There is a well known book of short stories about an American platoon of soldiers in the Vietnam War titled, "The Things They Carried". This blog post has nothing to do with that.
This blog also has nothing to do with the picture below either, except that it's a sign displayed outside of a nearby restaurant, and I'm dying to know what Kitchen Dust is.
Rather, this blog post is a list of the things that Jacob and I have dragged across the city, onto buses, off of trams, and down the sidewalks in an attempt to acquire household items without the use of a car. These are the things we have carried across Vienna:
1. A Vacuum Cleaner
The vacuum cleaner was actually a mini miracle. After having acquired 4 carpets, I was getting really annoyed with my medieval method of sweeping, beating, or shaking the carpets to clean them. After spending weeks talking about purchasing a vacuum, we finally decided that we would go after work to spend €90 on a cheap (but hopefully effective) vacuum cleaner. As I put on my coat to leave work that afternoon, I mentioned to my colleague that I was going to buy a vacuum cleaner.
"How about I just give you one?", she said. As it turns out she had recently purchased a new vacuum and stuck the old one, still in working condition, in her cellar. She would bring it to work the next day. And, she said, this vacuum would be nicer than our €90 one - it wasn't worth buying a vacuum unless you were willing to spend the money for a good one.
She brought it to work the next day and I carried it home via the metro during rush hour, keeping it by my feet like a suitcase and avoiding eye contact with peeved commuters. Once home, Jacob and I immediately plugged it in and took turns vacuuming while the other watched the carpet become miraculously clean. That, I have decided, is when you know you are an adult: you get excited about a vacuum.
2. A Christmas Tree
I've already mentioned this one to you in the past, but it certainly ranks on the list of things we have carried. We saw plenty of people driving around with Christmas trees strapped to the top of their cars, but never once did we see another person carry a tree onto a tram. Granted, we did our Christmas tree American-style, meaning we acquired it weeks before a normal Austrian even considered purchasing a tree. Had we waited for the normal time we would have been able to walk our tree home from the nearest public square - but we also would have paid 3 times as much for it. Instead, our quest for a Christmas tree took us through a shady industrial area and under a freeway, then back through said shady area and onto a tram - Christmas tree in tow.
3. A Freezer
We knew we would have to get a freezer at some point. Our refrigerator is half size (or dorm sized), with a little pocket of a freezer in the top. Thankfully European food shopping habits (frequently, making small trips) mean that our refrigerator size isn't a problem, but the freezer size is. When I saw on Facebook that someone was selling a freezer for €30, I jumped on the opportunity to buy it.
Thankfully the lady selling her freezer lived relatively close by - just one district away, close enough that we could walk there just as fast as we could take public transportation. We arrived at the apartment and were ushered up to the 4th floor. The freezer was empty, and we finagled it out of the apartment and into the elevator. "Careful not to shake it too much", she said as I half dropped it on my foot. Great. Not only did we now need to carry a freezer home, but there was a possibility we could break it.
The freezer smelled like curry.
We carried it between the two of us, Jacob walking backward, taking breaks every five minutes or major road crossing. We crossed one road and set down the freezer on the other side, only to hear a commotion from the street corner we had just crossed from - a fight had broken out, two men beating each other up while a girl scratched at them and two Hop On Hop Off bus tour employees tried to break it up. If we still had been on that corner we could have jumped in and rammed them with our freezer.
Finally we were on the home stretch, taking the shortest route through the busy Christmas Market and hoping people would step out of our way (not something that can be taken for granted here).
The freezer is now happily settled in our apartment, working like a dream, and no longer smelling like curry. It was worth the journey.
4. A Set of 4 Chairs
Several months ago Jacob and I had acquired much of our basic household furniture - with the exception of chairs. Chairs, we decided, are somewhat of a necessity. Having tracked down the chairs we wanted at a store that *gasp* wasn't Ikea, we set off to purchase them. The store was set up like an Ikea rip-off, just with worse style. The chairs were a gem though. We purchased the chairs and were promptly handed a receipt and the information on where to pick them up. Apparently, they were not located within the store.
The next day we looked up the warehouse where we were to pick up the chairs. It was further away than expected. We took a train out to one of the outer districts, then trekked down the side of a busy street to the DMV-style furniture warehouse. We gave the lady at the desk our information and were pointed to a room where we could wait for our number to appear on a screen. Once our number appeared, we exited the building and walked down a ramp to the loading dock. Clearly this was not a place meant for well intentioned people arriving on foot. In the midst of the vans and trucks we walked up to our gate, and were met with four awkwardly large and heavy boxes. Awesome.
It took us over an hour and four types of transportation to get home (walking, bus, tram, and metro), at the end of which my forearm muscles were ready to burst.
Thankfully, we like our chairs.
5. A Carpet
Vienna has a network called Wilhaben that is very similar to our American Craigslist. Wilhaben truly is a beautiful thing, and there are a lot of gems to be found on the site - particularly because Vienna tends to be a very transient city. The downside however, is that any purchase we consider making begs the very serious question of "how will we get it home?". Sometimes however, something so beautiful and well priced appears that we cannot turn it down: like a large handmade Persian rug that *gasp*, doesn't come from Ikea. Fortunately the lady lived only a few streets from us, making the ordeal of carrying a large rolled up carpet through the streets look a little less like we were transporting a dead body.
6. More Carpets, Many Ikea Items and a Bucket of Paint
When it comes down to it however, our apartment would barely be furnished were it not for Ikea. We love that place. How do people survive without it? There are two Ikeas within range of Vienna, though both require a series of transportation modes in order to get there. We have purchased two carpets from Ikea, as well as a series of other large, heavy, and awkward to transport objects such as large picture frames, a filing cabinet, potted plants, and a wall shelving unit. We also bought a bucket of paint from the home repair store next door.
Thankfully, when it comes to bringing home Ikea items in any way possible, we are just one of many in the club. It makes it somewhat less awkward to walk onto a bus with a filing cabinet in tow when the next person is dragging on a bedside table, lampshade, and a bag of Swedish meatballs.