Friday, January 2, 2009

Cate is no longer a speeding fine virgin

Melissa and Cate at Mauthausen.

So much has happened here I just don’t know where to start. Leaping Lizards it has been exciting.

New smoking regulations came into force on 1 January but they are meaningless and will almost have no effect. I quote from an article in the Austrian Times:

‘Austria will introduce a partial smoking ban in bars and restaurants on 1 January but with half measures and special allowances, critics are doubtful it will make much difference to existing habits.

Under the new law, which was rushed through parliament just before it was dissolved in July ahead of snap elections, establishments under 50 square metres will be able to choose whether to accept smokers or not. And two thirds of pubs, clubs and cafes have said they will continue to allow smoking, according to the latest survey by the Austrian chamber of commerce (WKÖ).

Bigger establishments that do not wish to become entirely smoke-free will have to turn at least 50 per cent of their surface into protected no-smoking areas. But those between 50 and 80 square metres can escape required partitioning on architectural, security or conservation grounds, and 38.4 per cent said they would seek an exemption from the authorities, meaning they will likely remain open to smokers, the WKÖ found. Those that do plan a partition will have until 1 July, 2010 to do so and can continue to allow smoking until then.’

The new laws are such a joke that its is difficult to believe that the NSW State Government was not involved.

However, some suicidal innkeepers may decide to go for the non-smoking option and will have a sign on their doors to this effect. We will patronise these places until they go bankrupt in a month or so.

Gwenyth has proved to be a real party girl. When she said her idea of a good time was a piece of cheese, a glass of red wine and a DVD we could hardly contain our excitement.

So our usual evening recreation is to watch some DVDs and go to bed fairly early. We watched 3 movies on New Year’s Eve but managed to stay awake until midnight and watch a spectacular fireworks display from our living room.

At one stage Gwenyth ventured out on to the terrace to get a better look so after a few minutes we had to strip her off and throw her on the fire until she turned pink again.

We have a 180 degree view of the city so we saw most of the fireworks which seemed to go from the Rathaus down past the Wollzeile. It was really quite a sight.

There were lunatics setting off crackers all night and they were still at it very early in the morning. We thought this would bother Muffin but she seemed to be OK and is starting to settle down a bit after the departure of Bill.

Gwenyth just loves Wien but is suffering badly from the cold. We can only venture out for short periods and have to come back to recover. Cate and Gwenyth have been cycling and have so far ridden around the ring three times. I warned Gwenyth that she is likely to be T Boned by Cate so she has given her a wide berth and has only fallen off once - all by herself.

Gwenyth has borrowed my Siberian Elk Hunters hat and looks like a WWII Soviet Fighter Pilot – but has warm ears.

We went to Melk Abbey and had a guided tour – which is the only way you can go there at this time of the year. It was absolutely freezing and I was the coldest I have been so far. We drove back through the Wachau valley which is absolutely delightful and quite the prettiest place we have seen so far in Austria.

Cate collected our first speeding ticket with an impressive 92 kilometers per hour in a 50 zone. The heroic policeman leapt out in front of her with a stop sign on a stick but she wasn’t paying attention and was committed to running him over until Gwenyth and I screamed in unison and she slammed on the brakes. We now know that these work outstandingly well.

After he had a quick change of underpants he started lecturing Cate in German and went on for some time until I nudged Cate and suggested she tell him that she didn’t speak German.

Well he didn’t speak English so we have some trouble – especially when he wanted the registration papers and I had to tell him that these were in our apartment in Wien.

Eventually he wrote out a docket and gave Cate a fine of €20 – which is so ludicrous that we now understand why people speed in Austria without compunction. I mean you can drive at almost double the speed limit and pay the fine out of the housekeeping money. This must be done by the same department that does the smoking regulations.

Of course then she crept home like a snail on Prozac and was passed by farmers on hay carts shaking their fists at her.

Fortunately Gwenyth is starting to get rid of her cold – she has given it to Cate and I – so is starting to perk up. Tonight we are going out for a knees up and will pop into Café Malepop for a nightcap on the way home.

I have acquired some bubble wrap so that I can wrap up the Christmas tree ornaments prior to hacking the tree to pieces and throwing it into the fire. It is starting to look a bit sad and is ready to go. I have renamed it George Bush but it won’t be able to hang on until Inauguration Day.


  1. I didn't realise that Cate was a hoonette. Jim calls me this sometimes when there's a large pool of water in a blocked gutter and I drive through creating a bow wave and spray, but only when there are no pedestrians!

    I'm sure you'll enjoy burning George Bush, piece by piece.

    Sydney's weather today:
    Fine, cloud decreasing, 23C - quite good for Day 1 Cricket Test.

    Cheers, Annie

  2. In fact you have been VERY lucky! The policemen must have either a)had one too many Punschs or Glühweins b) still have been in a somewhat festive mood c) had a lot of mercy for foreign speeders with no austrian license yet.

    Doing 92 in a 50 km/h zone is quite something and usually you don't get away with EUR 20,--. Usually it's more like a MUCH heavier fine, in a recurring case suspension of drivers license (so be careful not to do that with your austrian licenses) or worse, going back to driving school for lectures...

    Going 10 to 15 km/h over the speed limit is fully acceptable and not really all that costly - this is why most austrians don't stick to the limits strictly - but anything more can become very expensive.

    Sorry to hear about your loss. Having to cats myself I don't even want to think about loosing them...

    As for kittens: they are usually born in spring (April/May) and fall (August/September). Ever thought of going to an animal shelter and getting 2 Kitties from there?

  3. Well, I have maintained a proud and strong silence over the last 4 months but I finally feel I need to defend myself. About the 92 kms in the 50 km zone - it is apparent to me that, well, the zone should not ever have been 50 km. It was made for 100kms. Only half a minute down the road was a 130 kms sign, the road was straight and the road was wide ... After Oh so fein's comment though I am waiting for the other shoe to drop and for a nice little fine to appear in the mail. I don't think they could take away an Australian licence ... can they?

  4. Hi Cate,

    no need to defend yourself - I have had my fair share of fines for speeding being an avid driver and biker, so I fully understand... :-))

    No worries: if the police man had you pay on the spot, you won't get anything unpleasant in the mail.

    How signs are being put up does amaze me too, sometimes! A speed limit of 50, where the street easily provides for 100 does not make any sense at all at first glance. But sometimes authorities put up the speed limit, if a certain number of fatal accidents has happened on that particular stretch of the road...

    I don't think that they could snatch the australian license from you (but am not sure)...

    Have a good weekend...