Tag Archives: Austria

Schnitzel, Beer and Peace

Another “Blast from the Past” type post and this one actually continues from the post “Barter Trade“.

It was 1983 and I spent that summer backpacking and train jumping through Europe.  I had traveled as far north as Bergen, Norway and  as far east as Plitvice Lakes in the then Yugoslavia.  Now returning from Yugoslavia, I made my way to Vienna and Salzburg in Austria.  On the train, I met up with Kate, an Aussie “sheila” (Aussie slang for “woman/girl”) who was also traveling alone.

Our timing was not great though.  Pope John Paul II was due to visit Vienna on a four day trip starting on the 10th of September.  Although we were there almost a week ahead, accommodation of all types were already hard to find due to the large influx of Catholic faithful and pilgrims.  In fact the first morning there was spent entirely on trying to find accommodation for the next three days.  In the end, we had to stay in different places on each of those days, moving from one place to another.  The one positive thing was that in the midst of the accommodation hunting, we hooked up with Gai, another Aussie Sheila.

And so we spent most of the next three days exploring Vienna as an unlikely trio.  We made a good team. Kate could be counted on to find great shopping, Gai was an expert at finding coffee and cakes and I was the only one who could actually read a map and navigate to the sights.

Still, it was sometimes the case of the blind leading the blind.  One evening, after sight seeing, we found ourselves in a working class part of town and with the intent of escaping the tourist traps and finding “authentic” Vienna, we ended up in one we surmised to be the local “dive”.  It was a sort of neighborhood pub that also served traditional Austrian food like the famous Vienna Schnitzel (an escalope of veal or pork which is covered with breadcrumbs and fried).

Anyway, we were enjoying our meal and quaffing our local beers and although some of the crowd in the bar looked a bit rough and ready, they kept to themselves and did not bother us.  Of course, I wasn’t expecting anyone to bother me but it would not have been unforeseen for someone to hit on my two attractive traveling companions.

What was totally unforeseen however was what happened next.  An elderly man got up from where he had been sitting alone.  He looked frail and very dependent on his walking stick for support.  Yet when he came near our table, he seemed to be empowered with excitement and fervour and proceeded to use his heavy wooden walking stick to prod me in the ribs.  At the same time, his eyes seem bright with passion as he asked us in a surprisingly strong voice, “Hitler …… gud,ya!?!?”

I was shocked by the walking stick in my ribs and further confused by what he had said.  Was he asking a question or making a statement?  My first natural reaction was to look blankly like a squirrel caught in the headlights of a car.  He persisted with another painful nudge in my ribs.  He stood there quivering with emotion and asked in a louder but cracked voice, “Hitler ……GUD, ya!?!”

The girls kept quiet and so it was left to me to respond.  I looked around the bar, there were a lot of large, Teutonic giants looking back at us.  It was 1983.  The Second World War had ended 38 years ago.  Nazism was a thing of the past, right?  Yet, sitting there in that bar, it did not feel so.  I felt like a dumb lamb in a den of wolves.

Not being the hero type ……..uh, I mean  to say that I was not willing to endanger my female companions.  Yes, that’s what I mean.  Yeah.  Anyway, I decided to take the Chamberlain approach and made a wishy-washy gesture of appeasement.  I looked the old codger in the eye  and bravely said, “Hitler ……sometimes good but sometimes bad.”

Yes, yes, I know.  What a cowardly cop out but I wasn’t up to having my head bashed in.  Anyway, the man just stood there looking at us as we hurriedly paid our bills and scooted out of that establishment into the relative safety of the dark streets.

Until now I am uncertain if that man was truly a fervent Nazi supporter or was he just testing us or was he just a screw loose.  I’d like to think that a minute after we skedaddled out of there, the whole bar burst out in laughter and congratulated  Old Kurt for playing that practical joke on yet another gang of gullible tourists.  Perhaps behind the bar or on the men’s room door, another stick man is etched into the wood.  Just a couple more and Old Kurt would have shot down twenty tourists.

Kate Doing the Tourist Thing on the Steps of the Belvedere Gallery
The View of Belvedere Gardens that Kate was Trying to Take
A Traditional Bavarian Family Outing on a Sunday
Pretty Bavarian Girls in Traditional Outfits


Meet Grumbles…….

Grumble….grumble…..grumble. I am grumbling. Why am I grumbling? I am grumbling because of………..

a) Rising Food Prices: – All around the world the price of food and especially staples like rice has been going up in price. In some parts of the world, the price of rice has gone up threefold in the last year. The reason for this price hike may be due to a number of complex issues but it has mainly been due to greed and mismanagement. Reasons such as the loss of agricultural land to industrial development, decades of impoverishing farmers by fixing staple food prices at too low a level to benefit city dwellers, food crops diverted to better paying biofuel production, shortages within food producing countries due to dealers smuggling grain out to sell at higher prices in foreign markets. In Thailand, there is talk of joining forces with other rice producing countries too take advantage of the rising prices by forming a Rice Cartel so that they can force higher prices on importing nations. The Thai Prime Minister asks Thais to eat less rice so that they can profit more from selling the rice. Greed. Greed. Greed and now a global food crisis.
(This is what my meez is protesting about).

b) Military Juntas:- Like the government of Myanmar who show little concern for their people even in the face of a natural catastrophe like Cyclone Nargis. With a death toll climbing into the tens of thousands and an estimated one million without shelter, food or safe water for almost a week, the government is still holding up the entry of international aid by insisting on lengthy negotiations before allowing permits and visas for rescue workers. One report claims that an aid agency was told that financial aid in the form of hard currency could be handed over to the government official but the aid workers and relief supplies cannot enter the country. The military and there soldiers seem to be largely missing from relief efforts. In some villages, the soldiers have not come to help but instead the Buddhist monks that they have been persecuting are the ones on the ground rendering aid and clearing debris.

c) Monsters:- They exist. I refer to those men who prey on helpless children and sexually abuse them. In an update of the sad and tragic story of the Austrian woman who had been sexually abused by her father since she was 11 years old, imprisoned in a cellar for 24 years and forced to bear him seven children, the father has since claimed that he is NOT a monster. He argues that if he was a real monster, he would have killed his daughter and all seven offspring, burned and disposed of all the bodies and he would not have been caught. Instead, he points out that it was he who decided to let her and the children live and therefore, he is not a monster but responsible for sparing their lives! And then there is the pedophile that Interpol is searching for who is believed to have been sexually exploitingcountless young children and having the incidents recorded on the internet. Monsters.

Sorrrrry for being so negative but it seems like its been a bad week around the world. Grumble….Grumble…..Grumble.