People have an image of wintry Vienna that isn’t quite accurate. I think because Austria is such a mountainous country, and maybe also because Vienna is at such a northern latitude, the popular image of Vienna in the winter includes a lot of snow.
In reality, Vienna averages less snow per year than my previous home in the Washington, DC area. (Vienna is colder, on average, than DC, but we just don’t get nearly as much precipitation at any part of the year.)
When we do get snow in Vienna, though, they know how to handle it (although they think they don’t — they say they handle it horribly). Nothing closes. The trains and buses still run on time (or pretty close — better than a normal day on Metro). The roads get sanded, gravelled and plowed. The sidewalks get gravelled and shoveled. Life goes on, pretty much as usual.
And then, the temperatures come up a bit, everything turns into a wet, yucky mess and the snow that has piled up on the roofs starts to melt and slide off. The sloped roofs, combined with very narrow streets and sidewalks, leads to a pretty stressful situation if you’re walking, biking or driving around.
There are these helpful little signs that spring up all over the city, which say “Dachlawine” (roof avalanche). They’re stuck to red poles that stick out at an angle from the wall and they’re set so as to discourage anyone from walking immediately beneath the overhang of the building. That way, when the inevitable happens and the snow slides off, it’s less likely that there’s anyone walking underneath.
In the past week, a lot of snow fell in Vienna (the most in nearly 20 years) and today was the first day with temperatures staying long above freezing, so the avalanches have been falling. Sitting here, in my top floor apartment, I occasionally hear the “fumph” of a section of snow sliding off the roof. And earlier, when I was out, walking around, I was distracted by constantly stealing glances up at the roof edges to see what was waiting to fall.
It’s kind of stressful to be constantly wary roof avalanches as you’re out and about after a snowfall. Just another part of winter in Vienna, though. (I’m at least grateful that they have the signs.)