Occasionally, when you live abroad in a place very different to the one you grew up in, you get a bit fed up of it and you start yearning for something different. It can be anything that starts to niggle at you; the entertainment, the physical environment, the people, or the food. On this one particular Saturday, having reached the point of schnitzel saturation, I had had enough of Austrian food. When the issue of where to have lunch came up, I was adamant that I didn’t want to set foot in a place selling Austrian food with its greasy hunks of meat and sloppy potato salad which looks like a big splat on a plate. I needed to be somewhere that felt international and to eat something different. So we headed to the Brunnenmarkt, a big market in the 16th district of Vienna. I had heard about it from students and had overheard many complaints about that area in general because it has turned into a mini-Istanbul, all Turkish and no German. Perfect, we thought. I’ve never been to Turkey. So we headed down and yes it did feel different, the people were different, the price of the veg was cheaper, there was more of a buzz in the air because the people are less reserved than Austrians, the hot food stalls sold different food. We snacked on something I couldn’t catch the name of, something like a big hot pancake filled with spinach and feta and delicately spiced and gorgeous. However it wasn’t as Turkish as I’d been led to believe. The area was dotted with Austrian cafes and cake shops that were still doing a good trade and there were lots of Austrians there, shopping, eating and trading from their own cheese, meat and flower stalls. It was good to see that not everyone resents the ethnically different feel to the place like I thought because it does seem that out of all the immigrants in Vienna, the Turkish are the least liked. I have encountered lots of Turkish students who, having grown up here, state quite sadly that ‘Austrians are not polite’ and many had experienced negativity whilst growing up. I think Vienna needs to get over it; it is after all a capital city and capital cities thrive as multicultural hubs; they drive progress and globalism and most of all, add interest and flavour and life to a city. The main complaint about the Turkish is that they don’t integrate. But I wonder how is opening a market stall open to do business with any customer not integrating? And why would Turkish people speak German with each other? It wouldn’t make sense.
At the end of the long strip of market stalls is Yppenplatz, a wonderful square which is alive during sunny weather. It was just what I’d wanted; a place in Vienna that felt really international. There were cafes like you’d find in Paris, funky cafes like you’d find in any modern city, Greek places, Turkish places, Indian places, sea food places and wine bars selling local wine. It was packed with every kind of person and loads of Austrians which shows that a bit of an international mindset can bring everyone together and help you travel without the cost of a flight ticket. I was happy to chow down on lamb skewers with cardamom rice, succulent courgettes, tzatziki and loads of fresh salad with not a sloppy potato salad in sight.
I was feeling all warm and fuzzy as I took photos of Yppenplatz square; that was until a woman who walked in the way of one of my photos started talking to me in German, very fast German. When I said I didn’t understand she shrugged, looked angry, looked to the sky for the words then loudly and proudly said, in English, “English is bullshit!”
“Okay then,” I said, promptly turning round, thinking “move along”. My international bubble was burst. Perhaps it will always be like that for the Auslander abroad, anywhere abroad; always being reminded from the outside as well as the inside that you are different. She was entitled to her opinion, but not entitled to dump it on me so rudely, and unprovoked too. But I have a choice over how to respond. It was just the action and opinion of one person and not representative of the majority, so I decided not to retaliate against Vienna. The next day I was back on the goulash and feeling more sympathetic towards the humble schnitzel.
For more info on Brunnenmarkt: