Tag Archives: holidays

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception

8 Dec

The Trafik was closed this morning! I knew today is a holiday. When I woke up I suspected that was why I was able to sleep late on a Saturday. However, many years ago, the government decided to allow shops to open on Mariä Empfängnis so that people could do their Christmas shopping. That made me think our Trafik would be open, too.

Instead, disappointment was great. Maylo pulled me over with great enthusiasm right up to the door and then looked at me as if to say, “What’s happening? Where are they?” And I had to explain that they were having a well-deserved day off.

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A new corner of Vienna

26 Oct

Somehow I find myself avoiding my usual corners of Vienna, like Neuwaldegg or Nussberg. They’ve been so crowded recently that I’ve hardly enjoyed my walks there with Maylo. I think it’s great that so many people are out in our beautiful fall weather getting some exercise and fresh air. I just don’t want to share the space with all of them. It isn’t very restful.

Today, on the Nationalfeiertag (celebration of Austria’s neutrality clause after the Second World War), Maylo and I followed up a tip from another dog person and took the U1 out to its new (to me) terminus, Oberlaa, where there’s a clinic / spa with thermal waters.

 

My ancient (1988) Baedeker’s Austria tells me that the Kurzentrum Wien-Oberlaa is a “spa treatment establishment” opened in 1974, a date that doesn’t surprise me as it showed up constantly on the various signs in the Kurpark. The site was the scene of the Vienna International Garden Show in 1974, and a number of attractions in this 860,000-square-meter green space, like the sculpture on the Rosenhügel or the Japanese garden, date back from that year.

 

Unlike many of Germany and Austria’s spa towns, Oberlaa does not seem to have a long history of people taking the waters there in spite of the fact that they, according to my Baedeker’s, have one of the strongest and hottest sulfur springs in Austria. (I figured out about the sulfur without Baedeker’s help. You smell it the moment you get out of the underground station.) So it’s not very traditional but they wasted no time in establishing two things essential to any Kurort: the park and a famous patisserie.

The park, true to Kurparks everywhere, is a carefully controlled environment suitable to people being treated for various maladies. There are paved paths, railings, lots of benches to rest on, carefully tended flowerbeds and lawns, and completely tamed bodies of water. It’s also suitable for people staying for several weeks at a time, providing different attractions like a petting zoo, restaurants, different kinds of gardens including an allergy garden(!), and, no doubt, somewhere a gazebo for concerts on fine days. We wouldn’t want people to get bored while they’re being treated!

 

Maylo and I didn’t make it to the patisserie, Kurkonditorei Oberlaa, but we wandered about the park and enjoyed ourselves, catching the impressively clean and quick U1 back into town when we had had enough.

Our excursion has inspired me to start a new practice. I’m going to try to get around to all the underground stations in Vienna to see what is there, focusing especially on those stations I don’t go to regularly. Look for more under the tag “U-Bahn stations”.

A note for my readers not familiar with the Austrian concept of Kur. A Kur is a stay, usually about three weeks, at a nice, although sometimes somewhat clinical, hotel at a place with special springs where various medical conditions are treated. Several of my friends have been on Kur for intensive physiotherapy. It’s almost de rigeur after major surgery. And sometimes it is prescribed simply because people are feeling run down. It sounds like something for rich people and did use to be. The aristocracy of Europe used to run into each other at Kurorte all over Germany and Austria and similar places of healing in Switzerland (those sanatoriums!). These days, though, it is prescribed through the national health system here and patients pay only a tiny daily rate based on their income. There’s something (else) to be said for social democracy.

This means that a Kurort is a town with such an establishment, a Kurpark is a park attached to such an establishment, and a Kurkonditorei is a Konditorei or patisserie especially associated with such an establishment, essential because the Austrians, on the whole, have never been all that good at denying themselves the pleasures of life if they could help it.

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.

May Day 2018

1 May

Many years on I still can’t get over it–public transportation is running today. My first year in Vienna I was invited to lunch by friends. In plenty of time, I went to the bus stop only to find that public transport wasn’t running because it was not only a public holiday, it was the First of May and therefore Labor Day, the day we celebrate by not working. In those days, the Social Democrats had an absolute majority in Vienna (“Red Vienna,” after all). They mainly represent blue-collar workers (“Arbeiter” or laborers) and tram, bus, and train drivers count as blue-collar workers. They were freed from work until 2 p.m. so that they could enjoy the parades and other festivities. On that day I walked to lunch.

How times have changed. The Social Democrats have not had the absolute majority for many years. I know there was a lot of corruption in the party. Some of the most spectacular bankruptcies of the 1990s (I’m thinking particularly of the supermarket chain Konsum) were due to the mismanagement and corruption of people closely tied to the SPÖ (the Austrian Social Democratic Party). At the same time, many of the aspects that year after year take Vienna to the top of quality of life rankings are thanks to the Social Democrats–the great public transportation, amazing cultural life, super public facilities like swimming pools and skating rinks, humane public housing, low crime rate, and perhaps that most fantastic institution, the Vienna Woods. There is little hope that the new “turquoise” and blue government (a coalition of the new branch of the Conservatives and the right-wing nationalist Freedom Party) will carry on those traditions. How times have changed, here as elsewhere.

St. Patrick’s Day in Vienna

17 Mar

This scene was accompanied by music from a brass band in best Austrian tradition, but I was drawn by the sound of the pipes that preceded it.

Heringschmaus

10 Feb

“Heringschmaus” (one contributor to the online dictionary at leo.org suggested “herring delight” as a translation) is a traditional feast on Ash Wednesday. Now, if that sounds contradictory to you, then you are not alone. I come from the Protestant tradition, where there was certainly no feasting on Ash Wednesday. It was a day of great solemnity and deprivation, even though when I was a child we didn’t celebrate anything like Carnival so had nothing to recover from or make up for.

In the Austrian context–one of moderation in all things, even moderation–Heringschmaus makes sense, though. It goes along with the dearly held belief, in the meantime supported in some ways by medical studies, that eating “sour” things like pickles helps alleviate the symptoms of a (Mardi Gras) hangover. (The herring in this case is pickled and is eaten with pickled vegetables like beets and cabbage.) It also complies with the Catholic idea that eating fish is somehow penance (no meat).

What to do this year when Ash Wednesday coincides with Valentine’s Day? The Kurier is suggesting Heringschmaus by candlelight. Just thought I’d pass that tip along. 😉

Three Kings 2018

6 Jan

Just went out with my dog and discovered a large group of Japanese tourists walking around looking somewhat at a loss. It’s Three Kings today and a holiday in Austria  and therefore the shops are closed. Poor things. Their tour guide doesn’t seem to have taken that into account.