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Eating out

16 May

Yes, you read that correctly. As of yesterday our restaurants are open and people are allowed to eat out. There are, of course, certain restrictions, but they don’t seem that tough.

What is really interesting and, I feel, particularly Viennese is that the city of Vienna is issuing gift certificates to each household for use in a restaurant. EUR 25 for single households and EUR 50 for families. Gives new meaning to the expression “Put your money where your mouth is,” doesn’t it?

The victories of coronavirus shopping

21 Apr

VCM 2020

19 Apr

The Vienna City Marathon (VCM) 2020 has, of course, been canceled. It would have been held today, and the weather would have been good for it–not too hot or sunny and not much wind.

A few years ago I started writing the VCM date in my calendar so that I could set aside time to watch it undisturbed. This was after a number of years of having it on the TV in the background but not planning to really watch it. At some point I had to accept that it was oddly absorbing and enjoyable to watch people run for hours and that there was no point in trying to get anything else done while the VCM was on.

I still watch on TV but there is a point at which the runners pass about 10 minutes from my flat so I have taken to walking down there and cheering on the front runners: first man, first Austrian man, first woman, first Austrian woman. (I have never gotten the sense that they took in that we were there cheering, but I like to cheer them on nonetheless.)

There is a hole in my calendar this year where the VCM would have been. I’ll especially miss seeing Valentin Pfeil, a gifted and personable Austrian marathoner, and Nancy Kiprop, the Kenyan teacher who runs to earn funds for her school and has been the winner among the women three years in a row. I’ll miss the shots of this beautiful city I live in, the streets cleared of cars but lined with fans. I’ll miss the people who run it with a sense of fun, dressed up in silly costumes and not looking at the clock. I’ll miss the ORF commentary. And I’ll miss the stories of the runners and how they came to be in the VCM.

This, too, is a part of Vienna in the times of coronavirus.

The masks are coming out

31 Mar

Yesterday the government announced that as of tomorrow supermarkets will be handing out face masks to shoppers and we will not be allowed to shop without them. Suddenly, this morning I have seen several people wearing masks on the street. Probably a good precaution but eerie nonetheless.

Runners

28 Mar

Not me! I’m just a dog-walking observer. And as an observer I can’t help noticing how many more runners there are than there were just two weeks ago.

The other thing I’m noticing is how fast some of them are running. I still remember walking through Central Park in New York with my then Austrian partner, about 15 years ago, who couldn’t get over how fast all the runners were moving. Vienna was in the throes of the “slow running” fad, and until now I hadn’t really thought about it, but Vienna was still in the throes until the coronavirus lockdown started!

Clearly, there’s currently a lot of energy out there that is not getting used up in other ways.

Tuesday evenings

24 Mar

There is a store in Vienna called Eduscho or Tchibo. They technically sell coffee, but they also sell inexpensive consumer goods that change every week. The change is made on Tuesdays. So I am used to looking with great curiosity at what they have in their window when I walk by with Maylo on Tuesday evenings.

It is just one of many reminders that we are on coronavirus lockdown that the window has been the same for three weeks. I must confess I am getting a little tired now of the underwear in their shop window!

A crisis with an odd sense of comfort

16 Mar

Just a quick post today to say that two aspects of this coronavirus crisis are particularly disorienting here in Vienna.

One is that we are going through this in considerable comfort. As the child of two Europeans, both of whom grew up in war zones during the Second World War, I have always assumed that a crisis would be accompanied by severe rationing (=hunger, for years), cold, long stretches without water or electricity, not to mention the fear of having a bomb dropped on your head or the head of someone you loved. It is almost disturbing to have everything, including, so far, excellent internet, phone service, and so on. It seems it should be more painful!

Come to think of it, that is not only the impression I got from my parents. When you grow up in New England, as I did, you know there can be snowstorms that take out the power and telephone for days on end and therefore make sure you have food, wood, and water on hand. You know that you will have lots of time to read (provided you have alternative sources of light), but you don’t expect it to be really comfortable.

The second factor contributing to this sense of disorientation is the exquisite early spring weather we’re experiencing. How can something bad be happening when the sun is shining the way it is and blossoms and flowers are coming out?

It doesn’t seem possible–and yet it is.

Ausverkauft! (Sold out!)

11 Aug

I’m having a wonderful time reading Helmut Deutsch’s memoirs (a present from a kind and generous friend).

This greatest of Lieder accompanists, born and raised in Vienna, tells a good story. This one strikes me as quintessentially Viennese: Deutsch was one of two accompanists who regularly played for the incomparable Hermann Prey. On one occasion, Deutsch needed a ticket to a Prey recital in the Konzerthaus in Vienna. The posters for days had sported a bright red “Sold out” sign. Nonetheless, Deutsch went into the ticket office to see what could be done. To his great surprise, the lady behind the counter asked, “Stalls or balcony?” Deutsch drew her attention to the “Sold out” signs at which point she smiled and said, “No, not at all. It’s just that Kammersänger Prey likes so much to see the signs.” [“Nein, nein, der Herr Kammersänger hat das nur so gern.”] 🙂

Heatwave

28 Jul

It’s going to be hot the next few days. Here are a few tips from today’s Kurier on how how to stay cool in a city that until recently has largely eschewed air-conditioning.

1 Follow the heat-crazed tourists to the bars and restaurants of luxury hotels. Guaranteed temperature 19°C.

2 Go to a fishmonger’s. Hopefully, everything there is on ice.

3 Churches, basilica, and cathedrals. Now is the perfect time for appreciating art history and quiet reflection.

4 Cinema. Go to one matinee after the other.

Finally, you could get into your car, turn the air-conditioning on full blast, and drive for hours around the block.

I hope some of these tips help you enjoy the weekend.

New Mayor

26 May

I just feel I should report that after 23(?) years Vienna has a new mayor. Dr. Michael Häupl departed on Thursday and the new mayor, Dr. Michael Ludwig, has taken up the reins. Just FYI: It’s not a pre-requisite that you be called Michael to be mayor of Vienna. The one before Häupl was named Helmut … However, it does seem to help if you have a PhD.