Author: Whatsneunice

Traditional Zimbabwe Wedding – check

hard mashona-type cattle

Hard Mashona-type cattle

So for those who already broke the bank to buy a ticket, don’t panic. I’ll briefly describe what I think the process of getting married is in Zimbabwe. If you ask Zimbabweans, including my family, how this is supposed to happen – as in REALLY, what is the custom, you get a bunch of different answers. It happened anyway.

First the characteristics of this wedding in the case of Eunice and Matteo.

Matteo was in Germany for a meeting. Eunice was in New York – because I live here. A go-between/negotiator (Munyai) was assigned to represent Matteo. Since the transactions basically between Matteo and my family, I don’t need to be there. And apparently, he doesn’t need to be there either. This all happened at the end of April.

Since I’ve been living out of US for a while my family was nice enough to ask how much Matteo can afford. For those who know Matteo – how on earth can I answer that? Especially since he doesn’t like paying for anything other than holidays, air tickets and now even weddings.

We assigned a “Munyai.  This was my brother’s friend and Matteo knew him well enough. It turns out that since on the bride side there were at least ten people, the groom side had to have at least four people for a quorum. So unbeknownst to us, three people were additionally appointed on the fly to support the Munyai.

So you can imagine this is a rough negotiation. It took all day. Hours in fact. I heard they were at this for ten hours. Could have been an exaggeration.

So here is the cost of marrying Eunice. The Bridal price is called “Roora”. From the verb Kuroora – to marry.

  1. Home entry fee: $15
  2. Greeting fee: $10
  3. Notification/introduction fee: $5
  4. Beard tickling fee (when I was a kid and sat on lap and tickled my fathers beard): $5
  5. Money for the sisters: $20
  6. Money for the brothers: $25 [OK – I have two brothers and one sister]
  7. Money for the mother: $600
  8. A “stamping” cow (literal translation) or live cow for the mother: to be delivered by Matteo in Person.
  9. Money for the tribunal: $50
  10. Money for the aunts: $400
  11. Dress for the mother
  12. Suit for the dad
  13. Money for the Dad: $3000
  14. Herd of (5) cattle

All of this except (7),  (13) and (14) have to be paid prior to the ceremonial wedding. For instance, my sister was married in 1996 and those haven’t yet been fulfilled. Just saying.

In our case, at the end of the negotiations, Groom’s team notified the tribunal that Matteo would like to take the bride by a wedding. Traditionally, this was pretty much it – and would be followed by a ceremonial handover of the Bride to the groom’s family after a ritualistic demonstration that bride can take care of the groom….. and other details such as confirmation that she’s a virgin blah blah by morning after sheet check – whatev….there is an opt-out option if the groom is not interested in this kind of information.

Matteo now officially owns me.

 

 

 

Together again 2016

So one year, I met Abby and Carey (names have been changed to protect the innocent), through Laverah who organized for a weekend bash in Montreal prior to Abby’s wedding. We met again for Abby’s wedding (in Mass) then for Carey’s wedding (St Lucia). I’ll digress for a second. I flew to St Lucia for Carey’s wedding and missed the wedding because American Airlines, the POS airline that it is, broke down, had an unscheduled landing and I missed my connection. I don’t remember ever being so angry in my life! 

Anyway, the team reconvened again four and a half years later in New York City. We were joined by party planner Michelle, Nadine and Mz Skillz. 

It was HHHUUUUUUGGGEE! Everyone at some point needs to experience Comedy Cellar in the village. A little bit racist (not the comedians, but the staff). They said we were too loud every 2 minutes. Apparently only our table was laughing out loud!? Yes, the black girls at the back. Anyway, make sure you get a picture taken under the fat black pussy cat, then walk 7 blocks to Webster hall in heels and negotiate down a $30 fee to $5. I mean, it’s Webster Hall….$30… Really???

For out of towners, you should experience getting your picture taken in Times Square under that big TV screen. We don’t know where the pictures go…but at minimum, they make it to Facebook. After a Lunch at Bubba Gumps (yeah I know…we did that) nothing like the adrenalin rush of riding the subway back home when you know you’ll be late for dinner ( with reservations).   

Thankfully, Matteo manned the shower schedule and we made it there just 10 minutes late.   

 
Let’s just say….I love you girls and thank you very much for making this happen for me! I feel so special. I do anytime someone goes through TSA or tolls or on a New York subway to see me! My only regret is that I never got to “Get my Bridzilla” on because you guys are too awesome and I was having too much fun. I still have time for that…..

Zim-Zim-Zimbabwe

Since the decision was made to have the wedding in Zimbabwe, the task that’s more complicated than planning a wedding is that our friends and family willing to make the trip want to stay and see the country. So here are some suggestions. For the record – Eunice grew up in Kadoma with limited opportunities to travel around the country.

The Map above generally shows national parks in Zim. The Major cities of interest are also listed (Harare, Bulawayo, Masvingo, Victoria Falls, Kariba, Mutare).

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Recommendation

Assuming a 12-14 day stay in Zimbabwe and a starting point in Harare and using your own rental car,  I would recommend the following:

Get an Econet simcard at the airport so you have a Zim number while there. They are compatible with GSM phones. If you have Verizon – will likely not work unless they are now GSM. Emergency number is 112 as with all GSM phones on this planet.

Day 1: Leave Harare and head for Kariba. This is a 6 hour journey.  Stop over at Chinhoyi Caves on your way there. You will likely arrive late afternoon unless you leave before 6am. Stay at Lomagundi Lakeside Lodges  for about $90 per lodge and sleeps upto 5 people. Kids under 11 don’t count. You will have to bring your own food or find a restaurant in the area. I suggest you find a supermarket.

Day 2: Hang around. See the falls. Do a tour of the little town with a local.

Day 3: Go onto the lake for either a sailing cruise or water safari. You can also rent a houseboat and overnight there if that rocks your boat (ha ha).

Day 4: Head back towards Harare enroute to Victoria Falls.

Day 5: You can now use this part of the Road Trip to go to Masvingo to see Great Zimbabwe. You will arrive late afternoon. You can stay at the National Parks Lodges for about $15 pp/night or at Great Zimbabwe hotel for $136 pp/night. You can pass by the Italian Chapel. Looks interesting.

Day 6: In the afternoon, leave Great Zimbabwe and head to Matopos Hills. Consider 2 nights in Matopos.

Day 7: In Matopos

Day 8: Leave early to great Zim. it will take about 6-7 hours to get there. You can stop in Bulawayo if you like to stretch your legs.

Day 9: Victoria Falls. yOU can stay at Drifters lodge for about $80 per room per night.

Day 10: Victoria Falls

Day 11: Victorial Falls

Day 12: Drive back to Harare (11-13 hours). On the way back you will Drive past Kadoma – Eunice’s hometown. depending on where we are – we can have lunch or you can stay over if needed.

Day 13: Give yourself a one day buffer for trip closeout.

Day 14: Harare and out.

Alternative: on day 4 you can drive to Kadoma/Bulawayo a do the tour the other way round, Vic Falls first and Great Zim last. You may not want to crowd the same places at the same time…

How to travel around in Zimbabwe

By Road

Please see this blog for additional information on driving in Zimbabwe. If we assume that Harare is a starting point, you can reach most of the places of interest by road. Since most of you are flying, you would need to rent a car. There are several rental car agencies at the airport e.g. AVIS but are costly since they add per km costs to the rental. Other are Rockshale, EuRopcar,  For example, a 10 day rental costs ~$1300 before mileage. Other attractive rental options are Zimba Car Hire or Novelty cal rental for more affordable options. Try to get the biggest car you can afford.  If you would like an alternative affordable rental after the wedding, that could be arranged separately. Let us know.The drivers tend to be polite on the main roads. At night, since the roads are not lit, you will see them turn on the left turn signal to help oncoming drivers define the edge of the car.

IMG_1415You can also travel around by bus. The areas easily serviced by buses are Harare – Bulawayo – Victoria Falls. There are luxury coaches such as Intercape Pathfinder that can take you From Harare to Victoria Falls for about $50 per person. Bus ride is about 13 hours. You can also take a “chicken bus” or semi luxury rides for about $26 for the same trip. To get from Harare to Masvingo, you can take the luxury liners traveling from Harare to Johannesburg via Beitbridge and ask to be dropped off in Masvingo. For traveling anywhere else in the country, you can go by chicken buses although I am hesitant to recommend. The buses are safe, cheap, frequent, no pre-booking but you will experience traveling like the locals. They generally don’t carry chickens in these buses any more.

By Air

You can fly From Harare to Victoria Falls, Kariba, Bulawayo and of course other destinations outside the country. Main airline is Air Zimbabwe. Most destinations by flight will be approximately 45 minutes to an hour. As you know, flying comes with the inconvenience of getting to and from the airports. You can do this by Taxis. Taxi rates are semi negotiable and if you don’t like the price of the first guy, move on to the second guy. Don’t be fooled by the distance shown on google maps, the highways are  generally 2-lane so even if the road is good, you may drive behind a slow car at 40km/hr for a while.

By Train

Das geht überhaupt nicht. Don’t even think about it.

What do do.

Harare

Harare is the capital city of Zimbabwe. We are looking at getting a group rate for Meikles Hotel Hotel and Cresta Lodge. Cresta requires a car or taxi if you need to see the city. The Bus to the wedding site will pick up in both locations.

Top things to do in Harare.

Wild is Life is an animal sanctuary located outside Harare. You will need a car for this. It is a bit pricey at $95 pp but you get to touch the animals (baby giraffes and cheetahs…according to their websites)

National Heroes Acre. This is a 57 acre national monument commemorating the heroes that lost their lives during the liberation struggle.

Mbare Musika for the brave. This is a bustling bus terminus servicing buses coming in and out of Harare. You can pretty much go anywhere from here. I would say that its relatively safe but you may get robbed. There used to be a very large crafts warehouse selling section that I really liked for gifts etc. Right now, people are very desperate and you may get hassled to buy by multiple people and likely your pockets searched as well. If you are interested, we can arrange special tour guides.

The National Gallery Of Zimbabwe is located in Harare with Branches in Bulawayo and Mutare. We both have never been there yet and so may pay this a visit while we are here.

Recommendations: Traveling around Harare to some of the sites mentioned requires a car. If you plan to stay without a car until after the wedding, you can take in easy in the city. Visit the National Gallery. take a taxi to Borrowdale village and have a meal there and perhaps some shopping. Walk around “Old Harare” where you can see a mini replica of Big Ben with the British colonial style architecture of the Parliamentary buildings. Do not take pictures of government buildings, government people. You can ask for permission to do so and they may not care especially for tourists. But don’t do it.

Kariba

50centsKariba Dam is the third largest man-made lake in the world. There will be the most beautiful sunsets you will ever see. Sunsets in Zim are so beautiful they were featured on the 50 cent Zimbabwean coin – way back when we had our own currency. The Dam was designed by a French guy and built by Italians. If you look it up, there are posts that it may collapse. I’m not sure whether we blame the French or the Italians. In the meantime, Kariba area is a national park and you may see elephants walking around. if you are staying at one of my recommended lodges (Lomagundi Lakeside Lodge) you may see hippos wandering up to your front door.

Game viewing on and off the water, canoeing,  sailing, crocodile farm, Kariba Town tour that includes an Italian Church and the Dam Overlook can all be done and arranged when you get there. You can walk on the Dam wall to Zambia if you wish. Remember to bring your passports with you since you are technically walking over to Zambia at some point in the middle of the damn wall.

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Be sure to stop over at the Chinhoyi Caves. I think its whats called a “Grotto” in other parts of the world. They charge a little more for foreigners and also a little extra if you want to bring a camera. However, cellphones don’t get charged. This you can do in a drive-by. an hour is long enough. There is a network of caves that you can explore in addition to the main cave. They say they don’t know how deep it is. Shona people believe it is inhabited by water spirits (mermaids). It’s sacred – don’t touch the water or put your feet in it.

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Victoria Falls

There is no easy way to get from Kariba to Vic Falls. If you are driving, you need to come back towards Harare and make your way to Bulawayo. The Road is not great but is tarred/pavement though there are places where you need to go slow. When you hit the Harare Bulawayo road, this was recently redone and you will drive smoothly for a while – depending on how far they got. Victoria Falls as you know is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. It’s not the tallest falls (that would be Angel Falls) or the biggest (that would be Niagara Falls) but its the most spectacular. The locals there called it Mosi oa Tunya (The smoke that thunders). It was discovered by some Brit and then named after some Queen. High water in the Great Zambezi River is in August, so you’re all in luck.Whatever you do, don’t pet the baboons. In the first picture below you can see the rail road crossing the gorge that Cecil John Rhodes dreamt would go from Cape to Cairo.  There are several tour companies that offer the same packages in Vic Falls town. Consider staying at Drifters lodge. A bed and breakfast run by Bev. Give her our regards.

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There are a lot of things to do in Victoria Falls from game viewing, bungee jumping, canoeing, white water rafting (not wild water rafting, but white water rafting meaning that you will likely be paddling in churning white water film in a river known for crocodiles). Just kidding about the crocodiles. I haven’t heard of rafters getting eaten. Anyway – its a must do. Rafting on the Great Zambezi is a must do on my list. We did the adventure series which included free falling off a cliff. when they day your life flashes in front  of you, that does not happen. My brain just FROZE during that 8 second free fall from 111 meters above the water. OMG. For those that will also go to Hwange national Park, that’s far enough from Vic Falls (maybe 3 hours) that you may plan for at least an overnight stay in the park. There are some game reserves around Vic Falls.

Matopos (also Matobos)

Matobos is a National park just south of Bulawayo. Its worth a stay as it has the highest concentration of black and white rhinos. I found a Travel Blog that describes the Matopos experience. This could be a nice location to get to if you are thinking of breaking your trip to Victoria Falls. I doubt you will have the same rhino experience in Hwange or parks around Victoria falls. Had have both never been here but its on our list. here you can see the famous balancing rocks all over the park as well.

Masvingo and Great Zimbabwe

Great Zim was built in the 11th – 15th Century by the ancestors of the Shona people. Zimbabwe (the name) was derived from this fort and (according to my history teacher) was dzimba dzemabwe which mean houses of stone. We stayed at the park in rondavels for $15 pp per night. The rondavels are comfortable but you have a shared shower with hot water. You also have to bring your own food or you can eat at the hotel nearby  (Great Zimbabwe Hotel). This destination could be done as a “drive through” but I would recommend staying a day (arrive afternoon, leave the next day).

 

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There is also a small Shona Village you can see and on request, you can also see some shona dancers. Besides visiting the Hilltop monument which I recommend you do at sunset, you can see the great enclosure, the museum and a small Shona Village. In the vicinity off Masvingo is an Italian Chapel. This is interestingly described in the blog. I am interested to go myself. I didn’t know it existed.

Eastern Highlands

On the eastern side of Zimbabwe the tail end of the rift valley separates Zimbabwe from Mozambique. (FYI John Kerry’s wife, the Heinz Ketchup queen is from ‘Mbique). We may end up there after the wedding although I’m not sure what to do there besides hiking, rafting, and seeing deep Zimbabwe locals. Stay posted. There’s not much on the internet either. I’ve been there before when I was at school and all I remember was that it was really beautiful.

There are many tour guides advertising in Zimbabwe. Most are really expensive – prohibitively so. But with some google-aide, you could find a suitable tour in Zim.

 

 

I said YES!

It was one of the biggest and easiest decisions that I’ve had to make. The day started relatively normal for us. We were crashing at a friend’s house in Paris (yes that normal) and we had a lazy start. Alex left us a lots of breakfast so we ate in and after the usual extensive conversation of what we were going to do for the day, we settled on Montmartre as a starting point, and walking through Paris for the rest of the day. I was explicitly told to put everything I needed for the day on the bed and he would pack it in the day pack himself. The reason being that I’m a “disaster” and it would avoid stuff being haphazardly thrown everything not really new behavior in our relationship. The day was gorgeous – for Europe – I could even see the sun.

We meandered through Montmartre, visited Sacre Coeur, hung out at the steps in true tourist fashion before making the walk down to the city. I was “allowed” to look at shops and do some casual shopping without Matteo getting suffering from shopping-induced anaphylaxis. I should’ve figured it out  then…. However, our little road took us to Gallerie Lafayette where we admired the ceiling (it is that what you would call gorgeousness) and spent some time basking in the sun on the rooftop. At some point I pulled him to a jewelry store and pointed to some ring that was 72K euros and I was like – holy crap – what the hell?! So he started explaining the possible reasons like clarity and whatever other reason that could cause a diamond to cost 72K. Even then I thought maybe he just knows stuff (as usual). For someone that was suggesting he should buy me a ring – I knew very little about them…apparently.

We lunched at some cafe that re-inforced my ambivalence for French food. I heard that they feed fat to duck/geese whatever poor creature through the beak with a tube so that they have a fatty liver so they can flaunt the Foie gras they are so famous for. Really?

Marseille_Paris2015 6890We meandered towards the Eiffel Tower and dined at a French restaurant in a less touristy area close to the tower. At 10pm we walked out the restaurant to catch the hourly bling bling of the Tower lights. We missed it by a few minutes…and since I had seen this before, I thought we could just go home. He managed to convince me to stay for the 11 pm bling. Of course – awesome girlfriend that I was – I agreed to hang around in sub-optimal temperature (22 Celcius) and watch crazy people hanging out in the park.

At 11pm I got my camera out and started taking pictures when he said – “I need to ask you something, look at me”. I think that’s the first time I suspected….

“Voui sposarmi?” he asked.

I understood what that mean since I knew “sposare” is  “to marry”. But I said – “are you serious?” and then can you say that in English so I know what Im saying yes to….

Now the hard part. The wedding is in Zimbabwe.

Dancing on a Viennese tram

  

I found myself leaving work late today. On the last leg of my trip home, I put on a song by a famous Zimbabwean band Flame B. Translated, it basically sings that if church is this much fun, I won’t go back home. This song is really hard not to dance to, even in a tram in the middle of Vienna. The idea was I needed some mind blowing rhythm to help transition from work to home. 

The best part was that I didn’t realise I was dancing until the tram stopped and a couple of guys started dancing with me. Even the Viennese can be fun. Wait….the guys were Turkish. 

Venice and home made sandwiches – A year ago

Before I came to Vienna, I had a list of places I wanted to visit – crafted on a week by week and holiday by holiday basis. This weekend, I was invited to Italy for the weekend with the promise that we would spend a day in Venice. Sunday was reserved for a Christening and in true Italian style, the whole family was going to be there. It was also initially advertised as an opportunity to meet everyone at the same time. Which I declined.

It was a 12 hour (half) day in Venice. From Udine to Venice, it was an easy 90 minutes by train (~ €22 return ticket). There was no plan. It was close to end of April but the weather was the best it could possibly be. Quirky things I learned from a one day trip in Venice.

Love Locks Venice. Apparently they have these everywhere in the world. Great place to put one though!

Love Locks Venice. Apparently they have these everywhere in the world. Great place to put one though!

Why spend money buying lunch in Venice when you can pack it from left over food you took from Vienna?

Yes, we are in the middle (ish) of food culture (Italy) and for lunch, we ate a wurst sandwich and apples under a bridge. His excuse is that most places in Venice can be considered under a bridge. Sometimes it takes a long time to find a decent place to eat if you are in a place you are not familiar with. However, in certain parts of the world like Italy, France, India, Thailand..I don’t know – places with really awesome food – packed lunches should be out of the question.

My red umbrella pictures would need additional creativity

For those that don’t know – I had a red umbrella theme for my photographs. So everywhere I went, I tried to put a red umbrella in at least one picture. Usually I was the one taking the picture. In this case, I was met with resistance because it would be too embarrassing to be seen with a red umbrella in a place where you don’t know anyone for a couple of minutes. Apparently the other reason was that there was full-blown sun and Italians don’t use umbrellas unless it’s raining. The compromise was that I hold the umbrella and hope that he takes the right picture.

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First attempt needed some refocusing

Red Umbrella Venice

We got it right the second time

Venice is as unique and as beautiful as they say and write about

The weather was perfect and with that, the colors of the boats and houses along the waterways, the energy of people moving about, the on and off a boat way of living. You can see masks in many stores in preparation for the carnival. I put that on the list of must do’s. I don’t know if I could conceptualize living in an area where you get around by boat and not by car. I would love to try it one day. I expect significant resistance to this idea though.

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Driving under the influence is allowed (?) on water, or maybe just Italy.

You can avoid the large offloads of Cruise ships

For good reason, I expect many cruise ships will stop in Venice. There are a lot of tine little roads if you care to explore the city away from the main drag.

Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco

One of the Cruise Ships

One of the Cruise Ships

Off the beaten track

Off the beaten track

You can’t drink Apperol Spritz like orange juice

We took a break from walking around the city at around 4pm and sat at a small cafe for a late afternoon apperitivo. It was hot (I like hot) and a cool drink was just what I needed. By the time we finished dinner we had added a few more. The best thing about traveling with someone else who feels responsible for you is that if you pass out on the train back, someone will know which stop to get off.

Apparently “we invented it” says the Italian

 

 

Berlin – where the hell am I?

After Barcelona was Berlin. Just some background. I’ve been asked before if moving from Zimbabwe to the US was a cultural shock. My response was always – No, idiot, why would that be a cultural shock? I can tell you that after the moves of Zimbabwe – Boston MA – Connecticut – Vienna, Austria. The most shocking had been Boston to Danbury Area in CT. After going to Berlin, I thought that if I had moved from Zimbabwe to Berlin, that would have been a major non survivable culture shock.Visiting Berlin was quite shocking. Ok, after experiencing the Germaness of Austria (its true – don’t fight it), Munich, Ulm, Frankfurt – going to Berlin felt like I was in a completely different country. There was nothing German about Berlin.

Top 5 things of my visit:

Berlin is dark

The history is dark, the trains have dimmed lighting, the streetlights are not bright and in it all, you are walking through graffitied alleys. We booked by Airbnb. The instructions were that we would collect the keys at the Internet cafe in the neighborhood. Our names would be our password and we would make our way this house. It was like I was in a post-apocalyptic city where the atmosphere was rigged for anarchy.

Berlin is kinda ugly

There is no beauty in Berlin. It’s chaotic, as in messy. Drunk people everywhere all day. Maybe I didn’t go to the right places, but the “street art”, which by the way I am a fan off, is just ugly. Beautiful historical buildings had graffiti on them. Clean that shit up.

No-one speaks German in Berlin

OK, thats an exaggeration, but everyone was comfortable speaking English – unlike the rest of the country, who get aggressively offended if they have to come up with a sentence in a language that’s more helpful. Most English was spoken with a rather perfect American accent. It was usually unclear whether they were Americans or people that had travelled to America. How can I say I’m in Germany if I can’t get pissed off about their resistance to learning English?

City character is hard to define

Is it “anarchist punk”? The whole city. This does come with really lively underground culture and I was happy to get an opportunity to see an Improv show. Well it wasn’t really improv since the background was defined, but close. It may have taken the bad parts of most cities and the good bits and shoved them all in one city. The train system works very well, relatively inexpensive and seems to go where you need it to, however, the trains don’t run so frequently. OK OK OK, I get it, I’m in Vienna, so I’ve been horribly spoiled.

Touristically convenient

Airport to city is relatively easy. The food is very cosmopolitan and can be inexpensive. The wait staff are American style…sort off, so friendly (fake or not, who cares – just don’t give me attitude unless the food is free).

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Remains of the Berlin wall, East Gallery

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At East Gallery, Berlin

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Alexander Platz

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Berlin wall (East Gallery)

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Berlin Wall, East Gallery

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Berlin Wall, East Gallery

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Subway

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Back Alley entrance to the Improv show

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Pull cart in an inner courtyard

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Gaedachtniskirche, remains of the church bombed during the war

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Brandenburg Gate, at least they ship German looking people in

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Statue new Alexanderplatz. In the background, you can see the pink “sump pipes” the deswamp Berlin

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Part of the Berlin wall in Potsdamer Platz

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A red umbrella

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Location of wall marked by metal pipes also showing the location of a tunnel

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Checkpoint Charlie

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Korean Food and an Italian Pornstar

These two things typically should not have anything in common, but in this post, they do. We were out at a Korean restaurant with a group of workmates. Just for background – the group is mostly made up of hardcore scientists. Not that this will explain anything.

It started with Bambi who apparently dies at the beginning of the book. In the US, someone heard that a Parent Teacher Association wanted to change the story so that Bambi’s grandmother dies at the end. Talking about sad children’s movies, Lion King was also sad. But apparently this is not relevant because it was only copied from the Jungle Book. Even though the kid in the Jungle Book is human and Simba is a lion, the premise of an orphaned boy is the same, just different species. Like Oliver Twist who came before the Jungle Book. So the Jungle Book copied Oliver Twist. In the end, there are only seven stories that can be told. Some disagreed and said there was only one – the circle of life. Take Cicciolina. She went from extreme pornstar to extreme politician. But that’s Italy. What does one expect?

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Cicciolina (Illona Staller)

In the group there was an Austrian guy who decided that his GI tract went straight from esophagus to colon. Skipped all 10 meters in the middle. Maybe it’s an Austrian/Viennese thing, that’s why the don’t get fat from eating Wiener Schnitzel. This guy also said his cholesterol went down since he left the U.S. and returned to Austria, and he didn’t remember eating different. The group deduced he was missing parts of his intestine so food was not digested, which doesn’t actually explain the high cholesterol from American food.

We moved to pick-up lines. The classic and non classic ones:

Would you like some chips?
I’ve lost my number can I borrow yours?
Your father must’ve been a thief, he stole the stars from the heavens and put them in your eyes
I have two irons at home, can I show you how to use them?

We skipped many topics of course. From laws of attraction to how to lose a wedding ring, inscriptions  on wedding rings, Lord of the Rings (one ring to rule them all) and ended with Antonio Banderas.

While all this was happening, we ate Korean Food.

Grocery Shopping in Vienna – Big city with village mentality.

If you’re coming to live in Vienna from other countries like…..anywhere else, the grocery shopping experience will take some getting used to. Maybe some decades, but eventually it MIGHT happen. I was here for a year, and it didn’t happen. Below are the top things you need to keep in mind. This post applies to people who have a full time 9-5 job.

Grocery stores are not usually open when you need them

Most grocery stores open maybe at 8-7pm (if you are lucky). By 7pm, it really means the store closes at 6:50pm and likely doors lock at 6:45pm. Cheeky, but they do it.

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If your job is like mine and ends at 6:30pm and you have some distance to walk before you get to the nearest BILLA or SPAR, then shopping during the week is not an easy option. This leaves weekends. Stores close at 6pm. And thats pretty much it until Monday. The consolation is that major train stations like Franz-Josef Banhof, Westbanhof, Hauptbanhof, Wien Mitte have supermarkets that open till late (10pm) and on Sunday. There are a couple of theories about this ridiculousness. One is that its a working male dominated society and so women who do the shopping are home anyway. The other is that its a very religious country and so Sunday should be a day of rest for everyone. Either way, I am a working woman and I do enough praying every time I walk into a grocery store “God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…”

There is nothing cute about the European small grocery store at the corner

This is also known as Aldi's in other parts of the world

This is also known as Aldi’s in other parts of the world

If you don’t eat schnitzel 7-days a week, you will have a difficult time buying ingredients for meals you do eat. I had these romantic views of grabbing a bottle of wine, cheese and bread (for example) on my way home from work. Well you can do that, but is more like running to this tiny supermarket for the wine or cheese and then to the bakery and then another supermarket to get what you couldn’t in the first one. One of these places is likely closed when you get there. I have about 7 supermarkets around me and the variety is still not very great. The best one to go to is Merkur on Mariahilfestrasse. But even here you may want to supplement with a market. If you have more money than God, you could go to Julius Meinl in the first district. It’s like Whole Foods on steroids. But you can find food from all over the world there in all their 3 or 4 stories of groceries. Ka-ching, ka-ching.

Don’t leave your grocery shopping bag at home

Unless all you’re only buying is a bottle of wine, you need to have your grocery bags when you go grocery shopping. You can buy plastic bags at the store, but after a while, buying a plastic bag and having to walk several blocks to a train station and back home, you will always prefer your shopper bags.

Avoid Saturday afternoon at all costs

I know people in the Northeast always comment about the Supermarket flashmob before an impending snow storm. Well, imagine that happening every Saturday minus the snowstorm. A colleague told a story about one day, late Saturday afternoon, supermarket was mobbed and a woman snatched her price tag of my colleagues banana’s and slapped them on her own because she was not going to leave her spot in the check-out line and fight the mob to the veggie scale. So moral of the story – pay attention to evolution. Survival of the fittest out there.

Use credit cards, bankomat card

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This space at the end of the counter is only enough to fit some of your stuff. Once you’ve paid, you have to deal with the next person’s grocery piling on top of yours.

OK – the reason has nothing to do with source of money and everything to do with delaying tactics. The amount of space between the cashiers scanner and the end of the till is about 60 cm /2 feet for most stores. Whatever it is, you need to load your bag as fast as the cashier is cashing out and before the next customer’s goods start mingling with yours. bankomat cards slow things down. You swipe, pack, punch in code, pack, prepunch in because there was a mistake, pack, forget to pull out card while you pack then once all done, you pull your card out, receipt prints outré and you are ready to go.

Don’t forget to weigh your vegetables!

If you want to piss off a bunch of Viennese people, do the “I don’t really understand English trick and you didn’t weigh your vegetables” because the scale looks like it was decommissioned in the 70’s and…who does that anyway? Often, the cashier got up and went and weighed them for me. I won’t mention the hate stares I received from the other patrons impatiently waiting in line.