The calm before the storm 嵐の前の静けさ

Soon there will be New Year’s Eve. Now I am at home and I feel some tension like a tingling sensation in the cold calm. Slowly the excitement increases and exactly at midnight on New Year’s Eve the expression of joy of Viennese people will explode. In the cold winter’s night many thousands of rockets will explode and illuminate the sky. In the city centre so many people gather and those staying at home will offer a toast with their glasses. This is one typical expressions of New Year festivity in many countries.   When I experienced this in Vienna for the first time, I was shocked. There was another Japanese living in the same building as I and she said that she had never experienced New Year’s Eve in the city and so she said “Let’s go there together”. There was a crowd of people and we were so excited together waiting for midnight. But when that time finally came, there was loud noise everywhere, rockets were flying and also between people there were explosions. Rockets are fired in the air but also many people just throw firecrackers at the feet of people. Since there are so many people it is impossible to leave. Because of loud explosions, my ears were almost deaf. Both of us decided to never do it again.   Ever since that time,when I am in Vienna I celebrate New Year’s Eve calmly at home in warmth, listening to the explosions outside of my window.

In Japan on the other hand, people celebrate New Year’s Eve calmly and quietly. There is a religious background to this. At midnight, for the transition to the New Year, temple bells ring 108 times. In Buddhism it is taught that humans have 108 Bonnō (illusions, deceptions). Listening to the temple bells means contemplating and accepting our Bonnō, and thus having motivation for starting the New Year. This tradition should be preserved.

もうすぐ大晦日。今、私は家の中で、戸外の凍てつく冷気に漂うわくわくとした気分を感じています。だんだん緊張は高まっていき、新年に変わる0時にウィーンの人々は喜びに大爆発するのです。数えきれない花火があがり、冷たい冬の夜空を彩ります。中心街は人でごったがえし、他の人は家の中で乾杯します。これが、たくさんの国に共通する新年を祝う表現のひとつでしょう。  ウィーンで初めてこれを体験した時、私は本当にびっくりしました。当時、同じアパートに住んでいた日本人留学生が、一度も年明けをウィーンの中心街で過ごしたことがないから行ってみたい、と私を誘ったのです。いざ、大晦日の夜遅く出かけてみると、中心街はすでに人があふれていて、私たちはひしめく雑踏のなかで期待に胸をときめかせて日付が変わるのを待ちました。いよいよその時がきた瞬間、凄まじい破裂音がいたるところで鳴り響き、私は嬉しいどころか、恐怖に苛まれました。頭上だけでなく、足下でも火花が飛び散り、爆音の連続に、鼓膜が破れそうです。逃げようにも、人が多すぎて身動きがとれません。正直言って、生命の危険を感じました。私たちは震えながら、もう2度と再びこれはするまい、と心に決めたものです。 それ以来、私はウィーンで新年を迎える時は、暖かい家の中で、窓の外の大騒動を聞きながら、ゆっくり過ごすことにしています。


Picture by Yuka Simeno Vienna, December 2019

Ordinary people(Ippanjin)? 一般人?

For a long time I have been living in Austria, more than half of my life. Sometimes I travel to Japan so I am in continuos contact with my home country. However because I am not living in Japan full time, sometimes the “Zeitgeist” or trendy things are often unknown to me. It is often quite interesting that when I do arrive in Japan, the experience is sometimes fresh and informative. Sadly, that is not only wonderful. One example of this is “Ippanjin (ordinary people)”. People who appear on TV, and are featured prominently on mass media are referred to as “famous” or are referred to by their professsion. All other people are referred to as “ippanjin (ordinary people)”. As an example, they report that actress A got married to an “Ippanjin(ordinary man)”. That is shocking to me because I can hardly imagine the media in Austria reporting in such a manner. Since when have those discriminations been used in Japan? I know that the description “ippan (ordinary)” as opposed to group is often used for example at the entrance of sights. That has been around for a long time but that I can understand. However I find the media’s expression of human beings as “Ippanjin(ordinary people)” shocking. It is also shocking how insensitive Japanese people are in the use of language and people do not even protest against that. Each and every human being is of the same value, no matter the occupation or even without one.

オーストリアに住み始めてかなり長くになります。人生の半分以上はこちらです。しかし、ほぼ1年に1回は日本に帰るので、強いカルチャーショックにみまわれることはあまりありません。しかし、日本の流行や最新の情報にはかなり疎いです。日本に帰る度に、それを知ることが新鮮な喜びや驚きで、面白いです。しかし、中には、残念だと思うことや、良くないと思えることもあります。そのひとつが「一般人」という報道の仕方です。  テレヴィに出ていたり、話題になっている人を「有名人」や職種で呼び、その他を「一般人」としている。このように名付けることや、分けることは、オーストリアでは考えられません。非難の嵐となり、通用しないでしょう。 昔から入場料などを「一般」と「団体」などと表記することはありました。これなら抵抗は感じないのですが、例えば、「女優A子が一般人と結婚」などと報道されているのを聞いたりすると、私は非常にびっくりします。「一般人」とはなんでしょう?いつからこのような表現を日本人はするようになったのでしょう。この表現に対して日本人は何も感じないのでしょうか?  人は皆、価値があるではありませんか?どんな職業をしていても、職業がなくても。

So this is Christmas… クリスマス

Today is Christmas Eve, which is a very important time for most Austrian people. The atmosphere is tranquil and serene. At midnight, many people attend masses in churches. It is very good, that there is such a day, which makes us think about love and peace.      When I hear the song “Happy XMas (War is over)” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono I get the feeling that I want to wish for all the world to be filled with a feeling of peace.

クリスマス イヴです。多くのオーストリア人にとって、とても重要な時です。厳かな静けさにあたりは包まれています。0時の教会のミサに、たくさんの人々が訪れます。このような、愛や平和を考える気持ちになれる日があるのはとてもいいことだと思います。     ジョン レノンとヨーコ オノの「ハッピー クリスマス(戦争は終わった)」を聴く度に、世界中が平和を願う気持ちで満たされることを想わずにいられません。

Baumkuchen from Siebenbürgen at Christmas market in Vienna ウィーンのクリスマス市のジィーベンビュルゲンから来たバウムクーヒェン

Some days ago I wrote about finding sweets being sold as “Baumkuchen” from the Czech Republic. I also wrote about the time I had found a similar “Baumkuchen” close to Piatra Neamt in Romania, where they said it was a Hungarian speciality. Today at a different Christmas market in Vienna I found another stand selling Baumkuchen”. There is a writing saying that this type is called “Sekler Kuchen” from Siebenbürgen. Siebenbürgen is also called Transilvania and used to be part of Hungary but nowadays it is part of Romania. I remember that when I bought this “Baumkuchen” I was told that we were in fact very close to the border of Siebenbürgen/Transilvania.

When we talk about Siebenbürgen, I remember the operetta “Die Csardasfürstin” by Emmerich Kalmán. The role “Csardasfürstin” is a singer and when she makes her first appearance she sings about being a “Siebenbürger Mädel” (girl from Siebenbürgen). Csardas is a famous Hungarian Dance. The name of the role “Csardasfürstin” is Sylva Varescu. The ending -scu of family seems likely to be Romanian. I think that quite clearly shows the historical background of this region.

More than twenty years ago when I started living in Vienna, I attended German language class. In the same class there were some people calling themselves “Siebenbürger”. They said that nowadays Siebenbürgen is Romania but the people there are not Romanians. They were very proud of being from Siebenbürgen.

According to the writing on the stand, the so called “Baumkuchen” being sold in Vienna is actually “Sekler Kuchen”, which is being served at special events, weddings and religious festivities as welcome dish for guests. The shape of “Sekler Kuchen” looks like a horn and symbolizes the intelligence and wits of this people.

I do not know whether this “Baumkuchen” is actually Bohemian or Hungarian but since all those regions were part of the Austrian Empire there might have been cross-influences.

先日、ウィーンのクリスマス市でバウムクーヒェンとして売られているチェコのお菓子があることを書きました。また、数年前、ルーマニアのピアトラ ネアムツ付近の山間部で、同じようなものをハンガリーのお菓子として食べたことにも触れました。今日、ウィーンの違う場所のクリスマス市でバウムクーヒェンとして、このお菓子を売っているお店を見つけました。ここには、これは「セクラー クーヒェン」という、ジィーベンビュルゲンのお菓子である、という説明の看板が掲げられていました。ジィーベンビュルゲンはトランシィルヴァニアのことで、昔はハンガリーの一部でしたが、今日ではルーマニア領となっています。そういえば、ルーマニアでこのお菓子を買った時、すぐ近くにトランシィルヴァニアとの境がある、と聞いたと、思い出しました。

ジィーベンビュルゲンと聞くと、エマーリヒ カルマン作曲のオペレッタ「チャルダッシュの女王」を思い出します。「チャルダッシュの女王」である主人公の歌姫が登場する時、自らを「ジィーベンビュルゲンの娘」と歌うのです。「チャルダッシュ」は有名なハンガリーの踊りです。しかし、この歌姫の名前は「シィルヴァ ヴァレスク」といい、ルーマニアの苗字の最後によくある「スク」となっています。私はここにも、この土地の歴史的背景が見られるように思います。


この、「セクラー クーヒェン」は、お店の看板によると、ジィーベンビュルゲンで、結婚式や、宗教の祭日や、お客さんをもてなす時のためのお菓子ということです。お菓子の形から「角」の意味があり、この民族の賢明さなどを象徴しているようです。


Picture by Yuka Simeno 2019

Oh my beloved little moon! 愛しの小さなお月様!

Austria is officially a Catholic country. That is why Christmas is very important. On the 24th of December almost all shops close around noon. It is quieting down and one can get a serene feeling. Christmas Eve is very important and celebrated. The 25th is Christmas Day and the 26th is “Stefanitag” and both days are public holidays with all shops closed. Therefore one should carefully buy groceries before those days. For these holidays I would like to have a special treat. In one of the bigger supermarkets I looked at the frozen foods section. In Japan there is an “Ice cake” for Christmas Eve, which is a whole cake made of ice cream decorated like a cake. As a child every year I ate this together with my family and I really loved it. In Austria there is no “Ice cake” but I wanted to buy something really good for Christmas and so I found the treat in the picture! It is a regular supermarket but in the frozen foods section there was “Mochi ice cream”! There is even “Daifuku” written on the package. For me this is obviously a copy of “Yukimi Daifuku”, which is ice cream covered with mochi. Mochi is soft and sticky rice dough. The combination with ice cream was a new thing when I was young and it became very popular. I never thought that I could just buy something like this in a regular supermarket in Austria. In order to try it I bought one pack of coconut taste and tasted it. The balls are much smaller than I thought and the package containing 6 pieces costs about 6 Euros which is a little expensive. As the package says, it really is a treat. Yes, it really tastes delicious. I also like the name “Little moons”, because in Japan it is said that in the moon there live rabbits making mochi. Other available flavours are Mango and Strawberry. I suppose Mango is yellow moon and Strawberry is blood moon. My own Christmas treat for this year is already chosen.

オーストリアはカトリックが国の宗教と定められています。ですから、クリスマスはとても大切です。24日はお昼頃にほとんどのお店が閉まり、街は静けさに沈んでいきます。クリスマスイヴはカトリックにとって、とても重要です。25日はクリスマス、26日は聖シュテファヌスの日で、共に祭日で、お店等も休みます。ですから、前もって十分買い物をしておかねばなりません。私は、今年のクリスマスの準備の下見をしに、少し大きめのスーパーに行きました。子供の頃、日本でよく、アイスデコレーショントルテをイヴに家族と共に食べて楽しかった思い出があるので、冷凍コーナーを見てみました。この国にはアイスデコレーショントルテはないのですが、その代わりに特別においしいアイスクリームがあればいいなと思ったのです。そして、この写真のパッケージを発見!MOCHIですって?「大福」とまで書いてある… これは「雪見だいふく」に似せて作られたものですよね?オーストリアの普通のスーパーで、こんなものが売られていようとは!私は感激して、早速ココナッツ味を買って試してみました。思ったより小さくて、大きめの白玉だんごくらい。でも、すごくおいしい!6個入りで約6ユーロ(約700円)は少し高いと思いますが、「ごほうび」とか「特別な日」にうってつけではないでしょうか。それに、”LITTLE MOONS”という命名も素敵。 他にはマンゴー味と木苺味も見ました。マンゴー味は黄色いお月様、木苺味は月蝕の時の赤いお月様を連想します。 我が家のクリスマスの甘いご馳走はこれに決まり!

Picture by Yuka Simeno 2019

Snow in Vienna? ウィーンに雪?

Today in Vienna the lowest temperature was 3 degrees Celcius and the highest temperature was 9 degrees. I am sure that it did not snow today. But why is there some snow at Christmas market in front of city hall? In the lower picture you can see that snow was brought from somewhere to decorate. The building in the picture is Burgtheater (National Theatre).

今日のウィーンの最低気温は摂氏3度、最高気温は摂氏9度。雪なんて降らなかったよね… それなのに何故、市庁舎前のクリスマスの市のお店の前に雪が積もってるの? 下の写真をご覧ください。どこからか雪を持ってきて、ところどころに、あたかも降ったかのように置いているのですね。(向こうの建物は王宮劇場です)

Picture by Yuka Simeno 2019


Baumkuchen at a Christmas market in Vienna ウィーンのクリスマス市のバウムクーヒェン

About 10 years ago, I started noticing that there was “Baumkuchen” being sold at Christmas markets in Vienna. Possibly it was a new thing back then. This “Baumkuchen” however is different from what I had known in Japan as Baumkuchen. Have a look at the pictures above. First dough is wrapped around a long cylinder, it is then baked and spices are added to the outside. What you see above is a slightly smaller version, I also know bigger size versions. If you eat it hot and fresh, it tastes heavenly. I really like eating it on a cold day like today. This stand sells it as “Trdelnik” and there is a sign saying it is a Czech speciality. The “Baumkuchen” which is famous in Japan is most likely, as the name suggests, from Germany.

About 7 years ago in Romania I saw this kind of Baumkuchen (like the one here in Vienna) and ate it there. I had a concert together with my husband in a city close to Piatra Neamt and afterwards the mayor took us together with our Romanian manager to a sightseeing spot with his private car. That is in the mountains and steep rocks were quite impressive. There was a lake called “Red Lake”, because there is iron in the rocks and that red colour comes out of them. It was December, very cold, and the lake was covered with ice. Close to the lake there were some souvenir stands. There I saw one stand which sold that kind of “Baumkuchen” made fresh. The mayor wanted to take away several Baumkuchen and we had to wait a little. The mayor said that he supposed this Baumkuchen came from Hungary. While we were waiting, a street dog came, sat in front of us and looked at us with a hot look. The sweet smell of freshly prepared Baumkuchen lingered in the air and it was not only tempting for me but also for this dog. The mayor received hot fresh Baukuchen wrapped in plastic and we had to go back to the car. I wanted to suggest giving a small piece to the dog but of course I could not say anything.


7年ほど前、このウィーンのクリスマス市のバウムクーヒェンを、ルーマニアで食べたことがあります。ピアトラ ネアムツという街の近くでのコンサートに主人と二人で出演後、この土地の市長さんが、私たちとルーマニア人のマネージャーを、観光に連れていってくださいました。険しい岩の間の山道を、市長さん自らが運転する車で走り、「赤い湖」を観に行きました。土地が鉄分を含んでいるため、湖の水が赤くなるのだそうです。丁度、今頃の季節で、とても寒く、湖は氷でとざされていました。近くには観光客のため、いくつか、お土産などを売る屋台がありました。そのひとつが、バウムクーヒェンを焼きながら売っていたのです。市長さんは、これはハンガリーのお菓子だ、とおっしゃっていました。彼はいくつか持ち帰るため、注文をしたので、私たちは焼き上がるまで暫く待っていました。その時、待っていました、とばかりに1匹の野良犬がやってきて、私たちの前に座ったのです。そして熱いおねだりの眼差しで私たちをじっと見上げていました。バウムクーヒェンが焼ける、甘い香りが辺りに漂い、私だけでなく、犬にも、耐えがたい魅惑だったことでしょう。市長さんはビニール袋に入った焼きたてのバウムクーヒェンを受け取り、車へと急ぎました。「市長さん、この犬にひとくち…」と言い出せないままだったことが悔やまれます。

Picture by Yuka Simeno 2019

Market in Northern Italy 北イタリアの市場

Sometimes I go to northern Italy to take voice lessons. Many cities have a street market about once a week. I like visiting this market and especially this season they also sell things for Christmas and there are many visitors. There is also a supermarket from a German chain and there I saw that many people buy many things for parties etc. but they seem to buy fruits and vegetables from the market and specialty stores. I think this is good because the country’s own farmers can sell their products to their fellow countrymen. In my hometown Kochi in Japan there are also streetmarkets. The most famous one is the one on Sunday which is quite big and also a tourist attraction. I do not know exactly if this is every day but other days of the week there are other markets somewhere in the city. When I was little, my grandmother always used to buy groceries at such markets. I often went with her and watched what she was going to buy. She was a regular customer at many stands, she knew many vendors and there was always a lively exchange. Some stands pre-prepared the things she had ordered and reserved them for her. After my grandmother’s passing I stopped going to such markets and I have been going to the nearby supermarket for groceries. This is quite fast, convenient and there is a large selection of merchandise. When I think back, it was nice to be able to buy fresh produce from the area ,but most of all it was nice to have conversation exchange with the people there. My grandmother loved this very much. That is why I find the markets in Italy so interesting because there is this lively exchange. When I return to my hometown next time, I plan to attend a market at least once…

現在、時折、声楽のレッスンを受けに北イタリアに行っています。それぞれの街では、少なくとも週に一度は路上の市場(Mercato、メルカート)が開かれます。私はこの市場を訪ねるのが好きです。特にこの季節、クリスマス用品も売られていて、たくさんの人で賑わっています。  ドイツのスーパーマーケットのチェーン店などもありますが、パーティーや、その他の為、一度に大量に買い込んでいる人をよく見かけ、日常の食糧などは、路上市場や専門の店の方が好まれているようです。地元の農家の産物などをその土地の人が買うことは、とてもいいことだと思います。    私の出身地の高知市にも、路上市場が立ちます。特に有名なのは日曜市で、大きくて、観光客もたくさん来ます。毎日かどうか知りませんが、他の曜日にも、それぞれ違った場所で市が立ちます。   私が子供の頃、祖母がこれらの市をいつも訪ねていました。しばしば私も祖母のお供をしたものです。祖母は、いくつかのお店の常連で、顔見知りの人もたくさんいました。中には、祖母のため、商品を袋に入れて用意してくれているお店もありました。   祖母が亡くなってから、私は市を訪ねることを止め、家の近くのスーパーマーケットで買い物をしています。この方が、品物も多いし、早くて、便利と思います。しかし、昔を思い出すと、市で新鮮な地元の産物を買えるのはとても良かったですし、何と言っても、お店の人とのやりとりが懐かしいです。祖母も、それをとても好んでいました。イタリアの市場が魅力的なのも、この活発な会話のやりとりが一役かっていると思います。   次に高知に帰った時は、また、市を訪ねたいです。

Picture by Yuka Simeno Chivasso 2019