Monday, September 23, 2013

Two Days in Vienna and One Giant Leap Forward in Empowerment

Cafe Pruckel, Vienna

Cafe Bendl
After leaving Prague with a slightly bitter taste in my mouth, Mike and I said goodbye to Danielle who caught a flight back to London and we continued south with a train to Vienna. Oh, Vienna! (*le sigh)  Similar to Germany, the transportation system was streamlined with trains and connections so smooth it was a dream to get to our next airbnb destination, which as of September 19th is still one of our favorite places. Not only was the apartment beautiful with a huge spacious room with open shudders, a comfortable big bed and a suede couch, but this is one of the places we have stayed where we were just renting a room in someone’s apartment. Our host, Sheila, was very warm and a professional at making travelers feel right at home. She had a very open and welcoming attitude with little notes welcoming us to use any kind of spices or jams, but to kindly think of replacing such items or even better, buying something completely different to add to the house. In the bathroom, she had all of her perfumes out and moisturizers and nail polish and I immediately felt relaxed. I was entrusted with her living space and so I immediately felt at ease sharing mine. We didn’t actually meet her until the next morning and she told us where to eat locally and where to avoid some of the tourist traps around the city. We chatted about her airbnb experiences which, so far, have all been pleasant. She saw us off with kisses on the cheek and a wish we could have chatted longer. People have so much to do with your experience of a place.

Vienna feels so long ago but one experience in particular has really stayed with me and that is the opera we saw at an outdoor film festival that was being projected on a screen set against Rathhausplatz. I have always wanted to see an opera live and next to the shitty Mozart variety show in Prague this is as close to it as I have come. Well, not totally true…I did stumble upon another opera in the rain being projected at Lincoln Center in New York. But this opera was epic and people were out in the rain, bundled up to watch it. What impressed me most was the amount of young people in the crowd. The crowd itself was not overwhelming, but for an opera in the cold, it was awesome. And even though we didn’t understand the language, we understood the emotional storyline of the opera and for me, it was like being back in a black box theatre, with that same feeling of suspended reality, that same feeling of magic.
Opera at Rauthausplatz
Vienna was supposed to be a rest stop for us, but once we started walking, we kept stumbling upon more and more places and monuments and cafes! We had cappuccinos (Melange/Schalnge) at Café Pruckel which was served to us on a silver platter, placed gingerly down on pink linens. After the Kaffehaus, we wondered around the city and saw the Vienna Opera house and climbed the south tower of St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom) for a 360 degrees view of the city. We went to Rauthausplatz and wandered inside where we saw a giant ballroom set up for a serious looking chess tournament. We went to Karlsplatz, the set of one of my favorite old timey movies, The Third Man, and walked around the Volksgarten, enjoying the roses. We saw the Mozart statue, as well as Goethe’s and Gutenberg’s. We had one of our favorite meals in Eastern Europe (goulash soup, slices of camembert cheese on fresh bread, wild boar sausage and Austrian beers) at Café Bendl where the interior décor has not changed much since the 1970s. The dark walls covered in lots of vintage American pop culture (Marilyn & Elvis) seemed lacquered with a coat of nicotine and the furniture held generations of cigarette smoke that seemed to escape in invisible plumes if you sank down in your chair. But, for whatever reason, what would normally disgust me, adds to the fee in this place. We strolled past Heldenplatz (Heroes' Square) and later had dinner at Schone Perle (Beautiful Pearl) where I took a break from schnitzel and beer and had vegetarian lentil cakes. Divine! At night, after the opera, Mike and I strolled through deserted cobblestone streets, the adventure sinking in a little bit further.

The other awesome thing that happened in Vienna was a phone call I made to a friend in Brooklyn, a friend that I could talk to about the pink shirts in Prague (refer to previous post in Prague) and finally let it out that I was so disappointed but mostly in myself. As I played the situation out to her, she relayed back that it sounded like I had taken responsibility for the girl who ruined my shirts, and rather than allowing space for her to rise to the occasion and take the right action, I had quickly tried to fix it by saying everything was okay. Here is where I get myself in trouble. Here is where I cover up my feelings only to discover much later how angry I am. Here is where I don’t honor myself. After the call, I emailed the airbnb host and requested compensation for the damaged shirts that made up half of my carefully planned wardrobe for the year. After a few back and forth emails, I stuck to a very clear, unemotional request that ended with me getting one night reimbursed, about half the cost of the shirts, but to me, a fair deal in the end.  In truth, it was more important for me to take that action and make that request than the outcome of it.

We left Vienna just as soon as we fell in love with it and took a train ride through sunflower fields and wind turbine crowns to Budapest, Hungary.

3 comments:

SteveB said...

Vienna was the first European cities I ever visited and holds a special place in my heart. I am trying to convince The Beloved that it could be our next big trip -- she's never been.

daleboca said...

Oh my goodness! I love this picture!! Where will you guys be for y(our) anniversary???

tara said...

The dark walls covered in lots of vintage American pop culture (Marilyn & Elvis) seemed lacquered with a coat of nicotine and the furniture held generations of cigarette smoke that seemed to escape in invisible plumes if you sank down in your chair. But, for whatever reason, what would normally disgust me, adds to the fee in this place.

GENIUS. I had to take my inhaler after reading this. xx