Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Questions range from ‘how can I get a work visa for Austria?’ (you can’t) to ‘where can I buy small clothes for my mini Yorkshire Terrier?’ (My suggestion would be to buy some normal sized clothes and use the ‘boil’ cycle on a German washing machine).
What I actually said on the Bulletin Board was ‘I have a macacque monkey who needs roller blades and I get them from a shop on Landstrasser-Hauptstrasse’ but I was being deliberately unhelpful because it was such a stupid question.
I think the authorities here are expecting an outbreak of anthrax because the temperature at which you could can wash clothes would certainly kill anthrax or any other organism.
Americans complain on the Bulletin Board that their clothes come out of the wash looking gray and totally trashed. I think the problem is that they use the hot water cycles and have not worked out how to do a wash that takes less than six hours. German washing machines are indeed strange beasts. They wash and then they stop and – after a long interval – start washing again. They go quiet for a long time but it's no use trying to sneak up on them - as soon as they sense that there is someone there they start doing things again.
I really don’t know what happens during the intervening period when nothing is happening. Is the washer deciding what to do next? has it forgotten the sequence – boil, wash, trash, rinse, spin?
I have found a quick cold water cycle that takes exactly 43 minutes - this must be a design fault. The clothes still look like they have been washed in a cement mixer with blue metal – but I get the remains much more quickly.
The dryer collects the water from the clothes and stores it in a plastic tank inside the machine. One must remove this tank after every load and empty it – or the machine will stop working (it will be kaputt as we say here). We discovered this the way we do everything else – the hard way. There is a notice in German that says you should not drink the water from the dryer. I am looking for the notice that says you should not eat the washing powder.
I was digging in the kitty litter this morning and I got to thinking about the NSW government and how I miss my Sydney Morning Herald. There are very few ‘laugh out loud moments’ in the International Herald Tribune – although it sure does have a lot of news from far flung places. But I do miss Morris and Michael and Joe and Reba who provided me with such gut-wrenching amusement that I often couldn’t get my porridge down. I am sure that when I can read the Austrian newspapers the local pollies will provide me with just as much fun – but I am sure they do not have an equivalent of Joe Tripodi.
I received some good news when Cate told me that as I have a Masters Degree I can call myself Mag. (for Magister). This is a few rungs down from Doctor or Professor and won’t let me jump the queue in BIPA but at least I will not be a total washout in the academic title stakes.
I received an invitation to function at the Spanish Embassy but am reluctant to go because I am not sure that I could convince the ambassador that I am in fact Jose Luis Gonzales Perez Maria del Pilar. This person is supposed to live at our address but I have checked most of the bedrooms and there is no one in there so he must have moved on.
We had dinner at Plachutta with Melissa and Henri and I had my first piece of boiled beef. It was a bold step but worth doing and I can now see what the fuss was about. I am a long way from having the boiled calf heads but am making progress. Plachutta has a non smoking section that actually works so it is a pleasure to be there.
We walked back along the Wollzeile and around the Stadtpark. It had been raining and the streets were wet and shiny. The lights and people and trams made it seem like a typical picture postcard of a European city. It almost made me shout out loud ‘I love Wien and particularly its boiled beef’.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Melissa and Henri had another productive day trudging all over Wien and peering through the doors of closed museums. No one likes to open in Wien but museum people are special. They find the stress of weekends such that they need a good break on Monday – and who can blame them. I have been in museums every Sunday since we have been here and it is very wearing.
I had some business cards made today. I have been having some trouble explaining my name and address to the very many people from whom we buy things so decided that I needed card. Unfortunately I am one of the very few people in Wien who is not a Doctor or Professor so expect to receive some rather scornful looks when I hand the card out. The business cards took one hour which must be a record for getting anything done in Wien. Dry cleaning takes four days – but they may send it to Bratislava.
This will be a monster week as on Wednesday the rental furniture leaves and on Thursday our furniture arrives. This is not something we are looking forward to and will have to spend the entire weekend stuffing things into cupboards and the storeroom downstairs. It would have been sensible to get rid of a lot of junk before we left Sydney – but we have never been guilty of that.
I have two blog followers. One is Lenny the Dog and I am not sure about the other – although I have my suspicions. I am not displeased that after a month I can count a dog and an unknown reader among my readers and it gives me encouragement for the next few years. I imagine that this is representative of the readership I could expect of any book I wrote.
Mrs Schrack the furniture rental company owner kindly provided us with white waffle weave bedspreads and pillow slips. Naturally Muffin adores these and spends a lot of time lazing on the bed thinking about how gorgeous she looks on white. We put towels on the bed in the hope that the cats may lie on these but you can imagine how popular they are. Muffin occasionally gets up to inspect the bed to see if there is any part that she had not covered with fur. If she does find a spot she and Bilbo draw straws to see who gets to lie on it.
I spent some time wondering why the Austrians make their large beds with two smallers mattresses and two smaller doonas and thought that perhaps they dislike each other as much as they dislike Auslanders. I realised that larger items are difficult to get into apartments and can’t wait until they have to get two queen size mattresses up the stairs.
Cate still does not have an internet connection and is not happy.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
We cycled to Wein and Co to buy some Austrian wine and there threw ourselves on the mercy of the English speaking person – who knew something of Australian wine – and he explained to us the intricacies of the various types of Austrian whites. He then relieved us of €349 and sent us on our way and promised to deliver the wine on Monday. I am not sure if this is Monday my time or Monday Austrian time.
Cate trails behind when we are cycling so I have to keep stopping to see where she is. We were nearly home when I did this and she cannoned into the back of me (she was closer than I thought) and then we both crashed into a heap on the grassy verge – inches from the tram track. We conducted a short training session on brake levers and carried on. Cate had apparently though that bikes were like roller blades and that you had to coast to a stop or collide with something.
This followed her effort earlier in the day when we on our way to SCS and she failed to observe the redness of the traffic lights at a major intersection. The flat spots on the tires make a funny noise on the A2 – as do no doubt the drivers who survived Cate’s attempt to cut them in half with a very large and very blunt instrument.
The only really scary ride I have had so far is last week on a very wet night when Christine and Cate went to a musical event in the city. John had the brilliant idea that we should take them and then pick them up. There is a cyclist in Vienna who has his bike advertised as €1 ONO and may never leave the house again. I do not expect that John will ever again get into a car that I am driving (indeed – I am reluctant).
We went to the Kunsthistorisches Museum with Melissa and Henri to look at Egyptian stuff – my main interest and that of Melissa is in Katzenmumies – of which there is only one – but a very fine specimen indeed. We did however see a fine representation of a Hippopotamus using a jackhammer – this apparently is how the Egyptians built the pyramids and explains why Hippopotami drown anyone who comes near them.
We are members of this museum so go there most weeks to look at the cherubs and are really keen to have closer look at the Brueghels. We never spend more than an hour there otherwise Cate has to drag my lifeless corpse to the first aid station and use the paddles.
Melissa and Henri went to Simmering to see the cemetery which contains many famous dead people. Melissa has an interest only in long dead people but they were hard to find without a map.
We have tried to get her interested in recently dead people but she shows not a flicker of interest. She does has a service on her mobile phone that lets her know when anyone of interest dies – many of these are French so she has to ask Henri who they are in if they are really famous and worthy of her attention.
We set a new world record at Interio yesterday and gave Cate’s new Visa card a good thrashing. We have now purchased almost all of the furniture we need and are hopeful that some of it will arrive before we leave Wien.
The girls are no longer in residence and the apartment appears to be empty. I think they may have been from Eastern Europe and were deported for putting coloured glass into a recycling bin for white glass.
Friday, September 26, 2008
We are testing a number of local wines and there are some very nice whites. We have joined Wein and Co which enables us to buy large quantities of very expensive wine and get a 3% discount. This is a fabulous reduction by Viennese standards and means that for every 34 bottles we buy we get a free one.
The big problem with buying anything is getting it home. If we are at the Naschmarkt and get excited we end up with an enormous pile of meat, cheese and veggies which we have to carry home. Even if we take the U-Bahn this is a struggle. We end up shopping very carefully indeed.
We acquired an expensive and fast wireless internet connection so that Cate would have a fast connection at home. We have since discovered that the software Cate uses on her work PC will not allow her to connect to a home wireless connection – although she can connect to the wireless network in the local café because it is not secure.
Not only this – her work provides a separate home internet connection – but which of course takes some weeks to have installed. The upshot of this is that Cate does not have a connection – does not have her books – and does not have TV.
Of course the people at work knew when Cate was coming and knew where she would be living so could have ordered the connection well in advance. They did not - it is still weeks away - so Cate roams the house like a caged lion roaring occasionally and scaring the life out of the cats.
John and I went cycling around the Ring and saw some fine buildings. Wien is indeed a magnificent city and it is simply a delight to be able to cycle around on dedicated cycle paths. Cyclists even have their own crossings with traffic lights that show green bicycles when it is time to cross. In Sydney they have pictures of cyclist with targets on them.
AEG responded to my queries about washer and dryer manuals in English. They do not sell my models outside Austria and Germany so there are no English equivalents. They suggested that I could use Google to translate the German into English. Gosh I hadn’t thought of that. The problem is that many of the words and terms are not in German dictionaries. e.g. the designers made up a term like ‘fast spin with 1 ½ tuck and pike’ and people in Germany know what this means – but you won’t find in the dictionary. I will have to pester Christian at Lefkowitz.
Cate’s podiatry conference has been cancelled so she will join me on 2 October to greet our long lost furniture. It will be like seeing old friends again.
John and Christine are unhappy with the accommodation and are checking out early. Apparently they were disturbed by the toilet paper with the duck motif. They are off to Paris and I will prepare the guest room for Melissa and Henri who arrive on Saturday.
There was a frisson of excitement when someone left a comment on my Blog. It turned out to be a spammer who wanted to sell me a coffee machine.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Shopping City Sud was a resounding failure and I did not get what I wanted at IKEA. I did get a bunch of glass jars that will be useful for storing a lot of the stuff which I buy from Billa but can’t really identify by sight, smell or taste. As my German develops I will discover what these things are and put them to good use – or not as the case may be.
Last time we went to SCS we inadvertently took the A17 home and this is a slow road which takes forever. I was determined today to take the faster A2 so – when I missed the A2 turn – went way around the block then through a hotel car park until I finally joined the A2 – on which there was a massive traffic jam and it took me 2 hours to get home. I don’t know what the problem was – but suspect a duck detonation.
I have had a message that the SKY-UK satellite dish has been received somewhere in Wien and that someone will contact me soon to install it. Soon does not mean the same in Wien as it does in other places so I am not waiting at the front door.
I got my first International Herald Tribune today but can’t read it yet. It was not delivered until 9.30 - which means that it will be too late for me to read at breakfast. I therefore have to save today’s IHT to read at breakfast tomorrow. This will mean that I am getting the news a day late but as I haven’t read a newspaper for months this is no great burden. I did glance at the front page and saw the news about the Titanic – and they said it was unsinkable!
Not content with stuffing my letter box full of brochures someone actually struggles up to the top floor most days (which is level D – no I don’t know what it means) and hangs a few kilos of brochures from our door handle in a plastic bag. Now that’s commitment. However, they have probably seen that I spend money like a drunken sailor in Rio on New Year’s Eve so their efforts may not be wasted – especially as soon as I can find out what they are selling.
I have been instructed by Cate to get tickets to Mozart’s Requiem which at any given moment is playing in at least 60 venues in Wien. He must have been a landlady’s nightmare that boy because he apparently lived in 13 different places in Wien. I have to get tickets to a specific performance at Karlskirche so will start foraging.
There has been a disaster with Cate’s travel. She was due to go to Thailand next week and this coincided with the furniture delivery. She has had to change the dates and now is scheduled to be in town on the day the furniture arrives. She is of course frantically scouring the internet for other travel opportunities and I think has booked herself into a podiatry conference in Minsk. Who can blame her – I certainly don’t want to be here when the furniture arrives – especially the Nicholas Dattner table.
There are lights in the apartment next door so the girls must be there. But newspapers are no longer being delivered.
Happy birthday today to older brother Burne!
News soon on Cate’s internet connection.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
The cord for the iron is one metre long. I would like those of you who iron to think about this for a minute. The only way to iron successfully is to put the ironing board on the floor next to a power point and kneel beside it. The iron is an FXH3 with a Super – Vertical – Antical system - but doesn’t get very hot. I would like to present for you the discussion that took place in the design section of the company that makes this triumph of modern technology.
“Gunther – I have finished designing the FXH3.
Ja – sehr gut Werner – have you put a cord on it?
A cord – was is das?
Das is the thing that connects it to the electricity – it is very important.
Gott in Himmel – I have used all the budget in the design of this magnificent feat of engineering – I have no money for a cord.
Well you must have one – without a cord the iron will not work well at all.
OK then – how long must this cord thing be?
I don’t know Werner – I have never used an iron – you must use your imagination!”
John and I went to Bauhaus to buy firewood. They had no real wood as - according to the sales assistant – this sold out almost immediately. I cannot understand why the Austrians prefer real wood for their fires rather than compressed sawdust and I am sure nor can the person at Bauhaus who ordered two pallets of real wood and 6,000 pallets of sawdust – most of which remains unsold. Perhaps he works part time as an iron designer.
After loading up the trolley we were accosted by a security guard who wanted to see my receipt and seemed disappointed when I produced a valid one. I think he would have liked to have beaten me soundly with his stick . It was cold and wet and he didn’t look at all happy to be on duty at Bauhaus today.
I took us two trips to get the sawdust into the apartment but we now have enough of this stuff piled to the ceiling to have a roaring blaze for at least an hour. The sawdust weighs a tonne but burns like cardboard.
It is raining constantly so John and Christine are going to the museum to count cherubs and nymphs - which is great way to pass a rainy morning as long as you have the incentive of pastries and coffee at the end of it. I am thinking I might go to Shopping City Sud to get a few chores done before the weekend. See how blasé I have become about taking the QM out of its lair!
Cate’s start to the day was fairly average – she forgot her keys so couldn’t get into her office. I was on my way home when she rang so I was tasked to go home – get the keys and take them to her. I decided to see if I could park outside and save 15 minutes but could not do this so went around the block. This is not as easy as it sounds because there are many one way streets (Einbahn) and I got caught at traffic lights and then behind a garbage truck. So it took rather a long time to get back to Cate and she was really cross – which is unusual for her because her default status these days is enraged.
Soon I will tell you about why Cate doesn’t have an internet connection at home and how happy this makes her.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Cate has the same concept of time as Stephen Hawking. It has no beginning, no end and is infinitely expandable. I calculated that to get to the church to see the Vienna Boys Choir with a casual stroll and degree of relaxation and comfort we should allow 45 minutes.
As usual we left late and with less than half an hour to spare because Cate had to match her socks with her earrings and we then had to go like the clappers to get there in time. Cate took a short cut which added a kilometre to the journey. I arrived panting and sweating and spent most of the time wondering whether I should vomit on my shoes or on the crowd below (I decided on the shoes but managed to hang on).
The mass was better than expected although the accommodation was somewhat cramped. I now know where Qantas got the inspiration for their economy class seats. We were in an alcove on the first level and by hanging over this and peering up could see the tops of the heads of some very small boys in the choir. Some of them are indeed very small and I hope their mothers were not too far away.
The people in the three rows behind us could see nothing except our heads and the people in the alcove on the opposite side of the church – but there was CCTV so that they could watch the mass and the choir. They do warn you that you cannot see the choir but I am sure the people behind us were underwhelmed by the experience.
At the end of the mass the choir came down to the front and gave us a chorus of Pinball Wizard (or it may have been something religious) before vanishing. When we came out of the alcove Casino Wien had set up gaming tables so that those who did not think they had paid enough for their seats could make a more serious donation.
We also went to one of the traditional Viennese coffee houses where everyone is smoking at least one cigarette and every now and then a piece of the nicotine coated ceiling drops like a stone into the strudel. ‘Zee strudel iss ferry crunchy today Helga!’ There an ancient waitress shouted at us before hurling two coffees onto the table and stomping off to hack somebody to death which her false teeth.
The girls are back in town – or at least their light is on. So either they are home or the skinner has returned to turn them into Wiener Schnitzel. However, there was no paper today – nor did I get my International Herald Tribune to which I have attempted to subscribe. I am still reading the shopping brochures and now know the words for ‘special’ and ‘sale’.
I have been to Merkur at the Millennium Centre on my own and it was a harrowing experience. I am not sure for which Millennium the car park was built but it sure doesn’t like cars the size of the Queen Mary. When I tried to get out the ticket machine at the exit gate told me (in German and then in English) that I was in the wrong car park. I don’t know what this means – by definition I was in the car park I entered – and was now trying to leave. Does it think I beamed myself in from another car park? I pressed the button and spoke to the man who had trouble with my accent so I starting singing a Wiggles song and he let me out immediately.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Furniture buying was a failure so next week we will have to go once again to Shopping City Sud .(Shriek!)
Bill tried to strangle himself by putting his paw through his collar and cutting off his air supply. He went quite furry in the face until we cut off his collar. He recovered well without mouth to mouth resuscitation – which was not in fact an option. I am not sure if this was an attempted suicide based on the quality of his life as I thought he was quite happy since we started feeding him the best Viennese steak - which I carefully cut into small bite-sized cubes. I have now removed Muffin’s collar so that she does not have this option. If they want to merge with infinity they have the same opportunity as all the other occupants of the building to jump from the terrace. It’s not supposed to be easy and they will just have to tough it out like the rest of us.
You can shop online here and have your groceries delivered – well you can if you speak German. After some considerable effort I managed to register with the Billa site so am going have test run soon. Theoretically this should not be too hard but there are built in safeguards with most things Austrian that prevent them from being too easy. This would only encourage people and they would do more of whatever it is they want to do – and this would annoy the hell out of everybody else.
Having been thwarted in his suicide attempt Bill is now getting up very early to chase imaginary rats around the bedroom. He hurtles over and under the bed, along the central heating ducts and up and down the bedroom hallway. This can last for half an hour and is very wearing for all of us – Muffin included. Fortunately after a while his few remaining brain cells lose focus and he goes to sleep again.
Will and Kris were just here and in about 48 hours explored Wien from top to bottom. They are indeed intrepid explorers and now know more about Wien than we ever will.
Geoffrey and Carmella are with us now and take a far more relaxed approach to these types of things. Geoffrey has the same view as I do that all old buildings have one thing in common – they are all old – and that they are all much the same. Darryl formed this view about castles last year in France and now breaks out into a rash whenever he sees one on TV. Liz just can’t get enough of them – I think it’s a girl thing.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
We collected our bikes from Star Bikes in Lasallestrasse. Naturally Hans Peter was not there so we had to start again with a nice young man who found our bikes and had them fitted with baskets. We bought very stylish helmets and not so stylish security chains. The baskets look silly but are essential as you can't cycle gripping a plastic bag full of groceries between your teeth.
There was a small problem when we came to pay in that they accept (like so many other stores) Bankomat card or cash. I have a small limit on my Bankomat card so had to use this and then go to the bank to get cash – on the same Bankomat card. Like many things – it is not supposed to make sense.
Of course it was raining by the time we set off home but off we went and had a jolly time. I only fell off once - when I got my front wheel caught in a gutter and landed on my back with arms and legs flailing - like a large turtle on its back. I am accustomed to moments of humiliation in Wien so it was no problem at all.
Cate says I need at least two and possibly three coats to prepare for the winter. The starting price for coats here seems to be about €1,000 which is a bit scary - (we did see a nice one in Ringstrassen Galerien for €9.000). I also need a hat and gloves. I have my eye on a brace of Alaskan Malamutes and a dog sled for when the cold weather really sets in.
We caught the tram to Mariahilferstrasse to do furniture shopping and our weekly shop at the Naschmarkt. This is a truly wonderful market where you get lots of lovely fresh food and veggies. The veggie stalls are apparently staffed by out of work parking police who are not happy in their work - but we can cope with this.
There is a wonderful store called Poehl where they have more different types of cold meat than I have ever seen before in the one shop. And there are real cheese shops - bliss!
The most urgent job was to find shampoo and conditioner for Cate. Her hair is both precious and unique and requires a specific type of shampoo and conditioner which is found almost nowhere in the known universe - so you can imagine the fun we had peering into every Friseur we could find. Cate eventually buckled under the pressure. With the thought in mind that she had no shampoo and could not leave the house again unless she washed her hair she had to buy some rubbish that only cost $60 per bottle.
It's tough living in hardship posts like Wien.
Friday, September 19, 2008
It took me three hours but I finally made some (awful) coffee on the new Jura machine. The instruction book says basically:
2. Make coffee
1. Turn the machine on
2. Why isn't the machine on
3. How do I turn the machine on
4. I'll try turning it on and off again
5. I'll try another power point
6. Perhaps it is on and the light is not showing
7. Oh the light is showing - I have to remove this piece of plastic
8. It says turn the dial to one or two cups and press button to make coffee
9. There are no cups showing how do I turn the dial to a cup that is not showing
10. Perhaps if I push this - whoops! not that one apparently - Damn - where are the paper towels.
And so it went - and it took a great deal of time and patience before the first drops of coffee sputtered forth. I have a bad affect on machinery and I am not sure that Jura likes me. Putting water into the hopper for ground coffee did not help.
Extensive testing is now required to ensure that we have drinkable coffee when the rental machine goes. This is most important because surprisingly enough the don't sell Bushell's tea here so now start my day with coffee. I no longer drink the Viennese Artery Cloggers and when I go out have a Verlangeter mit Milch which is a black coffee with milk.
This morning I had what I thought were croissants but turned out to be croissant casings filled with marmalade goo and araldite. I made heavy weather of these but remember what they were called so will not fall for that one again.
We found a very nice local restaurant tonight where we were probably the only Auslanders (foreigners) and the food was good and not expensive. Also - very important - a separate non smoking area.
Fortunately I was asked no questions as this would have elicited my usual pathetic response 'Enschuldigung, mein Deutsch is nicht sehr gut' actually its almost non existent.
The only thing I didn't know how to ask for was where the post box is. These are not readily apparent in Austria and I am not sure that Post.at actually wants the business. It is certainly hard to find a post office. So I may well have put my letters in a duck recycling bin.
I bought some vacuum cleaner bags to replace the one that exploded and covered most of Wien in a fine cloud of dust. Naturally they are the wrong size but with scissors and patience I have managed to fit a bag into the cleaner.
It took me hours to clean the dust out of its innards but now when it is turned on it blows out an enormous cloud of dust. This will be a nice surprise for the next poor sod who gets hold of it and finds that after they have vacuumed the house they have to - well - vacuum the house.
Now about the girls next door. When we were here in June we looked at the apartment next door and it was empty. When we arrived in early September the real estate agent said it was still empty - but we saw two girls in there. Then after a couple of days they vanished. The papers (German - Der Standard) have not been collected for more than a week.
A few days ago there was a cleaner in the apartment taking out bags of rubbish. She took away the newspapers - which are now piling up again. So who were these girls and where are they now - if indeed they are still alive. Some possibilities are:
1.They have been kidnapped by one of the mad Austrians who keeps people in basements (I have checked ours - they are not there).
2.A duck exploded in the apartment and made in uninhabitable.
This is the best I can do at the moment - I will make further enquiries.
News flash - the papers delivered Saturday morning have been removed! Who did this and why?
Thursday, September 18, 2008
We have 8 keys to our apartment. With the usual Viennese engineering efficiency one key fits everything - building door, front door, store room door, common room door, mail box.
The downside is that you lose a key in Vienna it makes front page news. It has to be reported to the police and there is the potential for you to have to pay to have the locks changed in your building so that your neighbours are not at risk of burglary. I have roughly estimated that if we lose a key it may cost us about €400,000 to have the locks changed on the apartments in our building - which is really two big buildings.
Croissants are not called Croissants either and I haven't quite worked out what they are - something like grudelkneropls.
They are usually unsuccessful - as with the man who came to fix the blinds yesterday. The blind on one of the upstairs skylights is torn - but it is a Velux blind and he cannot do anything with this (he is not Velux accredited?). As is usually the case he 'will tell someone' who will then presumably send someone else. The man from Velux will fly from Hamburg with an assistant. They will ring and make an appointment. When they arrive they will inspect the blind and make an assessment. They will then go away and one day another man will arrive to measure the blind. Some years after we have left Vienna a man will arrive with a new blind. By this time the blind next to it will be broken.
Jumping Jehoshaphat! The men just arrived and installed the internet, TV and telephone. No fuss - just bunged it in, made sure it was working and off. It is very fast internet too - how exciting.
Big day yesterday too - washing machine, dryer and coffee machine delivered. I spent some hours last night trying to find English language manuals on the internet - but the models they sell in Austria are not the same as the ones they sell in the UK or the USA - so I have sent plaintive emails to AEG asking for help.
In the meantime I am washing and drying after a fashion. I put clothes in and press buttons until the machines start doing something. They come out of the washer wet which is a good sign - but in Austria does not necessarily mean that they have been washed. The washer may have just wet them to inspect them to see how dirty they were - and is still deciding whether or not to wash them.
I did find an English language manual for the coffee machine but it runs to 86 pages and I haven't had the courage to start the process of setting it up. This appears to have as many steps as commissioning a nuclear reactor - and is probably just as hazardous.
I had to scratch around last night for something more classy as we went to the house of the Grand Fromage for dinner with a bunch of other country managers and regional directors. They are an enormously diverse and cosmopolitan lot - all living in a wide range of places.
The boss lives in a castle on the outskirts of Vienna. There is a moat with crocodiles and a wild animal park. He shoots deer from his back veranda (I made some of this up).
I do not plan to leave notes on the bicycles explaining what happened.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Saturday, September 13, 2008
I rang the Pentagon and told them that Osama bin Laden was hiding in the men's loo in Merkur but it doesn't seem to have prompted them to do anything.
I will try again in a few weeks and if that fails I will just have to get a personal loan so I can get a Reload card.
Friday, September 12, 2008
I had the small one - the large one comes with a defibrillator.
The captions are not always lined up with the pictures so while I can see a Trockenblumenstrasse and a Bienenwachskerzen I am not sure which is which. So they are not much help for shopping expeditions.
The girls in the apartment across the way get a newspaper delivered so I am going to try this. I don't really know where to start so will wait and until I see them outside their door and assault them with my incomprehensible German. I am a bit worried about them as they seem to stay out all night quite a lot. I will not broach this subject during the first meeting.
It is cooling down a bit and I think we can expect no more than 110 degrees tomorrow. This means that our shoes may not stick to the bitumen in the car park like they did last week.
Good news from Christian - the washing machine, dryer and coffee machine are being delivered next Wednesday - after which is going on a holiday to St. Moritz with his mate from Jura.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
I had been admiring my toilet flush button for some days (boys get to do this) and had spent some time wondering why the button had signs (in English) indicating that you pushed the button twice to stop the flush.
I was not able to think laterally about this and was pondering the circumstances under which you would need to stop the flush. Perhaps if one's false teeth or glass eye fell in at a critical moment?
Yesterday I made the day of the man from Lefkowitz in Hauptstrasse. I lurched in and said that I wanted to buy a washing machine, a dryer and a coffee maker. Unlike Hans Peter - Christian set about me with some degree of enthusiasm and 10 minutes later had relieved me of €1,900.
I was at Lefkowitz after a chastening experience at Miele where the lower end of the washing machine range starts at €1,200. Fortunately the salesman there spoke no English so I escaped unscathed.
The best brand of coffee machine is Jura - made in Switzerland. Christian told me so it must be true.
Today I took the QM solo to Bauhaus to buy a mop. This was a scarifying experience for me and for a small number of other Austrian motorists. The problem is that they hang the traffic lights over the centre of the intersection - not on poles at the side where you can see them. Newbies like me park too close to the corner and can't see the lights. What happened today wasn't all my fault and they should make allowances for new drivers - perhaps they could have them drive red cars.
The staff in Bauhaus speak no English (why would they) so if you want to buy a thingy that holds book shelves up you have to know its name or describe it in charades. I did manage to buy a mop.
I also bought something yesterday at Spar that I think is fly spray except it is more spray than mist and sort of clingy. It could be olive oil. The flies here are very small and I think the droplets knock them unconscious and when they fall to the ground you can batter them to death.
The cats arrived to day and have spent the night roaming around the house yowling. They haven't said much about the trip and I'm guessing it wasn't up to much. I showed Muffy the balcony and she seemed to appreciate the lights of Vienna but was disappointed that there is scaffolding around Stephansdom.
The only bad news is the the Katzentoilette is in my bathroom. It is the size of a child's wading pool and contains about 100 litres of litter. I have rented a bobcat so I get get in there and dig out Casey Stoner.
On Saturday we ventured out to buy two bicycles. The plan was to walk to the bike shop, buy the bikes and helmets and then cycle to the Internet cafe. Hah!
It doesn't seem like a long way on the map but let me tell you that 5 Lasallestrasse is quite a hike from Am Heumarkt. A key feature of the trip is the perilous negotiation of the 12 pointed Prater Stern. Panting with exertion and anticipation we arrived in full bike buying mode.
Hans Peter is a lovely man but wouldn't sell us any bikes. He said he had the perfect bikes for us at €499 each - but not in the right size. He would have to get them from Hamburg.
He had some more expensive bikes that would suit us (€800) and we were so desperate we said we would pay - but sadly it was out of his price range. We could not have these bikes because:
(a) We were only here for a few years and would not get value for money, and
(b) More expensive bikes get stolen more often in Wien
No amount of pleading would change his mind. He told us to go and look at other bike shops and if we couldn't find anything to send him an email and he would order the bikes from Hamburg. This we did after failing to find another bike shop.
You can imagine the conversation in Hans Peter's house when he gets home at the end of a hard day not selling bicycles.
'Did you have a good day dear'
'Oh Yes - I sold no bicycles today - it was tough because some Australians blubbed and pleaded - but I was strong - you would have been so proud of me'
'Oh Hans Peter - you are such a good man!'
So we are stuck with the QM until the Merc arrives. This seemed like a good choice at the time we bought it but the cars of choice for hire cars and taxis here are black Mercs so I expect that we will be hailed a lot as we drive along. I suppose I could make a quid if I wanted to.
We have solved the turntable problem. This would work briefly each morning and then clag out. It turns out that Cate was using the green button to get it started and then the red emergency stop button to bring it to a grinding halt. The use of the red button apparently requires the attention of a mechanic to get the turntable moving again.
Today it worked - so we started our journey leaving the garage head first - for the first time. It is difficult to explain the garage but suffice to say that there is just enough room to stuff the QM in there leaving mere centimeters on each side - and at the top. Imagine inserting a (very large) banana into its skin and you will come close.
The space is 1.5 metres high by 5.0 metres long. The car is 1.51 metres high (it has rubber handles on top of it - I am not sure what these are for) and 4.99 metres long. It is best not to get out of the car and stand up as a loud clang will be followed by short bout of unconsciousness. One enters and exits the car in the manner of Quasi Modo.
So because of the height there is an unnerving scraping noise when we move in or out. This is not as exciting as the front, back and side proximity alarms which increase in frequency and intensity as you get closer to objects. When the car is finally inserted into its spot all the alarms are going full blast. I have started carrying a paper bag with me and breathing slowly into this to settle myself down.
The turntable is also very exciting as the QM does not quite fit onto it so there is a frisson of excitement as you wait to see if you will scrape the walls.
This morning started well and we got all the way to Cate's street with her screaming only twice. While waiting to turn a motorist starting tooting and waving at me so I assumed (I am sure correctly) that I was doing something illegal so I panicked and took off - arriving back at the same place about 15 minutes later.
Cate is always very quiet when she gets out of the car to go into the office.
When I arrive home I am required to ring Cate and tell her I'm alive. We are always both surprised.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Anyway - it is day 2 and Cate has been without an Internet connection for nearly 24 hours and is starting to shake, sweat and foam at the mouth. So we set out to find an Internet cafe. This is not easy but after a long trudge we find a cafe in Krugerstrasse that has free wireless. All you have to do to have this is drink a cup of ground mouse droppings and peer at the screen through a haze of smoke as the locals try desperately to kill themselves as quickly as possible.
There must be some incentive scheme for smokers to prompt so many people to do it so voraciously. Perhaps a Fly Buy scheme - for every million cigarettes you get a new lung?
For goodness sake they sell cigarettes from machines hanging on the walls in this town. I saw a bunch of machines in Landstrasse where you could buy chewing gum, condoms and cigarettes. Sort of a one stop shop really. Chew, fornicate and smoke - not necessarily in that order.
Today we were to get wireless Internet, Cable TV with 6 million channels and a telephone landline. What did we get - Zip! Null! Nada!
Cheerful Internet Man (IM) arrives on time and starts farnarkling. After a while all lights go out and power goes off. IM resets - it happens again - and again - and again.
IM loses interest - there is a wiring problem and I need an electrician.
When will I see you again I ask plaintively - I really don't want 6 million channels all in foreign languages that I don't understand - but I really do want an internet connection.
Ven zee cable is fixed! he replies sternly.
Fortunately there is a work around for this problem. I buy a separate wireless connection and we don't have a telephone or TV - elegant huh?
When I went to the mobile phone shop to get a wireless network USB they farted in the general direction of my residency card and asked for (you guessed it) passport and Meldezettel. As I did not have them with me I had to take out a casual contract at an extraordinary price - but have started to realise that most things are extraordinary prices here.
Proudly clutching our residency cards we then to see Regine at Bank Austria who gave us our Bankomat cards and credit cards. Our limits are such that we couldn't fill a shopping trolley at Billa - but we have to start somewhere.
The next fun part of the day for me was picking up the rental car from Ducky Pharma - where it was parked in the staff garage. I met Christina who took me down to the garage and showed me this enormous Tiger Tank left over from WWII. I was admiring this and wondering why they kept it in the garage and why there was no rust after more than 60 years - when she handed me the keys and wished me good luck.
Closer inspection revealed it to be a Volvo Mother Ship. Closer inspection still revealed it to be a manual. Not wishing to appear to be a complete baby in front of Christina I boldly took the keys and leaped into the drivers seat. Discovering that there was no steering wheel I decided to move to the other side at which point Christina waved goodbye and disappeared back into the building.
I tried to find how to start the mother ship for a good ten minutes before I gave up and had to go and find Christina. To my credit - there is no key and a complicated set of codes and buttons fires up the boilers.
I crept out of the building in first gear and turned on Tom Tom the GPS system. Oh Dear - it has Australian maps in it - now I remember - David borrowed it just before we left Australia and I forgot to insert the Western Europe chip. Whoops - I didn't bring a map of Vienna with me today (because I have Tom Tom)
I am not sure how I got home but I had to have a lie down when I got there.
The ship has been christened the 'Queen Mary' and sailing schedules are available at Lloyd's of London. Travellers are advised to take Travacalm at least 30 minutes before boarding.
Monday, September 8, 2008
It was at hot as buggery and we quickly realised that there was a problem with the air conditioning. At full bore the ones that worked at all were barely pushing out any cool air at all - and a mouse would pass wind with more energy than the units in the upstairs rooms. Cate closed all the blinds and we decided to wait to see what happened. It got hotter.
At 10:30 the rental furniture deliverers arrived and confronted the task before them. Clearly not easily frightened they started the process of heaving the furniture through two courtyards and then up six flights of stairs. They are not permitted to use the elevator to move furniture and in any event it has a maximum capacity of two people - and it is best if these two are either related or extremely fond of each other.
I keep thinking about the Nicholas Dattner and how this can possibly be moved from street level into the eerie.
They heaved and puffed and grunted and sweated. Then they discovered that by using the Beatrixgasse entrance they could cut out two flights of stairs and progress improved. Nevertheless the task was not completed until after six.
Irene the owner appeared a few times and towards the end to make sure everything was in order. The temperature in the apartment increased steadily and birds landing on the roof were vapourised before they realised their mistake and could resume flight.
I unpacked the kitchen stuff and realised after putting away 12 egg cups that we had been give two settings - which Irene rescued for taking away. She left us with some useful and some strange furniture. The most bizarre item being a desk and display cabinet which has a glass front and a light so that presumably you can display your best looking stationery to best effect.
We staggered across to Spar which is a grocery store and delicatessen but with a fine collection of cheese and cold meat. By pointing and grunting we were able to assemble the makings of a fine repast which we planned to enjoy on the balcony overlooking Stephansdom.
Some of the things are so incredibly expensive that they took our breath away but we didn't have much of an alternative but to ante up. A great deal of guesswork was involved and some of the purchases turned out to be not quite what they were expected to be.
I still don't know if what we are using in the washing machine is washing powder - or indeed in which slot it is supposed to go. But as we have no idea what the German words on the dials mean I guess it doesn't matter much in the overall scheme of things. A dictionary is no help as most of the words are simply not there.
Indeed the washing machine did its first load without water as the installers had not turned the water on - so clearly what you put in it is not too important.
To our horror we discovered that we did not have a corkscrew so I was sent on a mission to acquire one of these - which if you need one in Austria is a Korkenzieher. After stumbling from shop to shop shouting 'Korkenzieher Bitte' I finally found one in Billa in Landstrasser-Hauptstrasse and hurried home to have our first evening in our new home.
Flopping exhausted into the nest we passed a relatively peaceful night disturbed only by the sound of the metal roof melting and plopping into Beatrixgasse.