Vienna Travel Blog

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Friday, March 21

Switching from Venice to Vienna was like going from spring back to winter, from sun to snow, from human scale to monumental, and from vowels to consonants. In short, it was rude, though in truth, the train ride itself was stunning. Approaching the Austrian mountains, it got grayer and cooler, then a few flurries. I dozed off a bit and awoke to a winter wonderland. We seemed to be in the middle of a furious snowfall, pines and Tyrolian houses covered with the thick white stuff. The snow tapered off as we got down to Vienna, but the cold remained. It was such a total surprise after the 70 degree, sunny afternoons in Venice.


I didn’t really like Vienna at all.  It had large monumental buildings without focus.  They seem to be put down without any plan. They are either too far away from each other or too close.  We went to the National Art Museum and were overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that they had collected.  The vast size of the collection overwhelmed the couple of pieces that were truly wonderful.  Art is seeming to me more and more to be ego.  Who can be bigger, flashier.  Who can get more commissions.  The cold also got to us and made us cranky. We thought about the ski clothes that we sent home.

We ate in a series of interesting places.  The cafe with formal architecture but a lively multigenerational clientele, the diner modeled after an American Fifties juke joint, a smoky multi-projector lit bar, and a family restaurant.  People spoke English and were friendly. But, we can not leave Vienna without mentioning the Viennese coffee shop where we had a coffee and a sweet.  It was in a beautifully proportioned, mirrored room with waitresses in black.  We picked out our treats at the counter and seated ourselves at a small table.  I loved the place.  I am fascinated by public energy.  We were in an establishment that was over a hundred years old. It had the vitality to absorb tourists and locals, first-timers and old-timers, gawkers and talkers and to be real.  I think it is the clarity of the purpose of the place that gives it its integrity.  They are there to be the best shop in Vienna, period.  Not to make a buck, or to sponge off tourists.  It was expensive, so the difference is subtle, but on that day it was real.
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photo by: hellenica