New stroller

We went looking for a new stroller last night.  Since we had success there last year, we decided to go back to the same shop.  Unfortunately, there’s a laundromat there now, with no sign of the stroller store.  (Their website is still up & running and still lists that address as their only location, so I’m thinking they went out of business, but their web address is still paid up.)

It is so much easier to get things done with a stroller, and with our ski trip coming up later this week, we really wanted to get one as soon as possible.  (Certainly, we could do the ski trip without a stroller, but managing the trip to the train station, at least, would be so much simpler, so I’d rather have one.)  So, we did a quick Internet search and stopped by another shop, Dohnal, Haus des Kindes, which is actually much closer to our house.

They had a surprisingly good stroller selection, although nearly all of them high end.  Part of that is the store, but part of it is just Europe.  People spend a lot of money on strollers here.  The fanciest, most expensive strollers in the US are very commonplace here, and they just don’t have many less costly options.  In this particular shop, there were only two strollers — not two types, two actual strollers — under 200 Euros.  (Do the conversion to be truly horrified.)  Most of the options are in the 300-600 Euro range, with quite a few in the 700-900 Euro range.  Almost anything that isn’t an umbrella stroller will be over 300 Euro.  (As a side note, the double strollers here are roughly the same price as they are in the US, meaning that you can get a double stroller here for only a little bit more than a single of the same variety.)  Benjamin immediately fell in love with a Maclaren which was lovely (and one of the least expensive in the shop at 240 Euro) but being an umbrella stroller, it was a challenge to use one-handed.  That’s something I do a lot (one child rides while the other walks and holds my hand, leaving only one hand for stroller pushing) so it wouldn’t work.

We looked at a few others, but we were ultimately stumped.  Nothing seemed to quite fit our needs and price range, starting with the problem of needing the stroller to work for B — most strollers here go up to 15 kg only, and that’s just where B is now.  (Which is another interesting thing about Europe — they spend a ton on strollers, but almost no stroller will hold a child over the age of 4, so they aren’t making a long-term investment.)  I didn’t want to compromise and get something more frustrating than helpful, given that the stroller is the single piece of baby equipment that we use most (aside from the kids’ beds).

008We decided to go home and check out the selection on to investigate our options.  After an hour or so of looking and comparing, we had narrowed it down to 3 good options.  Only one of those 3 was available at the local shop, and since we really wanted to get it before our trip this weekend, we went for that one.  Interestingly, it’s the exact same stroller we have in double form, only as a single — a Baby Jogger City Mini (this time, in red, since that is B’s favorite color).

I’m happy with it.  It’s a little bigger and heavier than the Chicco we had, but much sturdier.  It still has a basket underneath for stuff, and I can use it easily with one hand.  And, as a plus, it’s a real jogging stroller, so it should be very functional for walking and running.  So far, both kids have been thrilled by it, but neither has actually gone for a ride in it yet.  I can’t wait to take it out for a spin myself . . . and I hope this one lasts a little longer than its predecessor.

Bull in a stroller shop

Last November, our trusty stroller, which we had gotten before Benjamin was born, broke and had to be replaced.  Taking on a task like selecting and purchasing a new stroller, in German, and with a nearly unrecognizable selection of styles and models, was a pretty massive challenge.  Liam was just barely one, though, so we didn’t really have an option — we weren’t going to easily make it through the rest of our time here (especially without a car) without a convenient “single” stroller to complement our very functional, but also very bulky, double stroller.

Well, it’s happened again.  Our “new” stroller broke today, and we’re suddenly in the market for a new one.  Again.

I blame Dan (almost) entirely.  He’s pretty rough on strollers.  His mentality is, “if it won’t go, just push it harder”.  He was rough on the first one, and then again on this second one.  It lasted just over a year.

Granted, because we are without a car, and we walk everywhere, it had a year of very intense use.  That stroller travelled with us to 6 different countries, on trains, busses, planes, trams and in the trunks/boots of various cars.  It went to the top of a mountain in the Alps and to the top of the Eiffel Tower.  It’s been busy.  And, through all of it, the daily concussion of the cobblestones, as well as the all-too-often misjudged curb heights (which cause us to slam our entire moving weight onto the handle), were probably the most destructive.

But, whatever the cause, here we are again — a highly stroller-dependent family without an easy stroller to use.  The stroller shops aren’t open again until Monday, so we’ll go shopping then.  On the plus side, Liam, who is now over 2, is much more mobile without one (although we’re not quite yet to the point of not needing one at all).  I’m sure we’ll find something good.  In the meantime, it’s a lot of walking (and carrying of children) for everyone.  Curses to Dan and his cavalier stroller attitude!  (Actually, I’ll cancel the curses, and just make him carry the kids.  That’ll work.)

Stroller shopping

Yesterday, our stroller died.  Trying to lift it up into the restaurant where we went for dinner, the whole top section, including the handle and the place where the top of the canopy attaches, snapped off.  As frustrating as it was for that to be the beginning of our “Thanksgiving” dinner, I was immensely grateful that it broke in such benign circumstances, not while crossing the street, getting onto or off of a train, or while being carried up or down stairs — all of which are daily occurrences here.  We had that stroller for over 3 years, it carried both of our children on two continents, and it served us very well.  I’m very sad to see it go.  But, much as it’s too bad to be without our daily stroller (and it made getting home last night a little tricky) it really could have been much worse.

I used that stroller every day to carry Liam to Benjamin’s school for pick-up time, as well as for my daily walks around the city.  We have a larger double stroller, but it doesn’t fit easily into our elevator, and is a little big for every day use on the train, so we really needed to get something new . . . preferably before Monday morning.  So today, we shopped.

This is another one of those things that would be a little frustrating at home (“I didn’t really plan to spend my Friday morning stroller shopping, but no big deal, let’s go to Babies R Us and pick up a new one”) but is really daunting here.  We didn’t have the first idea of where to go or what would be available (we can’t really wait for an ordered one to arrive).  We also haven’t shopped for a single stroller in over 3 years, so we weren’t really even sure what was out there, or whether the brands we know would exist here.  We also knew it was possible, if not likely, that wherever we went, we’d be conducting the entire transaction in German — this is another one of those things people don’t really do when they’re on the tour (“Oh, we’re visiting Vienna, let’s buy a stroller!” doesn’t seem to come up a lot).

The internet helped us out — I found a website that recommended a few places for stroller shopping, and we opted to check out the one that offered used as well as new strollers, and even advertised that they could do some stroller repairs.  So, this morning, we headed out to Kinderwagen Sedlak to to some shopping.  (Note: as of January 2013, this shop has gone out of business.)

036They weren’t able to repair our stroller (which didn’t surprise us) and after a bit of looking around, we settled on a new Chicco stroller.  It has a lot of storage underneath (essential, as we’ve been spoiled by our Graco), can be steered with one hand (which I do every day — because when you’re crossing the street with the stroller and a preschooler, the stroller can’t use up both of your hands), will fit in our elevator (it’s actually a bit smaller than the Graco was) and came with a bunting and a rain cover (neither of which we had for the Graco).  This particular one doesn’t seem to be available in the States, so I’d never heard of it.  It’s orange, which couldn’t be more opposite of our black & beige Graco, but it will stand out in a crowd.  The wheels are smaller than the Graco, which means we’re having to adjust to it being a least a little harder to hop up on curbs and trains.  Its smaller size makes it a little tougher to get on and off of trams, but it weighs less and takes up less space on the train itself, so that evens out, but I wonder how long Benjamin is going to be comfortable in it.

I think it was a good purchase, and we managed to buy it without spending a ton of money, and we did it using our German (the saleswoman spoke almost no English except for “rain cover”).  Both Liam and Benjamin have ridden in it so far and seem to like it — Liam fell asleep in it on the way home from the store, which I take as an endorsement.  It’s another one of those little victories in our big adventure.

Austrians and elevators

On the whole, Austrians are courteous, helpful and generally polite when I encounter them out in public.  People seem to generally do what they’re supposed to do (throw their trash in the trash cans, sit where they should on the train, give up their seat to someone older or less able than themselves, hold doors, cross at crosswalks, etc.).

The example I get to experience, frequently, is how helpful they can be with a stroller.  The trains are generally set up to work well with strollers — there’s designated stroller parking areas on the trains, and doors that are marked which are stroller accessible (generally, but not always, they’ll even accommodate our double stroller) and all of the underground trains are accessible by elevator.

Every so often, though, an elevator might be out of service.  And although I prefer to travel up and down by elevator, I will use an escalator in a pinch — but not every station has an escalator going down, and often the staircase is too long to try to manage a stroller on my own down a flight of stairs (what’s possible isn’t always safe).  And some of the trams and out-of-town trains have several steps up to get inside.  Both can be difficult, if not impossible, to manage with a stroller.  100% of the time that I’ve run in to a difficult situation I have had one or more complete strangers offer to assist by helping me carry the stroller up or down the stairs, helping us on or off the tram or helping us carry excess stuff that isn’t easy to manage on an escalator.  (I had one particularly memorable situation where I had Liam in the stroller, B on his bike and the elevator was broken.  I had no idea what I was going to do — I simply didn’t have enough hands to get everyone safely up the escalator.  But then a woman who had just come down the escalator I was trying to go up stopped and offered to help.  She carried the bike while I managed the stroller and Benjamin — and she even missed her train to do it.)  This kind of kindness is a normal part of daily life here in Vienna.  I’m still a little surprised when it happens, but people generally count on it, and it is incredibly reliable.  I am incredibly grateful for this help when I need it, and truly impressed by the culture of responsibility and thoughtfulness that has created it.

But this leaves me all the more perplexed by the behavior I see regarding Austrians and elevators.  Every single day, I see people go out of their way to walk to take an elevator when they could, more easily and more quickly, have taken an escalator or the stairs.  They will wait for the elevator to come (the elevators here aren’t usually very fast) and pack themselves in.  There are signs on the elevators stating that priority is to be given to strollers, people in wheelchairs, and the elderly, but no one seems to care.  I have, on several occasions, been pushed aside so that seemingly fit people can take the elevator that they had to walk out of their way to get to.  (I’ve seen wheelchairs pushed aside, too.)  Generally, the people here don’t shrink away from physical activity, and the sense of courtesy and responsibility seems so strong that I just can’t make sense of this one weird little thing.  It just seems so out of character based on everything else I experience here, but it’s also remarkably pervasive.  (I wonder if it’s related to the dislike of waiting in lines that seems to be common here, too.)

I am impressed and amazed by the amount of kindness and help I’ve gotten here when I need it — it’s part of what made my mind up to move here when the opportunity came up.  The strangeness with the elevators doesn’t undo that — it’s just a piece of the puzzle that I don’t understand yet (and there are still a lot of those).