black cat, white cat

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As I mentioned in my previous post, we live in a gentrifying neighborhood of Vienna–an old working class district with a significant immigrant population. A third of the inhabitants of today’s Ottakring were born outside of Austria: about eleven percent speak Serbian, eight percent Turkish and more than four percent are native speakers of Croatian. There are numerous shops, restaurants and bars catering to the different communities–including several Turkish bakeries and an African and a Pakistani supermarket.

This colourful mix of cultures has attracted an increasingly visible young hip crowd. It is, nevertheless, the “Balkan” flair that is still one of the defining characteristics of our neighborhood. Last Tuesday, I heard lively brass band music playing in the street and I opened the window to realize that it was not some festival or a marching band but, in fact, a wedding: an Emir Kusturica movie come alive. Two brass bands played in front of the building of the bride as family members decorated a pimped-out Ferrari, which later led the car procession that included an RV. The bands played and guests danced in the middle of the street and, after a while, the bride and other family members joined them. It was, I think, a Serbian Roma wedding. More and more passers-by gathered in the street to watch: the mix of people who stopped and enjoyed the music was a cross-section of the population of our neighborhood. No one seemed to mind the blocked street and the traffic jam, even the UPS truck waited patiently.

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spring!

Spring is finally here. It feels like we have been magically transported from winter to summer overnight.

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Someone aired their winter clothes before storing them away for the summer in the yard of our Budapest building and the square under our Vienna window was instantly filled with life at the first sign of spring last week.

easter 1916

I love sifting through thrift stores, charity shops, antiquarian bookstores or any shop that sells used, vintage things with patina and history. One of my favorite such places in Budapest is Soós Fotó. They primarily sell second-hand cameras and photo equipment, but you can also find old photographs and postcards for pennies.

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This card–bought at Soós Fotó a few months back–is almost a hundred years old. It was posted in Weyer (Upper Austria) in April 1916 and features a postage stamp depicting emperor Francis Joseph. The stamp was designed by Koloman Moser, one of the leading artists of the Viennese Secession, to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the emperor’s reign in 1908. The card was sent to Miss Mitzi Paule in the Schottenfeldgasse in Vienna’s seventh district (not far from the Westbahnhof railway station and the Mariahilferstrasse shopping street) by her sibling–most likely a brother–and his family. He wished his sister, father and mother happy Easter and kindly reminded his sister of her promise, the nature of which will unfortunately remain a mystery forever.

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