Tag Archives: government offices

The Trafik

14 Sep

Trafik is what English (EFL) teachers call a “false friend”. It may make the English speakers reading my blog think of “traffic” as in cars, yet it means something completely different in Austrian German, is something I think of as very European, and it, too, is changing.

First of all, a Trafik is a small, neighborhood store that has government concessions to sell tobacco products, some postage stamps, lottery tickets, pay-and-display parking stubs, and tickets for public transportation. (They also used to sell the dreaded Stempelmarken–those stamps you had to buy for any official transaction, for example, making a visa application. This particular system has since been modernized.) From my time in France–granted, over thirty years ago now–I seem to remember that there was an equivalent, the Tabac.

In addition to cigarettes and so on the Trafiks sell newspapers and magazines, smoking paraphernalia, greeting cards, wrapping paper, and such and are very much a part of everyday life in Vienna. I have the impression that most Viennese have one Trafik they always go to. I have four within a five-minute walk from my apartment and still almost always go to the same one, even though they weren’t all that friendly to me until I walked in the first time with Mylo. ūüėČ

Trafiks traditionally have played a significant role in Gr√§tzl* life. As one Trafikant (proprietor of a Trafik), interviewed in today’s Kurier, said, “Our customers and we were like family. People exchanged news about the Gr√§tzl, sport, and politics. We knew who had died and when a new baby had been born. It was really nice in the Trafik.” In fact, to visit another European country briefly, in a few of her crime novels set in Venice Donna Leon has her police detective, Brunetti, get invaluable information from the Italian equivalent. The people in the Trafik simply know what is going on in the ‘hood.

But apparently, what with changes in the Trafikgesetz (Trafik laws) and in the concessions they have, ever more Trafiks are having trouble making a real living and, as is possible in a highly centralized administrative system, the government office responsible for regulating them can simply decide to close some down. According to today’s Kurier that government office is planning to close down about 10% of the existing 2600 Trafiks in Austria in the next four years.

Now I hear the free-market capitalists out there saying, “So what? That makes sense.” At this point I need to bring in some additional information. It has always been my understanding that many of the Trafikanten have disabilities that make it hard for them to get other work. One of the points of the Trafik system is to provide them with a moderately pleasant way of making a living and knowing that they are a part of and contributing to society. The Kurier article makes the same point. Some Trafikanten will retire, some will (have to) find other jobs, and the ones with disabilities will simply be out of a job.

For me, old-fashioned person that I am in some ways, it is simply a further sign of the deterioration of organic, local community. And I find myself paraphrasing Winston in 1984: Don’t close down my Trafik. Do it to someone else!

* See here for a brief definition of Grätzl.

All references in this post to the Kurier are to the article “Abschied von der Trafik-Kultur” by Michael Berger.

Regeneration of a district – Neu Marx

20 Jun

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This morning Mylo and I took a trip out to a part of the 3rd district I haven’t been to in ages, if ever. We needed at health certificate for him for reasons that belong in another blogpost and had to go out to the MA (Magistratsabteilung) 60 to get it.

They are based in an area that used to house the stockyards and the slaughterhouses, as the photo above suggests, and are located on a street that did not appear on my 25-year-old map. (It didn’t matter. I asked a construction worker who at first said he was sorry they came in from M√∂dling and didn’t know the area. It was clear from his accent that he originally came from somewhere outside Austria, possibly Hungary, and, indeed, he then lit up and said, “The street named for the Hungarian comedian, Karl Farkas?” and pointed me in the right direction.)

In addition to the monumental statues of steers on the gates to the stockyards, there is other evidence of the past uses of the space–for example, an enormous building still called the “Rinderhalle” or “beef hall” and the Municipal Vocational School for Butchers (photo below). In true Vienna fashion there is also much for the 21st century. The Campus Vienna Biocenter, one of the leading international biomedical research centers, is out there, too. And there are a number of cheerful eateries that lend life and gaiety to the neighborhood.

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I’ll be going back–not just because we couldn’t get everything accomplished today (also in true Vienna fashion)!

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Lavender

5 Jun

It strikes me as one of the best ideas of the Office of Parks (and they have a lot of good ideas)–planting lavender upstairs at Schottentor, what I call the windiest corner in Vienna. Not only does it look nice, it smells wonderful in the wind that constantly blows off the slopes of Kahlenberg down W√§hringer Stra√üe into Vienna.

Lavender at Schottentor

Lavender at Schottentor

 

MA 42 – Parks and gardens

15 Aug

I’m still not going to do a proper post on this “Magistratsabteilung” but I did want to give an example of their work. Someone chooses a mixture of flowers that is then planted in all the public places. This photo was taken at a traffic triangle near me. When they put these flowers in I was skeptical that they would amount to anything. Now that the plants have grown and filled in, though, I think it is a most successful combination.

This season’s choice

Things growing in Vienna

30 Jun

In addition to the wonderful things planted and maintained by the MA 42 (Magistratsabteilung 42 – The municipal parks and gardens services), which does such a good job they deserve a post devoted entirely to their work, there are a number of other things growing in Vienna. This spring I became aware of some communal gardens near the university campus, where dedicated amateur gardeners are growing vegetables and some flowers. It’s a wonderful idea and terrific use of land that was otherwise just being wasted. Here is a photo to show what great results they have already gotten, where the growing season has really just started.

Communal gardens

Not far from there on a traffic circle, beautifully planted in yellow and purple by the park and gardens services, is a sunflower that was planted by an anonymous beautifier:

Sunflower in a traffic circleHow do I know that it didn’t plant itself? Because it has a sign:

The sign says: Please water me. THANK YOU! Your Alsergrund “Gr√§tzl*”-Sunflower.

* The word “Gr√§tzl” also deserves its own post, it has so many associations. Short version: It is Viennese dialect and refers to one’s neighborhood.

Dogs in Vienna (4)

22 Apr

We are in the middle of a “police action” against dogs and dog owners. That is, for two weeks the police in Vienna will be on the lookout for infractions of various dog-related laws, like the leash law and (one hopes) the pooper scooper law. This made headlines in the local newspapers. As one friend of mine said, “I find it very fair that they give us notice.”

I think this a really good (and, basically, very Viennese) way of approaching the topic. Let’s face it–the police have enough to do without¬†prosecuting every person with a gentle, well-behaved dog for not having the animal on a leash. By putting a time limit on the “action” and in that time period being very strict, the police remind dogowners what their actual responsibilities are. Everybody is made to think twice. And then the police can, in¬†good conscience,¬†go back to chasing bank robbers, purse snatchers and dogowners who are endangering others with out-of-control pets.

It gets the message across without making the lives of the police officers, many of whom seem sympathetic to dogs and owners wanting some freedom from the leash,  harder.

Taking care of trash in Vienna

14 Jan

I’m thinking of starting my spring cleaning early this year. Why spend the first beautiful days of spring shoveling out your apartment when you can be out in the Vienna Woods?

With this in mind, I have spent some time online this morning straightening out in my mind what kind of trash goes where and have found that the City of Vienna has a clear and well-organized system of recycling and trash disposal. (No surprise there. From my early days onward I have been impressed with the Viennese awareness of what is environmentally friendly.)

Before we go any further I would just like to clarify for those who don’t speak German that Mist is what informally is called a false friend. It sounds like the English word that means fog but in German means rubbish or trash and also manure or other animal droppings. You’ll see why this is important in a moment.

What I have found out so far is that, on top of the recycling program in Vienna, there is a difference between Restm√ľll, Problemstoffe, and Sperrm√ľll and that these go to different places.

Restm√ľll is your basic household trash after you have separated out paper, glass, and plastic for recycling. This is the stuff you put in your house’s trash container.

Problemstoffe include things like old ink cartridges from your computer printer, old medication, leftover oil and other fats from cooking, and batteries. For this there are fixed spots where you can drop off your problem trash as well as trucks that travel around Vienna on a schedule collecting these items (see http://www.wien.gv.at/umwelt/ma48/entsorgung/problemstoffsammlung/ for venues and times).

Sperrm√ľll includes items that are too big or problematic in terms of their materials to go into your household trash or the Problemstoffsammlung. This can include old mattresses, broken furniture, certain kinds of treated wood and so on. I’m assuming that this is where I should be taking my big old suitcase that didn’t survive its most recent trip. These items should be brought to a Mistplatz (for information about Mistpl√§tze see http://www.wien.gv.at/umwelt/ma48/entsorgung/mistplatz/index.html).

What I’m planning to try out this year is the 48er-Basar (48 because that is the number of the magistrate’s office responsible for waste disposal), a kind of flea market or bazaar organized by the City of Vienna. You can drop off old but still usable items at any Mistplatz and they will be sold for a minimal amount at the ongoing flea market (current opening hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) in the 22nd district.

The great temptation will probably be to buy some things there myself but that, of course, might defeat the purpose of spring cleaning!