Ömer Öztaş – Building a Brighter Future

Ömer Öztaş is the youngest member of the Vienna City Council and Regional Parliament, elected for the Austrian Greens on October 11, 2020, at only 20 years of age. Now 21, he is not only the youngest MP with Turkish roots, but the youngest absolutely. But despite the few migrants among his colleagues, or any of similar age, Ömer is as motivated as ever. 

Öztaş began his political engagement five years ago, in the 2016 Austrian presidential campaign in support of now-president Alexander Van der Bellen. “The choice between Norbert Hofer and Alexander Van der Bellen was not very difficult, to be honest,” Öztaş says with a smile. 

From there on, he gravitated towards politics, talking with Viennese residents and continuing his activism within the Green Party. Since his election as deputy, he has been actively working to support the City and the Viennese in a variety of areas: youth unemployment, youth integration, climate change, environmental protection, LGBTQ+ and women’s rights, and awareness of racism, among others. As a young Austrian with Turkish roots, the external factors that led him into politics have been bittersweet.

Öztaş’ father moved to Austria at the age of seven with her father – Ömer’s grandfather – who came to Vienna as a Gastarbeiter in the 1970s. Having been born in Vienna and grown up in the 20th district of Brigittenau, Ömer has been a local Viennese all his life. The turning point that made him think about his identity as a Viennese with Turkish roots was an incident at school when he was 14: “You will never be able to study because you are Turkish,” his teacher had told him. 

This active discouragement, separating him from others, was an eye-opener for him about racism, and most of all about the situation of many young people in Austria. Although his political engagement began officially at 16, his political journey really began with this incident. For the first time, he noticed that he was different, from his appearance to the way he talked – but in the end, they were really all the same.

“We were all in the same classroom, we lived in the same city, we spoke the same language (in class), and most of all, we were all just children,”, he said, referring to the incident. From there on, he began researching Austrian politics, unaware that one day, he would get a chance to be the change he sought. 

A voice for those unheard

As Öztaş dove more into politics, he noticed that the average representative on the decision making level was about 45-50 years old. There was no one in politics to whom he could relate as a young person, with complex needs and expectations. 

“The theme of youth is everything to me,” he told me. With his team and in collaboration with others in the Green Party, Öztaş now works actively towards supporting young people regarding homelessness, gender equality, acceptance in the family and in the workplace. 

His biggest focus at the moment is youth unemployment. There are currently 10.000 unemployed young people in Austria below the age of 25. So, Öztaş is running campaigns for more job opportunities for Lehrlinge – young trainees in Vienna with his colleagues at the council. He also wants to focus on trainees with disabilities in the near future.

“If you look at the numbers, two thirds of the young people do not have faith in politics,” he said, – not only because of massive unemployment rates and the terrorist attack last year, but also because they think nobody cares about them or wants to attend to their needs. “That is why we want to talk to young people in the fall and ask them what they need and how we can do better.”

Öztaş is currently working towards increasing political involvement among young people. He believes that young people lose interest in politics and are not motivated to vote if they feel that the system does not support them. And this is worse for people with a migration background. 

“I see a connection between integration and youth unemployment. If a young person cannot find work, they lack perspective. Then they think to themselves, how can I integrate into this state if they refuse to give me a chance to work,” he said. “The state should give them a future, so that they can say, ‘I’m happy here, I care about the politics, I want to vote. They need this motivation.”

Another aspect in the lack of representation is the few members in the city council with a migration background: There are only eight. This number in no way reflects to the number of Viennese with a migration background, which is over 40%. 

“There is no role model for kids with a migration background,” he said, something he struggled with in his teenage years. He now wants to be that role model so that other young people will see that they can be politically active as well. 

“What really makes me think is that from where I live in the 20th district, you only hear about young people on the news [when there is unrest]. I want to show that no, that is not us: We are young, we are migrants, and we are a new generation, a generation of change about everything that concerns young people and our future.” 

Öztaş has dual responsibility, not only to his city and its people in general, but also towards the communities who are often ignored. To do this, he is also engaged actively with his Heimatbezirk, “I live in a worker district – not rich – and many have a migration background. When I walk in the streets I grew up in, when I go to the hairdresser I went to throughout my childhood, they say “Look! This is our deputy!” This is something I hold very dear,” he said, “because for many years, these people with different roots were underrepresented. There have been a couple of deputies who have lived there for 30 years or so, but no one asked “How can I help?”. Now, people I have known from my childhood approach me: “Ömer I have this or that problem; Can you help?” I appreciate that very much because they see me as someone from Brigittenau, a young person, who is willing to represent them.”

His goal is to be a voice for those who are unheard. Öztaş sees a massive democratic deficit in Vienna in the future because of the exclusion of young people without Austrian citizenship, who are unable to take part in elections, even though they may have been living in Vienna for much or their lives.

“Some 72,000 young people cannot vote because they have a foreign passport,” he said. “It’s the same with my mom, who has lived in this country for 23 years and was unable to vote for her own son.” And the number only growing; he pointed out. Ten years ago, it was about 25%, and in the most recent elections it was 33%.” 

“If it continues this way, in another 10 to 20 years, half of the Viennese won’t be able to vote.”

A promise made

Beside his responsibilities as representative at the City Council and the Vienna Regional Parliament, Ömer is also studying political science and history at the University of Vienna. Although doing both at the same time is very demanding, he is not willing to disappoint the people who have voted for him. “My mom is a little bit upset about taking it slow with the university, though” Öztaş laughs. “But people trusted me and hoped I would be their voice, so of course I am working for them. I cannot let them down.”

With Turkish roots, Öztaş is subjected to prejudice both at work and outside. “What is someone named “Ömer” doing in Austrian politics” was one of the questions that has come at him so far. He has been portrayed as an Islamist on an FPÖ-friendly medium, or accused of association with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“In Austrian politics, and specifically in Viennese politics, there is a lot of prejudice against Turkish people,” he said.  “They think ‘They are all extreme right wing; they are all this and that.’ But I’ve noticed that we are actually very diverse. But we are subjected to the same assumptions.”

“I came [to Parliament] for young people and for people with a migration background, and I want to voice that. I am not here to make foreign politics.”

Before he was elected, Öztaş worked for other deputies, behind the scenes. Being an elected representative himself is still new to him. He has never been coached in public speaking nor gone to a Parteiakademie. 

“I write my own speeches,” he said. “If I’m burning to talk about an issue, I get out onto the stage with a few notes and speak from the heart. I don’t have any marketing strategies; I speak up when something is not okay. When something is good I praise it. I speak whatever is in my heart.”

In the future, Ömer wants to bring young people into politics by making the age range of the youth parliaments in the Viennese districts consistent, and include people who are older than 13 or 14. His ultimate goal is for Austrian politics to engage young people who want to bring change for a future together as one Vienna.

Afghan Ambassador to Austria: “This will set our country back a century.”

MET: Since the beginning of May, the Taliban have captured about 200 districts, putting them in control of more than half of the 400-plus districts in Afghanistan. What does that mean for the people in the affected regions and what does their life look like now?

Amb. Bakhtari: In recent months, we have witnessed a record number of security incidents, human rights violations, humanitarian crises and attacks on public infrastructure. The Taliban’s violent campaign is directly targeting our young democracy, our vibrant civil society, and our free and independent press. The violence against our security forces and Afghan civilians has reached unprecedented proportions. Thousands of civilians and security forces have been killed and injured, millions have fled. The Taliban have destroyed $500 million worth of infrastructure, including facilities such as schools, hospitals, bridges, and government buildings.

These dreadful killings and the surge in violence are occurring during one of the biggest global health emergencies. The recent escalation of the conflict has resulted in a significant rise in the numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) across the country. Four million are stranded, their access to food, shelter, water, and sanitation blocked, with an already high number of people previously affected by drought and poverty.

MET: What is the situation like for women and girls in particular?

Amb. Bakhtari: The Taliban’s violent attacks are meant to discourage women and girls’ participation in society. In the areas they control, girls are banned from going to school, women from attending work. They have circulated decrees ordering women not to leave their homes without a male companion and to cover their bodies from head to toe. They are shamelessly ordering each household to present at least one girl for marriage to a Taliban soldier. Women are the main victims of this terror campaign. The Taliban are not concerned with human rights or women’s rights. If the war and abuse continue, Afghan women will lose all the progress they have achieved. Locals have filmed brutal incidents showing the lashing and stoning of women. There is no room for female participation or education in the Taliban’s ideology. This will set our women and our country back by a century.

MET: Analysts have warned the escalating violence could result in a long civil war. Is this a concern you share?

Amb. Bakhtari: It is not easy to predict the direction of this unwanted war. There is more to it than a civil war or a power struggle in Afghanistan. It is a threat to international peace and security. The deadly terrorist attacks this year in Afghanistan and across the globe are a testimony to the fact that terrorism knows no borders, religions or nationalities. As Afghans, we are directing all our efforts towards putting an end to this deadly war and the atrocities, and to convince the Taliban to return to peace talks. The Afghan people have been suffering through more than four decades of war and conflict. The sheer number of people in need underscores the urgency of a comprehensive ceasefire and efforts to achieve durable and sustainable peace.

MET: The Biden administration has stressed that it will continue to support the Afghan government despite the military pullout. Do you feel the USA is doing enough to help Afghanistan at this moment?

Amb. Bakhtari: I would like to commend the United States’s continued commitment to our nation. The US has been a great ally to Afghanistan throughout our journey of transformation and progress. Thousands of Americans in uniform served to secure our country and to combat terrorism. We will not forget the sacrifices they have shown, including losing loved ones. However, more has to be done. We still need their support in different areas, especially security. Our partnership with the USA will be crucial for us in the time to come. I am sure that they will observe the situation closely and act with caution. We have reached all our achievements together and we expect them not to fail us or leave us in the middle of chaos.

MET: How can the international community and foreign powers best support Afghanistan?

Amb. Bakhtari: Let me seize this opportunity to express gratitude and appreciation to the international community. Without your steadfast support, we could not advance our democracy and our development agenda. Continued international assistance to Afghanistan is needed in the process of peacemaking. We attach great importance to the role of the international community in acknowledging the many challenges beyond the peace process, such as development, democracy, human rights and women’s rights. Afghans are counting on the solidarity of the international community. Afghanistan is at a historic moment where we need more aid and support. With solidarity and diplomatic support, we can bring the Taliban back to the negotiation table, and together, we can address their crimes against human rights and humanity.

“Hello Grief and Welcome”

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Liani came to Vienna in 2016 with her new husband who was contracted by the IAEA, and her two sons, aged 16 and 20, joining her 6 months after. With no job at hand, she embarked on a difficult journey to learn German to become part of her new home country. Within a couple of months, she received a job offer at an international university. In 2018 her work phone rang.

On the 8th of May 2018, the principal of her son’s university called to give her the worst news a mother could get. Julian, her eldest while abroad on an exchange semester, drowned in Hua Hin, Thailand. “My initial reaction was disbelief, and a whole range of emotions came out. I screamed that the principal was lying, I threw my phone against the wall and as people came rushing into my office, I just kept saying he is lying, he is lying.” Next came the intense time of going to Thailand, arranging a cremation of her own child, trying to make sense of what happened. “Julian passed away in Thailand. He went for a walk in the night and his body was found two days later onshore.”

As a mother you keep thinking, “How did this happen? Not just the apparent drowning, but how is it even possible for a mother to outlive her child?” After the initial shock subsided, and with a whirlwind of things to arrange, Liani found herself at home beginning to sort out Julian’s belongings.

Understanding Grief

Liani Drury and her son Julian.

When someone dies, you are not only dealing with your own emotions but also with the people around you who all have their own coping mechanisms. “I was lucky enough to have an amazing support structure in my family, my group of friends in Vienna and Julian’s friends that since then have become my ‘adopted’ children.” But there were other reactions too. Some people started to avoid her.

“One of my neighbours literally ran away from me when he saw me, not knowing what to say after Julian’s passing,” tells Liani with a wry smile. One of the most excruciating things she found was hearing the phrase: “You have to move on.” Liani: “It was not about moving on. I will never ‘move on’ from my son. I needed to find a way to rearrange my life with him there but not being there.”

In her grief, she yearned not for words of comfort because there are no words of comfort when a mother loses her child, just a space to be heard, a space to process, a space to be accepted for whatever emotional place she found herself in on that particular day. “When you lose a child, everything you have ever believed in up until that point, vanishes in a second, everything has to be rebuilt. How does a mother’s brain understand the sorrow and loneliness of losing her first born son?”

The Journey of DevaJu

Fall 2018, the grieving mother was desperate to find someone who could sew a keepsakes teddy bear with her son’s clothes. Even though she sewed herself, she never attempted stuffed animals but not being successful in her search, she brought together her sewing gear and fabricated a gorgeous teddy bear made from African shweshwe

A DevaJu bunny with an emblem.

All the love, the thoughts and the sadness were poured into the process where she captured the essence of someone, she considered not only her son but an exemplary young adult. “Julian was a thoughtful and kind boy. I know all mothers say that about their son, but in this case, I can say it is true,” says Liani. She continues: “I was in a very abusive marriage with his father. After five years I was able to walk away. And my son was the reason for this strength. I did not want him to grow up and think it was ‘just ok’ to beat up a woman because she is ‘out of control’ or ‘crazy’.”

The kind nature of her son, who brought sunshine wherever he went, inspires her to tell his story and within no time she gets responses from grievers all around the world for whom she makes a stuffed animal as a remembrance. “I feel honoured when people send me clothes of their loved ones. It is a piece of someone so close to them and must be respected. When I cut out the pieces, I light a candle in memory of the loved one and stay mindful of their lives and those who are left behind.”

To spread Julian’s memory, she adds a little emblem in all the bunnies, bears, unicorns and dragons she makes. “The label is DevaJu. Deva for angel in Sanskrit as my son was very spiritual. Ju simple for Julian.”

Not long after, she received a request from her youngest son’s school for collections for an orphanage in Romania. She thought of making little stuffed bunnies to celebrate Julian’s first angelversary and deliver them to the school. She recruited some helpers in a women’s group on Facebook. After an overwhelming response, the women set off to fabricate 50 little bunnies. All stamped, DevaJu. Liani also started to make more teddy bears with a little note about Julian and DevaJu, leaving them behind in the city. And she received a response!

DevaJu bunnies.

“One evening I was really struggling with the grief when I received a message from a boy who found the unicorn in Neubaugasse, a picture with him and his brightly coloured unicorn. Realizing that my own journey to find healing can impact others played an incredible part of my journey.” Liani is yet to make a DevaJu of the clothes of Julian for herself.

The Impact of a Global Pandemic

Liani Drury in South Africa.

Then 2020 started with a threat of a global pandemic, causing much fear for the unknown. How will this affect our lives? Many people were forced to deal with their underlying emotions and troubles alone behind closed doors during the last year. For Liani Drury it was one of her best years. “The social distancing created a space for reflection,” she explains, as she was forced to go deep-end into her grief.

There were many similar feelings around the consequences of lockdown and restrictions of COVID-19 and the loss of her child, planning and a sense of safety disappeared for many, as we were all forced to live in the present, as the future was so uncertain. The depression of the COVID-19 lockdown and isolation she felt would pass again one day.

But her grief will always be with her. “It is not comparable but on the other hand it is,” explains Liani, “The last year made me realize I need to live for myself, not for my husband or my children or my grief. I need to transform into the human being I can be, reaching into the power of my inner self.”

Liani concludes: “I hope when my son sees me, he will be proud of the person I have become. I am living for myself now and for what I have to contribute to the world. Coming to this point of my journey has been hard, messy, full of tears and laughter but with an inner happiness I could not have imagined a year ago to find.”

Recognizing loss as a universal experience, Liani Drury hopes that “if we can start to understand the true nature of grief and loss and show understanding to each other, we can have a more helpful, loving, supportive collective culture.”

Austria Introduces New Measures After a Surge in Cases

  • The 3-G rule (geimpft, getestet, genesen – vaccinated, tested or recovered) will remain in effect.
  • From August 15 onward, proof of vaccination will only be valid for those fully immunized; a vaccination certificate will be issued upon receiving your second dose.
  • Entry to Nightclubs and Nachtgastronomie (late night bars) will only be permitted with a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours or proof of vaccination.
  • Regulations for those that are either recovered or immunized with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have not changed.
  • In Vienna, anyone over 6 years of age falls under the 3-G rule; in the rest of Austria, only those 12 or older must comply with measures. 
  • Masks will still be required only in enclosed spaces that don’t fall under the 3-G rule (public transport and shops).
  • Any form of nose and mouth covering is currently sufficient.
  • In enclosed spaces like movie theaters and concert halls, both masks and 3-G confirmation will be required.
  • Gatherings of 100 or more people must be registered in advance, with those expecting 500 or more requiring prior authorization.  

Travel to Austria

  • Travelers from countries with low epidemiological risk, or so-called Anlage 1, will be permitted to enter Austria with either a proof of vaccination, proof of recovery or a negative PCR test (3-G rule). 
  • Those arriving from “Areas of variant of concern” (Anlage 2) – currently Brazil, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Uruguay and Zimbabwe are not allowed to enter Austria. 
  • Austrian citizens, residence permit holders and some other groups are exempt from the entry ban. 

The federal government and the City of Vienna are still not in agreement on whether to impose additional restrictions for those who are still unvaccinated. Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein said on Sunday evening that it’s “too early” for such measures, adding that this could lead to a “division of society.”

Executive City Councilor for Public Health, Peter Hacker, stated however that he fully supports barring the unvaccinated from entering sports and leisure facilities. “The gravity of the fourth wave will depend on accelerating vaccination efforts in the next four to six weeks,” he concluded. 

Word of the Week: Reparaturseidel [ʁepaʁaˈtuːɐ̯ːzaɪ̯dl̩]

Noun. A small beer, to combat the effects of excessive alcohol intake, consumed the day after, usually with a hearty meal – some form of Gulasch being traditional.

A compound word consisting of Reparatur (repair) and Seidl, an Austrian term for a small glass of beer originating from the medieval Latin word situlus (a small vessel) – nowadays standardized at 0.33l.

An honored part of the “hair of the dog” school hangover cures applied with varying effectiveness the world over, local folk wisdom dictates that one-third-of-a-liter of suds – preferably a bitter pilsener – is the ideal portion to alleviate the effects of overindulgence, as it’s not enough to get you going (like the larger, 0.5l Krügerl), but sufficient to counter the onset of withdrawal.

Although, truth be told, that hearty (albeit greasy) meal that generally goes with the Reperaturseidl almost certainly does way more. Or, as Metropole recommends, you can try drinking a liter or two of tap water before bed, followed by a breakfast of ham and eggs washed down with pickle juice.

“I glaub i hab gestern zvü dranglt, i brauch a Reparaturseidel!” (I believe I’ve drunk too much yesterday, I need a repair beer!)

No matter how well you speak German, the Word Of The Week will help you impress any Viennese! While learning German is not an easy task in general, learning the language in Austria can come to be twice as complicated.

Strongly linked to local cultural individualities, the slangs change and evolve in all cultures around the world, the words and phrases make sense only when one is familiar with their cultural context. The Word of the Week is here to help you understand those singularities and impress the locals with some real Viennese words and expressions.

The Word of the Week can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Spread the word!

COVID-19 Vaccines for Young Children: The Next Step When Trial Results Are in

Two doses of the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are about 95% effective and have few side effects in adults. Now it’s time to consider vaccinating children under 12. But, first, we need to evaluate possible short- or long-term effects of the vaccines.

In Austria, just over 9% of the total COVID-19 cases were in children under 14 years old. 

To date, there was a total of 8,466 cases in children under 5 (boys 4,478 / girls 3,988), and 51,614 (boys 27,012 / girls 24,602) between 5 and 14. We were lucky: Only a small number were hospitalized, and none of them died.  

Many experts argue that we shouldn’t bother vaccinating children under 12 years old. Their arguments are two fold: Firstly, they reason that most children are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms and recover quickly. Secondly, we need a massive supply of vaccines for the millions of unvaccinated adults around the world and that this should be our priority. 

The opposing view in favor of vaccination is that children are the largest unvaccinated population, and we only need one such population to generate global variants that keep the pandemic going.

Childhood vaccines are safe

Childhood vaccinations are routine and widely accepted in most countries to ward off diseases like measles, mumps, polio, diphtheria, rotavirus, meningitis, and whooping cough. Childhood vaccines have few side effects and often induce lifelong immunity. We have a lot of positive experience with vaccines in children and most experts predict that COVID-19 vaccines will also be safe and effective.

Pro: Herd immunity and priority conditions

Supporters argue that vaccinating children against COVID-19 would be another crucial step toward ending the pandemic. The risk is that any population of unvaccinated people, including children, will increase the risk of new viral mutations like the Delta variant. Having more contagious new variants can increase viral spreading and the frequency of severe illness induced with fewer virus particles. At the beginning of the pandemic, a child would only get sick with exposed to a high number of infectious viruses. 

There are additional reasons for vaccinating children. 

Although young children are less likely to become severely ill, there’s still a chance that some will get sick and die. But that’s not all – there will be more cases of the post-COVID-19 multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) with possible heart, gastrointestinal and neurological problems. There’s also an increased risk of ‘long-term COVID-19’ in children – even after a mild episode – that could last for months and possibly years.

Another problem is the potential risk of severe illness if COVID-19 combines with other common viruses, like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which can cause severe respiratory disease. There will likely be more cases of RSV as precautions ease, leading to co-infection with SARS-CoV-2 and possibly, even more severe disease.

Vaccines protect children and those around them. Even when children are asymptomatic, they can spread COVID-19 to unvaccinated adults. So, children who live with vulnerable adults and those with suppressed immune systems should be vaccinated to protect the broader community’s health from the more transmissible Delta variant (and others). 

The more unvaccinated children and adults, the more SARS-CoV-2 infections, the more opportunities the virus has to mutate and potentially resist current vaccines and therapies.

The bottom line, this argument goes, is that vaccinating children is essential for herd immunity.

It’s important to first vaccinate children with underlying health problems that increase their risk of getting severely ill with COVID-19, e.g., asthma, diabetes, some cancers, immunosuppression or a weakened immune system, and possibly children with cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy, and Down’s syndrome.

Contra: Rare complications and allergies

Currently, the youngest vaccinated group are adolescents, and the good news is that the RNA vaccines appear to be safe for them. 

The most common side effects are similar to adults, with pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle and joint pain, chills, nausea and fever that lasts for a short time. 

However, there is a rare complication after the second dose of the RNA vaccine that occurs primarily in adolescent boys. They develop pericarditis or myocarditis, which is inflammation around or within the heart. The symptoms are chest pain, shortness of breath, or feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heartbeat. Although most cases have been mild and resolve themselves quickly, with most affected people making a full recovery, it’s essential to figure out whether this will also affect younger children. 

Some children should clearly be excluded, including any with a history of severe allergic reaction to a vaccine or to any medication related to the ingredients in the RNA vaccines (e.g., polyethylene glycol/PEG).  And of course, all children who contracted myocarditis or pericarditis after a first vaccine dose.

Another argument is that other people, including more vulnerable populations globally, need vaccines more.

Challenges: Dosages and detailed trials

So far, authorization for Moderna and Pfizer RNA vaccines has been given for children aged 12 to 15, but clinical trials in children as young as six months old are underway. Until we see the results of vaccine effectiveness and safety studies, we ought to wait. 

There are some hurdles with approving vaccines for children. For example, we need to determine dosages. Typically, vaccine doses are lower for children, which makes them potentially less effective but also reduces the side effects. 

Other challenges are that the numbers of children in any trials need to be high to observe the rare adverse effects, and these studies take longer because of a necessary longer follow-up time (e.g., two years).

Keeping unvaccinated children safe

Unvaccinated children need to be protected, primarily because of more contagious and pathogenic variants. Until vaccines are available, keep your children safe by having them wear masks indoors, physical distance, and wash their hands. They should be routinely COVID-19 tested and should avoid people with COVID-19 and vulnerable unvaccinated adults. 

The benefits must outweigh the risks

We need to evaluate the benefits and risks before vaccinating children under 12. As soon as positive clinical trial results are available, we should vaccinate children, because of concerns over a potential new waves that coincide with the coming school year and the cooler weather that will mean spending more time indoors.

The Known, Yet Unknown Community

Leaving home behind is always a hard decision. Sometimes it is a necessity, you have to leave the country you were born in just to survive. Other times, it’s related to a new beginning, a search for a better life or a need for change. The reasons are many. Whatever the impetus, it is always hard to leave your home, habits, and everyday routines, and most of all, your loved ones. 

With this in mind, it is easy to imagine the difficulties Gastarbeiter:innen faced. 

May 15, 1964 was a crucial date for the workers who came to Austria from Turkey. These people, who left with such big dreams, gradually, after years of working, established a life here and acquired a new home. They came without knowing the language, often living in shared rooms, under an agreement for temporary working status. Even the workers didn’t plan to stay in Austria. All those involved – both countries states and the workers themselves – saw it as a temporary stay,. 

They planned to work in Austria until they have enough savings to buy a house or launch a business in Turkey. The Turkish state assumed that the workers would not only bring their savings back with them, but also knew knowledge that would strengthen the economy at home. 

However, beginning in the 70s and 80s, the Gastarbeiter began to bring their families to Austria as well. Children were often born here and went to school side-by-side with the Austrians, while the parents postponed their return. Sometimes they hoped to save more; later they wanted to wait until their children’s finished school. But primarily, it was Turkey’s economic and political situation, that blocked a way forward for their families in Turkey.  They simply couldn’t imagine a future there that made sense.

At the beginning they shared rooms with others from their home town, and would go  shopping together because of the language problem. After their families arrived, they continued to live together, to support each other in everyday life.  

Over the decades, there are many stories of success and achievement, but also tears, home sickness, anger, disappointment. There has been happiness and sacrifice, some nice surprises and lots of hard work, and of course discrimination, the frustration of being used by populists in Turkey as well in Austria. Still, the community, like any other, has enriched Austria, with its culture, language and way of life. 

Visiting Turkey in Summer / “İzine gitmek”

For the first generation, in particular, it was very difficult to stay away from home that long. Think about a time without the internet, when phone calls were expensive as were the airline tickets, when pictures were not taken digitally. People wrote each other letters, sent cassettes with voice recordings (even this was unusually high-tech!) to their loved ones back home. So, the summer vacation was a big event, the chance to go back to Turkey, and visit their loved ones. Many traveled by car, especially the bigger families. It was far cheaper and allowed you to bring more presents and on the way back, to bring supplies they couldn’t find in Austria. 

This longing to go to Turkey each summer is still a reality for many. 

After the coup d’état in 1980 and for several years following, many leftists had to leave and apply for asylum in countries around the world, especially in Europe. Others left because of civil war and conflicts with the Kurds. Among their contributions, these refugees brought Turkey’s special understanding of secularism, shaped by the reforms of Kemal Ataturk in the 1920s, which has had a major influence on the Islamic associations in Austria. 

In order to understand the dynamics within the Turkish speaking community in Vienna, we must look at current events in Turkey. Even though the community here has its own structures and dynamics, Turkey has an important influence on Turks in Vienna.

“The Newcomers” – Students

In academic year 2020-2021, over 2000 students with Turkish citizenship were studying in Austria. There are many reasons they come.

The last decades, political changes in Turkey pushed many to study abroad. In Austria, the education was good and compared to other countries the tuition affordable. 

Architecture, economics, fine arts, music, engineering and medicine are the most popular fields of study, not only for a bachelor’s but also graduate degrees. And while some have returned to Turkey after their studies, others also chose to stay in Vienna and became part of the city.

One of the biggest challenges is the language, with the expectation that you complete the C1 advanced level within four Semesters.  A second challenge is a work permit, which  students from non-EU/EEA countries don’t automatically receive with a student residency permit. They are allowed to work a maximum of 20h/week and only if the employer is willing to apply for the permit, which can take two to six weeks. In addition, Turkish students are excluded from most scholarships. Tuition fees are also higher than for students from EU countries. As with all third-country nationals, Turkish students pay double the EU rate, or, €747,42 per semester. 

Religion & Beliefs 

The largest ethnic groups in the community are Kurds and Turks.

The majority of migrants from Turkey belong to the Sunni Hanafi school of law. The Alevis form the second largest group. There is a large Alevi community, estimated at 10-20 percent of the community from Turkey.

In addition to that larger religious groups, Orthodox Armenians, Assyrians and Turkish Jews are all part of the community. 

Regional Associations

There are several types of events, where the community comes together, which we can divide into two broad categories: the traditional and the culture-related events.

The traditional includes religious festivities, weddings, circumcision ceremonies, engagement parties and even funerals. As in most cultures, weddings are particularly important occasions, and before the pandemic, you could have gone to one every week, and the German channel Düğün TV (Wedding TV) broadcasts weddings from around Europe live. 

The culture related events include concerts, theater, art openings, talks, screenings  etc. Before the pandemic, there were Turkish Theater Festivals, where plays, actors and other performers from Turkey came to Vienna stages, where Turks would meet, despite differing political views and backgrounds.

A pinch of Turkey 

Through it all, many long for a smell, a taste, maybe even a sound, that reminds them of home. Those comforting familiar things! 

In Vienna, it’s a pinch of Turkey, which you can find if you know where to look.

Favoriten is one of the centers of the Turkish community here. After Favoriten; Simmering, Fünfhaus, Ottakring and Brigettenau.  The markets, too – Naschmarkt, Brunnenmarkt, Meiselmarkt, Hannovermarkt, Viktor-Adler-Markt – are rich in Turkish culture, important market places, where you can find familiar smells and hear the melodies of the Turkish language. 

Creating a new Home

After moving to another country, in most cases you still have a connection to where you come from.  The sad part is sometimes you miss a place that no longer exists, which can not exist. Even the version of you from that time no longer exists. But still you find yourself longing for this non-existent version of a place and of youself that remains as a memory, as a dream of something you cannot have anymore and is thus all the more  romanticized.

These “memory seeds” you bring with you to your new home, to grow something new and that might be very beautiful 

Having spent half of my life in Vienna, one of the most unexpected things that I have learned has been to understand and see Turkey in a different way. Sometimes you need to take a step back to see the picture as a whole.

And so too with the community here. It will remain as a known, yet not-so-well-known, community for me as well, until perhaps one day I will see it, too, from the outside.

Word of the Week: Rauschkind [ʁaʊ̯ʃkɪnt]

Noun. A wild, crazy and somewhat dimwitted person, particularly when under the influence. Lit. “child of intoxication.” The term stems from the medically dubious Austrian old wives’ tale that children conceived while one or both parents are drunk grow up not only a bit slow, but also take on various qualities associated with being utterly hammered, including but not limited to: terrible judgement; foolish risk-taking; irascibility and a low threshold for violence; self-destructive behavior; promiscuity (or at least constant horniness); and, of course, a boundless appetite for booze and illegal substances. While sometimes used as a term of endearment for party animals, the title is generally reserved for that one friend everyone has (usually working in finance or the like) who completely overdoes it on Saturday night, double-fisting Jägerbombs, picking fights with the bouncer and having intercourse with complete strangers in the bathroom stalls before vomiting in the alley and leaving everyone with the bill to grab a cab home for a nightcap of blow – and who doesn’t behave much better when sober, either. While fetal alcohol spectrum disorders caused by drinking during pregnancy are a serious condition and alcohol consumption does affect fertility, sobriety (or the lack thereof) during conception generally does not affect the resulting child either way – else a significant portion of the human race would undoubtedly be Rauschkinder. Mind you, that would explain a lot about the state of the world…

“Sauf weniger, du Rauschkind!” (Drink less, you crazy dimwit!)

No matter how well you speak German, the Word Of The Week will help you impress any Viennese! While learning German is not an easy task in general, learning the language in Austria can come to be twice as complicated.

Strongly linked to local cultural individualities, the slangs change and evolve in all cultures around the world, the words and phrases make sense only when one is familiar with their cultural context. The Word of the Week is here to help you understand those singularities and impress the locals with some real Viennese words and expressions.

The Word of the Week can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Spread the word!

Ivan X – A Bulgarian on the Street

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For some, Vienna is home only part of the year.

It was Saturday afternoon at Yppenplatz, when my friends and me incidentally met Ivan. He heard me and my friends speaking Bulgarian and stopped next to us. He asked us for cigarettes, and we started talking. 

Ivan was 63 years old, a Bulgarian Roma, living partly in Vienna, partly in Pazardjik (Bulgaria) with the rest of his family. For the last 12 years, he had been coming to Vienna every late autumn and stayed until the beginning of the summer. Then he goes back to his little house in the countryside, where he and his wife take care of a little vegetable garden, some chickens and rabbits. At the end of the summer, they conserve the produce from the garden so they can have something easy to cook in the winter. Then Ivan comes back to Vienna, taking a suitcase with jars and cans of homemade preserves, so to not spend a lot of money while he is here. 

Ivan is not alone in Vienna. He stays with two of his younger cousins, who are street musicians. They mostly play Balkan arrangements of well known popular songs from Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Michael Jackson and others, busking for money. 

Ivan is always happy when he is in Vienna, because he earns more money here. “Here people give more tips than in Bulgaria,” he told me. “In Sofia, nobody gives you paper money, only coins. But then, there are no rich people on the streets. They are all in the cars; here is different.” But he couldn’t hide that he missed his wife and his dogs. 

“Isn’t a bad time we are living in, young boy?” he says to me. “Nothing ever really separated me and my wife since when we are 14 years old. But now….”  

Ivan comes to Vienna only for the period of Winter to spring, because that time the city is full with tourists. Well, usually. They play at some Christmas markets on Saturdays, in the 7th district, Naschmarkt, Schönbrunn palace. A few times, they have been invited to play at a Balkan wedding. “People from the Balkans miss our rhythmic music,” he said, laughing. “It looks like they’ve had enough of Mozart.” 

But this year, the winter had no mercy for Ivan and his crew. As the majority of bars, cafes and restaurants have been closed because of COVID-19, they couldn’t earn even the half of the money they usually do. He hopes next year will be better. So where is home? “I am a gipsy,” Ivan said. “I always take my home with me.” 

And with that he showed me a picture of his wife. 

Call of the Wild | Austria’s National Parks

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For 50 years and counting, Austria’s national parks have preserved some of the country’s most striking habitats.

Central Europe is famously civilized, with constant reminders of centuries worth of culture. But I often long for something that predates even that – the open skies, tranquility and solitude of the wilderness. Fortunately, hiking the Hohe Tauern national park lets me scratch that itch without having to be overly adventurous, with easily accessible mountain trails among peaks like the mighty 3,500 meters-tall Rötspitze, where glaciers sparkle in the midday sun. 

It is these glaciers – sadly shrinking year by year due to climate change – that feed the Isel, which flows entirely free from its source to its confluence with the Drau. Up here, it’s still a crystal-clear mountain creek; as I followed it along the gently rising IselTrail, I paused to sit on a rock, sipping some spring water I’d collected in a flask as I watched the river gurgle past on its 70 km run to Lienz. To see this untouched landscape in all its splendor was to feel a shot of hope that a balance between development and conservation can still be found.

The fact that I could enjoy this pristine corner of Austria has a lot to do with an agreement signed 50 years ago at the foot of Austria’s highest mountain, the Großglockner. It was there on October 21, 1971, in the small town of Heiligenblut that the governors of Carinthia, Tyrol and Salzburg agreed to create a designated alpine biodiversity sanctuary: The stage for the first Austrian national park had been set. 

Rather typically, Austria was late to the party. Yellowstone National Park was established at a time when the American West was still Wild – a startling reminder that our cousins across the pond used to be progressive on conservation. Sweden established the first European National Parks in 1909, and, by 1914, sensible Switzerland quietly went about establishing the first Alpine nature preserve.

It took a full decade for the agreement in Heiligenblut to become a reality – and only the Carinthian section at first. But by 1993, Hohe Tauern National Park was up and running, soon to be joined by 5 more preserves over the next 9 years: From craggy mountains where chamois scramble and eagles soar to deep forests, expansive grasslands and even temperate jungles where rare turtles bask in the sun, Austria’s national parks showcase the country’s staggering biodiversity.  

Conservation and Coexistence

While stunning, these national parks are vital if Austria is to play a role in the global fight against extinction. We are not immune here: According to a recent study called the InsektenAtlas, Austria’s insect population is estimated to have declined by 75 % over the past 30 years. As climate change accelerates, we are belatedly realizing that intact forests and rivers are not pretty backdrops but the cornerstone of our existence: They provide clean water, cooler air, protection from landslides and avalanches and are havens for dwindling insect populations which make agriculture possible.     

Over the past pandemic months, I visited all six of Austria’s national parks. My first was the Thaya Valley, a stretch of dark and mysterious forest along the eponymous river on the Austro-Czech border. The Iron Curtain used to run through here, and remnants of old watch towers still stand on the Czech side. It was misty and raining when I visited, giving the area the melancholy mystique of a John Le Carré thriller.

National park Thayatal ©StefanLeitner

As I squelched through oozing mud under a tunnel of emerald leaves, Julian Haider, a goateed park ranger, urged me to slow down, stop and just observe the subtle majesty of nature. “You can sometimes see otters swimming past, or a white-tailed eagle flying above,” he whispered as heavy rain splashed off his wide-brimmed hat. We crouched on a moss-covered log and gazed across the river into verdant foliage. “And when you look carefully at the meadows, you’ll find interesting trees and plants. Such diversity in such a small geographical area is really exciting and special.” Indeed, this gully of meandering river bends and gentle cascades is home to 1,290 species of flora, 100 types of bird and even the recently returned wildcat.

It was a very different experience at the Donauauen National Park. The scorching heat gave this small pocket of water and primeval forest (just 93 square kilometers) an almost Amazonian feel as I paddled down a channel in the labyrinthine wetlands with the deeply-tanned ranger Rosemarie Grimm. Our wooden canoe glided serenely between green lily pads, passing herons and kingfishers as I reveled in the buzz of rich insect life and the squawking of birds. Below the surface, fish darted through an underwater forest of plants. 

It felt like Eden, but this was nearly paradise lost. In the early 1980s, a proposed hydro-electric plant near Hainburg threatened to drain the wetlands. Yet, in an era when civil disobedience was almost unknown in Austria and environmentalism was a niche concern, something remarkable happened: The people said “No!”

A mass sit-in, led by the WWF but soon embraced by a broad section of Austrian society, eventually made the government reconsider, and, ultimately, create the Donauauen National Park in 1996. Even a young Othmar Karas, nowadays a conservative MEP, showed up dressed as a cormorant. The momentum from the protest created a new eco-consciousness in Austria, eventually leading to the formation of the Austrian Green Party, now a junior partner in the current national government.

Lakes on a Plain

Not far south from the Au on the border with Hungary, you’ll find some very different wetlands at the Neusiedlersee-Seewinkel National Park. A Mecca for birds both migratory and local, the expansive reed belts and salty sodic ponds of these shallow lakes are deeply alkaline, allowing insects to thrive and providing a veritable avian buffet – just the ticket when flying to Africa for the winter, or returning in the spring.

Neusiedlersee-Seewinkel National Park (C)Rupert Kogler

On a windy evening, I stood with conservationist Alois Lang, staring out with binoculars at some thin-legged birds tip-toeing through the shimmering shallows as the sun went down. “I want to show you something else,” said Lang, and so we hopped into his electric 4×4 and jolted along a rough track until the lake was behind us. Before us were wind-swept grasslands as far as the eye can see – with some romantic exaggeration, reminiscent of the Mongolian steppe

To add to the illusion, a herd of Przewalski’s Horses roamed in the distance, nibbling on grass tufts. A hardy but endangered species from Central Asia that were brought here in co-operation with Schönbrunn Zoo, they were joined by elegant white long-horned cattle that, Lang told me, play an important role in keeping the grassland healthy. 

I found this surprising, as I’d been taught the overly simplistic “beef is always bad” view of ecology, but small-scale grazing has its role. “Consider the factor light,” Lang pointed out: less light means less diversity, but cattle and horses keep the plains open by eating shrubs. This means more animals can find the right place for reproduction, food and rest.

Natural Selection

If the Thayatal, Donauauen and Neusiedlersee-Seewinkel National Parks primarily showcase wetlands, the Kalkalpen and Gesäuse National Parks are the green heart of Austria, covered in deliciously wild, mountainous forests with foliage so thick that lynx can flit from branch to branch. Both preserves allow trees to complete their entire life cycle, to grow old and die – none are preferred, and different species compete for space and light, resulting in a kaleidoscope of colors come autumn. Some are very old indeed, with one beech in the Kalkalpen nearly 550 years old – already a sapling before Columbus found the Americas. While the Upper Austrian Kalkalpen are more rounded, the Styrian Gesäuse are spectacularly vertical – but both are stunningly beautiful symbols of health and resilience.

For my year among Austria’s national parks, I’d saved the Hohe Tauern for last. It’s not just the original, but also the giant among them, stretching over almost 2,000 square kilometers of remarkably diverse landscapes. I started in Salzburg’s Rauris Virgin Forest, a mystical world of giant spruce and pine trees bedded on lush green moss, and passed dark moorland ponds which make you feel transported to the wilds of Scandinavia. Now here I was, over a 100 km away by road, above the snowline and nearing the source of the river Isel, a symbol of freedom in overly-harnessed Europe. An early season avalanche rumbled down a steep rockface across the valley. This was wilderness.

For many of us accustomed to regular international travel, the onset of the pandemic has meant burying our passport at the bottom of the drawer and feeling “stuck” and claustrophobic. But I will never forget exploring the wild nooks and crannies of my adopted homeland. There was so much to discover, so much to learn and so much to marvel at; all of it a brief train ride from Vienna. I met passionate, poetic guides and learned Austria’s history along the way. But most important of all, I came away with a sense of responsibility as well as wonder. These are pockets of protection in a country where not enough is safeguarded. So much of Austria’s natural landscape is vulnerable to logging, hydropower dams or industrial development. The natural treasures of Austria are priceless. We have to appreciate them and protect them. 

The Scenic Six Austrian National Parks

  • Hohe Tauern

Austria’s oldest and largest national park is shared by Salzburg, Tyrol and Kärnten, showcasing high altitude environments from glacier fields to coniferous forests. It is home to nearly every indigenous alpine species from Ibexes to vultures, marmots and golden eagles.

hohetauern.at 

  • Neusiedler See- Seewinkel

Featuring lakes with large reed belts and wide steppes, this region in Burgenland is a paradise for insects, amphibians and the birds that feed on them. Right on the Hungarian border, the Fertő-Hanság national park adds nearly 24 hectares of protected habitat.

nationalparkneusiedlersee.at

  • Donauauen

Right outside Vienna, this is one of the last remaining places where the Danube still flows freely, granting sanctuary to beavers, kingfishers, turtles and numerous fish among its wetlands, forests and waterways. 

donauauen.at

  • Kalkalpen

The largest continuous forest in the country, Upper Austria’s Kalkalpen also boasts over 70 limestone caverns and hosts hawks, owls, otters and the country’s only lynx population.

kalkalpen.at

  • Thayatal

A continuation of Czechia’s Podyjí National Park, the lazy bends of the Thaya are home to nearly half of Austria’s known species of flora thanks to its location on a climactic boundary, as well as woodpeckers, elks and wildcats.

np-thayatal.at

  • Gesäuse

From whitewater creeks to dramatic cliffs and untouched forests, Styria’s Gesäuse possesses a staggering amount of environmental and biological diversity, with over 230 endemic species and numerous bats, frogs and butterflies.

nationalpark-gesaeuse.at

Meet Linguist Ruth Wodak, author of Politics of Fear

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“It’s very important to live in the space you are writing about and not just sit in the ivory tower of academia.” 

Ruth Wodak lives in Vienna’s 10th district, not far from where her grandfather, a rabbi, lived at the turn of the 19th century. From here, a short tram ride to the heart of the city takes her from what she describes as “the most multicultural areas of town up to ones that are primarily white.” 

Fluent in German, English, French and Serbo-Croatian (with a competency in several other languages), as the Emeritus professor of linguistics is privy to many of the conversations she overhears on these rides. Her multilingualism reflects the many passages her parents went through in the turbulent inter- and post-war years: Fleeing to England to escape the Nazis, returning to Austria following WWII, followed by diplomatic service in Belgrade and Moscow.

“My parents dedicated their lives to fighting against fascism and discrimination and for justice and democracy,” said Wodak, 70.  Adapting to a constant flux of cultures and languages growing up, she developed a keen sense of the power of language.

“Communication was so enormously important to be able to find entry points into all these different surroundings and circumstances,” she recalled.

Even as a preeminent scholar – honors include the Wittgenstein Award and the Grand Silver Medal of Honor for Services to the Austrian Republic – and prolific author, Wodak’s engagement with society remains a priority. 

She accepts many invitations to speak to the public, not only in universities, but also in smaller towns throughout Austria and beyond, institutions of further education, and even trade unions. 

Her most recent book, The Politics of Fear, was published in two editions, in 2015 and 2020, during an explosive period in the field of political discourse. As prescient as the first edition was – identifying key issues like the manipulation of media by right-wing populists (remember this was before the Brexit referendum or the election of Donald Trump) – even Wodak was stunned by barrage of events that took place.

Although we are in a (for now) post-Trump and post-Ibizagate era, Wodak considers her work far from done, with living in the 10th district a constant reminder of how far Austria still has to go.

“Despite this extraordinary diversity,” she worried, “a third of the Viennese population still isn’t able to vote – that’s very undemocratic.”

Guide to Vienna’s Beaches and Swimming Pools

Metropole’s picks of the best spots to cool-off on those long, steamy summer days.

With much confusion sowed thanks to COVID-19’s delta variant, many Viennese will opt to spend a good part of their holiday in the city and surroundings. Lucky for us, there are few better places to relaxing in the shade and take a dip than the Austrian capital, so let’s dive into Vienna’s swimming pool guide.

Due to the current pandemic situation, the city has decided to stick to its ticketing and entrance scheme from last year: There are no monthly or season tickets, but in return, the price of a day pass have been lowered to €1 for small children, €2 for teenagers and senior citizens and €3 for adults. Much like everywhere else in the city, entry will only be granted upon proof of the 3G rule.

Masks are required indoors, while swimmers need to be socially distanced – two meters for swimming pools and three to four meters in open lakes like the Alte Donau.

A Viennese “Bäderampel” (traffic light system) shows which open-air pools still have capacity or are full. Make sure to check it on especially hot days, as pools have a maximum limit of daily visitors at any given time this year.

But now, let’s jump right in. Metropole brings you the best al fresco pools this side of the Alps. Whether you want to lounge poolside like a royal hipster, are trying to keep a band of raucous children happy or are looking to placate your inner nature lover, we’ve got you covered.

Please note that open air pools close at 15:00 during bad weather, with the exception of the Gänsehäufel, which would close at 17:00.

Gänsehäufel

Gänsehäufel | Photo: Wiki Commons
Gänsehäufel | Photo: Wikipedia Commons

It’s a bastion of Viennese swimming tradition and perfect for flower children seeking tranquility, or families with free-range kids. In the past, the storied Gänsehäufel opened in 1907 and was the first municipal public bathing beach. It once served as a nudist colony and now has a separated nudist “FKK” area as well as a wave pool, waterslides, beach volleyball courts, and a high rope course for climbers. Since 2013 they even offer courses in Stand Up Paddling (SUP) if that’s your thing. Today, the 330,000 m² of the forested island in the middle of the Old Danube draws the most visitors of any public bath in Vienna, without ever feeling packed. Enjoy!

22., Moissigasse 21. Mon-Fri 9:00 – 20:00, Sat-Sun 8:00 – 19:00.

*closes at 17:00 on rainy days*

(01) 269 90 16

Strandbad Alte Donau

Strandbad Alte Donau | Photo: MA 44
Strandbad Alte Donau | Photo: MA 44

This area is ideal for working-class heroes eager to relax on the storied grounds of the former Arbeiterstrandbad. The green lawns, trees and small sailboats noiselessly passing by on the Old Danube make the Strandbad Alte Donau an idyllic place to chill out on a quiet afternoon.

21., Arbeiterstrandbadstraße 91. Mon-Fri 9:00 – 20:00, Sat-Sun 8:00 – 20:00.
(01) 263 65 38

Schönbrunner Bad

Schönbrunnerbad | Photo: www.schoenbrunnerbad.at
Schönbrunnerbad | Photo: www.schoenbrunnerbad.at

For swimming and sunbathing royalty – see and be seen – look no further than the Schönbrunn woods. Besides a swimming pool and a beach volleyball pitch, the Schönbrunner Bad also has very good food (for a swimming pool) a separated nudist terrace.  Beware, the prices are also fit for a king and on very hot days the place tends to get pretty crowded.

13., Schlosspark / north of the Obelisk. daily 8:30 – 22:00 through Aug 15; from Aug 16 onward 8:30-20:00
(01) 817 53 53

Krapfenwaldlbad

Krapfenwaldlbad | Photo: www.stadt-wien.at
Krapfenwaldlbad | Photo: www.stadt-wien.at

This is another great hunting ground for fashionistas and people-watchers of all kinds – plus it boasts perhaps the best view of Vienna from a slide. However, the perks of the Krapfenwaldlbad have their price. Getting there means either climbing the slopes of Cobenzl (which feels like a 45-degree incline) or finding the right bus to take you up the hill, which is famously difficult even for the Viennese. The reward is a stunning panorama from the highest-altitude pool in town and a great selection of Vienna’s poshest swimsuit models.

19., Krapfenwaldgasse 65-73. Mon-Fri 9:00 – 20:00, Sat-Sun 8:00 – 20:00.
(01) 320 15 01

Ottakringer Bad

Ottakringer Bad | MA44
Ottakringer Bad | Photo: MA44

Go here if you’re prepared to fight for a sunbathing spot or are looking for deliciously fatty Freibadpommes (French fries served at pools). Being one of the Viennese Bezirksbäder – the public pools that the socialist Viennese government built in workers’ districts – the Ottakringer Bad is easy to reach and offers good family fun and food aplenty. Its two pools, slide, and green space make it a great choice for a summertime family outing.

16., Johann-Staud-Straße 11. Mon-Fri 9:00 – 20:00, Sat-Sun 8:00 – 20:00.
(01) 914 81 06

Kongreßbad

Kongreßbad | Photo: MA44
Kongreßbad | Photo: MA44

This place will pluck a nostalgic heartstring with its barn-colored houses (red with white trimmings) and stainless steel pool and slide. There’s also a playground and football pitch, inviting guests to linger all day at this urban heritage site. It was opened in 1928 as one of the Bezirksbäder, the Kongreßbad was Vienna’s largest artificial public swimming pool at the time, with a 100-meter pool. Today it is a family favorite: Go for the 1920s flair, stay for the awesome slides.

16., Julius-Meinl-Gasse. Mon-Fri 9:00 – 20:00, Sat-Sun 8:00 – 20:00.
(01) 486 11 63

Neue Donau

Neue Donau | Photo: www.wien.gv.at
Neue Donau | Photo: www.wien.gv.at

The less body conscious among us may already have discovered Vienna’s naked truth. In Austria, FKK, the short-hand for Freikörperkultur or nudism, has been going strong since its rediscovery at the beginning of the 19th century. Along the banks of the Neue Donau the community is not only welcome, but at some spots even in the majority, as swimmers with or without swimwear bathe for free. You’ll see Turkish families BBQing, gay guys having fiestas, or naturists enjoying their free time in the sun unofficially claim sections of the waterfront – you just have to find the place that suits you best.

U-Bahn station Donauinsel or Kaisermühlen VIC. Around the clock.
(01) 40 00 – 965 00

Schafbergbad

Schafbergbad | Photo: Wikipedia Commons
Schafbergbad | Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Lying in the midst of Vienna’s posh 18th district, where ambassadorial mansions line the hilly streets, the Schafbergbad is the pool of choice for an internationally-minded crowd seeking a respite from the city high up above. A better secret than the Krapfenwaldlbad, but nearly its match in terms of vistas, the pool is a real insider’s tip. You can relax surrounded by plenty of green space while your children busily shuttle between the water slide, trampolines, and football pitches.

18., Josef-Redl-Gasse 2. Mon-Fri 9:00 – 20:00, Sat-Sun 8:00 – 20:00.
(01) 479 15 93


This article was originally published in the July/August 2016 issue of Metropole and published online in an adjusted format on August 10, 2016. The current article was updated due to the current situation – but the open-air pools are just as great and welcoming as back then 🙂 

Professor Martin Kahanec – a Test of Antigens and Character

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Last year, the Central European University relocated to Vienna. Researchers like Martin Kahanec are already making international waves.

Growing up in the small town of Roznava in the eastern part of what was then a Soviet Czechoslovakia, Martin Kahanec was raised in a family that believed that education, knowledge and perseverance are what matter, values that have guided his academic and professional life.

A Professor of Public Policy at the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, Kahanec is also Acting Dean at the university’s new campus in Vienna. In addition, he is founder and scientific director of CELSI in Bratislava; member of the national COVID-19 Economic Crisis
Management Council at the Ministry of Finance of Slovakia and member of the minister’s advisory council, not to mention a member of the scientific board of the Czech Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.

Professor Martin Kahanec teaches at Vienna’s Central European University (CEU). His main research interests are labor and population economics, migration, EU mobility, ethnicity, and reforms in European labor markets. / © CEU

Then there are all his previous positions in government, education and research across the continent. But to linger on past achievements is something Kahanec isn’t very interested in. He asked me to drop the “Professor” during our conversation over Zoom, as he talked about a recent study he conducted in Slovakia on mass antigen testing (MAT). With the mass testing campaign conducted last fall, he hoped to get an accurate picture of the incidence of coronavirus cases in the country. Along with a team at the CEU, Kahanec conducted further tests on selected communities.

“In the social sciences, we like to look at events that have a random, experimental element to them,” he explained. “[The pandemic] created an opportunity to discover the causal impact of mass testing as a policy instrument on the spread of the disease, both on its prevalence and its reproductive rate.”

Testbed for a New Approach

Using several communities in Slovakia, Kahanec looked at the effects of frequent testing. He found that in the two weeks between the first and second wave of testing, the incidence of the disease had decreased by 25-30% and the reproduction rate by 0.3. However, this was only the first step. He would not recommend MAT yet, he told me. “Yes there may be some benefits, but it is temporary,” he said. “A cross benefit analysis is needed on whether it is the best use of resources. We are not against or for it until we know more.”

So where did this curiosity and drive come from? It had simply been a part of his life and the culture he grew up in, perhaps even a genetic one, passed on through the generations. “My great grandparents went to the US to make money, and then came back and started a business in Slovakia,” he recounted. It’s a history of larger ambition. “I never saw myself staying in my town. That’s why I then moved to Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Toulouse, but the plan was always to converge back to Bratislava.”

Indeed, like his ancestors, he has lived and worked abroad before settling back in his homeland. He chose economics and the study of migration through a desire to make a difference. The antigen testing study gave him a chance to try to and help people whose jobs had been affected by the pandemic.

© Unsplash

“You need an inner motivation and a bigger goal that goes beyond positive feedback. In my case, as naïve as it may sound, it was making positive change in your community, your country, in Europe.” This is the lesson he tries to instill in his students at the CEU. “The goal was not to become the dean of a school; that just happened along the way. The bigger goal was to make a positive change. This is something we teach our kids, to learn practical skills in order to make change happen.”

But he warns that it’s not been easy to get to where he is. “It’s a lot of studying, learning and asking questions about yourself and how things can be improved. It’s important to talk to people and learn from your peers. The path toward success is paved in failures. And it’s not measured by how many times you fail, but how many times you can get up and still carry on. Failures are an integral part of any endeavor.”

Now, like the rest of us, Martin Kahanec is spending most of his time in home office due to COVID-19 restrictions. So for now, teaching is remote, and Vienna and Budapest are a lot farther away.

Word of the Week: tschechern [ˈt͡ʃɛçɐn]

Verb. To drink alcohol excessively; an alcoholic would therefore be a Tschecherant. Orig. from the Yiddish shokhar (to drink), which made its way into Viennese via Rotwelsch (thieves’ cant).

However, it is often (erroneously) assumed to stem from Tscheche (Czech); as legions of Bohemians and Moravians migrated to the imperial capital in the late 19th century in search of a better life, the Viennese quickly became acquainted with their legendary fondness for demon malt, with Czechia leading the world in per capita beer consumption to this day.

However, considering that Austria is usually right behind their northern neighbor in second place, this is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black. While most of these Czech migrants found work as cheap industrial laborers or domestic help, quite a few of Austria’s most prominent figures were actually born beyond Znaim/Znojmo, including Gustav Mahler, Sigmund Freud, Josef Hoffmann, Bertha von Suttner, Viktor Adler (founder of the Social Democratic Party), Karl Renner (a founding father of both the first and second Austrian Republics), Adolf Loos, Alfred Kubin and many others.

Still more had Czech roots, like Egon Schiele (mother from Český Krumlov) or Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka (father from Prague).

“Kumm, gema wos tschechern!” (C’mon, let’s go drink!)

No matter how well you speak German, the Word of the Week will help you impress any Viennese! While learning German is not an easy task in general, learning the language in Austria can come to be twice as complicated.

Strongly linked to local cultural individualities, the slangs change and evolve in all cultures around the world, the words and phrases make sense only when one is familiar with their cultural context. The Word of the Week is here to help you understand those singularities and impress the locals with some real Viennese words and expressions.

The Word of the Week can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Spread the word!

Playgrounds for Foodies

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The pandemic saw demand for regional food skyrocket, catapulting Vienna’s markets into the limelight.

1. Schlingermarkt – Oasis beyond the Donau

As the clock tower atop the 1920s Gemeindebau Schlingerhof watches faithfully over locals buying groceries, a group of students from the University of the Applied Arts swap succulents and chili cuttings with plant enthusiasts of all ages and backgrounds. It’s a typical scene at this beloved hot spot at the heart of Floridsdorf, where patrons come to shop, enjoy a Spritzer among the impressive collection of metal signs at the charming Steh 8erl or grab a hearty Backhendl (fried chicken) with a choice of cucumber, pickle or potato salad at the nearest Imbiss. During the day, a visit to Feinkost Schlingermarkt will get you a brimming container of fresh and a ordable Levantine lunch, prepared with love and a healthy serving of market gossip. A coffee at EVA, a store on the perimeter selling delectable Romanian sausages, cheeses, local crafts and even wine on tap, perfectly rounds off the experience.

Best finds: buffalo yogurt, dried rose hips

21., Floridsdorfer Markt (Schlingermarkt)

Mon-Fri 6:00-20:00
Sat 6:00-18:00

Schlingermarkt (C) Emma Hontebeyrie

2. Brunnenmarkt – The longest permanent street market in Europe

Walking along Brunnenmarkt is a maximalist, multi-sensory experience that feels like traveling the world while remaining in Ottakring. With over 170 market stalls spread over 948 meters, there’s something for everyone, from a ordable fruit and vegetables to Turkish and Arabic specialties, spices, and fresh-picked mushrooms and truffles. Right next door is Yppenplatz, an up-and-coming Grätzl in its own right filled with sunny street cafes like Frida and rooftop bars like Wirr, beckoning with brunch and people-watching. Stalls change regularly, but some experiences are unmissable: Try taking a seat amid the bustle for a revitalizing Syrian tea break. Once refreshed, stop by Hammoud Imbiss for some warm flatbreads directly from the Tandoor grill or pick up a fresh cheese Börek, expertly made by the hands of Bosnian babas (grandmas). Along with massive bunches of herbs, seasonal produce is always vocally advertised, making it easy to bring home.

Best finds: Japanese Nashi pears, truffles

16., Brunnengasse

Mo-Fr 6:00-21:00
Sat 6:00-18:00

Brunnenmarkt (C) Emma Hontebeyrie

3. Viktor-Adler-Markt – Warmth among the city bustlerunn

With its modular, shaded stalls and neighborly purveyors, Viktor-Adler-Markt sticks out in sharp contrast to the modernized shopping experience on Favoritenstraße. Lovingly nicknamed “Platz 1” by locals, it boasts an impressive selection of fresh produce, along with a diverse range of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean delicacies and spices. The friendly stall owners are known to relish hard bargaining, even handing out a sweet treat to seal the deal, if you’re lucky. Be sure to check out the unmissable green stall at the center, famous for its Sarma cabbage leaves stuffed with a seasoned mix of rice, ground beef, pork and ham. With a plethora of pickled products and huge barrels of sauerkraut, it’s easy to lose track of time there while chatting with the stalls’ salespeople. For the sweet-toothed, Gharnata is a veritable candyland with lots of single-wrapped sweets, from Turkish delight to nougat and pistachios.

Best finds: flower pollen, Bohnenkraut (summer savory)

10., Viktor-Adler-Markt

Mon-Wed, Fri 6:00-19:30

Thu 6:00-21:00
Sat 6:00-18:00

Viktor-Adler-Markt (C) Emma Hontebeyrie

4. Kutschkermarkt – For the finer things in life

Some may recognize Kutschkermarkt from its Genusspfad, a twice-yearly gourmet festival showcasing the newest and best its vendors have to offer. But even on a normal day, this small, but mighty, market is an absolute foodie paradise, home to rare delicacies, big-name vendors and regulars with discerning taste.

Take, for example, kebab world champion Hüseyin Tanis, who often personally serves his juicy Döners from his eponymous stall. As if that weren’t enough, he also o ers an incredible selection of some of the best cuts in Austria, from mature X.O. beef to wagyu and dry-aged steaks. On weeknights, the market stall opposite Takan’s Fischrestaurant is the place to go for after-work oysters and a glass or two of wine, while Poehl & Mayr has the best to offer for your next fancy picnic.

Best finds: foie gras, lobster

18., Kutschkermarkt

Mon-Fri 6:00-19:30
Sat 6:00-17:00
Gastronomy Mon-Sat 6:00-21:00

Kutschkermarkt (C) Emma Hontebeyrie

5. Vorgartenmarkt – Where the hip things are

Right in the heart of the formerly seedy Stuwerviertel, this market has gradually changed its image along with the rest of the neighborhood, going from problem area to a favorite among students, hipsters and young families alike with its predominantly organic produce and up-and-coming culinary vendors.

Eateries in particular have flocked here, with Mochi leading the way in 2017, initially with a ramen bar, followed by its concept store Mochi am Markt in 2020. Another place worth visiting is Das Ferment, a fun and innovative gastro startup with a fermentation-forward menu: Be sure to try its vegan Koji Burger, a novel taste that rewards the brave. Last but not least, the Pizzeria il Mercato’s authentic Italian pies, burnished crust and all, are best eaten hot and fast, either among the market’s signature modernist mosaics or on an evening stroll along the bank of the Danube, just a few minutes away.

Best finds: artisanal tempeh, caviar rarities

2., Vorgartenmarkt

Mon-Fri 6:00-21:00
Sat 6:00-18:00
Eateries Mon-Sat 6:00-23:00

Viennese by District

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Want to speak like a local? Here are 23 terms and expressions bursting with local color.

Viennese slang is renowned for its many charming and clever phrases, but it can pose a challenge with its numerous distinctive words and expressions. Fortunately, the method of loci may help: By mentally placing each item you wish to remember in a familiar location, simply visualizing that place will aid in recall. A favorite of ancient orators and modern-day memory champions alike, this technique might just be the perfect way to learn Viennese – one district and expression at a time.

1. Innerestadt

Ohne Göd ka Musi

Meaning “no cash, no music,” this equivalent to the English idiom “there is no free lunch” certainly applies to the posh first district: You can’t expect a thing without paying the price.

2. Leopoldstadt

A Gaudi

Not to be confused with the Catalonian architect, this loanword from Latin (gaudium) denotes fun and merriment – fitting for the rides in the Viennese Prater.

One of Vienna’s trademark sights, the Riesenrad (giant Ferris wheel). (C) Wien Bild

3. Landstraße

hudln

To rush or hurry. The 3rd district’s Wien Mitte station is a stopping point for most commuter trains, as well as connections to the airport – no wonder it’s so busy and full of Hudler!

4. Wieden

owezahn

The Resselpark right by the Karlskirche is popular among Viennese students, and the perfect place to engage insome owezahn – slacking off instead of working or studying.

5. Margareten

hackeln

Viennese for “working,” often in a physically strenuous job. Blue collar Margareten is where the first Gemeindebauten (municipal housing projects) were built, as well as the birthplace of iconic Social Democratic Chancellor Bruno Kreisky.

6. Mariahilf

MaHü

A term of endearment for Vienna’s favorite shopping street, Mariahilfer Straße. Few locals use its full name, but the abbreviation is so ubiquitous that everyone in Vienna should know it.

The department store Gerngross was originally founded in 1879, on the corner of Mariahilferstrasse 48 and the Kirchengasse. (C) Wikimedia Commons

7. Neubau

Gspusi

With about half of the apartments in the 7th occupied by single tenants – the highest proportion in Vienna – Gspusis (casual a airs or flings) are about as common here as fairtrade coffee or avocado on toast.

8. Josefstadt

hatschen 

Vienna’s smallest district also has the fewest registered cars; one can assume that locals of urban Josefstadt do a lot of hatschen – walking, often at a slow, trudging pace.

9. Alsergrund

narrisch

A local favorite, narrisch (foolish, crazy) is an adjective for all things less-than-reasonable. Europe’s first mental hospital, the Narrenturm (“tower of fools,” a highly inappropriate name nowadays), was opened here in 1784. Today, the building is home to the anatomical museum.

Narrenturm
(C) Wikimedia Commons

10. Favoriten

Gschropp

The city’s most populous district is also home to no less than 177 playgrounds – to the delight of parents and Gschroppn (kids, tykes, rugrats) alike.

11. Simmering

mim oanasiebzga foan

One of Vienna’s many euphemisms for death, “taking the 71 tram” references the line that services Zentralfriedhof (Vienna’s main cemetery) – which is allegedly half as big as Zürich but twice as fun, as an old saying goes.

12. Meidling

Meidlinger L

The only district with a linguistic idiosyncrasy named after it, the “Meidlinger L” is a sloppy enunciation where the tongue is not fully pressed against the back of the front teeth. Reminiscent of Russian inflection, it is associated with a working-class sociolect.

13. Hietzing

aufgmascherlt

Right by Schönbrunn Palace, Hietzing is among Vienna’s fancier areas, and you’ll likely find many aufgmascherlt residents here – derived from Masche (a bow or bowtie), it’s a somewhat sardonic expression for someone elegant and polished.

Monthly market in Lainzer Tiergarten in the 13th district
(C) Wien.gv.at/ Forst- und Landwirtschaftsbetrieb der Stadt Wien

14. Penzing

gschaftig

Vienna’s Technical Museum in the 14th district is the perfect destination for anyone who’s gschaftig – industrious people who love to tinker around.

15. Rudolfsheim – Fünfhaus

Beisl

If you’re looking for fancy bars and brasseries, look elsewhere. But to discover authentic Beisln, look no further than the 15th, where you’ll find myriad casual, cozy small pubs or taverns that serve booze and traditional food.

16. Ottakring

16er Blech

A playful term for a can of Ottakringer beer. The 16th district is home to Vienna’s only major brewery – the Ottakringer Brauerei – which sells its suds primarily in distinctive yellow cans. The “16” refers to the district, while Blech translates as “tin.”

17. Hernals

konnst bodn geh’n

Hernals boasts Vienna’s oldest indoor public pool – the Jörgerbad, a Jugendstil jewel first opened in 1914. Literally meaning “go swim” or “go wash yourself,” the expression is equivalent to the English “go fly a kite,” or “take a hike!”

18. Währing

Grätzl

Like all districts, Währing consists of numerous Grätzln (neighborhoods), but you’ll find particularly distinct ones here – like the Cottageviertel with its rows of century-old townhouses.

19. Döbling

g’stopft

Fancy Döbling has some of Vienna’s most opulent mansions scattered across its outskirts – prime environs for those who are g’stopft, which literally means “stu ed,” but is used figuratively for “wealthy” or “rich,” similar to the English term “loaded.”

20. Brigittenau

Bim

This term for Vienna’s beloved trams is an onomatopoeia deriving from the sound they make; the very first (horse-drawn) tram line in Vienna crossed Brigittenau from the Donaukanal to the Kolosseum, a now defunct entertainment venue.

(C) Wien.gv.at/ Wiener Linien

21. Floridsdorf

G’spritzter

The vast expanses of the 21st are Vienna’s largest winemaking region, with much of its produce used for G’spritzter – a popular beverage of equal parts white wine and soda water.

22. Donaustadt

a gmahte Wiesn

Translated as “a mowed lawn,” this term signifies an easy task done without e ort – similar to the English term “a walk in the park.” As Donaustadt has the most public green space in Vienna, you might find quite a few here – even if the expression is figurative.

Stand Up Paddling on Alte Donau (C) Wien Bild

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Schönbrunn Palace

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From humble beginnings as a hunting lodge to the seat of power of an empire, the opulent former summer residence of the Habsburg dynasty is a treasure trove of historical anecdotes

Welcoming over 3,800,000 visitors in 2017, Vienna’s Schönbrunn palace is Austria’s most popular tourist attraction, and with good reason: Classified as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 1996, the former imperial summer residence boasts over 1,441 rooms and is known the world over for its imposing main building, lush gardens and elaborate fountains. However, there is far more to Schönbrunn’s history than meets the eye: Here are five things you may have not known about Austria’s most recognizable palace.

1. The façade was not always yellow

Nowadays iconic in its own right, the distinctive hue Schönbrunner Gelb (Schönbrunn yellow) adorning the main palace and most outbuildings actually made its debut during the reign of Maria Theresia, well over a century after Schönbrunn was first mentioned by name in 1642 (small buildings had existed on the property since the 16th century). Initially, a golden ochre followed by a slightly lighter tone in the 1770s, samples from the masonry revealed that the original hunting lodge was actually painted in light shades of orange and brick-red.

2. The yellow triangle in the Brazilian flag was inspired by Habsburg princess Leopoldina  

Speaking of Schönbrunn yellow, the palace façade isn’t the only place where the color features prominently: you can also find it on the flag of Brazil. It was added in honor of the Hapsburg princess Maria Leopoldina, a daughter of Franz I of Austria who was married to Emperor Dom Pedro I of Brazil – fully embracing her new country, Dona Leopoldina helped design the flag of Brazil, choosing the green of the House of Braganza and golden yellow of the House of the Habsburg; and while the Empire of Brazil was replaced by a republic in 1889, the basic design of a Schönbrunn yellow rhombus within a green rectangle remains to this day.

3. The Schönbrunn Zoo was founded as an imperial menagerie and is the oldest continuously operating zoo in the world 

Ever popular among locals and tourists alike, Schönbrunn zoo is located within the palace grounds and was initially a private collection of exotic animals kept for the imperial family’s pleasure. Constructed in 1752 for emperor Francis I, husband of Maria Theresia, it is worth mentioning that small animal enclosures had already existed there as early as 1540; however, it was only opened to the public in 1779, still making it the oldest zoo in the world

4. Mozart performed here for Empress Maria Theresia at Schönbrunn when he was six years old 

Already a world-renowned child prodigy at the age of six, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was invited to perform for the imperial court at Schönbrunn palace in 1762. His performance was held in the famous mirrors room, which is still viewable today during guided tours; ever the showman even at a tender age, it is reported that after his concert, young Wolferl jumped onto Maria Theresia’s lap and gave her a kiss.

5. The Austro-Hungarian Empire Ended Here

Even in the 20th century, Schönbrunn remained the stage for momentous events: it was here that Emperor Karl I was finally persuaded to abdicate in the aftermath of World War I, ending over 600 years of Habsburg rule with the stroke of a pen in the blue salon. The imperial family then departed via a side entrance. Later on during the allied occupation of Austria following WWII, the British forces requisitioned the palace and used it as their administrative headquarters as well as for official occasions such as military parades; once Austria regained independence in 1955, it was eventually handed back to the new republic.

COVID-19 Boosters: Do We Need Them? And if So, When?

It’s still unclear how long the vaccines or recovery of COVID-19 will protect us against reinfection and whether it will shield us against new variants. Some experts suggest that the COVID-19 booster shots to bolster immunity are inevitable, but it’s tough to know when we should begin.

Booster shots

Most of us have experience with booster shots for other infections. Typically, they’re necessary when the antibodies in the blood fall below a protective threshold. For example, public health authorities recommend tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccines at ten-year intervals when antibody titers generally decline. For hepatitis A, it’s necessary to get a booster shot one year after the first dose. 

We also need booster vaccinations because of the emergence of new viral variants that make the previous vaccine protection less effective – that’s why we need annual flu shots. 

Some vaccines like the childhood vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella don’t require boosters because they usually generate lifelong immunity. These vaccines contain live replicating viruses that tend to provide more extended protection. 

Lessons from veterinary coronavirus 

Veterinarians have been treating coronavirus infections in livestock and pets for many years. Examples include avian infectious bronchitis, porcine transmissible gastroenteritis, and feline infectious peritonitis. Their experience with these infections and vaccination strategies provides insights into the current COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, they’ve used many different vaccination approaches such as oral, intranasal, or intramuscular routes with killed/inactivated or live/attenuated whole virus vaccines with varying success. 

Veterinary strategies to ensure long-lasting protection have included combining vaccines or using multiple virus strains within one vaccine. Other trials included inoculating with an oral dose followed by an intramuscular vaccine injection or using one vaccine strain and then boosting with a different strain. The main aim has been to broaden the host’s defense by promoting long-lasting protection with neutralizing antibodies and even cytotoxic killer lymphocytes. Vaccines that elicit both antibody responses and cell-mediated immune responses seem to improve protective immunity and viral clearance. 

The duration of protective immunity in vaccinated animals is dependent on the type of vaccine, animal, and virus. However,  protection generally seems to last about a year which means that the animals need an annual booster, though some vaccines require more frequent and even multiple boosters. Unfortunately, there’s little or no experience with RNA coronavirus vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna in animals to provide us with the crucial data we need for this COVID-19 vaccine approach. 

A COVID-19 booster is likely

For COVID-19, we need to establish the “booster threshold”, which means the number of fully vaccinated people who develop severe infection requiring hospitalization. We also need to figure out the threshold antibody levels, how long protection after vaccination lasts, and the rate of viral mutations. 

Researchers are developing predictive models that simulate COVID-19 vaccine protection based on the concentration of the protective antibodies, how long they stay elevated, how fast they decrease, and correlate these results with protection from severe disease.

But to get a better idea of whether we need boosters and when we’d need them, we must firmly establish the time that it takes for protective immunity to wane in a fully vaccinated person and at what point they become contagious or severely ill when re-infected with SARS-CoV-2. We’ll also need to consider booster shots to combat viral variants that escape the current vaccines – antibodies that don’t recognize the viral mutations. 

In Israel, they have already begun to provide booster shots to at-risk people.

Be prepared! We will most likely need annual COVID-19 boosters, and they may be needed as early as 6-12 months following our second vaccine. And with them, we can continue our active lives

Meet the New U.S. Ambassador to Austria

Yesterday, July 21, the White House officially nominated Victoria “Vicki” Kennedy to follow Trevor D. Traina as the United States Ambassador to Austria. The Alpine Republic’s  Präsidentschaftskanzlei (Office of the President) has already granted the necessary agrément (diplomatic consent), provided her appointment is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

A longtime friend of President Biden as well as an accomplished lawyer and widow of prominent politician Ted Kennedy, she was a close confidante to the long-serving Massachusetts senator (and younger brother of JFK) until his death in 2009, and remains highly active in the democratic party as a gun control advocate; she was nominated as a governor of the US Postal Service by the Obama administration in 2014 but was unable to be confirmed by the Republican-majority senate at the time.

The United States of America has enjoyed longstanding friendly relations with Austria and is the country’s second-largest trading partner, importing over €10 billion worth of goods in 2019, up 150% compared to a decade ago. The US is also Austria’s third-largest foreign investor, adding €12.2 billion to the national economy.

Chancellor Kurz has stated that he would consider it an “honor for Austria” to welcome Kennedy, but emphasized that he must await her formal confirmation before he can officially say “looking forward to working with you.”

Promoting Central Europe’s Art Nouveau Legacy

Art nouveau certainly left its mark on central Europe: It’s seemingly everywhere in the former parts of the Austro-Hungarian empire, from Otto Wagner’s iconic Stadtbahn stations in Vienna to Ödön Lechner’s monumental buildings around Budapest or the numerous fin-de-siécle townhouses in Prague’s center. The highly decorative late 19th/early 20th aesthetic that rejected both historicism and industrial mass production boasts around 300 protected sites built in that style in Austria alone, 33 of which are in Vienna. 

Yet years of neglect during the postwar period – particularly behind the Iron Curtain – has often led to these cultural gems being taken for granted, underappreciated by locals unaware of the treasures they pass every day. Fortunately, the EU-funded project Art Nouveau II seeks to change that by preserving and promoting the stylistic legacy of central Europe’s fin-de-siécle, improving cross-border cooperation among museums, cultural institutions and government authorities to strengthen the Danube region’s art nouveau identity in the public eye.

Under the direction of Oradea Municipality in Romania, the €1,800,000 project builds on the success of its predecessor, Art Nouveau I (2017-2019), expanding its scope from urban planning, conservation, restoration and digital repositories to include establishing a network among stakeholders – so far, a total of 8 countries and 19 organizations have joined their “Interreg Danube Transnational Program,” sharing resources and working together to enhance the region as a whole.  

Having produced various insights regarding restoration techniques and material testing as well as the relationship between existing material and function, “the first project produced surprising, new findings, which must be made available to a broader public. Another EU-project was therefore the best, most sensible option,” Kathrin Pokorny-Nagel, the project manager of Art Nouveau II, explains. Also the chief librarian at Vienna’s Museum of Applied Arts (MAK), she is well versed on the subject, having helped organize the museum’s World Art Nouveau Day last June. To her, such annual events contribute greatly to keeping art nouveau relevant, “but above all, it creates continuity,” she points out. “And only through continuity you can move issues forward and change things.”

© MAK-Georg Mayer

Restoring shared identity 

In 2019, the Strategic Document for the Protection and Promotion of Art Nouveau heritage in the Danube Region estimated that 44.4% of the region’s relevant sites were in a bad to very bad state – a wake-up call to public authorities, art historians, and locals. 

In response, Art Nouveau II began facilitating preservation by connecting institutions, encouraging research, and connecting local restorers, scholars, and public authorities. “We increased awareness and self-confidence among the population and generated a desire for more intensive examinations of their own culture and its preservation,” Pokorny-Nagel proudly states.

Indeed, both Art Nouveau I & II have shown that regional varieties can be a source of pride: From the deceptively simple geometrical shapes common in Vienna to the richer, floral ornamentation inspired by folk art that is characteristic further downriver, each country boasts its own take, created by local artists and architects. Yet art nouveau remains part of the common heritage along the Danube, shaping the cultural identity of the region and bringing communities together. “It’s an example of how strong the connections have always been over centuries, even millennia,” Pokorny-Nagel points out. “In 2021, the importance of a stronger common cultural identity is more than obvious.”

Schemlerbrücke, Nussdorfer Wehr- und Schleusenanlage, Otto Wagner, 1894-98
© MAK/Kristina Satori und Mona Heiss

Stronger bonds in times of recovery

The past years have not always been easy, with the steady rise of populism and COVID-19 hampering cross-border cooperation. “It was very challenging to be part of a transnational EU project during the pandemic, but it has shown the importance of building bridges in such times.” Tightening bonds within the region is a stated goal of Art Nouveau II, making it part of the EU’s post-covid recovery strategy: better connections between cultural institution  strengthens the region’s tourist industry as a whole. 

An early milestone took place in Vienna last February, when the MAK hosted the World Day of Tourism Guides under the motto, “From Biedermeier to Historicism to Art Nouveau.” Held online due to pandemic restrictions, there are plans to scale up next year’s event with numerous guided tours, workshops, and discussions, thereby increasing local and international interest among tourists and art aficionados alike. In addition, an extensive educational program is in development, aiming to reach younger audiences and raise awareness of their heritage. “It’s our responsibility to encourage children to discover and appreciate the beauty of art nouveau, and to get to know and understand more about the cultural environment they live in,” maintains Pokorny-Nagel.

All in all, Art Nouveau II has already made great strides despite trying circumstances. Set to conclude in December 2022, there’s still ample time for intensively discussing and developing creative approaches. As Pokorny-Nagel concludes, “as art nouveau contributed to shaping cultural identity in the region, it can be used as a cohesive force to bring communities together,” especially in a post-COVID world. 

Vienna & Austria Hit With Heavy Rainfall and Flooding

Over the weekend, in some places in Austria, it has rained more than normally falls in the entire month of July – and it is not over yet. At the Hohe Warte weather station of the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG), over 96 liters per square meter rain fell in just a few hours. The average rainfall there for the entire month of July there is 70 liters per square meter.

Storms Over Vienna

Vienna has seen heavy rainfalls too, with flooded garages, tunnels, cellars, and U-Bahn stations. Within an hour Saturday night, 15 liters of rain per square meter fell in the capital – as much as in all of the past seven weeks combined, according to the Vienna Professional Fire Department. The fire brigade was deployed more than 1,400 times in the last 48 hours.

“On Saturday, there were three storm cells in Vienna, the second of which brought the most precipitation,” Thomas Turecek of ZAMG told Wien heute. “The first storm cell on Saturday around 18:00 mainly affected Donaustadt, the second mainly Döbling, Hietzing, Liesing, the third then brought rain for the entire city.”

“The majority of the operations involved pumping out flooded basements, underground garages, or underpasses,” explained fire department spokesman Jürgen Figerl. In the south of Vienna, the Petersbach and Liesingbach rivers burst their banks in places. Leaking roofs or doors also kept the professional fire department busy.

https://twitter.com/realcxlinebr/status/1416815827576360960

“We are still permanently in action with all emergency forces that are available,” Figerl described the situation on late Sunday morning. Off-duty firefighters were called in and additional pumping engines were placed in service. Additional positions for emergency calls were staffed. Support also came from the Vienna Provincial Disaster Relief Service and the two volunteer fire departments of Vienna-Süßenbrunn and Vienna-Breitenlee.

Power Outages Across the City

The heavy rain also caused numerous power outages during the night, affecting a total of 6,650 households throughout Vienna. In Oberlaa and Inzersdorf, for example, 3,000 households were temporarily without power, in Donaustadt about 1,000 and in Ottakring about 1,150, as Wiener Netze told Radio Wien. In the Landstraße district, a transformer station had to be pumped out.

The disruptions did not all occur at the same time, Wiener Netze spokesman Christian Call emphasized. On average, customers were back on the grid after 90 minutes. The power outages were triggered by “weather conditions such as atmospheric disturbances, lightning strikes in overhead lines and overvoltages in transformer stations,” Call explained. Wiener Netze was on the road with several emergency teams to repair the damage.

Due to the heavy rainfall, the Danube has been flooding since Saturday, the CityÆs flood protection teams have been on duty since early afternoon. The employees of the flood protection of the City of Vienna have been on duty since Saturday afternoon. Swimming in the Neue Donau is currently baned because large amounts of water flow into the Neue Donau during Danube floods. The flood control center in the intake structure in Langenzersdorf as well as the two other weirs 1 and 2 on the New Danube were manned.

At Matzleinsdorfer Platz, the underpass on the Gürtel was under water, with the station entrance temporarily transformed into a waterfall.

New Rain Records Across Austria

In some places, Saturday’s rainfall was among the highest ever measured in 24 hours. For example, St. Pölten reported one of the highest 24-hour rainfall amounts in measurement history, with almost 104 liters per square meter.

According to the ORF weather newsroom, nearly 100 liters of rain per square meter fell in some parts of Vienna on Saturday. A heavy rain warning is also in effect for all of Sunday. All over Austria, enormous amounts of rain can fall in a very short time. In Vienna, there is also a risk of heavy downpours and thunderstorms. Thus, further flooding cannot be ruled out.

Heavy Rain in Tyrol, Kufstein Flooded

In Tyrol, the heavy rain on Sunday has continued to challenge the emergency services. Numerous mudslides, flooded basements, and underground garages were the result of the heavy rainfall. Fortunately, nobody was killed. The city of Kufstein was particularly affected. “The city center is underwater in a form we have never experienced before,” reported Kufstein’s mayor Martin Krumschnabel. Authorities assured those affected of financial support from the disaster fund.

It is not yet possible to think about clearing up the area. The fire departments are busy pumping out the streams and removing blockages. The city center, in particular, was badly affected – streets, cellars, and garages were underwater. A disaster train was on duty, and residents were asked not to come into the city.

Emergencies in Salzburg

In the federal state of Salzburg, the old town of Hallein was flooded. On Saturday evening, the Kothbach burst its banks and flooded large parts of the city center. The civil defense alert in the Tennengau district capital remains in effect.

A dead man was recovered from the Saalach river near Saalbach-Hinterglemm (Pinzgau) this afternoon. Firefighters and water rescuers searched for the man after he was spotted in the Saalach shortly before.

Other municipalities in Salzburg are also in flood operation. In Kuchl (Tennengau), the drinking water has been contaminated since Sunday morning because of the flood. According to the current status, mudflows may have contaminated the drinking water, said Stefan Vötter of the Civil Defense.

Since Saturday evening, the emergency services have been fighting against the masses of water after the heavy rain – dozens of streams and rivers have burst their banks. In the Upper Pinzgau region, the situation has again come to a head on Sunday around Bramberg. 2,500 firefighters have been in action so far.

High Alert in Lower Austria

In Lower Austria, in Neuhofen an der Ybbs and Ferschnitz (both district Amstetten, Lower Austria) the civil defense alarm has been triggered Sunday noon. Due to the extreme precipitation, the water level of the Danube is rising, according to the regional warning center. The population is asked to go to higher floors and to avoid basements at all costs.

In the communities along the Danube, work began on Sunday morning to use sandbags to close individual gaps between the concrete foundations that serve as flood protection. According to the federal state fire command, the mobile aluminum flood protection walls are not needed at the current moment. “The warning limit will be exceeded,” said the spokesman of the provincial fire brigade command, Franz Resperger, “but the bottom line is that we do not expect large-scale flooding along the Danube.”

Mudslides in Upper Austria

In Upper Austria, heavy rainfall triggered flood alarms, mudslides and flooded cellars, especially in Steyr and Schärding, as well as in the Steyr catchment area and in the Salzkammergut region. The B145 road is interrupted near Traunkirchen, in Ach in the Innviertel the Salzach river rises higher and higher.

In its forecast, Upper Austria’s Hydrographic Service was assuming that the level of the Inn in Schärding could rise to a maximum of seven meters, within existing levels of flood protection. During the 2013 flood, the Inn River in Schärding rose to 10.57 meters.

Rain Also in Styria, Carinthia, Vorarlberg

Heavy rain caused danger of flooding and mudslides also across Styria. In Upper Styria, for example, numerous cellars were flooded; the B24 had to be closed.

In Vorarlberg, too, the fire department had to be called repeatedly, the city of Dornbirn was particularly affected. In the area of the Gechelbach, which overflowed its banks, numerous buildings were flooded.

In the Seebach valley in the municipality of Mallnitz in Carinthia, several mudslides occurred on Saturday afternoon. A mountain chalet host couple, who were still in their hut at 1,338 meters above sea level, had to be flown out by helicopter.

Government Pledges Support

On Sunday, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) and Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) pledged help from the disaster fund to those affected by the floods. “The pictures from parts of Austria and especially from Hallein or the Tyrolean Unterland make us concerned and shocked. As the federal government, we will do everything in our power to help those affected on the ground,” Kurz said. He thanked the “emergency forces and all volunteers for their commitment to our fellow citizens.”

After the tumultuous weekend, the weather ought to gradually calm down in the coming week. High temperatures approaching 30 degrees Celsius are forecast for Monday through Friday. However, local showers or thunderstorms are also possible in the next few days.

Hungary Faces Pushback After Passing Controversial LGBTQ+ Law

It’s been a month since Hungary has effectively prohibited LGBTQ+ content for minors under 18, categorizing anything that normalizes the notion of non-heterosexual norms to the younger generation as pedophilia. 

The new law was proposed by Orban in May, and includes a ban of the public screening of anything LGBTQ+ related, as well as barring teachers from educating students on homosexual relationships. The passing of the bill was not without resistance, leading to a petition with over 100,000 signatures and protests across Hungary. 

The European Union and several individual member states have not stayed silent on the matter, expressing solidarity and outrage. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the bill “a shame,” assuring that the European Commission will “use all the tools in the toolbox” to ensure fundamental rights are protected. As the executive arm of the EU, the commission has threatened to strip Hungary of their vote in Brussels and cut off funding, as discrimination based on sexual orientation goes against the core principles of the EU – specifically human dignity, equality and respect for human rights. 

Orbán has continuously rejected any allegations of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community by defending the legislation on the grounds of parental autonomy, stating that “parents should have exclusive control over how they wish to educate their children about sex.” En route to a summit in Brussels late last month, he told a journalist from dpa that he was actually “defending the rights of the homosexuals,” because “in the communist regime, homosexuality was punished.” 

In an interview with the Ö1 Morgenjournal, Hungarian historian Krisztián Ungváry stressed that Orban’s self-claimed “tolerance and patience towards homosexuals” is, in fact, “not true at all,” going on to say that “this law puts homosexuality close to pedophilia, and that’s a problem in a traditional country on how to deal with homosexuality.” According to Ungváry, the effect of this law was clear: “It’s just an agitation against a minority.” 

Hungary’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights has also spilled into the sporting world, with the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) launching investigations into Hungarian fans after reports of “racist and discriminatory” behavior at the recently held European Football Championships. Charges were issued after each of Hungary’s group games against France, Portugal and Germany, with fans allegedly heard singing offensive chants and bringing homophobic banners to the Hungary-Portugal game on the 15th of June and again to the Hungary-Germany game on the 23rd of June. 

The UEFA has been adamant at “staying out of political matters,” rejecting the request from Munich’s mayor to express solidarity by lighting up the Allianz Arena in rainbow colours in protest against Orbán’s anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, but eventually ruled against Hungary, ordering their national team to play their next three home games to an empty stadium. Hungary’s foreign minister responded by calling the UEFA a “pitiful and cowardly body.” The ban will not apply to qualifiers for the upcoming World Cup, so Hungarian fans will still be able to support their team in September against England and Andorra.

Navigate the World of Self-Employment in Austria With This New Series

  • Self-employment offers lots of freedom and potential for self-starters
  • Though Austria offers a variety of options to become self-employed, it’s not always so straightforward
  • Metropole‘s new series in cooperation with Self-employed in Austria aims to help you navigate this complex field

For those who seek professional independence and creative freedom, self-employment might be the right career path. In Austria, there are a variety of ways to start your own business and become a successful entrepreneur. But while the decision to become self-employed can be quite liberating and exciting, the way to getting there is often not as straightforward. Instead of one general category of self-employment, there are several different kinds – and they all come with separate rules, laws and costs. To help you navigate this complex field, Metropole has partnered with Self-employed in Austria to bring you this helpful new series on all things self-employment.

Types of self-employment in Austria

self-employment
Austria offers various types of self-employment, allowing self-starters to realize their full potential

In general, there are four types of self-employment in Austria, according to social insurance laws:

  • free/regulated business licenses (freie/reglementierte Gewerbe)
  • new self-employment (Neue Selbständigkeit)
  • liberal professions (freie Berufe)
  • independent service contract (freie Dienstvertrag)

Read on to find out how they differ and which one might be right for you.

Business licenses

self-employment
One way to become self-employed in Austria is by obtaining a business license

The most common way to become self-employed in Austria is by obtaining a business license, which enables you to conduct business within Austria’s jurisdiction. There are two types of business licenses: free and regulated. In order to get one, you have to meet a set of requirements pertaining to your residence, age and criminal record. It’s important to note that the need for a business license is dependent on the nature of your profession, not your income. The Austrian Chamber of Commerce charges business license holders an annual fee of approx. €100 (depending on the profession) for their services.

Free business license

A free business license is required for those working independently in professions that don’t require a certificate of competence (you can find the full list here). If you’re unsure whether or not your profession applies for a free business license, you can contact the Austrian Chamber of Commerce for further information.

Some examples of professions that fall under the free business license category are:

  • digital marketer
  • web developer
  • software developer
  • professional photographer
  • IT project manager
  • proofreader

To learn more, get the Guide for Free Business License Owners by Self-employed in Austria as an e-book or paperback.

Regulated business license

A regulated business license is required for those working independently in professions that require a certificate of competence (you can find the full list here). In addition to the requirements mentioned above, people applying for a regulated business license have to present a proof of education, working experience or pass an exam to qualify.

Some examples of professions that fall under the regulated business license category are:

  • electrical engineer
  • hairdresser
  • optician
  • massage therapist

New self-employment

self-employment
For young creatives, new self-employment might be the ideal way to start their business

New self-employment is for those working independently in professions that don’t require a business license registration. Therefore, the new self-employed are not members of the Chamber of Commerce (WKO) and don’t have to pay their annual fee. However, they still need to register their self-employment at the SVS (social security of the self-employed) and the tax office.

Examples of professions that fall under the category of new self-employment are:

  • artists
  • writers
  • journalists
  • lecturers
  • scientists
  • self-employed psychologists, physical and psychotherapists

To learn more, get the Guide for the New Self-employed by Self-employed in Austria  as an e-book or paperback.

Liberal professions

self-employment
Pharmacists are among liberal professions

Liberal professionals perform services that require special qualifications. They are fully liable and professionally independent. Becoming self-employed in a liberal profession is time and cost intensive, often requires an academic degree and several years of professional experiences.

Examples for liberal professions are

Independent service contract

There is no legal definition for independent contractors, but the type of contract (freies Dienstverhältnis) is regulated by the Social Insurance Act (ASVG), which determines that an independent contract exists if a service provider agrees to provide their client with their workforce for a certain or indefinite amount of time in exchange for a fee.

It’s essential for the independent employment contract that the contractor makes their workforce available on a temporary basis. The independent contractor can mainly work with the client’s resources.

Independent contractors are insured at the Austrian Health Insurance (ÖGK), where their payments are covered by the client. However, as an independent contractor, they are subject to income tax and have to file a tax return every year.
In principle, every service that can be provided on the basis of regular employment can also be done with an independent contract. Each case can only be evaluated on an individual basis. You can find more information on independent contracting here.

This article is part of an unpaid cooperation with Self-employed Austria

Word of the Week: Spompanadln [ʃpɔmpaˈnaːdl̩n]

Noun. A hassle or delay from foolish antics and unnecessary complications. Always used in plural. Orig. Italian, from spampanata (braggadocio). A highly useful word for deriding life’s little annoyances, Spompanadln can be anything from an unruly child refusing to leave the playground, an elderly lady in the supermarket insisting on giving exact change or an indecisive person holding up the line at the Würstelstand. The key is that it’s an irritating, entirely avoidable inconvenience caused by stubbornness, incompetence or dithering but rarely outright malice – Spompanadln are generally born from thoughtlessness, inconsideration, forgetfulness and stupidity, not ill intent. Either way, whenever someone makes life needlessly complicated, the answer is the same: Mach kane Spompanadn! (Quit messing around!). 

No matter how well you speak German, the Word Of The Week will help you impress any Viennese! While learning German is not an easy task in general, learning the language in Austria can come to be twice as complicated.

Strongly linked to local cultural individualities, the slangs change and evolve in all cultures around the world, the words and phrases make sense only when one is familiar with their cultural context. The Word of the Week is here to help you understand those singularities and impress the locals with some real Viennese words and expressions.

The Word of the Week can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Spread the word!