Tag Archives: shopping

The victories of coronavirus shopping

21 Apr

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.

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!

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.

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. ;-)]

Comings and goings

21 Dec

What a day! I wanted to get my pre-Christmas errands done today so that tomorrow I can do my bookkeeping and then I am on vacation. And I managed to get everything on my list done, plus one.

One of the first things Maylo and I did this morning was go to his vet’s. Her hours have changed and I’ve been busy, so I made one quick trip on my way home from work one day to pick up food for Maylo but had to go without him–and even in this digital age there are some things for which the physical beings need to be present. (I won’t go into details.)

I’m so glad we made it today. It was her last day of work before retirement. We might have missed her altogether and gone next year only to find an entirely new face and person there! We were able to say our thank yous and farewells and reminisce about December five years ago when we didn’t know if Maylo would keep his back leg after being hit by a car. (I always feel the need to say at this point that I was out of the country on a business trip when it happened, and Maylo was staying with people I know.)

On my final round of errands this afternoon, I found myself walking past a sewing notions shop (really, one of those specialty shops with every possible kind of button, thread, and clasp but with no fabrics). I’ve been going there off and on for years for those little things that can otherwise be hard to find. Remembering that I needed some Velcro, I stopped in–and discovered that the owner (a delightful, cheerful woman with all the expertise of an old-fashioned shopkeeper in Vienna) is also retiring. I’m glad I stopped in there, too, and was able to thank her for all her help over the years. I was also glad to meet her successor. I have been afraid for years that when she left, the shop would go.

But the title of this post is “Comings and goings,” which means that there is something new to report, too. A week or two ago I noticed a miniature shop called Deli Mediterraneo with Greek products. It is an exquisite, tiny shop with two Greek gentlemen who opened it on December 1. Although they also have expensive, truly gourmet things, they have some delicious olive oil, for example, at prices only slightly higher than the generic brand in my supermarket. And they let you taste them. Bliss.

I bought some Christmas presents there and promised to go back to pick up some things for the New Year’s Eve gathering I am hosting. I have already composed their back story in my mind. You may know that life in Greece is extremely difficult at the moment and has been for a number of years. My suspicion is that these two gentlemen decided to start over in a country where the economy is still in good shape. They were lovely and friendly, doing the best they could in the German they have learned, and I wish them all the very best. If you want to try out their olive oils or take a look at their cheeses and other products, then go to Alser Straße 39 (very near Humanic at the corner of Alser Straße and Skodagasse) and enjoy!

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.

Shopping

21 Jan

I love shopping at Mastnak on Neubaugasse. It’s the epitome of the kind of specialty store Vienna used to have hundreds of (or perhaps thousands–I’m not very good with numbers).

In this case, their specialty is paper and office supplies, although they also have a very good arts and crafts department. A fews days ago when I was there, I was looking for refills for a four-color Lamy pen I’ve had since I was a teenager and erasers for a Faber-Castell propelling lead pencil. (You can keep your Mont Blancs and your Graf von Faber-Castels. I’m a middle-of-the-road kind of woman who appreciates quality and ease of writing but doesn’t want to take out a mortgage for a writing implement.)

I knew that I could get the Lamy refills because I have bought them there many times. I was less sure about the erasers, but having struck out at Libro (the Austrian equivalent of Staples, where I bought the pencil itself) I thought Mastnak was my best bet. I never should have doubted them. Even though I neglected to take the pencil to show them (Faber-Castell makes a lot of different models) they promptly took me to the right drawer and provided me with a pack of three erasers (the original eraser lasted at least five years so we’re talking fifteen years of use here) for a little over EUR 2. While I was there, I was reminded of the year I decided to use up old candle ends and make my own candles. I remembered how to do that from summer camp, but I had no idea where to get wicks. Well, that arts and crafts department I mentioned, which shares the floor with the pencil erasers–they sell wicks, among many other things.

For the record, I am someone who hates to throw out a toaster, for example, because I can’t repair it myself and the repair shop tells me it isn’t worth doing because the repair would cost twice what a new appliance would. I hate being made an accomplice to this wasteful, throwaway society we live in. For that reason, I deeply appreciate how the Mastnak product range and service make it possible to live an old-fashioned economical life, at least in my paper and office supplies. It makes possible a life where things (even old candle ends) aren’t just thrown away but are re-used.

As our grandparents could tell us, living economically in that way is also environmentally friendly. You don’t have to throw away the very nice propelling lead pencil because it doesn’t have an eraser anymore. You replace the eraser and get a couple more decades of use and pleasure out of it.  And beyond helping people recycle old candles and restore their mechanical pencils, Mastnak helps its customers live an environmentally friendly life by having a whole section of office products made, for example, from recycled paper. They even sell the inks you need to top up those refillable flipchart markers that most people don’t bother to refill, probably partly because it’s not easy to find the necessary ink.

Those aren’t the only points that make it a specialty store, though. Their staff know what they’re doing. They know where things are, even though the store is on several floors and has things squeezed into every corner. They understand what you need even from your rather flawed descriptions. And they are helpful. None of the quite common “Das gibt’s nicht” (“There’s no such thing”, which means “I’ve never heard of it” or “We don’t stock it” or maybe even “I’d have to get a ladder to get it down from the top shelf and that is just too much trouble”), which you might hear at other stores in Vienna. At Mastnak, they smile at you and lead you to the thing you’re looking for.

How can Mastnak survive, I hear you asking, when they take up time and space with erasers that only cost EUR 2 for a pack of three? For one thing, they sell Mont Blancs, too, and one Mont Blanc probably pays the rent for at least a week. For another thing, the store was crowded when I was there, with short lines at each of the several cash registers. They probably also have a thriving online business. Being lucky enough to live in this city, though, I’ve never used it.

The Third Day of Christmas

27 Dec

What a surprise it was to step onto the street today shortly after 8 a.m. for the first walk of the day and find people and cars and open shops and simply activity in general!

For many, my surprise will be incomprehensible. Was it really so quiet the last few days? Yup. Shops usually close in Vienna at midday on Christmas Eve and remain closed for Christmas Day and the Feast of Saint Stephen (known in the UK as Boxing Day). This year, however, Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday, when most shops are closed all day anyway, which meant that we have had three days of wonderful peace and quiet (and a most unusual abundance of free parking spaces) with the Viennese enjoying one of their favorite things–Ruhe (also known as peace and quiet).

Vienna time

14 Nov

Some of my readers know that I have been in the U.S.A. for a few months now. Shortly, I will be heading back to my life in Vienna. It’s been a wonderful time here and I am also looking forward to going back.

I’m looking forward to going back partly because of a photo a friend sent of the vineyards in Neustift magnificent in their autumnal splendor, but it was also helped by a drive to visit friends outside of Boston yesterday. I realize that along with Hall’s concept of monochronic and polychronic time and Levine’s studies of the pace of life there is another aspect of time not yet researched (that I know of)–when the periods of high activity are vs. the periods of low activity. I assumed (having now internalized Viennese time in a way I wasn’t aware of) that my hour and a half drive on Sunday morning at least would be restful. (I was mentally prepared for a Sunday afternoon rush hour.) I thought people would be enjoying a quiet Sunday morning at home with family, the newspaper, and a nice breakfast. Imagine my shock when by 10 a.m. the traffic was only slightly less heavy and fast than on a weekday. (The drive back late Sunday afternoon was completely overwhelming to someone who avails herself of public transportation wherever possible.)

The other side of this is that I’ll be going to the supermarket today and expect to have an easy time of it. This is something I try to avoid in Vienna as a lot of people go on Monday because the stores are closed (thank God) on Sundays. My experience here over the last few months tells me I’ll probably have an easy drive and short lines at the cash registers. Many people did their shopping yesterday instead.

Different periods of high activity and low activity …