Well-kept Secrets of European Airports

I’ve been on the road recently. So:

1) The Billa Supermarket in Vienna International (Wien-Schwechat). It’s located on the arrivals level; walk out of customs, turn left, go past the McDonalds, down the long corridor, and turn left.

In addition to the usual supermarket stuff, it has cold shelves full of salads and sushi, an icebox full of smoothies, and a deli that makes sandwiches to order. All fresh and tasty, and less than half what it will cost at one of the overpriced eateries on the departure level or out by the gates. The only drawback is that there’s noplace to eat it, but this didn’t slow me down — I sat on the stairs outside, while everyone went by on the escalators.

2) The showers at Frankfurt airport. Terminal 1, Departure Hall B, outside security. Two each, male and female. Used to be 5 euros each though that might have changed. Nobody knows about these, which is a damn shame. If you’re travelling in Europe, you’ll have to spend some time in Frankfurt airport, so why not take the chance to freshen up?

3) The kids’ playroom at Budapest Ferhegy. Okay, I wouldn’t exactly call this a secret — it’s not hard to find — but it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen: a small indoor playground with a toy chest, free video games and a changing room. Weary parents and squirrelly kids alike will find this a blessed oasis. If only more airports had this!

Add your own.

323 Years of Caffeine

One of Thomas Barnett’s commenters complained about Europe being a cafe society, so why not some café-blogging? After all, the collectif antilibérale over at European Tribune had a whole thread on brasseries not so long ago. Der Standard has a long article on the history of Viennese kaffeehäuser, going back to 1683 and the second siege of Vienna.

First of all, a classic trope of European history-the fact everyone knows, but that turns out to be rubbish. Like King Canute telling the tide to back off (a little like keeping spam out of our comments threads, but I digress) – everyone remembers that, but hardly anyone realises that Canute did it to humble his courtiers with the limits of power, rather than in a gesture of deluded arrogance. Every schoolboy knows that one Georg Franz Kolschitzky was rewarded for sneaking through the Turkish lines with a message by being given a stash of coffee beans from captured stocks. Another version is that, after the relief of Vienna, he looted the beans from the Turks’ abandoned baggage train, or bought them for a song from a soldier who didn’t know their value.

The only problem is that it’s not true.
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Which side is your bread buttered?

When I lived in Vienna, in 2001-2002, I lived in the 11th District, Simmering, a roughish working-class suburb struck through with railway lines and motorway spurs. Specifically, I lived in one of the four huge brick gasometers of the former city gasworks, once Europe’s biggest, now redeveloped as a mixture of shops, flats and a concert hall.

One thing that cheered me, looking at the dire OVP-FPO government with its mixture of dishonest hacks and barely-contained racist scum, was that surely this provincialism was on the way out. With the enlargement of the EU, not only did Austria stand to make huge economic gains, but surely it would liven up a bit?

There was at least some evidence of change. Around the 11. Bezirk, huge infrastructure projects were going on. The railyards were being enlarged, all kinds of commercial property being built, new terminal buildings at the airport..everyone was looking forward to a good old fashioned concrete binge.
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David Irving: My Part in His Downfall

David Irving, as no doubt we all know, is beginning his new career as a jailbird, in the great grey walls of the Josefstadt prison next to the even greater and greyer Landesgericht between Vienna’s city hall and its university. Now, there are plenty of facile things to say about this: freedom of expression is vital, dammit!/Nazis must be suppressed!/What if he was a Muslim? But I hope to raise some others.

Total disclosure: I participated tangentially in Irving’s lawsuit against Deborah Lipstadt. At the time I was a student of the world Holocaust authority, Professor Peter Longerich, who was one of the team of historians who acted as expert witnesses under the direction of Professor Richard J. Evans. Whilst Longerich was known to be preparing for one of his court appearances, he asked me to borrow various works of reference from the Bedford Library at Royal Holloway for him. I was not pleased, some time later, when the librarians demanded I pay fines on the books, although Irving’s defeat was some relief.

Irving is a liar who deserves nothing but contempt. (Richard Evans’s book on the case is strongly recommended for detail.) It cannot go unremarked that he has always chosen to “challenge conventional wisdom”, in the charitable way people put it, in front of audiences who are both already converted to his point of view and willing to pay well for confirmation of theirs. His lecture circuit – mad US militias, western European fascists, apartheid South Africa – speaks for itself, as do those who admit to financing him.

And there’s the rub. In Britain, his nonsense might just be tolerable. But this is in a sense a luxury afforded by a lack of fascists. I can think of many countries where this is so:
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Vienna Skyline

A thought on my month in Vienna (in 1987).

A very nice clean safe city full of nice people. However there are two extremely ugly buildings in Vienna. I tried to find a photo googling Vienna skyline but they seem to have been carefully kept off the web. They are huge rectangular towers with no windows. They made me think of miniluv in Oceania circa 1984.

Finally a nice Viennese person explained to me that they were anti aircraft towers from WWII and that, since the weakest material in them was concrete and the rest was steel no one had any idea how to knock them down without smashing all the nice little Viennese buildings near them.

This is a minor problem in city planning. I had an Idea. The towers have plain flat surfaces which are boring. How about painting them white and projecting something on them ? Now this would be very public and unavoidable (as the plain concrete is at the moment). That means that films or something would be innappropriate.

I would advocate taking extremely high quality photos of great works of art and projecting them. Also photos of beautiful Austrian nature would be nice.

The idea is that too much municipal eye time would be monopolised by a mural,l so a changing non controversial photo display would be about right.