If it wasn’t for the birdsong, it’d be perfectly quiet here in Donaustadt. Preparing my cup of English Breakfast tea, I look out the kitchen window at the neighbours in their kitchen doing pretty much the same thing, probably thinking the same thing too: please let there be some milk in the fridge. There is: “Clever milk”. Remember when milk was just something you put in your tea and on your cornflakes, and wasn’t trying to make your kids smarter or help you lose weight? No-one else is up yet. I take my cuppa back down to the basement and read more about Vienna, where we arrived yesterday lunchtime. Tina and the kids are still asleep, but my body’s clock is still set to Australian Eastern Standard Time.
Everything I’ve done since getting up this morning is more or less as I’d do it at home. But from today until the end of the month, this pebble-dashed townhouse in Donaustadt is our home. We’ve swapped living in a house in Rosewall Street, near Mount Gravatt, in the outskirts of Brisbane, for living in a house in Hausfeldstraße, near the Danube, in the outskirts of Vienna. (Donau is the German for Danube, so Donaustadt means Danube City.) Our quarters here comprise the basement of the house, which is spacious and private, and the family – Paul, Silvia, and their two kids – who live here come and go above us, unheard as the rain on the roof. As I write this they’re gone, gone to work and to school, leaving us alone and feeling like lords of the manor, Kaisers of the Schloss.
Considering this is a HelpExchange (‘HelpX’) arrangement however, our leisurely reign will last about as long as an unsold ticket for the Neujahrskonzert (New Year’s Eve concert) der Wiener Philharmoniker (of The Vienna Philharmonic) in der Staatsoper (in the State Opera House). We’re being allowed a day’s grace period to recover from the twenty-two hour, three-flight odyssey we undertook to get here, after which we’ll have to start earning our keep.
For our part, we had our HelpXers back in Brisbane do a fair bit of house painting not two months ago in the character-building humidity of January, so we can’t complain if we get a dose of our own medicine here. But it doesn’t look too onerous though: Silvia ran through the list of things we’ll have to do around the house, and nothing jumped out as being particularly painful. In fact, as for one of the jobs, playing board games in French with their kids – well, I can imagine worse things to do in the evening. So it’s not looking like there’ll be any help exchange karma coming our way for the time being.
And so today we’re left to our own devices, and we have a plan. When I was sweating it out in Queensland in January, reading about things to do in Vienna in March, the prospect of taking part in the tradition (for the last twenty years, anyway) of ice skating in front of Vienna Town Hall was intoxicating to consider. It’s how the idea of a beer must have seemed to the poor, sunburnt so-and-sos in Ice Cold in Alex. So today, Wiener Eistraum at the Rathausplatz is where we’re headed, before they decommission the ice park for the year, later this week, and switch off the magic. We have it all sussed out. And then, after all that, limbs aglow with the cold and the exertion – well, ok, only the kids will do any skating; we’re on a budget here – we’ll head back to the Gemütlichkeit (cosiness) of our very own place in someone else’s house.