Friday, September 30, 2011

Settling in

Having left my trusty Hello Kitty! mug in Vienna with clear instructions only to let the worthiest of visitors drink from it, I needed to get a mug for my daily dose of ginger & lemon tea here as well unless I wanted to either incur someone's wrath by nicking their prized cup, or have to rely on paper cups or plastic mugs for the next three months. Last night I invested in this pretty specimen to spice up my hot beverages from an aesthetic point of view...

Another stable on my desk, with air conditioning in particular: hand cream.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

You've got mail

This morning, I got a call from reception telling me a parcel had arrived for me. It was from the Australian who had sent me a magazine on Brisbane, where she lives and where I will be going on a weekend-trip soon and a cool collection of 50 Sydney "adventures on foot" that I will be trying out (chronologically?) soon. My fantasies about ferry rides and open-top bus trips on the upcoming long weekend neglected to take the current rainy weather into account. After almost ruining my leather trainers and ballet flats I really have to start looking into rain-proof shoes. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shopping Update

Now that I've been doing some shopping, it's about time to give an update here. Tonight, on my mission to stock up on yellow accessories for tomorrow's "sports carnival" at work, I also bought a belt to wear with my dusky pink trousers:

I haven't been able to explore many shops as they mostly close quite early, with the exeption of the mall at Darling Harbour where I also bought the above. I'm putting my hopes on the weekend and possibly tomorrow night, when shops are open until 9. On Sunday night, I did spot some elegant stores in my area, such as the Miu Miu flagship store:
With the elegant shops offset by the dark night and bright city lights, I was reminded of the Ginza in Tokyo. I'm particularly keen to discover Australian brands, of course, and while my experience is still limited in the clothes department, I've already fallen in lust with the stuff at Typo (a bit like Paperchase).
Having only packed a minimal supply of cosmetics, I had to stock up on various products. Again, I was most interested in Australian brands and settled for Natio's offererings, which were decently priced. As my purchase was over the required threshold, I lucked out and got a toiletries bag packed with goodies:
Jet-lagged as I was during my 5-hour stopover at Bangkok airport, I could not NOT shop. I bought a gorgeous silk scarf for the equivalent of 15 EUR. I love the colour:
More retail therapy exploits to come.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Over the Counter

I knew this was coming. If there's one thing my immune system is utterly defenseless against, it's airconditioning blasting from the ceiling. Everytime I visit a branch of the Firm in a country with an A/C happy culture my nose blocks up, my lymph nodes swell, my throat gets sore and my contact lenses get glued to my eyballs within an hour. The room temperature in the office requires me to sit in a cardigan and with a scarf at all times and when I left home I knew I was in desperate need of some drugs. Luckily the drugstore/pharmacy in one of the shopping malls on my way home is open until late and I stocked up on everything promising to work instantly:The body lotion was an unrelated purchase added for good measure...

Monday, September 26, 2011

10 First Impressions of Sydney

Hello! Or rather, G'Day! I arrived safely and in one piece on Sunday morning and surprisingly, both my bags (one weighing 20 kgs, the other 16) did, too. I was welcomed by rain of the worst kind, but as I was in desperate need of fresh air and stretching my legs after a 24-hrs-journey cramped in a plane, I decided to test-walk the route to work. Within minutes my leather trainers and socks were completely wet and my floor-length jeans had soaked up the water right up to knee length. Not the most comfortable of sensations, let me assure you. Ah, well, let's not dwell on details.

Here are some random observations I made in my first 24 hours in Sydney:

1. It gets dark, and I mean middle-of-the-night dark, around 6 p.m. already:

2. Salt & Vinegar crisps are recognisable by purple packaging (unlike the UK, where they come in green or, rarely, blue bags): 

3. Toilets are not the flushing type. No, really. At first I thought it was just the one in my apartment that wasn't capable of sucking in the - admittedly above-average - amount of toilet paper I tend to use. This was until I went to the office loos and got the impression that the person using the cubicle before me had forgotten to flush. I used the one next door and once I had flushed noticed that I gave the impression I had forgotten to press the button myself. Hmmm.

Speaking of plumbing: it really is true that water goes down the drain in opposite direction in the Southern Hemisphere.

4. Grocery shopping is quite expensive. When I arrived I was totally hydrated and after the horrible water on my Thai Airways flight that tasted of mothballs (I joke you not!) I wanted to buy a decent beverage. I went straight into the WH Smith (yay!) branch in the arrivals hall and was shocked by the prices. AUD 3,50 (EUR 2.5) for a small bottle of water? About the same amount for a small packet of crisps? I thought it must be inflated airport prices, even though this was in the public part of the building. I bought a Vitamin Water instead, reasoning that if it was expensive, I might just as well pay for some added colour and arguable health benefits. In the afternoon, I went to a supermarket near my apartment, stocking up on staples like salt, pepper, oil and vinegar, toilet paper, washing-up liquid and the like. I realised that water and crisps really are expensive compared to Austria. As is all the other stuff as well. While I'm not the best mental calculator I still did not expect a sum exceeding 100 AUD for my mundane purchases, many of them the supermarket's own brand. Ooops:
Later on, I realised that I had forgotten tea and bought 3 different types in the food halls of a department store. My favorite Ginger & Lemon infusion by Twinings cost a whopping AUD 11.50 (about EUR 8.50) for a pack of 40. 

5. According to Wikipedia, about 17% of Sydney's inhabitants are of Asian descent (data of 2006 census), but to me it seems the percentage is more like "almost half", reinorcing the similarity with Hong Kong.

6. Bringing an umbrella is a good idea. Here you can see my trusty ultra-lightweight tiny Japanese umbrella in action:
7. Australian women must be quite vain. Apart from the fact that the office toilets not only stock the usual supply of female hygiene products and deodorants (staples at the Firm's Ladies'), but also hairdriers and, take this, hair straigtheners for hairstyle emergencies, I noticed this vending machine selling lipgloss at a shopping mall toilet:
8. Australian TV warns you of "explicit language" and "reference to sexuality" before shows or films. This could possibly backfire by making them more interesting for the people they are supposed to "protect" by this...

9. Traffic lights must be of the same make as the ones in Dublin. While the light is on red, there's a consistent "Tock.Tock.Tock.Tock" and when the light turns green, an enthusiastic "Djoo!" sound goes off. It makes me think of Dublin every time I cross a street.

10. The ratio of shopping malls per square metre seems exceptionally high in Sydney, at least in the area I live in. This is interesting for a city where - with the exception of yesterday, obviously - the weather usually is consistently good. Yesterday, I took this photo in QVB, which was just about to close for the day. I will definitely return:

Friday, September 23, 2011




For some reason, I am as sentimental and nervous as I am excited. I'm trying to think back to the feelings I had when embarking on my Erasmus year (which was actually only 9 months) in Dublin, but I think excitement prevailed. Back then, I simply had less responsibilty and "contracts" in my life - no job, no flat where I lived on my own, no car, no plants to water and post to forward, and also much less stuff to pack.

Unlike now, my friends were not (for the greater part) married women with children, but travelling the world themselves. 9 months or a year was hardly a noteworthy period of time. Now, however, everyone seems to find 3 months very long and I was surprised with several thoughtful "farewell-gifts" that make it feel like an emigration of sorts.

In keeping with this sentimental mood, I tried to memorise what late summer/early autumn looks like in Austria by taking this picture of a garden-flowers bouquet put together by my father:
Next time I see the garden, it will be barren and possibly snow-covered. If it weren't for the "upside down" seasons in Australia, this would hardly be a noteworthy fact, but as it is, it feels really bizarre to depart into a metereological spring that feels like a summer.

Speaking of farewell-gifts, this is the booty:
(Guide) books, stickers, bookmarks and a Japanese lucky charm. I can't complain! Although I like all, I have to say that the Louis Vuitton "Sydney" travel notebook with pretty water-colours and a set of postcards was particularly impressive. And luxurious! Not that there was any doubt, but my friends rock!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

PowerPoint-Karaoke, the Clerical Way

In my line of work, I've experienced my fair share of PowerPoint-Karaoke, where the presenter either did not have the time to rehearse or just couldn't be bothered to take a look at the slides before.

This morning, I encountered this awkward phenomenon in a different context. 
I had decided to accompany my mother to mass.  As usual, we arrived fashionably late and sat down in the last pew. Since I'm not exactly a regular, I did not even notice that it wasn't the parish's regular priest, but a substitute. We arrived halfway through the sermon, which was basically a rant against reformist tendencies in the Catholic Church. Mum nudged me and whispered, "Just as well we didn't arrive earlier...". After a while, people started rummaging in their bags and taking out money for the collection. Except, none came. "Are they not collecting today, or what?" the lady in front of us asked her neighbour. "Well, the sacristan has been doing her job for two years now, you'd think she'd know her cue", the lady in front of her who had just belted out a hymn at the top of her lungs remarked sotto voce.

People began whispering. Soon, it was time to file up for communion and everyone realised that the moment had passed. Some dropped the coins into the candle box on the way back from the altar. The elderly ladies in our section continued to bitch about the unorthodox turn this mass was taking. One took pity on the priest, "Well it's not that easy to find your way when you're new, is it?". The priest must have begun to sense the unease and mutterings and began to stumble over his "script" like a confused tv presenter. When it was time for the announcements at the end of the mass, the deacon - a regular of the show - likewise got stuck at every other sentence that was interspersed with increasingly long silences and I got the impression that he was trying to decipher someone else's illegible handwriting. By the time he finished with an awkward "...well, that's what it says here", Mum and I couldn't stifle our giggles any longer. As tomorrow is the first anniversary of my granny's death, we likewise dropped the change "saved" from the collection that never was into the candle box and lit two candles in her memory. 

When we stepped out of the church, the greater part of the congregation was standing around in little groups, all muttering about the badly rehearsed play they had just experienced. Well, at least it had been free of charge (if you don't count church tax, that is).

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ready, Steady, Go!

After my Japanese holiday that wasn't meant to be due to 3/11, I did not want to jinx MY NEXT BIG ADVENTURE (hereinafter referred to as MNBA) by prematurely mentioning it here. Now that I'm all set to depart according to plan on Friday, September 23, I want to warn you that lots of Australian-related posts will be coming up. From October 26 through December 19, I will be working at the Firm's Sydney office. I know, I know, you are pitying me already. What's worse is that I'll experience spring and the beginning of summer when everyone here will be enjoying grey November skies and the slush of melting city snow. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it. To make things worse, both office and corporate appartment are situated within spitting distance of Darling Harbour.

The last few weeks have been extremely nerve-wracking in more ways than you could possibly imagine, with the uncertainly if my visa-letter will come through in time paling in comparison to other much more severe threats to MNBA. Now, however, I am couting the days both with anticipation and slight panic (So many things to tick off my imaginary check-list, I'm this close to actually writing a hard-copy one), trying to co-ordinate final farewells with as many people as possible and getting around to the fact that next time I'll be in Vienna, the Christmas lights will be up in town and it will be dark and cold.

I'll of course be posting here and sharing my Picasa-Albums with friends and family. I've even overcome my social-network allergy and set up a Google+ account. Early adopter I am not... For offline musings I've bought this Sydney-themed notebook which contains a subway map and other practical info:

Needless to say, MNBA also called for the acquisition of yet another bag, or suitcase really. A super lightweight and super expensive Rimowa number. I love the colour:

Don't expect too many posts before my departure, but I'll definitely wave goodbye from "Up Over" before escaping to  Down Under.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Foxy vs. Kurt

A while ago, I wrote about my visit to Kurt, one of Vienna's two frozen yoghurt places that are very trendy in this frozen-yoghurt-deprived country. Last week, I went to check out Foxy, the other one. My verdict: the frozen yoghurt is of comparable quality and the variety of toppings is even more exciting at Foxy's, but the decor and corporate identity is definitely much more professional at Kurt's, plus they have more seats and a total of 3 flavours (Foxy only sells plain yoghurt), mango/peach, blueberry/acai and pure. My Foxy cup (smallest size):

Queues are inevitable at both places, it seems: 

Monday, September 12, 2011


Last week, I got a new gadget for test purposes, a Motorola Xoom tablet. I didn't want to get it scratched in my bag and therefore did a little online search for sleeves/covers. They were either ugly (faux leather, anyone?) or not being shipped to AT. The usual offline suspects (Mediamarkt, Saturn and the like) did not stock them yet and so I remembered the felt DIY kit I bought ages ago. Voilà! The sheets of thick felt were the perfect size and I made a sleeve while watching "Tatort":
It closes with a button and a piece of Japanese fabric bought at La Droguerie in Nice:

And now for a shot with the actual tablet emerging from its sleeping bag: 

The reverse side is grey, by the way.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Taste of Far Away Places

Last Saturday, I met Kitty-chan for lunch at Tenmaya. Our lovingly compiled lunch-boxes with seasonal vegetables, delicious fish and pickles made me long for the holiday lost this year and hope that I'll be able to see the cherry blossom in Japan next spring.

Speaking of far away places! Ah, that will be another post.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Hot Dog

Why shouldn't dogs travel in style? Spotted outside a supermarket in Klagenfurt. The bike had a German license plate and so I assume Wuffi must have inhaled his fair share of intoxicating exchaust fumes already on the way there. He looked very happy, though.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Viennese Riviera

Sometimes, you live in a city, but don't discover some of its gems for years. Decades even. In my case, it is the Old Danube, a lake/sea substitute in the North of Vienna. On Sunday, Mademoiselle and I went for a little walk and sunbathing there. I didn't have my camera with me for a change so excuse the phone-quality: 

With the sailing boats zooming by with impressive speed and the skyline as a backdrop it looks even cooler: 

I was tempted to rent a paddleboat, but it was too hot for physical excercise and since no candidates for willing galley slaves were in sight, we settled for less taxing activities instead. 

This is my favourite pictures as it reminds me of a Canaletto seascape:
On the way back to the subway, somebody suddenly lunged at my back. It was the Gazelle , who had had the same idea as the two of us.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Must be Something in the Air...

Sickening address?

Friday, September 02, 2011


Mysterious tents on Vienna's Heldenplatz. One more strategy to attract tourists from the Gulf States? 
Nah. Just the leftovers from a Waldviertel promotional week...

Thursday, September 01, 2011


Earlier this week, I made some interesting observations in window displays. First of all, I saw a "teaser poster" for Cinnabon in Lugner City. Cool! I've never actually eaten anything in any of their outlets abroad, but always noticed the almost overpowering smell of cinnamon. I love cinnamon and I'm looking forward to an interesting addition to the rather boring mix of shops in my "mall down the road".

Yesterday, I noticed what might be the most expensive roll of loo-paper unless the price is for a bumper pack and not just a solitary roll. I did not go inside to find out: 

Only the best for your bum, I suppose.
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