Relics of Another Age

Vienna is full of history. A weekend there wasn’t enough to even scratch the surface.

Not surprising really. I don’t recall ever having taken a  European history course, certainly not since high school. And if I did not much of the Austrian section stuck with me. I learned a lot in three days, and want to go back to see and learn more.IMG_4808

One of the first things that struck me though was more modern than historical. Or maybe I should say historically modern. It seemed that everywhere we went in Vienna there were telephone booths.

Even twenty years ago that would not be uncommon, but they are few and far between in North America and the other places in Europe I have visited. In an era when everyone has a mobile device, the traditional pay phone is obsolete. There isn’t one in Sulzburg, though admittedly it is a small town with no train station. I have seen one or two in Mullheim and Freiburg, but even there they are rare. Those too poor to own a cell phone are usually out of luck, victims of social change.

Yet in three days in Vienna I saw more phone booths than I have in the last year or two in all the places I have visited combined. I wonder if there is a law requiring them to be maintained – in Canada the broadcast regulator has prevented the telecom companies from eliminating all their pay phones, despite claims the phone booths are unprofitable. And in Vienna some of the booths even had telephone books – another relic of the past. Obviously the city values its history.

Still, if I were a betting man I would bet most of Vienna’s phone booths will be gin in a decade’s time, if not sooner. Sometimes you just can’t stop “progress.”

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