Two pictures from the streets of Vienna today. A cute little shopkeeper at Schwedenplatz, and a badass window cleaner on Lerchenfelder Strasse.
I’ve been wanting to write something for a while now about what it’s like here at the moment, with all eyes directed at Central Europe because of the stream of refugees. When I read news stories from abroad, I get the impression that foreigners think we’re being overrun by refugees and that all our streets are full. Well, that’s not the case here in Vienna. To be honest, I think if I were a nice old lady who didn’t read the news and who only went around town on my errands, I wouldn’t have any idea that something this big was happening. At all. But, ther are a few ways that we notice. A few.
For example, the picture of the post is from Westnbahnhof late one night earlier this week. It’s not a clear shot but then I did feel that I was imposing big time just by snapping a quick shot, and I’m happy that it’s probably too crappy to identify people by. But it hits you if you take the trip down to Westbahnhof (which I wouldn’t recommend unless you’ve actually got business there). There are people sleeping on the ground, all over the train station, because they want to continue the next day or whenever they can catch a train. If you go 50 metres away from the train station, you’re out of the refugee zone and you notice nothing. The rest of the city is working just like normal.
Another thing is that border controls are back, and trains North and East are not running regularly. In fact, some are not running at all. Going to Budapest, which can be a nice break away from Vienna, is not recommended nowadays. At least not if you want to go there and make it back here by train…
I’m reading the papers every day to see how the situation is changing, and it is changin a lot. People in Vienna have also done a fantastic job at taking care of the refugees, suddenly everyone wants to help. But, there is a lot of superficial stuff happening (clearing out the crap from one’s wardrobe without being too critical) and news are coming from Hungary about their way of solving the crisis…which is to fence off the countries that pose the biggest problem. Serbia to start with, and now they’re considering Romania. Funny, because Austria realised early that these people want to go through and not stay, and so the borders were opened to allow that. One would think Hungary could do the same. But as of yesterday that’s also over in Austria. Now it’s border controls and the works, for the first time in many years. Companies are complaining that they are losing revenue because of hour long queues on the borders etc…
There are good ways that one can help though. Here are a few web sites if you are in Vienna and you want to do something:
http://refugees.at/ (Which tells you what is needed in terms of supplies)
http://www.trainofhope.at/ (What’s happening at Hauptbahnhof in Vienna)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/Vienna.EAAR/ (Facebook group for Expats in Vienna, where you can get info about what you can do)
http://www.fraubock.at/aktuelles/ (The homepage of Ute Bock, who helps homeless people in Vienna, and now also refugees).
Vienna Würstelstand, which is an excellent magazine from Vienna about what is happening around the place also posted an excellent post about what you can do to help in a meaningful way.
So, there is much that can be done to help. There are MANY that want to help. Which is good, because there are MANY that need it.
But for those who would rather close their eyes and get on with their lives and try not to think about what’s happening, that’s also possible. That’s what it’s like here now.
In spring, there is a team of bicycle repair men/women that travel around the city to help people get their bikes ready for the summer. Bless them! This is the team in action in my neighbourhood two days ago. To check their schedule go to http://www.radrettung.at, they drop by every district in the city!
Today is the day when most Austrians make their way to a graveyard nearby, and light candles in remembrance of their departed. I decided to take my camera and tripod out to see what could be found at St. Marx Friedhof, which is one of the nicest ones (imho) in Vienna. Without a remote trigger though, I was very handicapped…..
The centre of the graveyard was full of lights that were put down by people. I’m fairly certain that Zentralfriedhof would have been more impressive, but this one is quite intimate, and holds the remains of Mozart. Somewhere.
Seeing as Mozart was put to rest in an unmarked grave, they have put up a stone in his honour. So, we don’t know exactly where he was put down, only that it was at this graveyard. This wasn’t because he was a baddie or anything, it was just the custom of the day.
As you can see, he was far from forgotten today. I went there equipped with some candles, as I didn’t want to count on other people’s generosity.. So I did put some candles on strangers graves. And yes, it wasn’t only because I wanted to celebrate them… camera in hand I realise that my putting candles out served more than only the most humblest of purposes. But, all is well that ends well. I really like this custom. The year before last I only made it out to Zentralfriedhof as they closed the doors. I didn’t want to miss out this year as well.
A lot of the photos didn’t turn out that great, especially since I had to press the trigger on the camera. I could probably also have spent more time adjusting the aperture and shutter.. But still. Better than nothing! I left a lot of the photos really dark, as it was really dark there after the sun went down.
Next year, I’ll try to get hold of a remote trigger!
And check out Zentralfriedhof.