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.

Subdued

12 Apr

That is the word that, for me, describes the mood in Vienna this Easter weekend. It’s common to have little traffic in Vienna at this time of year because so many people who live in Vienna go back to their hometowns to celebrate Easter with their families. This year, this kind of traveling around is being discouraged to prevent the virus traveling with people. This means that there are more residents in the city than there ordinarily would be, but we all seem to be maintaining a respectful quietness. Yesterday and perhaps today I would have expected some loud music at least, but we seem to be quite subdued.

Fresh air

4 Apr

Every morning I get out of bed and open the window to sniff the air and see what kind of day it is. We are just wrapping up Week 3 of our lockdown and, after reading about the reduction of air pollution in places like Wuhan and Los Angeles, every morning I have been hoping that the air would be noticeably fresher. And every morning it still had the metallic bite characteristic of air in Vienna. Until about two days ago, when the air was suddenly softer and even held a trace of sweet spring smells. In the parks it’s even more obvious. Fresh air!

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.

Day 11 – There are signs in the parks

26 Mar

These are new. As the weather gets warmer probably a necessary precaution. I wish the teams of young men hanging them up had thought to take the advised distance into account, though. They were separated only by the thickness of the tree, one holding and one tying.

The ORF reporting in the time of the coronavirus

25 Mar

As I was listening to the news this morning I was impressed and grateful for the ORF coverage and general approach to reporting on the coronavirus crisis. One thing they have done is set up a toll-free number where people can call and leave their questions on an answering machine. The questions are then grouped according to concern, the ORF has people getting definitive answers, and the answers are announced on the news. After that, the questions and answers are available on their website. A real service in a time when clear and reliable information helps people take the steps they need to take.

The ORF, by the way, is the national broadcasting corporation in Austria, rather like the BBC is in the U.K.

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!

12 & 13 – Zentralfriedhof to Waldschule Lobau (almost)

22 Mar

Full disclosure: The walk itself was three weeks ago. This is the first chance I’ve had to post in anything like the detail I would like. There is something to be said for this coronavirus lockdown.

So, I know! Two in one! Well, they were short and the public transporation routes to get there were relatively long … Also I was hiking with a friend. And wouldn’t you know it–I warned him that I had hardly had a walk along the Rundumadum trail without getting lost but we didn’t get lost once. He must have thought I am unusually incompetent at finding and following trail markers!

What was special about this for me, on top of the fact that we crossed the Danube canal and the Danube itself (see photos), was that once again in the middle of a residential area in the 11th district there were fields to walk through. Vienna is such an amazing city that way.

It was an easy walk (this part of Vienna is very flat) and I remember the the weather being a bit friendlier than it looks in the photos. It was chilly though. Difference between a New England upbringing and an Austrian upbringing, albeit in Carinthia where they still get proper winters? I didn’t bother to bring gloves because the forecast said it would be 12°C and my friend wore gloves because we were only going to get 12°C. (Mind you, I’ve gotten soft after over 30 years in Austria. I wished I had had gloves!)

Special sights along this trail other than the fields and the Danube: some early blossoms, some rather ugly public housing from the 60s and 70s, the Cemetery of the Nameless, where unknown dead who are fished out of the Danube are buried, a hydroelectric dam, and, more or less at the end of the route, a famous Gasthaus, Roter Hiasl. (To be precise, we didn’t actually go through the cemetery. We walked by it and talked about it. Then, for me, it was quite exciting to finally find out how to pronounce the name of the Gasthaus and why it is pronounced the way it is–“Hias” is short for “Matthias” and the “L” on the end makes it diminutive. In translation the name of the restaurant would be something the Little Red Matthew.)

We caved and stopped at Little Red Matthew’s place. We didn’t quite make it to the Waldschule. Next time …

Trail number 12

Distance: 3.5 km

Time: Approx. 1 hour

Link: https://www.wien.gv.at/umwelt/wald/freizeit/wandern/rundumadum/etappe12.html

Trail number 13

Distance: 4.3 km

Time: Approx. 1.5 hours

Link: https://www.wien.gv.at/umwelt/wald/freizeit/wandern/rundumadum/etappe13.html

Special coronavirus opening hours

21 Mar

Maylo and I are still in bed as I write this. We would get up (it has stopped raining), but then we would get to the Trafik before they opened and not be able to get treats (Maylo) and Saturday newspaper and instant lottery ticket (me). They’re opening an hour later than usual for the time being. Special coronavirus opening hours.