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Ende einer Ära

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Summary for English readers: The supermarket chain BIlla closed its famous "double branch" in Vienna's 7th district.


Der berühmte doppelte Billa in der Westbahnstraße existiert nicht mehr. Eine der beiden Filialen wurde geschlossen.

Jahrzehntelang bestand an der Kreuzung Westbahnstraße/Zieglergasse eine Billa-Filiale, die aus Platzgründen auf zwei Geschäftslokale aufgeteilt war - Obst, Feinkost, Fleischwaren, Milchprodukte und Süßigkeiten in einer Filiale, und alles in Dosen, Gläsern und Flaschen sowie Reinigungs- und Toilettartikel in der anderen Filiale.

Ortsunkundige wurden regelmäßig verwirrt, weil sie in jeweils einer der Filialen nie alles fanden, während Ortsansässige, die das eigentlich sehr einfache System durchschaut hatten, sich als wissende Insider fühlen durften.

Ein einzigartiges Stück Wiener Supermarktgeschichte ist damit zu Ende gegangen.

Dietary recommendation

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If you are in Munich and are trying to lose weight, you should probably not enter this restaurant.


(Further investigation has revealed that the name of the restaurant is not a warning for weight-conscious customers, but instead the Cantonese pronunciation of the Chinese letters below, which read "Wan Fa Jiulou", meaning "restaurant of the ten-thousand accomplishments" or "restaurant of infinite riches". - Thx to the colleagues from the East Asian Studies Library and @kattebelletje on Twitter)

Beim Laden mit der Maus

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Summary for English readers: The "Mouse show" is a popular German children's programme that has been broadcast since the 1970s. A shop in Cologne sells tons of merchandise. In the background: Cologne cathedral.

In Köln konnte ich natürlich nicht umhin, den Maus-Devotionalienshop in der Breiten Straße zu besuchen und herauszufinden, ob es da irgendwelche netten Dinge gibt. Leider waren die Preise etwas happiger als erwartet.

Sowas hätte ich auch gerne

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Summary for English readers: I'd like to have one of those too.

Klingt so, als ob ich mich da drinnen von dem "Happy Picnic" von gestern erholen könnte.

Strč prst skrz krk

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Czech may be the language of most of my ancestors, but unfortunately my grandmother decided to not teach a single word of it to my father, so I am isolated from this potential facet of my cultural heritage. A recent visit to Prague has revealed that most of the language is a total mystery to me. Even after acquiring a few of the quintessential words necessary for survival (e.g. vepřové pečeně), the pronunciation is still something of a challenge. It's not so much the numerous diacritics on the consonants, it's more that the language seems to rely much less on vowels and that the consonants appear in perfectly tongue-splitting combinations, such as in Plch zdrhl skrz drn, prv zhltl hrst zrn or in the sentence that serves as the title for this blog entry and which seems to be famous enough to even have its own wikipedia entry.

They all speak English too. I'm not surprised, considering how many tourists they have to cater for. It would have been fun to hear more of these tourists twisting their tongues while trying to utter something in Czech, but none of them (except myself) did. Cowards. Not that anybody understood much of what I was trying to say, and I also gave up soon enough. I did get the vepřové pečeně and the pivo though.


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The newspapers tell me that the current heat wave in Vienna is caused by hot air from North Africa that is swept into Austria via the Mediterranean. I'm fully inclined to believe this, not only because it's incredibly hot and humid, but also because the air has quite an unusual scent. At the moment it smells of sea water and pine trees in front of my house, just the way it smells in Crete, despite the fact the the sea and the nearest pine trees are several hundred kilometres away.

In order to survive

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I've lived in this particular part of Vienna for a little over ten years now. It's an urban area, close to the city center, in a district with a Green Party majority, but virtually no green, no parks, and no ponds or other bodies of water.

Up until a few weeks ago, this topographical predisposition has meant that this area was virtually mosquito-free. In fact, I don't think that I've ever had mosquitos in my flat, and I cannot remember ever having been bitten by these pests when sitting outside one of the many cafés and restaurants in the area.

This has changed dramatically. Due to heavy rainfall a few weeks ago, this area is now inundated with mosquitos. In fact it's so bad that you're close to being sucked dry if you leave your house after 6pm without wearing thick layers of insect repellent. Early this morning I woke up from a high-piched buzzing noise next to my right ear. They had arrived in my bedroom.

Today, I mounted a fly screen on my bedroom window and scorched the place with an insect poison that's purportedly harmless for humans (to be on the safe side, I left the room immediately, and then opened the fly-screened window wide to get some of the poison out).

It's as if I was living in the countryside, which is odd in an area without the slightest touch of countryside about it.

In fact, it's a lot worse in the countryside right now. A colleague of mine at work told me he hasn't been able to sit on his balcony even once this summer; first because it was so cold, then because of the heavy rain, and now because of the mosquitos.

My own complaints seem to pale in comparison.

I believe that these are valid questions

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People of all countries, who washes your socks? / What is the work of love today?


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Ah, the Austrian countryside, where placenames can be surprisingly... well, topographic. Hardly, however, do they appear as densely as here, where you get directions to "big mound", "round village" (or "wrestling village", if you're very literal), "upper ditch" and "lower ditch". It would seem that the mound and the ditches may be the direct cause of each other. 

Darf nicht ins Abwasser gelangen

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Summary for English readers: I recently found a warning on a toilet block which not only says that it must be handled with protective goggles, but also that it is dangerous for water organisms and can cause long-term harm to bodies of water. Rather odd for a substance that is flushed down the toilet on a daily basis. Just how much totally unnecessary poison do we have to release into the environment on a daily basis?
Gelegentlich wundert man sich schon ein wenig, was alles verkauft wird bzw. verkauft werden darf. Zum Beispiel fand ich vor kurzem folgendes auf einer Packung:


Klingt noch nicht besonders ausgefallen, aber spannend wird es, wenn man in Betracht zieht, dass es sich bei dem Produkt um einen "flüssigen WC-Stein" handelt. Sprich, ein chemisches Produkt, das laut Definition des Herstellers "schädlich für Wasserorganismen" ist und "in Gewässern längerfristig schädliche Wirkungen" haben kann, darf täglich hunderttausendfach einfach so hinuntergespült werden.

Fehlt eigentlich nur noch der Hinweis "darf nicht ins Abwasser gelangen".

Es stellt sich die Frage, was "längerfristig" genau bedeutet. Stimmt der Gesetzgeber diesem Produkt zu, weil die Vergiftungseffekte eh erst die nächste Generation betreffen? Stimmt schon, dass täglich viel härtere Gifte in die Umwelt gelangen. Aber viel unnötiger als hier gehts wohl kaum noch.