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The vineyards in Vienna

29 Jul

Vienna is officially the city worldwide with the largest area within city limits devoted to vineyards. Just one of the many reasons I live here! 🙂

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Wien ist ein Dorf (Vienna is a village)

25 Jul

This evening I decided to try out a pizzeria, highly recommended by friends, near Maylo’s vet. The head waiter came to take my order and opened with “Hallo, Nachbarin!” (“Hello, neighbor!”) I looked up and saw the man who was my neighbor for a number of years before moving out a few years ago without a word to me. Vienna is, as people keep telling me, a village.

Pentecost Monday (holiday)

21 May

I found myself early-ish this morning, about 20 minutes on foot from Stephansplatz, the heart of the city, walking along in peace and quiet with a thrush singing from a rooftop on my right and a dove cooing in the park on my left. My heart sang along.

Shopping

21 Jan

I love shopping at Mastnak on Neubaugasse. It’s the epitome of the kind of specialty store Vienna used to have hundreds of (or perhaps thousands–I’m not very good with numbers).

In this case, their specialty is paper and office supplies, although they also have a very good arts and crafts department. A fews days ago when I was there, I was looking for refills for a four-color Lamy pen I’ve had since I was a teenager and erasers for a Faber-Castell propelling lead pencil. (You can keep your Mont Blancs and your Graf von Faber-Castels. I’m a middle-of-the-road kind of woman who appreciates quality and ease of writing but doesn’t want to take out a mortgage for a writing implement.)

I knew that I could get the Lamy refills because I have bought them there many times. I was less sure about the erasers, but having struck out at Libro (the Austrian equivalent of Staples, where I bought the pencil itself) I thought Mastnak was my best bet. I never should have doubted them. Even though I neglected to take the pencil to show them (Faber-Castell makes a lot of different models) they promptly took me to the right drawer and provided me with a pack of three erasers (the original eraser lasted at least five years so we’re talking fifteen years of use here) for a little over EUR 2. While I was there, I was reminded of the year I decided to use up old candle ends and make my own candles. I remembered how to do that from summer camp, but I had no idea where to get wicks. Well, that arts and crafts department I mentioned, which shares the floor with the pencil erasers–they sell wicks, among many other things.

For the record, I am someone who hates to throw out a toaster, for example, because I can’t repair it myself and the repair shop tells me it isn’t worth doing because the repair would cost twice what a new appliance would. I hate being made an accomplice to this wasteful, throwaway society we live in. For that reason, I deeply appreciate how the Mastnak product range and service make it possible to live an old-fashioned economical life, at least in my paper and office supplies. It makes possible a life where things (even old candle ends) aren’t just thrown away but are re-used.

As our grandparents could tell us, living economically in that way is also environmentally friendly. You don’t have to throw away the very nice propelling lead pencil because it doesn’t have an eraser anymore. You replace the eraser and get a couple more decades of use and pleasure out of it.  And beyond helping people recycle old candles and restore their mechanical pencils, Mastnak helps its customers live an environmentally friendly life by having a whole section of office products made, for example, from recycled paper. They even sell the inks you need to top up those refillable flipchart markers that most people don’t bother to refill, probably partly because it’s not easy to find the necessary ink.

Those aren’t the only points that make it a specialty store, though. Their staff know what they’re doing. They know where things are, even though the store is on several floors and has things squeezed into every corner. They understand what you need even from your rather flawed descriptions. And they are helpful. None of the quite common “Das gibt’s nicht” (“There’s no such thing”, which means “I’ve never heard of it” or “We don’t stock it” or maybe even “I’d have to get a ladder to get it down from the top shelf and that is just too much trouble”), which you might hear at other stores in Vienna. At Mastnak, they smile at you and lead you to the thing you’re looking for.

How can Mastnak survive, I hear you asking, when they take up time and space with erasers that only cost EUR 2 for a pack of three? For one thing, they sell Mont Blancs, too, and one Mont Blanc probably pays the rent for at least a week. For another thing, the store was crowded when I was there, with short lines at each of the several cash registers. They probably also have a thriving online business. Being lucky enough to live in this city, though, I’ve never used it.

The Third Day of Christmas

27 Dec

What a surprise it was to step onto the street today shortly after 8 a.m. for the first walk of the day and find people and cars and open shops and simply activity in general!

For many, my surprise will be incomprehensible. Was it really so quiet the last few days? Yup. Shops usually close in Vienna at midday on Christmas Eve and remain closed for Christmas Day and the Feast of Saint Stephen (known in the UK as Boxing Day). This year, however, Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday, when most shops are closed all day anyway, which meant that we have had three days of wonderful peace and quiet (and a most unusual abundance of free parking spaces) with the Viennese enjoying one of their favorite things–Ruhe (also known as peace and quiet).

A garage in Hernals

15 Sep

I’ve been meaning to take a photo of this for years. It is precisely the kind of building that is a perfect example of an earlier time and most likely to be torn down or converted into something else. In this case, although the building is much older, the fact that it is called a garage makes me think of the 1950s, when very few Viennese had cars and quite often they parked them in neighborhood garages, which were more like workshops than more modern parking garages. Mary Stewart describes just such a place in Marseilles in her wonderful romantic thriller Madam, Will You Talk?

garage on hernalser hauptstrasse_01

garage on hernalser hauptstrasse_03

Poisoning pigeons in the park ;-)

9 Jun

There are some new signs in the park. The ones exhorting dog owners to clean up after their pets have–temporarily, I imagine–been replaced by signs telling people that “Those who feed the pigeons are feeding the rats.”

don't feed the birds_modern

Interestingly, the fine is the same as if you don’t clean up after your dog–EUR 36.

There are permanent signs with the same message. They just aren’t as catchy–even if they are, in fact, more severe–and apparently needed some help to get the message across.

don't feed the birds_standard

The text (in my very inelegant translation): “No feeding the birds! (Prevention of rodent pests.)”