Tag Archives: european superiority

Classy Broad turned Wiener, Part II: My Favorite Things

These are a few of my favorite things (about Vienna):

1. Realizing that German was indeed a language that people do indeed use to communicate. Previously, I was unconvinced, but now I want to learn it.
2. Lederhosen: surprisingly sexy.
3. Don’t tell France I said so, but the wines I tasted in Vienna were yummy.
4. They like to eat in solaria.

Exhibit A: Palmenhaus, a café where the greenhouse effect is exploited with elegance.

Exhibit B: solarium at The Glacis Beisl.

5. You see the word “Wiener” everywhere.
6. The city provides lounge chairs in park spaces where you are allowed to walk on the grass. Ca n’existe pas en France.

Wien leight gut apparently means "Vienna lounges well."

7. The Viennese support the newspaper industry, both fiscally and physically. Cafés offer newspaper stands, and each paper is placed in an ingenious wooden holder. (Yes, I do plan to steal this idea when I open Classy Broads Café.)

Poll: Do I look more French or Viennese?

8. The Viennese are fiercely proud of their history. More so than other places in Europe, I found myself constantly thinking of how much history had taken place there. (I suppose the horses helped.)
9.  It caters to tourists in the most classy manner I can imagine. I don’t know about you, but I don’t mind being bombarded with Mozart.

Classiest tourist trap I've ever seen. I like to call it the Op-poo-ra.

10.  I’m lucky enough to have friends there.

Macalester '09 mini-reunion!

Classy Broad turned Wiener, Part I: Crisp apple strudels and schnitzel with noodles

To begin, as I always do, with my stomach…

One of my goals for Vienna was to eat my way through stereotypes. I’ve been singing so for years, and as it turns out, crisp apple strüdels and schnitzel with noodles really are a few of my favorite things.

Wienerschnitzel, served with a typical potato salad in a charming former wine cellar where we were serenaded by a violinist. Oh, Vienna!

To give you an idea of scale, this piece of meat was nearly as big as a sheet of paper.

Spetzel, made of seasonal leeks and served in a creamy cheese sauce. Fantastic. Tied with bratwurst (see below) for the best meal I ate in Austria.

Eis café. I love that the European interpretation of iced coffee involves not ice, but ice cream.

Apfel strüdel!

Roast pork with dumplings and kraut.

Spinach and feta strüdel served in a tomato sauce. (Austrian strüdel meets Greek spanikopitas.)

The best wurst! Hands down, no doubt, the best sausage I have ever eaten in my life. I'm sorry I can't telepathize the taste to each of my readers. There were wee bits of pumpkin seeds in the meat, which gave it a subtle nutty flavor. Unlike American ballpark brats, it wasn't salty and it didn't ooze grease.

Apfel strüdel from Freud's favorite café.

Next time on Classy Broad Abroad: a few more of my favorite things.

Fare well, fair welfare!

I’ve been meaning to post this for awhile, and now that I receive the rent reimbursement I am owed, I thought I might say something nice about a French administrative system for a change.

Yet another clear symbol of the differences between French and American politics: the welfare office I visit is on the nicest block in town. No joke. It’s located across a gorgeous pedestrian boulevard from a house that might as well be a castle and is probably almost as old.

This is the Caisse Allocations Familialles. (Or, in American terms, a Welfare/Section 8 office.)

And here is the castle across the street.

I’m fortunate enough never to have visited the Welfare office in the United States, but I’m confident in my assumption that it’s probably a lot like visiting the DMV, which is even worse than visiting the dentist or Purgatory. It’s definitely not on the same block as old mansions. (I know because I’ve lived on that block.)

In Angers, France, though, visiting the Welfare office is literally a walk in the park! (…until they demand paperwork.)

Damnsterdam! Day 4 (cont’d)

Day 4 (cont’d)
Everyone’s a Little Roxanne Sometimes

Among other vices Amsterdam is known for offering, one of the most unique is window prostitution. Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, so rather than making themselves—and their customers!—vulnerable on shady street corners, sex workers can rent a window from which to hawk their wares. As I said on Day 2, seeing prostitutes behind their windows is crazy weird at first, which is one of many reasons the Prostitution Information Center exists.

The PIC, established by a former sex worker, has a multifold purpose. It’s a gathering point where sex workers can find advice on things like taxes and healthcare, but it’s also a good stop for visitors who want some background on the Red Light District. (Or, if you’re into that kind of thing, advice on where your particular sex tourist desires can be satisfied.) You can ask questions and browse books and brochures, or, as I did, take a walking tour of the area.

I nearly turned down the walking tour because it cost 15€ ($20.31 US), but I decided that (a) it’s a donation to a quirky and inherently feminist nonprofit and (b) I can only be sure that I’ll be in Amsterdam once, so I should just carpe the freakin’ diem. I’m really glad I did. If you’re ever in Amsterdam on a Saturday afternoon, go to the Prostitution Information Center and take the walking tour.

Nearly all of the women who work at the PIC are former sex workers. Our guide was not, but she had written a thesis on the history of prostitution in Amsterdam. She told us about how the area has been known for “pleasures of the night” for centuries.

This church, the oldest in 'dam, was built with the mission of cleaning up the neighborhood. As you can see, it failed miserably. Women work from windows just behind the church.

Coming from the U.S., where sex workers are relegated to the shadiest street corners in the grittiest parts of town, I was surprised to learn that the RLD is some of the most sought-after real estate in Amsterdam. It makes a lot of sense, actually: the prostitutes have an interest in keeping the area desirable and safe so that they’ll have plenty of visitors and customers. The canal houses nearby sell for millions.

As a feminist, of course it bothered me to see hundreds of male tourists wandering drunkenly by, commenting on the women in the windows. But becauseI’m a feminist, I can’t stress strongly enough how preferable that system is to the shady street corner version of prostitution practiced nearly everywhere else in the world.

Prostitution has been around forever and probably always will be. To legalize it makes it safer for everyone involved. When prostitution is illegal, sex workers have no recourse if their customers abuse them or refuse to pay. Customers have no recourse if sex workers hurt or rob them. To prevent abuse, Amsterdam’s prostitution windows are equipped with panic buttons that go directly to the police. Furthermore, a window system empowers the prostitutes to be particular about their customers and to negotiate their terms. Consequently, HIV rates among Amsterdam’s sex workers are very, very low.

I’m not saying that prostitution seems awesome. Far from it. It’s still an undesirable job that the vast majority of women involved do for the money and only for the money. To feel sorry for them, though, is demeaning—remember, a minority of women do it because they like it. My guide told us that she knew a woman who kept working as a prostitute into her 80’s even though she could afford to retire ten times over.

Included in the price of the tour: posing for pictures in the window at the PIC!

In the 90 seconds or so I spent posing for the picture, at least a dozen passersby wondered why I was so clothed.

I’m still no fan of the icky males who outnumbered women four to one in the RLD, but after the walking tour, I couldn’t help but like the area anyway. It’s unique and exciting, and I appreciate the Dutch attitude of, “Hey, it’s going to happen anyway, so let’s be frank about it so we can generate tax and tourist revenue.”

Epilogue

When I told my dad that the RLD is prized real estate, he couldn’t believe it. “I wouldn’t want to raise my kids in a neighborhood like that,” he said, “and how could you invite guests over?” I understand his point, but here’s my counter.

While seeing prostitutes behind windows made me uncomfortable at first, it made me even more uncomfortable to come home to France and find this ad campaign plastered all over the Paris Metro and Angers bus stops. You can avoid the Red Light District if you want, but can’t avoid these ads.

This one is tame compared to a few others in the campaign. French ads are even worse for women than American ads, but that's a topic for another post entirely.

Okay, so the prostitutes behind windows are alive and the poster is merely an image, but I find the distinction irrelevant when the poster is so clearly designed to titillate the viewer. In another one from the same campaign, she’s even wearing a fetish mask. Imagine what pubescent boys are doing while they wait for the bus. Ew!

I wouldn’t want to be a prostitute, but I wouldn’t want to be that model, either. At least the prostitute gets paid every time she gets you off.

‘onk, ‘onk.

There is a car honking obnoxiously outside my window, which just made me realize that yet another one of the many things I like about France: I never hear car alarms.

No SUV’s and no car alarms: America, please take a lesson.