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Austria, Day 0 and 1

So I’m going to Vienna for a week, right? Cool.

My flight over left Friday evening, with a four hour layover in London (Heathrow), which meant that my first flight consisted entirely of Americans going on vacation and British businessmen flying home. I found myself sitting next to and chatting with a few, which was interesting. We ended up talking more about business than national cultures or anything like that.

The only time we hit the language barrier was when one of them asked if I’d “brought any sterling?” It took me a second to realize he was talking about money, not, say, silverware. Also, when I woke the guy next to me up on the plane by setting his breakfast down on his tray and he said “Ah, cheers!” I like the use of that word as an enthusiastic thanks, a rough equivalent to “sweet, thanks!” I might try to adopt it if I thought it would be understood.

Heathrow’s Terminal 3 had a staggering miniature shopping center for duty free goods, a Starbucks, and like three places to eat. Sharp contrast to the handful of American airports I’ve been to which have as many restaurants as anything else. I was amused by the directness of the restaurant called EAT. there, but the food was meh and would have been decently priced in dollars instead of “Sterling.”

As soon as I headed to the gate for the flight to Austria, the background chatter switched almost abruptly from British English to German, which was fun to try and catch pieces of. Until the group of twenty or so US high school boys on some kind of trip showed up, and I began to understand the Loud American stereotype. I’m not sure if it would have been better if some of the Austrians could understand them, because their conversation was the most banal speech I’ve heard since… uh.. since I graduated high school. Three of them sat behind me and there was a noisy baby in the next row up, which almost made this flight worse than my first, except for my window seat.

England, the Channel, and coastal France were (quelle surprise) covered in clouds, so I mercifully dozed off until shortly before landing, bringing my total sleep for the trip to about 4 hours including a nap in Heathrow. That made taking off at 6pm Friday and landing at 2pm Saturday interesting. With some Austrian coffee, I was able to stay up until 10pm, so I’m not really worried about jet lag on this leg of the trip.

That first day in Austria was mostly familiarization. The U-Bahn, cafes, the grocery store, restaurants, shops.

The grocery, Merkur, with its small package sizes and lack of carts–just baskets!–combined with being accessible from the U-Bahn without going topside speaks volumes about modern Viennese life in the city. Also, bring a bag, because they don’t even have any for sale. If you can’t carry it, don’t buy it.

I’m amused by the fact that most places have only two or three beers on tap, with the nicer restaurant (€35 for two) where we ate dinner having just one. You just pick whether you want a small, medium, or large (.2, .3, or .5 liters respectively). The thing I couldn’t really appreciate about German beer drinking it at home is that it is, compared to American craft beers, very understated, but goes amazingly well food. I’m not kidding when I say that the best beer I’ve had in a long time was the one with lunch today from a Würstelstand. (In fact, the very Würstelstand pictured in that article.) I could eat there quite happily for many days, and I may end up doing just that.

My payload of barbeque sauce, Triscuits, and other American delicacies was well received by my host, who said she’d take it in return for crashing at her place for the week. I think I got a deal.

The most culturally stark moment of the day was browsing a flea market this morning, there was a box of papers belonging to an Captain (Hauptmann) in the Wehrmacht, dated between 1925 and 1943. One is stamped with the Nazi Reichsadler, another is was titled “Mitteilung für Offizierkorps” (a newsletter for officers), and a third was signed “gute besserung und Heil Hitler!” (get well soon and… you know the rest). We wanted to buy some of it, but it seemed like being so eager to learn about this stuff would come across culturally wrong. Maybe next week.

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Categories: Uncategorized
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  1. March 8, 2012 at 8:55 pm

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