour

Link: https://www.wien.gv.at/umwelt/wald/freizeit/wandern/rundumadum/etappe20.html

Trail 21

Distance: 5.5 km

Time: 1.5 to 2 hours

Link: https://www.wien.gv.at/umwelt/wald/freizeit/wandern/rundumadum/etappe21.html

First anniversary of the terrorist attack at Schwedenplatz

2 Nov

And a beautiful day after rain earlier. Maylo and I took a walk along the Danube Canal.

VCM 2021 – Some impressions

13 Sep

The Vienna City Marathon (VCM) is back, in its 38th iteration, and like many things that had to take a break at the height of the pandemic, it felt really special. The ORF (Austrian Broadcasting) wrote that it brought victories for unexpected contenders—and it did.

My ritual on VCM days hasn’t changed. I watch the beginning on TV, then walk down to a stretch near me to see the first runners go by (first man, first woman, first Austrian man, first Austrian woman), and then I walk home to watch the rest on TV. My dog, Maylo, really gets into the spirit, as you can see. 😉

And so it was that I saw Derera Hurisa, the frontrunner for almost all of the marathon, running with the total focus top marathoners seem to have. (Do they even notice us cheer and clap?) He was surrounded by the three or so people who were left in the lead after several had dropped out or dropped back. Then came Vibian Chebkirui, the first woman, alone except for her pacemaker.

First Austrian man, even at that point, was Martin Mistelbauer in something of an upset, clearly having a good day and running with great panache. Finally, gamely, came Victoria Schenk, a school teacher and track and field athlete, who was expected to—and did—win the Austrian title in the women’s race. I say “gamely” because there were times when she was clearly struggling and it almost hurt to watch.

Some firsts (I think):

  • The date (usually the VCM is run in April)
  • Couples in ball dress (right down to long white gloves on the women) waltzing at the Rathaus to provide some entertainment and applauding the top ten runners as they came in
  • A group playing Japanese drums spurring on the (Japanese?) runners
  • Cheerleaders in front of the State Opera
  • Descriptions of the clothes people were wearing (e.g., “neon orange top, black shorts and white shoes”)
  • One of the hobby runners in the half marathon collapsing right near the finish line of the full marathon and needing the ambulance so that Vibian Chebkirui, the leading woman, had to swerve to avoid them and to complete the race (she did this with great goodwill and grace)
  • Four Japanese runners (men) in the top contenders, one of whom, Kento Kikutani, came in (in the final reckoning) fourth (three of these four placed in the top ten)
  • I write “in the final reckoning” above because Derera Hurisa, who crossed the finish line first, was, heartbreakingly, disqualified for wearing shoes that didn’t meet the relatively new regulations, which moved all the other men up one slot
  • Not quite as sad but nonetheless something of an upset: the favorite among the women, Gelete Burka, took a tumble about an hour into the race and lost her lead, coming in third
  • The Kenyans on the podium (Vibian Chebkirui, Edwin Kosgei, and Leonard Langat) didn’t look very happy although the Ethiopians (Gelete Burka, Meseret Dinke, and Betesfa Getahun) did—even though it was their countryman who was disqualified

Some fixtures:

  • The route with shots, some aerial, of this gorgeous city (see photos)
  • The enthusiastic ORF (Austrian Broadcasting) commentary

I’m not sure at which point I became a convert to watching (but never running!) the marathon. I used to wonder at anyone who wanted to participate in such a race when the first person to run that distance dropped dead after delivering his message. Now I find it fascinating and am always surprised that two and a half hours have gone by so quickly. I also greatly enjoy the interviews afterwards with the athletes.

I’m glad it’s back, next year in April again—Sunday, 24 April 2022.

Some more info (in German): https://sport.orf.at/stories/3084493

Official VCM website (also in English): https://www.vienna-marathon.com/

40 demonstrations

15 May

My heart goes out to the police in Vienna today. After over a year of extra work enforcing the pandemic restrictions, they now have to deal with 40 demonstrations in downtown Vienna today. Some are against the (ever more quickly vanishing) covid restrictions and some are to do with the situation in the Middle East. I can’t even imagine how you fit 40 demonstrations into the first district!

May Day or International Workers Day 2021

1 May

Things that aren’t happening that are a reminder of the pandemic: the annual May Day parades organized by the Social Democrats, a political force to be reckoned with in Vienna. Today the street outside my window is quiet. No brass bands are playing as the loyal SPÖ members make their way to the City Hall to celebrate this international day of blue-collar workers. Instead here is at least a photo of the flags I saw on our morning walk:

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.

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.)