There are three supermarkets within a five minute bike ride of our flat. Two are in the local shopping center — Merkur Markt, and Hofer. The third is Billa — next to Rudolphstraße station.
Merkur Markt has the most variety. You can find veggie dogs, sushi rolls, and lots of fresh produce. There are also giant home-made gummy bears. Big fan.
The Billa isn’t as nice as Merkur, but it works. The one near my office sells tuna sandwiches for €2.40. I like their budget cole slaw too, which is tastier than the Safeway drippy version back home.
And then there is Hofer. It’s the opposite of Merkur — no variety. Inexpensive and limited.
Everyone bags their own groceries in Austria — and the cashiers expect you to move quickly. At Merkur or Billa this can be a bit stressful. At Hofer it is an all out crisis. There’s no way to keep up. Someone else’s groceries get thrown down the chute before yours are out of the way. The stress is worth it when you get the bill.
Hofer is owned by Aldi, the same company behind Trader Joe’s. Things are pretty bare bones at both stores. There is only one brand of milk, butter, and eggs.
One thing Hofer (and Aldi) have that Trader Joe’s doesn’t is the middle aisle. In the UK People call it “treasure aisle-land” and “the wonder aisle.” It’s a random pile of discounted things in no particular order. A pair of boots next to a wall clock alongside some boxing gloves.
Aldi was founded by two German brothers who had a grocery store in Essen. Later they got into a fight and split the company in half. Hofer and Trader Joe’s are owned by Aldi South. Marché, in france, is owned by Aldi North. No idea if there’s a middle aisle in that one.
Our friend Scott works for Adidas — founded by another pair German brothers in the 1920’s. They broke the company in half too. Adidas North on one side. Adidas South, otherwise known as Puma, on the other. It’d be awesome to see either brand in treasure-aisle-land someday.