Author Topic: Jubal in Vienna: Learnings And Suchlike  (Read 157 times)

Jubal

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Jubal in Vienna: Learnings And Suchlike
« on: August 05, 2017, 12:00:00 AM »
I meant to do a lot more proper diary/blogging starting out here, but I haven't done so, for two main reasons:
  • It is hard to blog when one has too much paperwork to do, and even moving to another EU country involves a fair amount of that.
  • It's really hot here.

When I say hot here, I mean really hot - I've arrived in Vienna in heatwave conditions and it's hit 37 or 38 celsius some days. My brain's been running at about half capacity all week. Nonetheless, things have happened!

Vienna doesn't feel quite like anywhere else I've been - the feel to me is more southern or eastern than northern European, though this may be partly influenced by the weather. It's mostly a city of tall apartment blocks, with a centre full of imperial-level pomp and over the top baroque architecture. In many ways it feels far less tourist focussed than London; the Imperial era architecture and palaces form a backdrop to people living ordinary city life below. The past of somewhere like London has polished itself up for new vistors; Vienna's feels a little more like it has exhaled and decided that it's high time to take a nap. The central city parks perhaps suffer from this, feeling neither so bright as a well kept formal garden nor having been permitted the blast of wilderness that some city parks have regained in the UK - but for the city overall it feels nicer than it might do, the imposing buildings being treated as far less of an imposition than they might otherwise be.

My area, very close to the centre, is a grid-shaped district of apartment blocks that has cafes and bars nestling beneath them on some of the streets. The little "Billa" supermarkets are omnipresent (all seemingly complete with somewhat rushed and stressed looking staff, though I imagine the heat isn't helping moods), but there are many smaller shops that I'll hopefully get to explore. I need to find another apartment within six weeks - I got somewhere on a short let while settling in - but this area seems fairly pleasant, and here or a little to the north, somewhere on the half-hour walking line between this road and my office, seems a good starting area to look at.

I've got a lot of other thoughts that I'll try and get down in the next few days if anyone's interested, and am finding out plenty about life in Austria. Not least that Austrian police sirens sound disconcertingly more like they're announcing a cavalry charge than the arrival of law enforcement, which rather startled me the first time I heard one...
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...

Clockwork

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Re: Jubal in Vienna: Learnings And Suchlike
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2017, 11:19:33 AM »
Like :)
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Jubal

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Re: Jubal in Vienna: Learnings And Suchlike
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2017, 10:45:57 PM »
Thanks - let me know if any questions or curiosities arise :)

Glaurung (who's visiting) and I wandered around some more of the old city centre today. It's again an area of tall apartments and narrow streets. Even many buildings that would elsewhere be very imposing, like large churches and even to some extent the cathedral, are strangely less so because they're fitted closely into the network of apartment blocks so one never gets far enough away to see the scale and they don't tower over the neighbouring buildings. The exception is probably the Hofsburg palace, once home of the Habsburg rulers, which still has at least a couple of large, open approaches. Even that is somewhat less tourist-heavy than an equivalent place elsewhere might be, but it definitely retains a certain haughty glamour, coupled nicely with the presence of many horse and carriage sets in the square to one side of it. Horse & carriage is definitely the tourist way to get around the city, and it has a certain charm as an idea though I'm not sure I'll want to shell out that much money.

The Donau canal, which branches off the Danube and passes closer in to the city centre, is interesting if only for its lack of public face. Whereas in the UK riverside and canalside areas are often high in demand and gentrifying rapidly, the canal area has largish roads close in on either side, and a rather mishmashed set of mostly more modern developments a bit back from its banks. It's certainly no tourist hotspot. The lower canalside paths are wide and do have a range of small food kiosks, but the feel is very different to the relaxed nineteenth century developments to the west, with large-scale modern graffiti and younger (probably local) clientele. It's a strange sort of alive 21st century gash through the middle of a city that mostly feels a bit more like it has forgotten that time passes at all. Indeed, in the rest of the city the consistency of the architecture, all fitting the C18th/19th apartment style with occasional gaps for larger and more imposing structures, is somewhat remarkable.

Meanwhile Glaurung and I found a good restaurant/pub in the city centre, these days called the "Beer Clinic" (roughly rendered) but originally known as the "Golden Dragon". It's several hundred years old, and does a nice, though not dead cheap, range of local delicacies including Cordon Bleu and a "Kalbsbeuschel", a sort of stew made with calf lights and with a GIANT bread dumpling in it, which I had and which turned out to be very nice. The portions are dramatically well sized, and the interior of the pub is lovely, including some interesting dates and artefacts from the past. This included a painted sign saying "Turkenkugel" (Turk Ball) - which, just above it, did indeed have a large metal object embedded into the wall, apparently a cannonball from the 1688 Turkish siege. An old model "golden dragon" is just above the doorway, though there's a newer one (still well made enough not to appear tacky) in the main room with a pull-cord that lights up its eye. All in all a good meal & would recommend - I'll have to leave him to comment on the beer when he gets back, but the local wine I had was nice too.

More updates soon hopefully!
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Gmd

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Re: Jubal in Vienna: Learnings And Suchlike
« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2017, 02:39:11 AM »
Sounds amazing! do keep us updated. I've got a friend in Vienna myself, but i know very little about the place!
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Pentagathus

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Re: Jubal in Vienna: Learnings And Suchlike
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2017, 01:53:59 PM »
+1

WarpDogsVG

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Re: Jubal in Vienna: Learnings And Suchlike
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2017, 05:47:57 PM »
Vienna is on my 'short list' of places to visit if I ever go on a European vacation. Stinks about the heatwave, but hopefully it's beautiful

Jubal

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Re: Jubal in Vienna: Learnings And Suchlike
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2017, 09:53:10 PM »
@all three of you - yes, come to Vienna, and say hi when you get here! :)

Right now, I'm getting a very different sort of showcase from Vienna's weather - lightning in sheets grabs out across a sky full of clouds, and rain pummels at the windows as if desperately seeking shelter from the roars of thunder behind. The slow burning of the previous week has been replaced by flashing fury of a sort rare in England. This week in general the weather has been a little cooler, and a breeze has lifted the air a little too, though most of the days have still been hot and punctuated by smaller storms. This is the biggest of the lot by far, though, with the spectacular light show in the heavens rumbling and groaning at a city that has seen it a thousand times before. The windows are closed, the streets emptied, but amid the relaxed age of Vienna's buildings it is hard to feel the terror that an ancient sky-god might suitably hope to impress upon me with such a display.

My explorations of the city continue, bit by bit: one learns as much from a mundane day as an exciting one in a new place, though. The local mini-supermarket is still an education - gouda fills in Austria the standard "block of cheese" niche that the UK has cheddar for, for example, and chorizo is harder to come by but there are numerous varieties of kabanosy which is something I could never find in Birmingham but used to like eating in Cambridge. Despite its small size, the Billa has a sort of deli counter with a lot of cheese & bread varieties that I haven't yet looked at much. Milk always comes in cartons; it's easier to find tissue pocket-packets than boxes (and they're cheaper than in the UK despite most food items being slightly more expensive); all these little things one starts learning the way around over time.

I'm doing well for visitors generally - another former CTS friend (and current EA employee) visited recently, and I've got a visitor this coming weekend too. On Glaurung's last day here we went round the "folk museum", which turned out to be thoroughly worthwhile, I highly recommend it. A good folk museum (and this is such) is a great window onto life and history from the perspective of the ordinary people who lived through the last few centuries. Among other things, I noticed that Austria has a much stronger habit of using bark in things like basket construction where it isn't done in the UK, and of course there are adaptations like giant woven over-shoes for mountain and snow that are less needed in the UK. The principle of houses or rooms having externally opening "heating ovens", where a large fire would be lit from the outside into a big decorative ceramic container that could heat the room, was also one I hadn't come across before but is apparently more traditional in these parts. Plus I discovered the word pickaroon when trying to work out what a particular woodcutting tool was (it was indeed a pickaroon). The symbolism used in folk culture is also interesting - the double-headed eagle has a strong tradition here, and also the dragon, a commonplace used in decorations, roof beam endings, and more. Finally, I got some hope that eventually I'll find good Austrian cider, which is apparently more of a thing in Styria - "die Most ist halbe die Kost" (roughly, and I may be misremembering word-genders, "The cider is half the meal") apparently being a local saying from that area!

This week's main job is paperwork, especially starting my doctoral enrolment forms and sorting out banking issues, which sadly doesn't leave a lot more to put here other than a general sense of frustration at bureaucracy that no doubt most people have rather too much of the time. I now officially have 30 "working hours" a week, consisting of 2 8-hr days, 2 7-hr ones, and a three day weekend. In practice I think work time may bleed into Fri/Sat more most of the time, but such is life. I've met my department, who are lovely and diverse in origin: no two of us come from the same country of origin, and only two of us (myself and Tara, my professor) share a first language. Fluent English is shared nonetheless, and is the lingua franca for all of us, which of course suits me fairly well. I'm not the best of social butterflies at the best of times, but the (thoroughly international) community of Vienna have been utterly lovely thus far.

And on that pleasant note, I think that's another update sorted :)
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Glaurung

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Re: Jubal in Vienna: Learnings And Suchlike
« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2017, 10:11:10 PM »
I'll have to leave him to comment on the beer when he gets back
At the Gösser Bierklinik, I had the Stiftsbräu Dunkel: dark (as the name indicates), pleasant (not least being cool on a very hot evening), but not very flavoursome. Gösser are part of the largest Austrian brewing company, Brau Union, who in turn are owned by Heineken. I suspect they're more interested in mass production than attention to details. However, I'd happily go back to the Bierklinik: it's got a lot of character, the food's good and it's very central.

On the other hand was the Siebenstern Bräu, who brew their own beer, and have evidently worked out some successful and reliable recipes. Again I was drinking dark beers: the Prager Dunkles (Prague-style dark lager) and the Bamberger Rauchbier (Bamberg-style smoked beer). On a summer's evening when the air didn't feel like hot soup, I'd have gone out to the beer garden at the back, but this time the cooler indoors was distinctly preferable!

Pentagathus

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Re: Jubal in Vienna: Learnings And Suchlike
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2017, 11:42:37 AM »
@all three of you - yes, come to Vienna, and say hi when you get here! :)
Aye I guess I need to, I have a gift for you and you pished off before I could give it to you. Ungrateful bastard! ;)

Jubal

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Re: Jubal in Vienna: Learnings And Suchlike
« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2017, 11:29:08 PM »
@Glaurung: Thankyou for the beer exposition! :)

@Penty: Sorry :( I'll be in the UK at Christmas!



I don't think there's a lot to report from the last few days: paperwork continues, and life begins to approach some sort of routine. I'm mostly working from my apartment as the walk to an empty office never quite seems worth the effort. I'm making some slow progress with my Georgian and rather better progress with learning cypher, which whilst it sounds like a supervillain organisation is in fact a syntax system for talking to graph databases, an unusual way of structuring data that's fairly well suited to applications like prosopography. I'm otherwise settling in to life in a mostly empty apartment. I never like living quite so entirely on my own, but my nominal flatmate isn't around much & is mostly home with family for the summer. A few interesting facts about Viennese apartments: firstly, the floor counting system is often different, possibly for historical tax purposes though I'm not sure. In any case, in Viennese buildings there are often one or two (occasionally even three) floors between the ground floor and the official "first floor", which got me lost the first time I had to find my supervisor's office. Apartment addresses also aren't something I'd considered before moving here: they're done with a series of numbers that zero in on the particular location, in the order "street no/block no/stairwell/door no". The first and last of these are always present: as my apt only has one block and one stairwell, the last part of the address is just in the form x/y, indicating I'm at number x on the street, door y within the building.

Cafes are something I've started to look into more recently: the difficulty in central Vienna is that several "coffee houses" are in fact pretty high class restaurants that developed out of the classic & famous coffee houses that served the intelligentsia of central Vienna in days past. The younger and less well off intelligentsia of modern Vienna probably mostly can't afford to eat in the city centre anyway, but there are smaller and slightly cheaper cafes in the surrounding districts. The one on the corner near me does an interesting range of breakfasts, including English, Continental, and most interestingly Arabic, which turned out to include flatbread, cheese, tzatziki, hummus, and olives. I haven't yet managed to try any Viennese desserts, but I imagine that will come when winter rears its head. Winter certainly isn't rearing its head just yet, that said: it's still rather sleepy and hot weather, and I should get to bed shortly... more updates when I have anything actually interesting to say, no doubt!
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...