This summertime business is all very well, but I have to say that I prefer winter. Having spent most of the long and hot months of June, July and August in my office cubicle in Vienna, except for two weeks on the beautiful Greek island of Crete, the pleasures of winter seem all the more distant and all the more acute.
Landlocked Vienna is not, despite the occasional pleasures of the Alte Donau, the best place in the world to be in summertime. There’s a distinct lack of pleasant open-air bars and cafés, for one thing, and it would be nice to be able to walk the streets of the 1st district without having to navigate one’s way through throngs of uncertainly pacing tourists. This particular summer is also notable for the fact that large parts of the city are currently being dug up and then laid down again, making life even more difficult than usual for pedestrians. I’ve given up any hope that the dusty wreckage of Landstrasse station will return to some semblance of normality in my lifetime, but maybe before the year is out Graben and Kärntnerstrasse will lose their current resemblance to a vast building site.
I’m also vexed by the question of clothing. An office drone like me has little choice but to wear a suit and tie all year round, which at 32°C is no fun I can tell you. Especially when you leave the office at lunchtime and are seduced by – how can I put this? – the competing distractions of summer fashion.
Sleeping in summer, meanwhile, presents its own unique set of challenges. The night-time hours are riven by conflict: too hot under the bedcovers, too cold without them. Getting to sleep on holiday is no easier, as I’ve recently been discovering. You have a choice between lying awake sweltering in the night-time heat, or lying awake listening to the incessant wheezy hum of the air conditioning unit. All told, I sleep far better in winter than I do in summer.
For me at least, winter can’t come soon enough. Let me dream of going to Peter Brötzmann concerts wearing my old, baggy black jumper, and of walking the streets feeling the satisfying crunch of virgin snow underfoot. Let the coldness of the air freeze my breath and make my cheeks and fingers tingle. Let me part the deep red curtains that guard the entrance to Café F———, and enter its warm embrace to settle down with the Guardian and the perfect melange. Let me dream of once again walking down Schönlaterngasse late at night and being the only person there.