Why I Love Austria…

three vignettes showing Austrian landscape, Vienna cityscape and a Viennese palace inside

Cultures differ not only in things like dress, in former times especially. Or their language(s). People’s outlook on life is determined by the culture they have been brought up in to a great extent.
The culture we live in – or with – later has a powerful influence too, though.

When I was still rather young, I came across the book by Bahman Niruvand, a Persian refugee from his original country to Germany. It’s called “Leben mit den Deutschen” / “Life with the Germans” and reflects his experience of differences in outlook in some striking and well-painted colours.

One little anecdote he recounts I remember to this day although it must be close on 20 years that I read the book. He stated that whenever exiled Persians met on one of their conventions, the passing of years showed more and more clearly in their behaviour and outlook, which country of refuge they came from.

He named Italy and Germany as examples and put it like this:

    • Persian exiles living in Germany were always extremely well-informed, organized – and a tad depressed.
    • Persian exiles living in Italy were less well or almost not informed, a little unorganized – and usually happy.

Michael Niavarani, director of the famous traditional “Kabarett Simpl” in Vienna once put an idea about Austrians this way:

“They say Austrians are the half-successful attempt of Bavarians to become Italian.”

I wonder if that isn’t true, after all…

I love this country of Austria, I am a German by birth and education and have spent a lot of my life among Persians. I found the mixture of realism and at the same time romantic, emotional outlook on life among Persians most intriguing, and still do.

And the closest I see people getting to that outlook are Austrians: they look on life with all a romantic can bring to it and at the same time grumble and complain, when irritated at things not working as usual…

Most striking of all seems to me the ability to just sit and ‘be and relish the moment’, in meetings, at desks, or after work, together with friends or colleagues, having the occasional glass of those wonderful Austrian wines – or a beer…

Tu Felix Austria – Lucky Austria, You… In Spite of Corona…

female statue with crown on fountain as Austria allegory
Allegorical Austria – Austria fountain, Vienna (courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

In these times I’d like to remind all of us of the ancient saying that stems from the Habsburg monarchy, meaning the tradition of the dynasty not to make war, but love, you might say:
that is, they married smartly throughout Europe in order to tie bonds of kinship with courts all over Europe, to keep the peace rather than make war.
The Latin origin of this actually wonderful concept from the year 1384:

Bélla geránt aliī, tu félix Áustria nūbe.
Nám quae Márs aliīs, dát tibi díva Venūs.

Wars may be led by the others, you, lucky Austria, marry!
‘Cause what to others is Mars, Venus, the goddess grants you.

So, it’s perhaps the earliest possible dictum of ‘make love not war’?

I put this here just for feeding thoughts… and perhaps to invoke a smile on my readers’ lips…

In these hard times, we should remember, it’s not about being best or first in blaming!
Blame politicians for small(er) errors in the face of a pandemic?
Blame officials for being too harsh – or not harsh enough?
Blame hospitals for not saving beds in order to be prepared for taking care of more people?
Blame everybody for lockdown measures, because the economy is suffering worse than ever before?

Yes, it is true, tragedies arise from all of this; many have lost their jobs, their livelihood(s), their prospects of a promising future, for quite some time…

But let’s remember these few very important facts:

    • the lockdowns are about people being kept alive!
    • the economy suffers always, in pandemic times!
    • in ancient and medieval times any pandemic plague wave was so much more worse at every turn!
      • dead bodies literally lay scattered in streets!
      • trade or any other kind of contact practically was impossible, because people would die right there in the room, in front of others, often in the middle of a negotiation (try Giovanni Boccaccio’s “Decamerone“).
      • decades would pass until things were back to something equalling normality.
      • death tolls ran up to millions of people in each realm, leaving whole regions empty, villages deserted.

We should remember how lucky we are, compared, here in the middle of Europe:

    • a high standard of living to begin with.
    • heaps of fast available data, being provided practically every second.
    • technology and research at an all-time peak in order to develop and approve vaccines inside of months!
    • a large part of the population agreeing on the value of each human life!
      • there were times when lives were reckoned by society strata: so much for a worker, so much for a merchant, so much for the king…
    • information based on a huge amount of well-educated reporters, journalists and scientists!
    • even more data available on every aspect of possible business strategies to get us all through this.

I dare anyone out there complaining harshly about measures taken:
be a politician and do it and decide – in ADVANCE!

Tu Felix Austria, remember, this is a wonderful country of ancient history, tradition, innovative ideas, culture and thought, with usually friendly, and very peaceful people, who know how to work – and how to enjoy life!

Vienna – A Paradise Lost and Won

I live in Vienna, the city of my childhood joy and adult dreams.
I am not your typical dreamer: I know about people and about life, more than most. I have read a great lot; I have thought a lot. I have worked in many jobs during my studies. I studied literature and culture of the US, UK and Persia. I have read about many more. I have an M.A. to my name.

Yet, Vienna, the long and relaxed cultural tradition of mixed heritage, the faint glimmer of a monarchy that ended a century ago but was hundreds of years in place; the older and newer places in the town and city, the gardens and parks, and last but not at all least, the people:

Vienna is the city where you still feel the pace of a more human speed, as I put it earlier, in German: “where you are – elegantly – never in a real hurry.”

Milton called his epic masterpiece ‘Paradise Lost’. It is based on the Christian religion.

Vienna never was a paradise, if you looked closely enough: it has an old-world charm and flair though that is as unique as that of Paris, France, or that of Prague, Czechia.

Artists, musicians and writers lived and died here. Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Strauß, father and son, Schubert and Brahms, to name just a very few, composed world-famous musical pieces, concertos and operas people have listened to and loved (or hated…) for centuries.

I worked in the so-called ‘Wienerwald’ for two years, a region that is surrounding Vienna and is a real forest in many places: the air in Vienna and in that forest is of a certain balmy nature you may feel making you almost dizzy, like a glass of champagne.

I am not exaggerating, if you ever get the chance to come here and are the least bit sensitive to that kind of impression, you will know. And it is that one-glass-of-a-good-wine-feeling, such as wines you find around here in abundance too, not a drunken kind of state, at all.

All this is true. As well as the truth about people, who are often very similarly human inside of a region, a culture – or inside and out of ‘business’. Ideas and points of view are similar.
So, Vienna as well is very human. It’s not a paradise in the fairy-tale sense.

It is a paradise in spite of and because of the slightly frayed seams of its dress.

I love it.