Located at the middle of Europe, Austria is in fact considered a dividing line between eastern and western Europe. From the east, it shares borders with Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia and from the west it borders with Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Czech Republic. The country which is mostly German-speaking is rich in culture, religion, traditions and diversities.
Vienna, its capital city, is home of strategic international associations and agencies like the International Atomic Energy Agency, (IAEA), International Narcotics Control Board, (INCB), Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, (OSCE), European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, (FRA), and is the address for one of the United Nation’s four major offices as well as Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, (OPEC), which has made the name of the city more popular than that of the country.
Although, Austria is not among the oil producing nations, but it was chosen by the OPEC members to host its headquarters.
The 171st Ordinary General Meeting of the OPEC took place in November. It was a meeting which attracted the attention of many countries due to the high interest in the dwindling price of crude oil. It was a meeting for member countries to ratify the production cut agreement reached in Algiers, Algeria in September. It recorded more than 300 journalists in attendance and other observers.
According to the Head, Public Relation and Information Department, OPEC, Hasan Hafidh, the November meeting recorded the highest turnover of visitors in the history of the organisation.
The high interest for the meeting especially by the international media was due to the uncertainty that surrounded the Algiers decision and whether or not some member countries like Iran and Iraq will accept to cut production at this critical moment of their countries’ history. There was excitement by the stakeholders at the end of the one-day meeting. The agreement was reached after hours of discussion and negotiations.
The host, the Secretary-General of the OPEC, Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo, said the meeting took note of oil market development since it last met in Algiers and decided to reduce its production by around 1.2 million barrels per day to bring its ceiling to 32.5mb/d, effective from January 1, 2017.
All ministers of the 14-member OPEC-Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Gabon, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Venezuela – attended the meeting except for Indonesia which suspended its membership after the cut agreement.
However, before I embarked on the journey, I was warned of the harsh weather in that part of Europe especially at the time the meeting was holding.
The warning prompted me to carry out a travel search on the weather, food as well as the best accommodation close to the venue of the event.
Even from arrival at London’s Heathrow Airport, before transiting to Vienna, I noticed the severe weather difference as one coming from Abuja with a hot tropical weather and that of London with 9°C. Though very cold, I managed to stay for four hours with the support of heaters in the terminal building before we connect to Vienna. When we arrived at Vienna International Airport, the temperature dropped to 3 °C, the lowest temperature level I ever experienced.
By the time we were out to take a cab to our hotel, we were already freezing, despite the jacket I wore, I felt like I was empty. We didn’t arrive at our hotel until 10:30pm.
The weather only got worse and to my surprise, even at that, nothing stopped in the city. Many residents were in the streets catching fun. At that period, the city was holding an annual concert where youths from various parts of the country and Europe had gathered.
On the meeting day, after getting our media registration tags, we went to the OPEC secretariat, at Helferstorferstrasse, 17, 1010, Vienna. We met a huge crowd of journalists at the entrance undergoing screening. The process was another experience.
I queued for the longest and most torturous one hour of my life, before it finally got to my turn to be screened. Despite the layers of jackets I wore, I was freezing from head to toe.
The experience made me come to the conclusion that in Vienna, one needs to dress like the people. Even in their shops and markets, only winter dresses are available, nothing more.
Another aspect was that one needs regular cups of tea or coffee to keep warm and active or risk freezing. Besides, my colleagues were busy looking for solid food in the city but to no avail.
Most of their cuisines are light, dessert and vegetables like typical European meals. Throughout our four days in the city, I never came across rice, which is the most staple food in many parts of the world, in the menu in their restaurants.
In fact, dishes heavily depending on meat make up a typical cuisine: Wiener schnitzel, (veal coated in bread crumbs and fried), Tafelspitz, (boiled beef), Beuschel (a ragout containing veal lungs and heart), and Selchfleisch (smoked meat) with sauerkraut and dumplings are typical of the cooking.
That is why rice is not a problem for the about 1.2 million residents in the city. They mostly eat what they produce, not depending on imported grains and cereals.
This brought my attention back home in Nigeria, where we rely on what we don’t produce and neglect what we produce. I drew the attention of my colleagues telling them that we are not in Nigeria and should make do with what was available. If we wait to eat rice, yam or garri with egusi soup, we would surely starve.
Though it was work all through but I took time out to go round some parts of the city and relish some of the historic sites.
The city is tourists friendly. In each hotel there are dozens of pamphlets describing the city routes for sightseeing. I went to Vienna’s ceremonial boulevard, its wonderful sights such as the Vienna State Opera, Imperial Palace, Parliament, City Hall and many more.
We were visiting during the week of the presidential elections. But if not for the few billboards along the street, nothing suggested that such a thing was taking place. The residents were busy with their daily engagements, no crowds and no posters on the walls as in our clime.
The city has many old buildings and structures, some of which it was learnt are hundreds of years old but still looking strong and elegant.
The metro lines and bus services work efficiently. The bicycles have dedicated routes. However, one thing that I would not forget about the city was its calmness, peace and orderliness that gives room for every resident and visitor, a chance to survive.