I so wanted it to be Eva Glawischnig, leader of the Greens and the 2013 general election should have been her moment to shine and finally push the insidious Freedom Party in to third place. Mostly because her party finally had someone who was both clever and media friendly but also because of general boredom and dissatisfaction with Socialist and Conservative ruling insipidity. However, a lacklustre performance (the party) in the election driven mostly by the politics of failure amongst the Viennese Greens and their inexplicable inability to actually listen to the people of the city (see below) doomed her to unspectacular mediocrity and a usual 11% or so at the polls. The winner therefore can only be Teflon coated, rotund mayor of Vienna Michael Häupl, coolly riding out the problems associated with his tree-hugging coalition partners, smug in the corner as if he had planned it all along – which would be unthinkable, oder?
Maria Vassilakou, Vienna’s deputy mayor and head of the Vienna Green Party. The evidence: first, the debacle of the Parkpickerl and the changes to parking regulations; second, the definitive Pfusch (bodge) with the on-going balls and cock up that is Mariahilferstrasse. Both were and are Green Party initiatives and continue to cement in people’s minds the inadequacy and amateurish nature of green politics.
Mariahilferstrasse, all two and half kilometres of it. Never has a street generated so much heart-searching and ill-informed comment, a situation not dampened by a reputed 25 million Euro price tag for the completion. A text book Viennese (or Austria) approach to a new political / social issue (people tell you this all the time but only have one other example: the commissioned but never used nuclear power station of Zwentendorf). Consternation is concentrated on a majority of the whole of Vienna (most of whom never go anywhere near Marihilferstrasse) meaning the project has about as much impact on their lives as the plight of the kangaroo in Australia, which as we know do not exist in Austria. The car driving lobby, ever vociferous, believing still in their inalienable right to drive where they want whilst everyone else should pay for it are their usual rational and socially-inclusive selves. And let’s not get started on the multiple re-routing of the bus line 13A prompting go slows on zebra crossings from the resident nimbys of the Windmühlgasse.
Amt (Council Office)
Christmas and New Year is a time to slow down, take stock and retreat to a more dignified existence of the “good life”. In which case the tree police of Vienna, or their representatives in our local Bezirksamt (District Council Office), are seemingly celebrating Weihnachten for 52 weeks a year. It is actually quicker to watch a tree reach maturity than it is to get permission from them to chop one down. Second place to the MA48 (The street cleaners) because if I don’t mention them this will be interpreted as unpatriotic and I will be forced to flee back to austerity Britain.
Vienna Transport for this:
Which as I rightly questioned: What about the wheelchair user?
Austrian words of the year are “Frankschämen” – the feeling of shame brought about by the entry into politics and then stroppy, toddler-esque withdrawal of billionaire Frank Stronach once he lost (this is a play on the word of Fremdschämem which is feeling embarrassment for someone else’s actions – we’ve all been there). And “Whatsappen” – where the free messaging app has become a verb in German. But my choice is “Kiss and Ride”. It is not new and I first saw it at Meidling station in the 12th district but this one I spotted down at immense Shopping City (it is not really a city) just south of Vienna. Interestingly, the phrase does not seem to be used in the UK where the more muted “drop off point” is typical. And no, I don’t know what you do if you if you are let out at such a place by a taxi driver.
Prominent British Expat
There are always a couple Austrians (mostly sportsmen) who, through achievements well-documented and embedded in Austrian modern folklore, will never have to buy another drink (The Kaiser, Franz Klammer, football legend Hans Krankl or singing superstar DJ Ötzi). But up there with them is a skinny Brit (James Cottrail) who is a household name in the Alpine Republic by virtue of a monster hit (Unbreakable) in the Austrian pop charts a couple of years back. His music is not exactly my beer (as they say here) but he is a singer going about his business and will always find a willing audience Opus style (“Life is Life”, people) or an invitation to a PR junket if the new stuff doesn’t take off (I know this because of his repeated appearances on TV “promi” shows at various events). Unusually for a Brit, he speaks perfect German which just isn’t normal.
Part 2 continues …