I have been trying to become slightly more adventurous again. Although, it will still take a lot of persuasion to get me to go anywhere with a sizeable crowd for a time to come. And this being Austria, we’re getting to the time of year where the locals like to congregate. Normally we’d have been through the Flohmarkt season by now, with the one of Obkirchergasse being a twice annual cornucopia of tat. Although one man’s tat is seemingly another man’s treasure.
As the mercury rises – we’re talking breaking that high twenties threshold, which I consider to be the trumpet fanfare for the arrival of summer – Austrians start getting to the pool. Not really for lane swimming (think the 50 lengths before breakfast brigade), although there are some who do that all year around, but instead to sunbathe, eat overpriced kiosk food and drink Frucade or something a little bit stronger. And it isn’t just the reserve of the young. Some of my friends still go well into their seventh decade – their defence is always “it wouldn’t be summer without a couple of days by the pool” and it is a very cheap form of leisure activity. One friend prides himself of using all the free admissions to the swimming pools on the Niederösterreich-Card, although I think the appeal will wane this year if the water is not warm enough before the hordes of children descend at the end of the school year.
Of course the fact that Austria is landlocked is probably why going swimming is a sort of Ersatz for a beach holiday. As a Briton, whose memories of childhood summer holidays are of those spent at my relatives on the North Sea coast in Lincolnshire in the fifties and sixties (the latter being more memorable) possibly the memory of soggy chips in malt vinegar, in soggy newspaper, soaked through waiting for our boarding house to open (why we weren’t staying with the relatives that year, I can’t remember!), or of my brother and I sent up by train and sleeping on camp beds in a relative’s sitting room for a fortnight while my parents were in the process of packing to move base, never really helped endear swimming to me. Less so after some skin complaint from the unheated pool at one school I attended. Maybe those holidays, as well as the adventure of going abroad with a car and a tent with my brother (as I alluded to here) have stuck freshest in mind.
This year, however, being at the mercy of the statistics of COVID-19 we are currently expecting to have our summer plans dictated to us (and possibly changed again at the first inkling of a spike or second wave of infection), so we have to consider the outdoor options in terms of what we will be able to do for a holiday. With Britain having decided to go for a mandatory quarantine abroad, that is clearly off the cards for the foreseeable future. Some friends, who still do most of their work in the first half of the year, have already written off their holiday prospects, as they desperately try to claw back some semblance of business. We are fortunate in the regard.
So the decision is likely to be whether pack up our little car and head for the hills somewhere, still wary about whether to go much past Salzburg, and take somewhere self-catered, since the hotel experience is likely to be far more austere than the traditionally friendly and generous hospitality we find ourselves receiving outside of Vienna. Or, in a real break from tradition, do we find ourselves some books and a sun lounger by an open-air pool in Vienna, along with everyone else, sleeping in our spare room, and try to pretend we are on holiday? This would certainly be a show of solidarity – we would also arrange to dine out every night to try to prop up the trade of some restaurants that we like, but which might struggle without their tourist clientele.
One thing is for certain, we will be making use of the vouchers that Stadt Wien is due to be sending our way. Having not used my taxi vouchers (I felt guilty doing so), I do intend to have dinner out with my wife somewhere with the vouchers that are due to hit our letterbox before too long. But as for swimming – as per my attempts at a pun for a post title, maybe we’ll give it a miss.
Those ploughing an often lonely furrow in the gig economy are still facing uncertain times trying to get money from hardship funds, while the situation for those in the arts are also precarious. After all, there is talk of theatre performances for maximum audiences of about twenty. Classical music and opera is also effectively shut down until the autumn at the earliest, and the whole outdoor season is already cancelled. Live music festivals are all off this year, and it seems like the prospect of cross-border trips could be up in the air. I certainly have no intention of throwing myself into a plane for a package holiday, should such a thing even be possible this summer.
Given the fact that I am currently hard to even convince to meet up with friends – going to a bar still doesn’t feel right or responsible – maybe it won’t be so difficult to stay in, but what I do dread is when (or maybe it is already the case) my walking routes become over-populated. To date, other than going to my sister-in-law’s for a socially distanced family meal, I have kept myself within the 18th and 19th districts (admitted the 18th is only at the end of our road).
Stay safe everyone.