took a boat trip down the Donau,or in English, the Danube, (by the way, did you know that one of the longest German word is Donaudampfschiffahrkartenkontrolleur?!), and then arrived in Dürnstein.
They also have incredibly tasty apricot liqueurs! We capped the evening off with a wine tasting at a local vineyard. All in all a lovely day and enjoyable finish to the orientation!
After the incredibly busy and packed week, I was looking forward to a calm and relaxing weekend wandering around Vienna. On Saturday I made my way over to the Naschmarkt, a huge market I have been eager to visit ever since I got here. Some of you unfamiliar with Vienna might be wondering what exactly this place is… I would say its an epicurean’s paradise. Picture about a half-mile of jam-packed stands, shops and stalls filled with herbs and spices, baked goods, vegetables, fruits, nuts, candies, teas, cheeses, meats—you name the food, they probably have it! I wandered through the entire market drooling all over myself, taking in the smells, feasting my eyes on all the displays and taking a few snapshots. Since the weather was gorgeous (around 70 degrees F and not a cloud in the sky), the place was packed, so I had to weave around masses of people to get to some stands. I also made an interesting discovery after having purchased my first item (a bag of curry spice): the prices decrease the further along you go in one certain direction. Whereas I paid almost 3 Euros at the entrance of the market for a bag of curry, I found the same kind for about half the price at a later point. Ah, lesson learned. Haggling or bargaining is not a common practice—unlike other open-air markets I have visited in Central and South America—so you pay what they tell you. Now I know which end to keep to if I want to find the deals!
My most exciting discovery was Käseland, which translates to “cheese land” and anyone whoknows me wellcan probably imagine my reaction when I stumbled across this find!J
The popular seasonal item at the moment is this drink called “Sturm” which is… (I am told the name is ) While I was wandering through the Naschmarkt I bumped into two other Fulbrighters, Thomas and Eric, and joined them for a glass of Sturm.
The Naschmarkt is definitely a place I am going to frequent—and I have decided I want to buy a little wicker basket to take along with me for my goodies! Since I was still trying to get the feel of the place, I didn’t end up buying too much, but did come away with some basic spices (oregano, basil, garlic and curry), as well as some couscous and fresh Dinkelbrot. (for more pictures--also from the field trip, see my Facebook album!)
While I am on the topic of food, I guess there is something worth mentioning about the way Austrians (and I assume many other European cultures) approach grocery shopping, food storage, etc. The biggest distinction I would make is based on size. Unlike us Americans with our Sam’s Club/Costco memberships that we use to stock huge deep freezers and double-door fridges, the Austrians have very small fridges and freezers, which consume far less energy. Because the fridges are so small, you obviously can’t stock them for a long period of time—this means you go shopping more frequently, but with smaller loads. Often times you see people walking on their way home from work with a few items in their little wicker basket or cloth shopping bag (oh, yeah, plastic bags cost 5 cents a piece at the grocery store, so there’s definitely incentive to bring your own or recycle!). Also, food here has far less preservatives and therefore has a much earlier expiration date than our food in the U.S. (another reason to shop in smaller trips and doses—you can’t buy too much food or it will spoil!). All in all I find this method to be really practical and easy, especially since I am just cooking for one at the moment. There are tiny grocery stores placed all over the city, and several right here in my district.
And finally, a littler observation about ingredients. On my yoghurt container the ingredients listed are: yoghurt, strawberries, sugar, the stabilizer pectin and carrot juice concentrate. Period. That’s it. There’s a little sign on it saying “without artificial ingredients, 100% natural,” and sure enough, that’s the truth. I’ve been told that since the 70s and 80s, when the Green Party was on the rise, there was a huge shift toward organic foods. From what I can tell, the food regulations are upheld at a national level and there is a very concerted effort to produce and sell locally. I wish I knew more about the details on all of this, but maybe that will come with some time. To any extent, I find it fascinating.
But of course, that’s not to say there are no equivalents to Sam’s Club and Costco’s here, or that every product in Austria is organic and natural, but I do find it interesting that I can recognize most ingredients on the labels of most products here, but that that is not the case when I look at the ingredient facts on U.S. food labels. It makes you wonder what exactly what all those other ingredients are and why we need them….
Stepping down from my soap box now…I am sure that won’t be my last posting on food, anyway!
The rest of the weekend was really nice and relaxing—highlights include relaxing in the Stadtpark in the afternoon sunshine with Eric and Thomas after our “Sturm”, watching the Notre Dame/Pitt football game (!) with fellow Fulbrighters, going on an easy run through the Josefstadt and evening mass at the Stephansdom with Ann.
Upcoming blog entries on Austrian bureaucracy as promised, and hopefully on the Viennese coffeehouse culture. And I will be sure to post about my long weekend in Munich which will include a long-overdue reunion with Jens and Reneta, birthday celebrations and, yes, a visit to Oktoberfest!
With love from Vienna,