Things I missed about Graz
I just got back from two months in the States; there seem to be so many things I have gotten used to here, even though I’ve only been a Grazer for nine months. Some of them are:
1) Civilized Urban Bicycling. Where I come from in the States, it is not unheard of for a passing driver to swerve toward a bicyclist or even throw a bottle or a piece of trash at him. Somehow drivers resent us bike riders on “their” roads. Here in Graz everyone rides bikes: Omas and Opas, businessmen and women, kids, street people. There are plenty of bike lanes, and drivers are usually quite patient and accomodating. It is one of life’s great pleasures to ride a bike through Graz on a pleasant summer day.
2) Civilized Urban Drivers. Again, American drivers are crazy MFs; they drive through red lights, speed, tailgate, honk their horns, yell and flip other drivers off. I became hyper-aware of the anger, rage, and impatience on the roads there. Rude, just rude. Now, Graz drivers are no angels but you won’t usually find city drivers so rude and impatient–that is, unless, they are driving a big sedan with a German license plate on the back-but, hey, they’re not Austrian.
3) Street Cafe Culture. Austrians seem to like nothing better than to plunk their butts down on a streetside cafe chair, take out their cigarettes, order a coffee and sit for hours talking about all manner of things. (I am assuming it is intelligent, cultured conversation but since my German sucks, it may just be gossip and bad jokes.) No one rushes them to move on, things are just very chill. Relax, watch the people, talk to your neighbors, eat an ice cream, and have another smoke. In the U.S., we’ve got to move those customers on so we can make more money on that table. Ugh.
4) European woman love high heels. I swear women here seem to love wearing high heels…everywhere: the mall, the park, work, school, walking down the street. American women like running shoes, sandles and flats–only wearing high heels on dressy occassions. Hey, I am sure it is uncomfortable but heels look darn good. Dankeschoen.
5) Other things: inexpensive super-quality cheese, beer and produce; Tribeca coffee; efficient public transportation; the green countryside; quiet Sundays; Spaziergehen; the Library.
6) What I missed most: my wife.
7) Things I didn’t miss at all: Austrian radio, German TV, smoking everywhere, no really good organic grocery stores, no real good vegetarian restaurants (sorry Mangolds), crummy Chinese food. And that certain kind of wonderful, crazy American energy that makes all things seem possible. Sometimes it is a little hard to step out of the box here in Austria and not have everyone yelling at you to get back inside.