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Vienna in Winter

This blog started out under the name of Vienna Guide but somehow I got distracted and other countries have occupied my recent post. It is probably hard to appreciate what you have at home… Anyways, here is also a slight taste of Vienna at its best.

Here are some images from the Christmas Market at the Rathaus and Schönbrunn Palace this year.
If you’ve never been, then maybe this will make you want to have a look in the real-size Disneyland that Vienna transforms into over the winter.

christmas decorations viennachristmas tree schonbrunnglobuletegingerbread globuri 2
christmasmarket rathaus

Last year I have been to Germany on two separate occasions. Here is a little travel journal/guidebook from my visit to Berlin.

Transportation

Turbulences. This is  the first time when I am flying and I feel the plane is actually racing. This must have something to do with the no limitations highways in Germany, and this must be the formula 1 Pilot from Air Berlin.

Finally we land and I dizzily get out of the plane.

The luggage takes its time and I finally get out of the after approx. 25 minutes small luggage waiting room into a circle corridor. A few steps down the corridor there is the a bus ticket counter. The first interaction with the natives is the conversation with the skinny, unfriendly man at the counter. This is my second visit to Berlin, so I remember I should expect rudeness… and yes, here it comes. „ If you do not have change, you won’t get any ticket.“ We really do not have change, but in the end he agrees to take the money as we are buying the more expensive weekend ticket. My husband claims this approach is not rude but part of the Berlin charm… and after all what do I know about charm in Berlin, so I nod agreeing with him.

The bus ride I also remember vaguely. I remember my bags rolling up and down the bus, hitting the other innocent passenger that didn’t have my luck to catch a free chair in the 70s style bus.Image

transportation in Berlin can also be more comfortable…if you are small enough

Accommodation

The next day, catches me wondering the city on my own. The hotel, is modern and comfy and the breakfast-which on the first day I accidentally end up  not paying for-is fabulous.

The reality outside is therefore not less grey and chilly. The big broad, grey streets are like taken out of my home town.Image

Shopping

I am at Karstadt and the shops are catching my eye. I like cities where you get the feeling you have access to everything. I like big streets where the shops almost never close. I like the brands clutter and the smart souvenirs shops that are not only primary based on kitsch. Therefore, I like where I am now. I buy myself an Ampelgirl T-shirt which I will wear proudly after returning from my trip. I also obsessively take pictures of all the traffic lights that come my way.Image

Entertainment

In front of  Karstadt there is an older punk in his 60s, doing some acrobatic tricks on his skate.  Few steps ahead: a woman in her wedding dress in the window of a shop that is getting her hair done. Outside the window a large group of passersby are shooting pictures. I join them and take another on my Instagram. I have a clear image in my head of  a complex Berlin picture that manages to transmit everything that I feel when I am walking the grey, broad streets, but Berlin dosen’t let itself captured by my camera and the ‘one’ big picture dosen’t come along.Image

Sightseeing

I get on the subway and randomly choose a direction, getting off at Alexanderplatz, where once again I am struck by the grayness as well as by the massive construction work that is going on at every corner.  Or is it already finished? If it wasn’t for the shops and brands earlier, I could still swear that I turned back in time to the period when David Hasselhoff hadn’t sung yet on the ruins of the Berlin Wall. The Fernseherturm is as emblematic as Berlin so I try to take another picture with it and the very, very grey sky. A few steps ahead and I get to the Marxs and Engels statutes where a bunch of young kids have gathered to shoot pictures with the two popular culture stars. I get in line as an ex child of communism and take some memorable pics with me and them for the posterity of Facebook.

Image

Museums & Service

Straight ahead is the Museums Island and I am a little lost thinking which one to choose and where to go. The architecture of this place is very open and instructions are as good as missing. The skyline is more than anywhere else composed of cranes. The scenery has something of a film noir which literally gives you the shivers.

After a short visit in Berlin’s History Museum, I go to the Museums Cafe to have a piece of cake and some coffee, it has been a long day, I am freezing and until now, I have lost two pairs of gloves. As I walk in, the waiter yells at me, again in his „charming“ Berlin accent. „Pfffoah! You look destroyed (kaputt) you need to take a double expresso“ I put on a contained face and suggest cappuccino. He doesn’t seem to agree with me but he will bring it anyway. I for the check; he proactively suggest that the Eastern-Europeans don’t  know how to leave a tip and I, out of pure Eastern-European vanity (which he probably counted on) leave a greater tip than he ever expected.

It is raining now cats and dogs and I get on the first bus of the 100-line that I can find, and just ride around for 40 minutes.Image

City Charm

Back at the hotel on the day of departure, I am prepared knowing from last time that the bus to the airport will be late. This time, it isn’t, but still the driver gets out of the bus every other station to try to repair the front door which has decided to stop working.

The airport control line dosen’t make the trip any easier and it takes an eternity until we get past it. But once passed through it, I fell nostalgic for leaving Berlin. It may, not be pretty, or clean or polite but it is the future, and it is very, very free; freedom that can only come from improvisation, freedom that can only be there where before there has been so much restriction.

If you haven’t been to Berlin yet,  please do not go there for the German precision and cleanness… you will hate it. Go to see how Germans can let go of their cliché-made-up characteristics and live in pure, ‚functional’ chaos. Go there to see organized anarchy.

Berlin

Austrian Ode

Today is Austria’s national day and I wanted to write something about the special nice things and the people of this little country – kind of like you do when you go to someone’s birthday and hold a toast.

In real life, I being my grouchy Romanian self often complain and protest about a lot of things, most of them regarding my new home country. Despite the yammering I have to admit that I am positive that there is little places where life is actually as peaceful and as plain and simple ‘good’ as it is here.

Coming from a country in search of values, it took me a while and some struggling to understand that the Austrians really seem to get what society and life in general is all about.
Yes, they have all shops closed on Sunday – this in a country where 1/3 of the population takes pride in being atheists – and yes, they do not dance at parties and use the phrase „kein Stress” a little bit too much and usually keep a polite distance in the conversation that I am still uncomfortable with, but they seem to have gotten the big picture, there where most of us others are still struggling to get it.

They genuinely want things to work, probably like every human being, first of all for their own good, but they understood that it can only work if they try to make it better for all or at least most of the people around them.

They pay attention to others and their needs because they want the same in return.

They do not have to compulsively own big fancy homes and big fancy cars but instead like the freedom that this life without big possessions gives them.

They travel a lot but do not  book luxury hotels, so that they really end up seeing some of the actual country they went to visit.

They are modest in their clothing and attitude because they probably believe that flashiness would only take one’s eyes away from the really important things in a person.

They preserve their old traditions and embrace traces of new and intercultural without losing the sense of who they are.

They respect education even more than work itself and they make it easy for people to have access to it. They respect their jobs and obligations because they understand if they wouldn’t, it will slowly all stop working.

They enjoy nature, a lot of free time and most of all thinking.

They are mostly still a mystery for me but until now one of my most valuable life lesson.

Hut ab Österreich!

New York Tale

New York 11:30 AM, the Amtrak train from Boston pulls in. The conductor helps me (and all the other passengers that get off at this station) take down my oversized bag, he says some polite kind words that just fly in and out of my ears. After two weeks of dealing with so much friendliness, I start taking it for granted. I mumble something back, it seems that here in America I never can react soon enough with the pleasantries, I am pretty sure that my Eastern-European rudeness is somehow visible although I am really struggling to keep up.

The air is so wet here in the station and the dimmed lights and steamy atmosphere make it look like a thriller scene, still I feel relieved to get out of the ice box I was in. If someone ever came back from a USA visit and told you jokingly about the American’s passion for air conditioning, well, they weren’t kidding! And let me tell you, this together with the ice that comes with every single drink you order, could become a problem for a typical Romanian girl whose mother never let her drink out of the fridge or taught to never-ever sit in a draft.

Outside, finally! And now down on the 8th Avenue till 46th Street to our hotel. The oversized bag is rolling behind me and sometime stumbling into my feet and unavoidable into some other peoples’ feet. The sidewalk is so full that I can hardly get through. I have always considered myself a big city girl so I think I know how to solve this situation, I start pushing and trying to get myself across with what I would call at least moderate force. At one point I feel my luggage wheels run over someone’s foot. I feel already very feisty from the heat, the agoraphobia that I didn’t know I suffered from until now and I feel ready to snap at the person that dared intersect with my trajectory. I take my eyes up from the ground, where I have been keeping them in order to avoid the masses of pedestrian traffic that was flowing with and against me and look back and I see the person that was blocking my way; he is drifting aimlessly perpendicularly to anyone else. Prepared to open my mouth and…  but something stops me and I close it back: the person in front of me is blind and now getting of from the sidewalk into the street… NO please, DO NOT BE BLIND! Anywhere else but not here, not in this city! I look to see if there is a special traffic stop button for blind persons at the crossing, but New York takes its pride and beauty in being dysfunctional, so of course there is none! In the meantime the masses I was mentioning before push me further and I find myself zombie like feeling that I have to carry on with my marching, while still desperately trying to look back to see if the object of my worries is still in sight. I’ve lost him behind a big parked car. I get nervous; he really must have gotten into the street now. I squint my eyes and hope for the best while going further… BOOM, I hear a loud noise behind me; now I’ve stopped, I don’t care if the other pedestrians are going to walk over me. What happened? Where did he go? Did a car hit him? Did I just imagine the noise? I cannot see anything anymore but the flowing traffic on the street and on the sideway. I wait a moment longer, to see if the people are gathering or if there is concern or agitation behind me. I don’t see anything, it all flows as it was before and I flow along with everything and everyone else but not really letting the doubt in my mind go. I walk ahead, the street is full of colorful beautiful commercials and buildings, my attention is distracted and even if I felt unease before it all seems to all fade away in my mind…

This experience is how I would summarize the learning that I extracted from my brief visit in America, besides the beautiful things, the impressive majestic sceneries the really great people that amazed me through the generosity and openness the truth is that the current flows fast and if you are not flowing with it to more colorful beautiful places  you risk to be run over by the harsh and hard reality.

I will probably develop more on this in another post if I manage to get my contradictory thoughts and impressions together into a reasonable opinion…

We’re alive!

Small but still not so much, wild but not to wild to be European, in awe to principles but not really sticking to them, very important internationally today but forgotten tomorrow. This is my country,  a Latin language speaking country in a sway of Slavic surroundings.

Here people wish, probably more than anywhere else in Europe to belong… to belong to Europe… to belong to America or any other ‘civilized’ society that may or not have an interest in them.  They are more light-headed and happy-go-lucky than their Slav neighbors but they lack no intensity in comparison to them.

When you leave this country and come back, or even when you are visiting for the first time you will be struck in positive and negative by the intensity. People are really as friendly as they say, and the friendliness is most of the time different to the Western politeness, it is real enthusiasm and interest for the new and foreign.

In this country  traditions and origins are highly thought of but, also here, old people are left to desertion and hunger.  Here new trends are easily picked up on and adopted leading to an amalgam of dusty old and shiny new.

One can be easily annoyed by the recklessness of the society and especially the natives seam to be the  toughest critics when it comes to what is not going right (me making no exception) nevertheless individual responsibility is hardly seen as cause or  even factor of change. Politicly incorrect sentences can fly in and out unbothered into a conversation and ancient superstitions like the ‘evil eye’ are common truths that should never be questioned. People love to dance, dress up, spend impressive hours on the phone and, more than they earn or can afford, on any type of fast moving consumer goods. Beauty and luxury are at the top of the pyramid and everyone is working their way towards that. Social injustice is infuriating and discrimination is not a tabu but, at the same time, compassion is compensating this faults and balancing the society making it bearable.

There is for sure a paradox floating over this little scad of people. They have no patience but they endure to much. When you walk on the streets you see sad serious faces, but at the same time they  love to entertain and be entertained more than anything and can be as cheerful and talkative as any other latin folks.

And still with all these flaws there is one thing that you can not accuse Romania of, being dull. This country does, more than many other western enchanting, functional societies, give you very strong feelings. It makes you feel every bone in your body, makes you feel happy and furious as the same time and is a valuable lesson for all of those who have forgotten what being alive means.

Chic Vienna

Around the 1st of May I had a good friend and her boyfriend staying over for one week. She has decided a few years ago to go into fashion and learn how to sew and design her own and other people’s clothes. As you can imagine, because of this she developed a real passion for fashion and everything that has to do with it.

I have to admit, for me Vienna is not one of the most fashionable cities in the world so I kind of let myself go since I am here and not really followed any fashion or trends. Nevertheless with my friend here, having  a real interest for fashion and clothing we went to visit an exhibition/ fair called “Modepalast” (fashion palace). I have to say I really enjoyed it and even changed my perspective of what one should/ can were in a rather ‘fashion conservative’ city like Vienna. I ended up buying a dress and  by chance going to a similar fair the next weekend: Designmarkt Edelstoff.

I have to say, that what I like about the fashion event in Vienna is the fact that they all still have the crafty, hand-made feeling to it. One can still fell the freshness and improvisation and this is what makes it special.

Now I am actually kind of excited about the Vienna Fashion Night on the 14th of June and about the Vienna Fashion Week in September.

A big thanks to my friend because she turned my mind  fashion again and also because it made me discover that Vienna can be actually pretty fashionable. (and as the pictures are not taken by me this time, a big thanks to the photographer for the great pictures).


My friend trying on a Japanese hat

 

Ok, let us go back to Vienna, after all this blog;has this name in its title…

I was thinking to (re)start with what I always like to know about a city, and this is where can you get good food! If you are expecting the ‘Viennese Schitzel, potato salad and Wiener Sausage’ type of restaurants recommendation, I am sorry to disappoint but this is not where I eat (at least not anymore after the many kilo that I put on while doing so right in the beginning when I got here) and this is also not where the sporty & fit Viennese people eat (at least not all the time, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to call them sporty and fit in this article).

So what do Viennese eat? Mostly everything that has “bio” in its title but besides this they eat a lot of international, especially middle eastern, oriental food. This is why I am at this point also pretty hooked on humus and having it as often as I can together with the good veggies that usually come with it.

My favorite restaurant, that happens to be 3 to 5 minutes from my home is therefore a restaurant that doesn’t serves Austrian dishes but Georgian ones. And it  seems that this restaurant doesn’t only appeal  to me as a daughter of the Black See but also gathers a lot of personalities from the intellectual scene here in Vienna. Therefore, it often happens that well-known writers spend long hours (Viennese style) at a table there and so do I for a few years now.

What I absolutely love and almost always  take  while there is the “Georgische Antipasti” which is a plate including four specialities: two types of eggplant roles, one stuffed with feta cheese and the other one with a sort of nuts mousse, one beetroot salad and one beans salad all sprinkled with lots of parsley and with some corn salad on the side, or more exactly in the middle of the plate.

The coffee is also one of the reasons for which I get to call this place my favorite. If you like milk-coffee (again Viennese style) this is a place where you get a Caffe Latte with 3 to 4 fingers worth of milk foam.

Ok, enough talking about food, as I for one am starting to get hungry. These are some photos that I took one saturday morning while having breakfast there so that you can see that I was right about the coffee


Madiani at Karmelitermarkt Vienna
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