Monday, December 20, 2010

A Magical Store, and other things

On Friday, I found Interspar.

First, let me explain a bit about grocery stores in Austria. There are a lot of corner markets (ours is called Spar, though some are even Gourmet Spar, which is more expensive!) which sell the basic things people need, you know, fruits, veggies, meat, etc. These markets are a bit more pricey, usually, but it's good when it's 14 degrees (fahrenheit) outside and I am in desperate need of eggs or chocolate. Then, there are the bigger budget stores (ours is called Hofer), which sell relatively few options at a pretty bad quality but at ridiculously low prices... we shop here often. There are also bigger grocery stores that sell normal grocery options in a much bigger selection, like Merkur, Billa, Eurospar (notice the Spar trend yet?) or Zielpunkt. Generally, we make a couple trips a week to the store so we can get the basics at Hofer and the day-to-day needs at Spar or wherever else (see Isaac's post about how to waste time, namely Tip #6).

However, on Friday I discovered the Target of Europe, and it threw me into hysteria.

Aufstrich! aka bread spread, my new love.
I'm not sure why it's taken me so long, but today while waiting for Jenni, I casually walked into Interspar about 3/4 of a mile from our house. This place was magic! I found sewing supplies, electronics, dishes, toiletries and of course of all the food options, all in abundance! Aufstrich of more than 2 flavors? Fantastic! A sizable meat counter? You betcha. Most importantly, I found floss - something our Spar doesn't have (plenty of denture glue, yes, but no floss. Really, guys? Do you not see the cause-and-effect as plain as day!?). I was blown away. I feel like I've been in denial about the real lives of Austrians. I mean, of course they need sewing supplies, and duct tape, and USB sticks... but these are things that I think I can only find in America. Anyway, as it turns out, people really are fundamentally the same, and need the same things in their lives, especially across the industrialized world. So why are we Americans all so fascinated by Europe...?

In other news, today we went on an adventure to Cobenzl, a wine area just outside of Vienna. We found a Christmas market (this is my... 9th Christmas market in Vienna? And probably my 20th total visit to Christmas markets) with lots of organic farmers market-esque things and a lot of snow. Yes, it's still freezing in these parts. I've literally never spent so much time somewhere so cold! My normal outfit consists of: two pairs of tights, two pairs of socks, warm boots, two wool sweaters, a hat, a scarf, gloves and a thick winter coat, and I'm still cold! I'm really missing the rainy Portland days. Anyway, at Cobenzl we had some lunch and found a sledding hill (!) so hopefully we can go back in January for some slidingly nice times.

Me, at Cobenzl. Pretty sky, no? Vienna is to the left, but it's cloudy.
The snow around here is beginning to cause some real problems. Airports all across Europe have been closing due to the ridiculous snow, and Frankfurt airport, where I'll be laying over, is basically closed too. Luckily, I don't leave until Thursday morning, so I'm hoping that all this mess gets cleared up so I can get home! I am absolutely eager to get out of here, though I still have about 10 lessons to teach before then. We've been listening to Christmas music and baking Christmas cookies and, well, it's making me ready to be at home. Only a few more days! I have no idea what life will feel like while I'm in America, but it'll be interesting to find out...

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