Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Austria-isms: The Conditioning of Air
Diplo-repost: 4th of July - it doesn't get more summer than this...makes me think of all those toasty days we had in Vienna...
Landed back in Vienna - out with the dollars and in the with euros. And while the humidity point is nowhere near that of DC, the temperature is roughly the same. So why does it seem harder to bear here? Well, that's simple, there is NO air-conditioning anywhere here. And no air circulation consequently either.
I never thought that I was really one that concerned with air conditioning until living in Vienna. In fact, when spending time in Southeast Asia during monsoon season, I would frequently take the fan cooled room over the air-conditioned one. Part of that was dictated by my student-era budget, but part was because I genuinely preferred it. But here, fans don't seem to be brought in either.
My husband - ever the diplomat - is constantly recycling his talking points about a country not qualifying for first-world status until all major public spaces are air-conditioned. While I don't think these views are winning us any European friends, I have to grudginly admit that on sweltering days, I agree. There is some kind of resistance to modernization hanging around town here, and regardless of what individual Europeans will promise to you while on holiday in the US, as a collective they do NOT all wear deoderant, regardless of what side of the Danube they're from. Heat + lack of circulation + lack of deoderant - paints a nice picture doesn't it?
In tribute to this anti-modernization campaign that they are running, I've delineated my top 5 places I can't believe aren't air conditioned:
1. The Vienna Airport - just reminded myself of this one right after landing - no air conditioning and no air circulation but lots of people. Very pleasant.
2. The gym - this is the one that baffles me beyond belief since it's openly full of sweaty people (most working out in black socks - perhaps to create more sweat?) When we took a tour of our gym, which is no bargain in terms of fees, we asked about air conditioning given how warm it gets in the summer. The gym manager informed us that "we have air gemeingeshaftgecirkullationengeshifte system". Um, what is that?? After a lot of hemming and hawing and explaining in broken english that it's a system that re-circulates air, we came to the quick conclusion that there is is not. He then asked us "why would we have that?". Perhaps he should visit his gym at 10 am on a 80 degree day and ponder on the answer himself. In black socks. They also refuse to open the windows and only have one fan in the whole work out floor so as not to cause a draft. Sigh.
3. The opera - or any other cultural venue. The Life Ball Cotillion at the Burg Theater made it abundantly clear why there is not a summer performance season. When the favor is paper fans and all guests are waving around at least three emphatically, that should be a sign.
4. The grocery store - one quick pass through meats and fish section will turn you into a vegetarian into October.
5. Cabs - in DC there is often a resistance to use air-conditioning by many cabbies, preferring to roll down all four windows and keep the trunk open rather than turn it on and protect your hairstyle, but here many cabs claim that they don't even have it. At this point, given that often the driver is a deoderant offender, I usually just move on down the cab line until someone at least claims they have it. It takes on average about three cabs.
Perhaps the most interesting is that the Hofburg Palace - build in the 1600's DOES have it so it can be done, contrary to what Viennese will tell you. It's just a question of will.
Welcome back home to me!