Life and Death in Vienna.

Vienna Travel Blog

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Fallen Crane.
There’s a reason why most buildings in Vienna lack air conditioning.  Even during the summer months, the city usually enjoys a mild climate. So when the mercury starts to climb into the 30’s (90’s in Fahrenheit), you suffer.  The day started out sunny and warm, but was forecasted for afternoon thunderstorm that most took lightly.  By the end of the day, three individuals would die do to the thunderstorm.
I had to rush to the US Consulate to pick up my passport before they closed at 11:30 AM.  It’s 10:45 AM and after already making the mistake of taking the wrong trolley the opposite direction the other day, I made sure today I’m on the proper trolley and heading towards the right direction.
The sole Jewish Synagogue in Vienna.
  I ran out of pages in my passport for visa stamps; this is good.  
I contemplated getting the extra pages for visa stamps while I was back home in CA, but after hearing news about the delays in passport processing, upwards of three to four  months, due to recent changes enforced when entering the US from Canada and Mexico, I’ve decided to take my chances in Vienna.  The city’s reputation for efficiency preceded my expectation and did not fail to please.  
The US consulate is located on Parkring street across from the scenic Stadt Park next to the Marriot, on the fourth floor and open for business Monday to Friday 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM.  The courteous Viennese security politely asks you to place your backpack on the x-ray machine, turn off my mobile phone, buzzes you in, and you see some 20 people sitting and waiting.
Clean up.
  Damn!  Then, you see “US Citizens” only lane, fill out a paper, leave your passport, and you’re out in less than 10 minutes flat!
The next day, that’s right, the next day you arrive to see the same smiling Viennese security woman, go through the drill, pick up the passport, and you’re out in 5 minutes flat to meet your new friends at a Chinese restaurant for lunch.
Patrick has been a gracious host making sure that I’m taken care of during my stay in Vienna, in-spite of his busy schedule studying for finals and getting ready for his departure to North Korea as part of the Austrian delegation, and preparing for his two years in Beijing to complete his PhD.  Through Patrick, I’ve met some of his friends who in turn invited me out to hang out with them.
Firehouse mantle destroyed by the crane.
  All the time, a pleasure to be given a history and social lessons on Vienna and the Austrians.  
When I think of Vienna, the words simple, efficient, scenic, historical, and perfect comes to mind.  The city has a super efficient transportation system provided by a network of trolleys, the metro, buses, taxis, and trains connecting cities together.  Then there are free bicycles to rent stations.  
Along the streets, bicycles are available for rent, free of charge for the first hour.  You swipe your credit card, take the bike for a scenic tour, and return the bike to one of the many stations after use.  Beyond the hour, you’re charged a nominal fee of about $1.  Simple and it works.  Bicycles are used here more for daily chores or transportations rather than for just exercise.
Looking on.
As a city, Vienna is never overwhelming, and even during the rush hour, there are plenty of wide open spaces and one can easily find himself walking in perfect peace and tranquility down a narrow cobble stone street.  If you’re not paying attention, you might have just passed by Mozart’s birthplace and never even noticed.
What you will not miss are the many baroque buildings and cathedrals sprawled all over the city.  The Natural History and its twin building the Art History Museums built symmetrically opposite to one another by Gottfried Semper and Karl von Hasenauer from 1871 to 1891 will keep you company for the day and maybe two or three.  
The Parliament building with a copy of ancient Greek edifices will keep you staring for hours and you see something new every time.
Another day in Vienna.
  Head across the street to Volksgarten park to sit and enjoy the afternoon.
St. Stephens Cathedral was built in the 12th century before the erection of the first city wall.  The southern spire is 137 meters high and for $5, you’re allowed to go up about 100 meters of it to take your panoramic trophy shot of Vienna.  
While the city can be expensive, you can stay at a hostel sharing a dorm style room with between seven or ten others for about $20 per night, eat tasty falafels, drink good as well as good coffee, and go on a scenic walking tour of the city.  Once again, simple and leaves you plenty satisfied.
Sitting at Rathaus park, you can feel the drop in the pressure, the clouds moving overhead quickly accented by a child’s stray balloon sailing across at near speed limit on the I-5.
  The sky turned gray, first raindrop on the pages of my German book, and I’m finding shelter in the University foyer along with the students watching the sky turning from gray to dark and hearing distant thunder.  Fire and police sirens and thinking a car accident.
Next day, I was told a crane operator died when strong wind knocked over the sky crane with the poor unfortunate soul inside over the mantle of the most beautiful firehouse you’ve ever seen.  Another woman died when a tree fell on her car.
It’s odd, but the deaths draw attention, gasp, and sadness for strangers that is somewhat new to me from what I am used to experiencing back home in the OC.  Is it that we have become so de-synthesized with the daily murders and accidental deaths at home that we have unwillingly accepted to it being part of not only our daily lives or is it a reflection of the Viennese with virtually no violent crimes in the city and Austria as whole that can empathize so closely for three strangers who met their unfortunate fate?  
Austria is a population with about nine million and the US with 300 million.
  While Austria seems perfect, they are dealing with recent scandal with the acquisition of the new Eurofighter.  Furthermore, there’s a dark past with the nation’s participation in the holocaust that has not been fully recognized and dealt with.  You can walk by a memorial to the holocaust  and never know it.
Vienna is a great city.  It’s one of those cities you can walk forever and admire its superficial beauty and its rich depth in history, art, music, and science will put a lot of current events into perspective.  You don’t judge a country by its size, but the quality and to miss Austria is a loss in so many ways.  I’ll be back here in mid-July for couple more days!
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Fallen Crane.
Fallen Crane.
The sole Jewish Synagogue in Vienn…
The sole Jewish Synagogue in Vien…
Clean up.
Clean up.
Firehouse mantle destroyed by the …
Firehouse mantle destroyed by the…
Looking on.
Looking on.
Another day in Vienna.
Another day in Vienna.
Oldest Cathedral in Vienna.  Great…
Oldest Cathedral in Vienna. Grea…
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photo by: hellenica