As Vienna’s heatwave continues, although apparently it will be over tomorrow just in time for my wife’s in-house training before the school year starts, a heatwave that is the longest since records began in 1767 according to a tweet by erstwhile boar attack victim, social media doyen, Opernball partner of Karin Kneissl and the current British ambassador to Austria (Austria is a country when many with lofty status combine multiple positions), we have now returned in the Curmudgeon-mobile from our holidays, where we took a scenic route through Carinthia and Styria, as well as forays into neighbouring Italy and Slovenia in the Dreiländereck. Our trip will receive attention in a separate post, with this one reserved for a curmudgeonly rant.
Austria has been in the news this week, due to the blue meanies (and their turquoise meanie coalition partners) descending on Gamlitz for Foreign Minister Kneissl’s wedding in a vineyard last week. We missed them by mere kilometres and a couple of days, choosing to stay in Leutschach. Gamlitz is now firmly on the map though.
Another regular Twitter sparring partner of mine wistfully commented that the Sommerloch (the “summer hole” that is really devoid of meaningful news) must be upon us when this wedding is major news. Possibly meant with a frisson of irony.
An Austrian Government Minister finding love in their later years and marrying would barely warrant a mention in the international press, were it is not for the fact that Vladimir Putin popped up for the wedding en route to go to Berlin to see Frau Merkel. And with it being a rural wedding, the Deputy Chancellor and former dental technician HC Strache wore Lederhosen (the Ohrwascherlkaktus wore a suit) . Now the argument rages about whether Putin’s invitation was cleared with the President and the Chancellor.
Lederhosen were part of my reason for fleeing the Cottageviertel last weekend, as the annual pseudo-Bacchanalian Neustifter Kirtag was on. My wife and I cannot stand this event, which sees the 35a bus route rammed to the rafters and leaving every 4-5 minutes from Spittelau to Neustift am Walde, laden with Dirndl and Lederhosen wearing guests.
Heaven forbid you only want to get on the bus for a couple of stops or try to get on with a pram. This year, with our beloved S45 out of action, we understand space on the 35a was even more at a premium.
The Kirtag now has descended into four days of excessive drinking. Not that I have anything against drinking, even to excess. But the problem is that it gums up the 19th with a semi-feral bunch of bad drunks. From the Friday to the Monday, there are about 100,000 visitors to Neustift am Walde.
The culture has now emerged that people take booze with them and so the entire 35a becomes a pre-party, with groups getting out a few stops before Neustift am Walde in order to have a swift, crafty drink (a couple of tinnies, some wine, some Vodka and Red Bull) to avoid being captive to the prices of the Kirtag. For locals that also means on street urination, being sick at bus stops (I was greeted by the vestiges of a pavement pizza on my way to the bakery yesterday) and poorly disposed of litter. Robert Barrett’s curated Red Bull Graveyard could also have probably grown, were he not also wisely on holiday.
There is a green area close to us, where people seemed to have congregated as part of their drinking binges, even though we are just far away from Krottenbachstrasse to be off the well-trodden route. Nevertheless bins seem to be full to overflowing with empties each year around Kirtag.
Returning to the Lederhosen issue, the Kirtag brings out the trashy end of Dirndl and Lederhosen, the shiny and chintzy Dirndl that have been sold in Hofer and Lederhosen are not a Viennese thing. Of course with Austria trying to compete with Munich over a beer festival (maybe they use the Wiesnfest to nobble all the judges of these surveys that Vienna comes out top of…) an ever increasing number of young sport their Dirndl and Lederhosen, a bastardisation of the rural tradition. I’ve never felt comfortable enough to wear one. A checked shirt (not lumberjack plaid) I can do, but I stick to slacks, tailored shorts or trousers. Whether the same amount of offence is taken as say an Englishman in a kilt when an Englishman dons Lederhosen, I don’t know.
I remember goading (being unaware of his family’s backstory) one of my drinking chums a few years back about whether he had a pair. His reply still haunts me (roughly translated as I remember him telling me) “As a child in rural Austria after the war, you often would have worn Lederhosen. They are hardwearing, and practical if you are collecting firewood, but in our family no-one wore them, due to the fact that when my grandfather was identified as not being purely Aryan, he was also informed that he should no longer wear Lederhosen. After that our family came to associate them with that regime.”
Now the Sommerloch has come to an end, with yesterday’s news of Herr Mahrer racking up another position alongside his current list of mandates in becoming the President of the National Bank (ÖNB), and reiterating that Austria still also appoints by Proporz (affiliation to a political party), and with his appointment signalling the Umfärbung (change in political colour) of the National Bank, which seems otherwise mainly to attract headlines for its legendary inheritable pensions, its former real estate property and being a job for life. Mahrer is clearly a man in demand. And one who doesn’t sleep (unless he sleeps on the job), as he is now President of the WKÖ, the AUVA and the ÖNB and another position, which even with the 12 hour working day he might struggle to do all justice. All of course well paid positions in their own right, although he apparently will only take two monthly salaries of a dimension that equate to the annual salary of a Praktikant or supermarket cashier. Even with drought effecting crops this summer, the food trough appears to be full.