Vienna - March 2008 Megamail

Don't worry, I'll keep it short as Sam and I have done absolutely zero, zilch, nada, null, zip, nadisima on the tourist front. At the end I'll provide all of our new contact details so don't just delete this message as I know Tuppy does.

Basically, the last four weeks have been spent trying to find a permanent pad during our stay here in Vienna and all of the details associated with that like cell phones, dog taxes, emergency surgery for Jake, etc.

Speaking of dogs, their presence has provided oodles of stories, before, during and after. But Sam vetoed most of that content as she indicated I rambled. Can you believe that!? Therefore, if you want to hear specifically about the dogs, particularly with moving them to Austria, we have lots of advise and opinions so just ask.

Concerning Jake's surgery because I know that must have gotten a lot of people's ear's perked. And 'ear' is critical to the story as you will find out in 100 characters...

The first weekend that we moved in our flat we were walking the dogs in a park next to a church nearby when an unleashed dog came up to Jake, sniffed him, and then took a bite of his ear without provocation!

Talk about stress. Here we are, two weeks in a country where neither of us speak the language very well (isn't that an understatement?!), in a neighborhood we've been in for two days so we don't know where everything is, our dog is bleeding over everything and we have to trust the person whose dog just bit ours to direct us to a place of refuge.

In the end everything worked out. Jake got his one inch tear sewed up, we now have a vet, the other owner paid for it, and Jake is getting lots of love and attention to boot. Plus, he looks tough with his scar on his ear.

The dogs did provide a limiting factor in us finding a flat, but more limiting was that fact that we were bringing zero furniture with us, just clothes, skis and camping gear. We looked at a lot of flats our first week here and then had a very difficult decision to make because we found two that were almost perfect.

In the end the decision was made for us because one of the flats was not going to be available until April and we were really tired of staying in our temporary place, nice and convenient as it was, it was still small and actually a bit dirty.

A lot of the rest of the time has been spent signing up for utilities, registration forms, drivers licenses, mass transit passes, and more forms than I can ever remember filling out. All in German and all, probably not 100% correct because, as I've said before, we don't speak it all that well.

In fact, the other day I stopped into a Hundesalon (dog groomer) to see what it would cost to give the furry beasts a bath. I asked, nobly I might add, in my best German and the lady responds in English. Horrible, horrible, horrible!

And today, I clearly asked for a cup of hot chocolate and I get coffee with whip cream! Next thing you know I'll be hanging around the sales department. That is a *very* inside joke by the way.

Sam has been working for near a month now and is now finally getting busy... Maybe TOO busy... She complains though, that she seems to spend most of her day at meetings. I started working again for my company in Richmond about a week ago once we got our Internet connected in our flat. Telecommuting is... interesting. The dogs, however, dislike the fact I walk around unshaven and naked all the time. Did I mention we have a web cam?

And now let's turn this Megamail over to MY frequently asked questions that I image YOU would ask me:

What do you like the most so far?

The differences. The big differences like the language to the little differences like how bags of Beneful dog food come in these cute 3kg sized bags, yet cost as much as an equivalent 10kg bag in the States. Come to think of it, all of the differences aren't so grand.

Also, the view of the cathedral from our terrace, and subsequently my 'office' window isn't too shabby.

What do you like least so far?

The fact that usually the first thing out of my mouth is still 'Sprechen Sie Englisch?' Also, everything seems to take longer than I think it should. I know that is part of the lifestyle here, but come on. You can't have a public service office only open from 8-3 Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday!

What do you miss the most?

A clothes dryer. Also, our bikes, though those should arrive in a week. Bike paths are like ivy around here. They are everywhere and go everywhere. And this past weekend we finally had some nice weather so I really had a hankering for some bike riding. Then I can curse obscenities at the clueless tourists! I'm *so* looking forward to that.

What do you miss the least?

Probably the car and the TV. Though I'm totally Lost about Lost.

What is the biggest surprise?

There are lots of those. For instance, I'm surprised at the number of Italian restaurants. I'm surprised at the kiosk food stands they sell pizza and some Greek confection similar to a gyro, but on a bun. I'm surprised at how variable the weather is. Not just from day to day, but from hour to hour.

But probably the biggest, pleasant, surprise is that where Sam works, in the UN building, there is this place called the Commissary. It has cheap goods from all over the world. Our 'house' wine in the states, for example, costs about $8/bottle in the US. Here, that same bottle is going for $5. They have some of the most surprising stuff there, like Bisquik, Johnsonville Italian Sausage, Sam Adams beer and Tombstone pizza. It's bizarre.

Another surprise... we've been to two concerts here and neither played classical musical. One was a bluegrass band and the other a 20's style jazz band. Strauss, Schmauss. Mozart, Blozart.

Have you had any Wiener Schnitzel yet?

Yep, and I remember now why I didn't like it. It tastes fine, but it is a little boring for me. I need some sauce slathered over it like Jaeger Schnitzel or something to jazz it up.

What's the front runner on favorite beer?

We've barely scratched the surface on this one. But Ottakringer Helles isn't bad. We've also discovered that the Zwickel beer you see everywhere is unfiltered, but a far cry from wheat beers like a hefeweizen.

So how easy was it to find a place?

We looked at a lot of places that first week, and we could have looked at a lot more. But we had some pretty stringent requirements:

  1. Accepted dogs
  2. In districts 1-9 (basically the central portion of the city serviced by metro)
  3. Fully furnished

That last requirement was a kicker. There are a lot more unfurnished apartments than furnished places. Some really stunning flats had to be tossed aside because of this requirement.

A tip we would have to anybody coming to Vienna on a UN package would be to try your absolute hardest to find a place within the UN rental service. You wouldn't believe the stress you put yourself under if you go outside that umbrella as Sam and I ended up doing because our first choice suddenly wasn't going to be available for several weeks longer than we were told.

The rules over here are quite unlike those in the states and you can be in for some rude surprises like:

  1. The renter needs to pay the agent fee. Yep, it isn't the seller who pays that here, it is you, the renter. Even if you find the place online, you still need to pay that fee.
  2. As a renter, you will also need to pay the registration fee with the city and any other fees the owner elects you should pay, like attorney fees, for example. Its all legal here.
  3. A renter needs to fork over 3 months rent as security deposit. Maybe not normally a trouble, but when you don't have a whole lot in the local currency to begin with, that can break the bank, literally.
  4. Hope to God that either you speak the local language or you have somebody who you trust to go over the contract with you. I don't know if we had either. Our translator kept saying 'this clause is standard' and moved on. But we insisted that we don't know what 'standard' is here. Because...
  5. ... it is standard that no loud noises shall be emitted from the apartment after 8pm daily and all day Sunday. Hell if I would expect that to be standard. Heck, we do all of our housework over the weekends. When do people do stuff!?!?!?!

Anyway, it all worked out in the end. We think.

So... how is your place?

Pretty nice. It doesn't have a second bedroom that we were aiming for, for those out of town guests that we know are visiting, but it has a splendid office setting with a view of the spires of the Votive Cathedral and a nice size terrace for the dogs. We did, however, get a very nice sofa bed at IKEA, so you will have a place for to sleep when you visit. :) :) We are attaching a few photos at the end so you can get a feel for it.

So how do we get in touch with you guys?

OK, OK, let's wrap this thing up. Our address in Vienna is:

Liechtensteinstrasse 23/20
1090 Vienna

Our phone numbers are: 1-804-767-7232 (this is a US number that will Skype us on our computers here. Please feel free to call us on this number from the States.)

43-1-958-1116 (home)
43-650-383-0586 (Sam's cell)
43-650-383-0587 (Eric's cell)
43-1-2600-22865 (Sam's work)

Skype names (we do have a web cam so video is possible!):



Jake's battle scars.


Lola in the Volksgarten.


Sam and the dogs in front of the Rathaus.


Eric and the dogs in along the Ringstrasse.


View from the flat of the Votivkirche.