Saturday, July 18, 2009

Austrian Observations

Generally speaking, Austria is quite similar to what I'm used to in Canada, but, of course, different, and not just because all the signs are in German. A few brief notes:
  • Smoking: Everywhere, that is. I don't know if there exists the concept of a "no smoking" section in Austria, but I have yet to discover it. Sure, you can't smoke on trains or on buses, but it's been only a year or so since smoking was banned in most areas of hospitals. It's possible that the Landeskrankenhaus Innsbruck is behind larger centres. Of course, since many on the surgical floor still smoke, the compromise was to put smoking lounges just off the OR hallway (I had forgotten just how awful smoke is in very confined spaces). It's not really airtight, though, so the scent of smoke tends to waft down the hallway.

  • Shopping hours: Sunday shopping? Evening shopping? Like, after 7pm? Forget about it! Not possible, and even the local video store near me closes at 10pm weeknights. I'm sure some of the more touristy places in the Innsbruck Altstadt are open Sundays, but they sure aren't open in the evening. This would be a lot more inconvenient if my schedule was tighter, but fortunately I'm pretty much always done by mid-afternoon.

  • Free lunches: Self-explanatory, and applies both on the OR floor and in the main hospital cafeteria. The food isn't great, but it gets the job done, so to speak.

  • Coffee machines: Coffee vending machines, I should say. It tends to be expensive to buy coffee from bakeries, bars, restaurants, or coffee shops, as a small cup (about the same size as a Tim's small) will run you about 2 euros. Despair not, however, as you can get a cup of about the same size and quantity from a vending machine for 50 or 75 euro cents. Very reasonable, not to mention fast!

  • Trains, trams, and buses: Fast, convenient, everywhere. Even Innsbruck, population just under 120,000, has an efficient bus and tram network (good for me since I take the bus at least once daily). I seldom wait more than about five minutes; the outside might be ten. There are night buses too, though I haven't taken any as of yet. Vienna similarly has an extensive public transit network: U-bahn, tram, bus. Innsbruck makes the buses in Halifax seem slow and inconvenient... which they are. Rail is the other issue here; you can take the train everywhere and it's reliable and comfortable. They'll even apologize if it's 15 minutes late (the norm for Via Rail!). While the train can be a bit on the pricey side, it makes day tripping very easy. (Concerning Italian trains, while they are not remotely pricey, let's just reiterate that one should never trust a bargain too much...)

  • Language: In light of my less than stellar German skills, I've had an okay time managing here, primarily because most people seem to have some command of English. I'm working on improving, but it's slow-going, despite being surrounded by the language all the time. Arguably just as challenging is the local Tiroler accent, considered "quite strange" by some Viennese. I can probably get by simply by knowing "bitte schön", "genau", and "past".

I suppose that's all for now. Pictures to come later. Bis später!


Ladyjutea said...

Speaking of trains, did you hear that VIA is on strike right now? How the hell am I supposed to get home for 2 weeks in bloody August? Must I resort to crappy buses? Please tell me nay!

Josh said...

I've heard that the last strike only went for a week or a couple days - so maybe it will be similar? At least there was notice. We found out about the Italian strike about an *hour* before we were supposed to be leaving.

Trains in Europe, though, are almost infinitely better developed. The station in Innsbruck is almost certainly several times busier than Union Station, and the München Hauptbahnhof was absolutely bustling even on Saturday evening. (I have pictures :))