Only in Austria?

5 Jan

Austria has the reputation of being “gemütlich”–one of those words that is well-nigh impossible to translate. If you look in the dictionary, the primary suggestion is “comfortable” but “gemütlich” means much more than that. It implies, among other things, an appreciation for a slower pace of life and a preference for quality of life (if a choice must be made) over standard of living as well as for relaxation over precision.

At the same time, it’s not uncommon for Austrians to be very pragmatic in their pursuit of “Gemütlichkeit”. The image above, from today’s Kurier, informs readers of the best times to take vacation, where “best” is defined as getting the most days off while still using the fewest vacation days (and this in a country where five weeks of vacation per year is the legal minimum).

How does this work? Because Austria, unlike the U.S.A., celebrates its holidays on the day they happen, we have something called “window days” (“Fenstertage”). These are the days that fall between a holiday and a weekend. The graphic above shows where the window days fall in 2019, making it easier for people to get the most out of their vacation days.

Only in Austria?

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A particular Vienna kind of cold

2 Jan

My thermometer is pointing to 3°C above zero, but I have just gotten back from a dogwalk that felt a lot colder. There is a special combination of wind and damp in Vienna (“hands and feet weather” I call it) that makes even this vegetarian look longingly at the fur coats going by.

Add to that the fact that there has been thick, dark gray cloud cover all day and you have a fairly typical January day in Vienna.

Anyone want to come visit? 😉

“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.