1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 29

1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 29

“More than you might think, but we’ll give them a bargain anyway,” Hayley said. “Sell boat passes that are good for a month for twenty-five pfennig each, or even twenty.”

“Or you could do it like some of the bus companies did up-time,” Frau Fortney said. “Sell tickets and give your boatman a paper punch. The ticket has however many circles or boxes printed on it. Each time they ride, the captain or someone punches out a circle or box on the pass. When they’re all used up, they have to buy a new ticket.”

Herr Pfeifer wasn’t sure what they were talking about, but decided to let it ride for now. “However they pay, it costs money to run a barge on the river.”

“Sure, but not that much,” said the young girl. “Put in seats and maybe an awning to keep people dry when it rains. There are around a hundred people who come out here every day, working on the track. Fifty people per trip and four trips a day — two here, two back. That’s two hundred tickets at a half pfennig per head . . . a hundred pfennig a day, every day. A bit over a reichsthaler every three days, gross. Your boatman will get a couple of groschen a day and there will be docking fees . . . but even with the cost of the boat and steam engine amortized in, you should make a decent regular profit. Not a great big profit, but a steady one.” Two groschen a day was fair pay for a worker. It was what the day laborers at the race track were getting. But the surprising thing for Hayley — all of the girls, for that matter — was what a groschen would buy. There were twelve pfennig to a groschen. In Grantville or Magdeburg a pfennig was about equal to a quarter, but you could buy a small loaf of bread, about half a pound, for a pfennig in Vienna. Gayleen Sanderlin had said several times that it was like the prices in Mexico, back up-time.


By the end of their conversation, several things had happened. One was that Jakusch Pfeifer got his name shortened to Jack. He also figured out that Hayley Fortney was actually running things, not Frau Fortney acting for her husband. Perhaps more importantly, he was smart enough to guess some of the reasons for the subterfuge and to keep the secret. Jack became the lawyer for the Sanderlin-Fortney Investment Company and Jack’s family got in on the ground floor of the Vienna ferry business.


Annemarie reported two days later, when she had her contact, that the Sanderlins were going to try to build a canal to the race track. She didn’t report that it was the women arranging it. She just assumed that they were acting on instructions from their husbands.

It took Bernhard Moser an extra couple of days to report the development. Not because of any incompetence on his part, but simply because he was working out at the shop and it had taken a couple of days for the news to come up in conversation.

Vienna, Austria

“They seem harmless enough,” Bernhard told his contact. “Even the canal they want to build seems to mostly be about giving people work.”

“And who’s going to pay for the work?” his contact asked. “That money’s got to come from somewhere and I don’t see where.”

“Neither do I,” Bernhard acknowledged. “Then again, I’m not an up-timer.”

It wasn’t a really satisfying meeting. Not because Bernhard had been unable to get the information. About the only thing he had missed was that Hayley Fortney was the one in charge. He’d even figured out that it was the women running things. Mostly that was by the process of elimination, because he couldn’t see Ron Sanderlin — or either of the other two men — running a business. But Hayley Fortney was just a teenaged girl. The idea that such a person could be able, much less trusted, to manage large sums of money and major projects was so ridiculous that it never even occurred to him. As well to think it was all being run by Brandon’s chickens.

Magdeburg, United States of Europe

Francisco Nasi brought up the next report. He’d already read it, of course, so all he needed to do was give the contents a quick scan to refresh his memory.

“This is from our correspondent in Austria.”

Mike Stearns got a crooked little smile on his face. “‘Correspondent.’ Sounds so much nicer than ‘spy.’ I assume we’re talking about Sonny Fortney, right? Or is that ‘need to know’ and I don’t?”

Nasi pursed his lips. “Interesting protocol issue, actually. Since you’re the head of government, I suppose you technically need to know everything. In any event, you’re my employer, so if you tell me you need to know I’ll take your word for it.”

Mike shook his head. “I’m not sure how that worked back up-time. At a guess, judging from the screw-ups, the CIA and the other spook outfits didn’t tell the U.S. president more than half of what they should have. In our case…”

He pondered the problem, for a moment. “I’ll take your word for it, whether I need to know something or not. Just make sure you let me know there’s something I might or might not need to know in the first place. If the grammar of that sentence doesn’t have you writhing in agony.”

Nasi smiled. “In this case, as it happens, Sonny really is more in the way of a correspondent than a spy. He does report to me — as I’m sure the Austrians have already figured out — but I don’t have him creeping around listening at keyholes or peeping into windows.”

“For that, I assume you have other people. Call them ‘real spies.'”

“I don’t believe you need to know that, Prime Minister.”

“Spoilsport. So what’s happening in Austria?”

“To summarize… The Austrians are adjusting to the American presence. More slowly and with greater difficulty than they should, of course, but they’re doing better than I expected.”

He set down the report. “But it’s very early days — and now we have a new emperor. Ferdinand III will be one mainly setting the tone and the pace.”


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22 Responses to 1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 29

  1. Greg Noel says:

    A pass at twenty pfennig per month (or the equivalent in punches) is about a half-pfennig per day (assuming five working days per week; it’d be less if there are six). Not everybody is going to use it; we also find out in this snippet that a half-pfennig is half a loaf of bread (or the equivalent in food for two or three kids). Let’s assume half use the service (although my guess would be more like a quarter). You only need one trip per day, so costs are less (but not halved). Without more costing information, you can’t tell for sure, but I don’t think it makes a profit until there’s more business than just commuters. If they also agreed to use the boat for cargo to the track (maybe one or two shipments per day?), it’d make a big difference.

    • Randomiser says:

      Well, they are earning 24 pfennig/day so 1/2 pfennig is 2% of their earnings for transport costs and saves them a minimum of 2 hours a day walking and an hour a day in time. I think quite a lot of them might see that as a good deal, given it will be at least a 10 hour shift of heavy manual labour at the race track.

      • I think Greg is right about very few of them being willing to spend the ½-pfennig, but it might well be worth it to give each worker a weekly ticket (good only that week) as a benefit, the benefits to the company being not only the good will of the workers and their families (and the inevitable word-of-mouth advertising of how good this outfit is to work for), but also the greater work output of better-rested workers.

        Also, good word about Americans getting around Vienna would do no great harm to USE-Austrian relations.

        • Escape Zeppelin says:

          Their workers are grateful for a job and they’re turning away applicants by the hundreds. The job situation in Austria is bad enough that they could pay half wages and still have people lining up. Telling people how good it is to work for them is irrelevant when your other option is no work at all.

          And they actually can’t afford to start giving stuff away. The whole thing is a jobs program and it’s seriously straining their budgets.

  2. daveo says:

    Even though I was an accountant, there’s too little data to figure out whether the canal and boat setup will make or lose money. I’m more interested in where the story is heading. It’s probably still to early for anyone to realize that a Turkish invasion iscoming, even Nasi, since the decision wasn’t made until the conquest of Bagdad. The USE clearly has an interest in events in Austria, and the interest almost certainly goes deeper than the safety of the uptimers. There’s not enough information to tell what Mike wants to happen but it will be real interesting to find out

  3. zak ryerson says:

    The fact that the Turks are Buying 1. Arms and 2. (possibly) Steel should be of interest to Francisco Nasi and hence to The various “Christian Nations”.

    • daveo says:

      Of interest yes, but it’s thought the Turks view the Persians as their primary enemy

    • Tweeky says:

      Even if the Turks manage to seize Vienna they’re still massively over-extended and that in the long term will be their downfall especially if Ferdinand III is serious about expelling them from Europe and retaking Constantinople. I hope the in Eric Flint’s 1632 universe the Ottomans are permanently expelled from Europe and hopefully kicked out of Asia-Minor too.

  4. Cobbler says:

    From snippet 25

    “In that case, I think your best option would be a recent doctor of natural philosophy. He is quite good with boys and interested in the knowledge brought by the Ring of Fire.” Doctor Lorenz hesitated a moment, looking at Hayley. “He is rather young, only twenty-four. He was going to have to leave Vienna to look for work, which would have been a shame because he is working on several experiments with magnets and coils of copper wire. Continuing those experiments would have been more difficult without the facilities of the university.”

    For the first time since they’d been introduced, Hayley spoke up. “Are a lot of people leaving Vienna to look for work?”

    “Those who can,” Doctor Lorenz said. “Those who have someplace to go.”

    From snippet 27

    The unemployment situation in Vienna became increasingly clear over the next few days. Demonstrated not by numbers reported on TV, since they didn’t get any TV in Austria, but by the numbers of people showing up looking for work on the new race track. Ron Sanderlin couldn’t hire them all; he couldn’t even hire an appreciable fraction of them. At the same time, he hated turning away hungry people.

    This upturn in Viennese unemployment seems to be of recent vintage.

    Why? What’s going on?

    Possible Ottoman invasion hasn’t hit the street yet. That’s not it.

    Widespread industrialization might put many people out of work. (Though it also creates other jobs.) That hasn’t happened here.

    Did the old emperor’s death somehow destabilize the currency?

    Is Emperor Ferdinand expected to bankrupt the country?

    Is Viennese unemployment an act of God to drive their story plot?

    • Doug Lampert says:

      Austria is (briefly) at peace with almost everybody. Which means lots of former soldiers looking for work. Similar comment for contractors who’d been supporting the ongoing military operations.

      The government had been running huge deficits for years while having much of the adult male populace to the north living on other people’s land and produce. The end of that situation will create a substantial short term contraction no matter how good it is in the longer term.

      We don’t need to invoke the power of plot to explain urban unemployment, it’s an obvious possible outgrowth of the situation. If anyone knows what the agricultural production and plague situation at that time in the Vienna area were like they could make a more detailed analysis, but this seems perfectly reasonable to me.

      • Cobbler says:

        We don’t need to invoke the power of plot to explain urban unemployment, it’s an obvious possible outgrowth of the situation.

        Perhaps not. But we do need to explain the situation. It’s not obvious to everybody. All these politicians and economists discussing Austria. Nobody mentions her economic condition? When that depression is a major plot point?

        We know to avoid Chekov’s gun without the bang. The bang without Chekov’s gun is worse.

        • Tweeky says:

          Every time I hear Chekov’s gun mentioned I expect to see an appearance of certain Starfleet ensign by the name of Pavel Chekov;-}.

        • Greg Noel says:

          It’s Anton Chekhov who had the gun. No relation to Pavel Chekov. (That is, Че́хов instead of Чехов.)

        • Lyttenstadt says:

          From the quick-search comes this:

          The city was furnished with eleven bastions and surrounded by a moat. A glacis was created around Vienna, a broad strip without any buildings, which allowed defenders to fire freely. These fortifications, which accounted for the major part of building activities well into the 17th century, became decisive in the Second Turkish Siege of 1683, as they allowed the city to maintain itself for two months, until the Turkish army was defeated by the army led by the Polish King Jan Sobieski.

          The problem with the plot-relevant unemployment has very easy, traditional and logical solution – expand fortifications. In some earlier books, IIRC, that Hungarian advisor to the new Emperor has been dispatched to eversee the renovation and expansion of fortresses in the east of the country. So what prevents from buffing up your capital’s defenses? Besides the “writing on the wall”, that Eric Flint wants Turks to capture Vienna so badly?

  5. Tweeky says:

    “Besides the “writing on the wall”, that Eric Flint wants Turks to capture Vienna so badly?”

    I suspect Eric wants to see the Ottomans massively over extend themselves and in the process end up wrecking their empire – I for one want to see an independent Greece set up almost two hundred years early.

  6. daveo says:

    Look up the date of Murad IV’s death. And what came after.

  7. Tweeky says:

    I’m wondering if Murad the Mad will succeed in ordering his brother Ibrihim’s execution?

  8. Greg Noel says:

    Wasn’t there supposed to be an update about 2-1/2 hours ago?

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