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Greetings from Vienna, #6

January 24th, 2004


Alert! Alert! Karin and I have set our wedding date. We are getting married in Vienna on Wednesday, 25th February 2004, at 2 PM. Guests from outside Austria are welcomed to attend, but please note that we cannot put anyone up during that week. More details in the newsletter.

In this week's issue:

"Are you sure you don't want to go to Las Vegas instead?" - US Consular Official
The wedding, which is a civil ceremony, is in the municipal offices of the 10th District. It's a ten to fifteen minute walk or a ten minute tram ride (with a transfer) from Reumannplatz. I can plan to meet people at Reumannplatz between 1 and 1:15 pm, and guide visitors to the offices. We are wearing "nice" clothes for the ceremony: suit & tie for me, a dress for Karin, so please don't come in white tie and tails. The ceremony is expected to take less than ten minutes, after which we will go have a late lunch somewhere. We have suggestions to go to the opera or see a concert while visitors are in town. Karin and I are all for that, but you will only get both of us for a Wednesday night event. Karin has to work on Thursday and Friday, and we're not going to be up for anything that will run late during the first part of the week. Currently, the best choice seems to be a performance of "Marriage of Figaro" at the Volksoper. Please send me email if you are interested. You can see the Volksoper seating plan and prices at: "". I'll write up the wedding paperwork stories for the next issue.


Old Business

Broken Picture Links
Ur, oops. The broken links have been fixed. I have renamed the files to match what I put into the newsletter. At now I know that some of you are actually reading everything. :-)

Eudora & Email, Together Again For The First Time
Ok, it turns out that you can buy Eudora in a "Emailwarengeschäft", but you might have problems carrying it home in a bag. "Eudora" is an Austrian company that makes washing machines. In fact, on when you look at their products in the showroom, they will often have a big "Email" sticker on them. Check out: "" to see some of their products.

Footnotes to Footnotes
I will start amending some of my footnote markers with "usa", "öst", or "eng". They will indicate references to, respectively, American culture, Austrian culture, or English language notes. And since I am running behind schedule already (it's now nearly six pm on Friday), let the news begin.


Paul's Greetings from Vienna
Part the Sixth, Flotsam and Jetsam

This is going to be much shorter than previous newsletters. We've been running around getting various marriage paperwork issues dealt with during the last week, and I have to get back to work on a uniform I am making for the dance week here in February. So this issue consists of leftovers and other loose notions that have so far escaped my attention for previous newsletters. Not to fret. As I mentioned above, the wedding planning story will be in an upcoming issue, as well as the much requested engagement story.

A Day in the Life: Grocery Shopping
I've already talked about the shorter (compared to American) store hours. There are a couple of other differences that I am still trying to master. The one that tends to bite me the most is the whole self-weighing thing for produce. As is true everywhere, some produce are sold by the piece/package, and some are sold by weight. In the States, we are used to having the cashiers type in codes for all the produce at the register. It used to be that many supermarkets would have scales in the produce section so customers can get an idea of how much they are getting (and might expect to pay). However, I haven't seen those scales in most markets of any size for some years now. In Austria, there are electronic scales with number pads scattered throughout the produce area. Customers are expected to weight items themselves and select the correct codes. They get printed stickers which go to the cashier at checkout. Twice, I have confidently gone through the checkout, only to be sent scurrying back to the produce section to weigh a head of cabbage or some such. Faux pas.

The next gauntlet is the deli counter[1usa]. Now, the problem is not the variety of meats available. Any place where I can easily find half a dozen aspic'ed deli items is all right by me. It's the weights. Not only do they use the Metric system here, but they use units American children only learned to pass tests back when Jimmy Carter was president.[2usa] The dekagram is the standard unit to negotiate amounts of bacon, wurst, cheese, or anything that might need slicing. As Karin pointed out, 10 dekagrams (about 3.5 ounces, nearly the same weight as the cooked meat in a "La Royale with Cheese"[3usa]) of deli meat is just about one meal's worth for a person. Things are still priced per 100 grams, but it's typical to order in multiples of five or ten dekagrams. And the word is also shortened to "deka". Right.

Mmmmm. 10 deka of extrawurst. Ok, I better stop before I make myself hungry.

German for the Weary Traveller
All elevators in Austria have a button labeled "Notruf". This button is often, but not always, below the other buttons. At first, I thought that "Notruf" meant the basement.[4eng] This theory went out the window when I went some place with an extensive underground garage. I now know that "Notruf" is the emergency call button. The verb "rufen" means to call out or to shout. A derivative verb, "anrufen" means to call by phone. On the tram, we get a "Notsignal" instead of "Notruf", in case of a "Notfall", which actually just means "emergency".

"If you are on fire, please press 1. If you are being robbed, please press 2. If you are dying, please press 3."
Ok, it's not actually like that here, but I was taken aback by the three emergency numbers on the front cover of our phonebooks here. For fires, call 1-2-2. For police, call 1-3-3. For "rescue" ("Rettung"), call 1-4-4. On the inside of the phonebook, there were a couple of other emergency numbers: emergency medical advice ("Ärztenotdienst"), 1-4-1; mountain rescue ("Bergrettung, Alpinnotruf") is 1-4-0; roadside assistance is available from ÖAMTC at 1-2-0 or ARBÖ at 1-2-3.[5öst] And finally, if the weight of the world is just too much for you, counselling ("Telefonseelsorge) is available by dialing 1-4-2. But I still want to know who to call if my cat is stuck in a tree.
(Dear Paul! In Austria we also have a fire brigade. They own ladders and are not only able to rescue people from somewhere up high, they also rescue cats. - Very funny to watch them doing this when the cat likes the view and doesn't want to come down! - Much more funny to watch your little brother doing the same rescuing 30 minutes later and trying to copy the fire brigade! - gg (means "grins", and that means "smile") Attention: this is the first personal comment from the mysterious fiancée!!!!!!!!)

Spring Rolls on Steroids
I have eaten spring rolls in many places. I thought I knew spring rolls. Imagine my surprise when I went to my first Chinese restaurant in Austria and saw spring rolls which were rectangular, and covered as much area as an oversized postcard. It turns out that there are three standard sizes for spring rolls here. What I saw was the normal, full sized spring roll. The kind that Americans are used to (about the same size as three "D" batteries placed end to end) would be considered a "small" normal spring roll. Many places also serve "mini" spring rolls, which are like what Americans see in Vietnamese or Thai restaurants. I will try and get a picture of these spring rolls for a future issue.

Life Imitates (sort of) Art
"Seifenoper" is the German for soap operas. It is, in fact, a literal translation of the english. This came up in my German class today. We were reviewing ways to say the time, and one of the exercises involved answering questions based on TV listings. After I explained to our teacher why they were called "soap operas" in the States,[7usa] she told me that a friend of hers got his degree in "Seifenoper Architektur". It turns out that "Seifenoper" describes a style of houses, considered very modern and "clean". I didn't quite get what other details went into houses like these, but they are apparently on the pricey end of the market. I'll see if I can find examples on the web for people to check out. My teacher and I pondered the kind of life people are expected to live in a "soap opera house". The mind boggles.

The Arts in Vienna
Since I arrived in Vienna, I have attended quite a few concerts. And up to now, they were all ones in which Karin performed; part of the package when you get hitched to a professional musician. However, we both wanted to see other concerts together. That's where the Resonanzen comes in. It's an annual music festival focusing on music from the Middle Ages to the Baroque period. Besides the concerts at the Konzerthaus, the opening weekend also brings in instrument makers and sheet music dealers who temporarily take over the smaller halls at the Konzerthaus. I have to say that listening to natural instruments in different keys being tried out simultaneously is a bit of a mixed bag. While it's not as bad as the endless strains of (badly played) "Stairway to Heaven" at many American guitar stores, I did cringe quite a bit at the baroque oboe from 20 feet (6 meters) away. It sounded like a sick duck, and not in a way to cause me to think "poor ducky, how can I make him feel better". It was more like "hmm, I have a nice recipe for Peking duck and lots of plum sauce at home". (Doesn't taste well if you are cooking this with an oboe instead of duck - gg. -KN) Thankfully, Karin finished her shopping then and we could retreat to the relative quiet of the cafe in the far end of this particular hall.

Karin did get to see one of her recorder makers, (the other one is based in New Hampshire) who got to do some "tune up" work on her instrument. As she put it, the recorder had to go see "papa". While they chatted and he worked, I got to ogle (He is allowed to ogle at the recorders - just recorders !!! - KN) some of the nearby displays, including a recorder maker who specializes in keyed bass and contrabass recorders that have square cross sections. They look like moquettes for some new European skyscrapers. The maker's name is "Blockflötenbau Paetzold". They don't have website listed, but I might scan in the brochure for next week.

We have seen two concerts in the series so far, with one more to go this coming Sunday. We wanted to see more shows, but cheap seats were already gone and there weren't that many expensive seats left. The first concert was by Hesperion XXI, featuring La Capella Reial de Catalunya. We had front row seats, about a third of the way from the far right of the stage. This gave use a nice view of the conductor, Jordi Savall (who looks like the Unplugged vintage Eric Clapton, but with longer hair), but we could only see one of the two cornetto [8], and couldn't really see either trombone players. I did get to see three of the four types of gambas, which was very cool. The music was superb. The title of their concert was "Visions of Redemption" («Visionen der Erlösung») and they play pieces by Johann Hermann Schein, Samuel Scheidt, and Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

The second concert was by the group Accentus Austria, which happens to be the group that Karin's recorder teacher, Michael Posch, plays in. The title of their program was «Misteris de Dolor» ("Mysteries of Pain"), and they concentrated on Spanish works, in particular Catalonian, with works by Francisco Correa de Arauxo, Antonio de Cabezón, Juan de Enzina, Juan de Anchieta, Juan Cabanilles, as well as traditional Catalonian songs. Despite the title of the program, we both found the performance to be lively and upbeat. They were much more of an ensemble than Hesperion XXI, always looking at each other, often smiling or outright grinning. They were brought back for several encores, and I think that the audience would've been happy for more if the house lights hadn't finally gone up.


Well, to quote Blaise Pascal: "I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter." Next week, the back story to the wedding preparations.


Bis bald. Tschüs



Just these few comments for the beginning. More is in progress, but give me time to think of what will be interesting for you and also give me time to practice my english, because I want to express what I really mean.

Best wishes and have a good time
Pfiat Euch




[1] Deli = «Feinkost»

[2] Jimmy Carter was president 1977-80. There was a huge push by the government to get people to start using Metric measurements. It didn't get very far, except to increase the size of many highway signs to accommodate both miles and kilometers.

[3] From the movie "Pulp Fiction". "La Royale with Cheese" is the what the Dutch call McDonald's Quarter Pounder, which uses four ounce (pre-cooking weight) patties.

[4] Not + roof. Seemed to be perfectly reasonable at the time.

[5] "Österreichischer Automobil-, Motorrad- und Touring Club": Austrian Automobile, Motorcycle, and Touring Club. The equivalent of the AAA.[6usa] I don't know what ARBÖ stands for, but I'm guessing it's something similar.

[6] "American Automobile Association".

[7] These shows were originally all sponsored by soap companies, targeting the housewife audience that would be watching the shows in the daytime.

[8] "Zink" in German. Wooden trumpets that look like curved recorders and have finger holes instead of keys.



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