For Love of Food on a Sunday

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I come from Pennsylvania and am well-associated with what we call “Blue Laws,” or laws that restrict sales of certain items at particular times. Usually, this would encompass alcohol on Sundays or something. Well, Austria one-ups even Europe’s famous early-closings. As we have come to find, all shops and food stores are closed on Sundays and designated holidays. Try to buy a bit of meat: no go.

It is a bit crazy, in our humble opinions. Of course, the restaurants are all open on Sundays, which, coming from the U.S., usually indicates the presence of “lobbying” of the national government by restaurant owners! The situation, of course, presents problems when one does not plan ahead. After being out in the countryside all day on Saturday and returning too late to buy any food, we woke up on Sunday and decided to see if we could get any groceries. As it turns out, there are a few food markets open, primarily at train stations in order to cater to the needs of travelers. We ventured off to at 11AM on a Sunday morning, not knowing what to expect.

What a madhouse! Imagine the entire city of Vienna attempting to get groceries for the day from the only open supermarket in the city. You get my picture. Lines of 50 people. We had Sampson in tow for the ride/walk, so I waited outside the market while my wife went in to get some items. Here is where people-watching becomes fun.

I had a good 35 minutes to kill while she was in getting food, so the dog and I were chilling outside the market but inside the train station near the entrance. First item to notice: the people coming out of the supermarket, after having waited in line for 30 minutes, with random things. We are talking people walking out with a roll of paper towels and two bottles of water. That was really worth it? Or, there was the couple that came out with a bottle of soda in a Billa (the supermarket chain) bag. Seriously, one could have had a soda and two refills at a restaurant in the time it took them to get that. But, I guess if you really need soda….

That aspect was amusing but not wholly unexpected. The real fun part was happening just outside the train station. There stood two circles of people, mostly men, hanging out and drinking beer after beer. As good of a way to kill a rainy Sunday as any, it seems. A steady stream of them would be going into the grocery store to buy their single beers and bring them back out to the group. There was certainly the presence of that unique bonding that takes place around alcohol: no money to buy food but I’ll gladly buy my buddy a beer. It became apparent that the only reason these fellas were hanging out here was so that they could get quick access to cheap beer. Not a unique goal, perhaps.

The two groups had completely different dynamics, as well. One was a group of seeming professionals just enjoying being away from the wives on a Sunday morning. The other was the rowdy group, a bit shaggier. The two groups would occasionally interact, but the more reserved group seemed content to entertain itself. The rowdy group, however, was not capable of such self-appeasement. It had to resort to harassing the security guards over obvious matters. The group was not allowed inside the doors with their beverages, as the rules laid down by the security guards seemed pretty clear. Even still, it appeared to cause these guys a lot of heartache. Plenty of crude signs and language was being thrown the way of the security guards who just wanted to have a lazy Sunday with guns on waists doing nothing. It was an odd dynamic, but by the time my wife had returned with groceries, 35 minutes later, it was readily apparent that this was just something to do on a Sunday. That night, more “enriched” our Sunday market experience in Vienna and complete with our fresh grocery bag, we had a great dinner.

Maybe they just need the NFL here.

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