An ice cream shop, which was closed for Winter break is open again. This year’s February was uncommonly mild and so I can understand that this ice cream shop has opened again. Nevertheless today’s maximum temperature was around 8 degrees. I find it to be a little too cold to be eating ice cream outside but many people buy cups and cones to go.
“It smells!”. As usual, my husband and I take walks to Joe sama (Haydn statue in front of Mariahilfer Church), when we get close recently often there is a strong smell of garlic in the air. Then we know that Langos mobile cart is there in front of Mariahilfer Church. Langos is deep fried bread dough and people say it is from Hungary. Here in Vienna it is typical Christmas market special food and very popular. Mostly it has a round shape but there are other variations such as elongated with sausage or cheese inside. There is the option of having garlic butter put on it. Every year at Christmas markets we eat it at least once and that is a kind of year-closing ritual for us.
But two years in a row this culinary ritual was somewhat disrupted. That is due to the Covid pandemic. Christmas 2020 there was no chance at all because all Christmas markets were not even allowed to open. Christmas time 2021 there were still high infection numbers and there was severely limited business activity at Christmas markets. Maybe because of that in front of Mariahilfer Church there is often a mobile Langos stand even after Christmas and now it is still operating. We tried Langos from this stand several times. It is thick and fluffy. Since it is so large we always share one and we likt it very much! There is also often a Burger stand and one with potato specialties at this location.
Right now in Vienna the weather is quite mild, actually too warm for mid-February. In a park I even found some blossoms emerging. They smell really good and many bees are flying around collecting nectar…
I started living in Vienna over 30 years ago. Back then everything was fresh, foreign and yes, to me it was a new world. Out of that especially surprising was men helping women put on their coats. Normally in Japan women (mostly wives) assist men in putting on their coats. I knew of course that in Europe there was “Ladies first” but I did not know about the coat custom. Helping women put on their coats was something even younger men and even teenagers did. They said they had been raised by their parents to this custom as politeness. This custom I actually enjoyed and for me that was rather polite and noble. Back then there were more mature men who when greeting were holding women’s hands and pretending to kiss the back of their hands saying “Küss die Ha～nd” (old galant Viennese pronounciation with a melodic elongation of the word hand). When that first happened to me, I did not understand what that man was doing and I was very surprised. But I quickly got used to it and understood that it was a very polite and galant custom.
Time passes and sadly the custom “Küss die Hand” has become almost extinct with now mostly quite old gentlemen doing it. In my generation almost nobody does it and if young men do it to young women it might even be interpreted as a kind of sexual harrassment nowadays. The custom of men helping women with their coats still exists but I heard some young women decline that offer. Personally I think all people are equal, men and women alike. I am saddened by still existing discrimination against women and I would like to fight against that. Nevertheless a little “galantry” gives me a good feeling. I feel that some galantry and courting in the right amount is appealing and showing respect towards women. I think it would be a pity if those old fashioned galant customs were to disappear…
I have been living in Vienna for a long time. When I started living here, there were many shops by Austrian companies. Hats, traditional folk clothing and other Austrian products were easily available. Mostly back then one had to receive personal service by shoppersons. That was the typical way and custom of conducting sales. For me that was somewhat difficult because German is not my native language. Also as Japanese one has to be humble and hold back which was often difficult for me.
“Leiner” also had such a system. That used to be an Austrian furniture and interior design shop. (I heard that some time ago a foreign company bought Leiner but I don’t know that for certain). Since I started from zero living in Austria, I had to buy linen, towels, pillows, etc. and so I often came here to shop. Especially the branch on Mariahilferstrasse located centrally was convenient to reach because I had no car. Back then as previously explained one had to receive assistance by a shopperson no matter if it was small like tablecloth or table lamp etc. And when I had decided on my purchase a shopperson would accompany me to the cash register. The shopperson would hand the receipt and item to the person at the register and I would get in line at the register. And so I could finally get my desired items. Also back then there were so many customers and quite a bustle which was very tiresome for me. Thereby shopping at Leiner Mariahilferstrasse took some time and so it was a special purchase every time.
Over time that system was changed and the customers could also take the desired items to the register by themselves which was easy and good for me. Somehow over time there was not so much hustle anymore which meant that shopping there became more relaxed. Despite all I liked it very much and just looking at the merchandise often made me very happy.
Last year suddenly this branch was demolished which was quite a shock to me. I had heard rumors that it might disappear eventually but I had not anticipated it so quickly. Not only this shop but all over the city many Austrian shops which had been around for many many years gradually closed and disappeared. I heard at the former site of Leiner Mariahilferstrasse there will be a newly constructed large building with shops, restaurants, a hotel and even a rooftop area with a view. It will surely be modern and good looking but I will always remember the old times and cannot help getting a sad feeling.
Today Vienna was blessed with beautiful weather. After a long time we could see a deep blue sky again, the temperature was about 13 degrees. Even though it is the beginning of February, such beautiful weather is rather unusual for Vienna. When I see such a blue sky I remember my hometown Kochi in Japan. Such mild Winter days are quite common there and often looking up into the blue sky made me very happy. Just the intensity of the sunlight is much stronger and brighter there. That city is everything for my heart and soul. Oh if I could only fly there now! I know however that I cannot do that now and so the sky consoles me with a tender embrace…
I think for everyone their hometown is very special. A long time ago when I started living in Vienna I had many opportunities to speak to people from different countries because of language school. In that class back then there were also those who had to flee from their home countries due to war or complex historical reasons. To me that kind of situation was unthinkable and their struggles were immeasurable. When I spoke to a colleague from such a country, I thought that he had bad memories from his native country. However contrary to my presumption, he spoke about how wonderful his home was. He spoke about a bridge and how beautiful and historically precious that location was. That really surprised me because I knew from the news that his home country had been in a difficult state and maybe that bridge and town had been destroyed already. Nevertheless in his memory that bridge and town existed in a good state. And somehow I felt that I had understood something. To everyone, home is familiar and important. One should never talk bad about someone’s home due to presumptions or prejudice. I think that is equal to actually hurting that person.