Life in Wien.

Vienna Travel Blog

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A thunderstorm passed through Vienna yesterday whipping up leaves, debris, children's balloons, Dorthy...maybe Heidi, and gauging from the speed the balloon passing overhead, I say it was gusting up to 60 mph or 96.5 kph.  The much needed and welcomed relief from the heat the weather front passing through brought was also merciless in taking two peoples' lives yesterday. 

Waiting to be picked up at 3 AM by the shuttle service for the 7:30 AM flight out of LAX, having finally finished packing (wondering if I forgot something) only 30 minutes earlier is hardly the ideal start to a long trip to the other side of "the pond."  I think it was the first time I slept while taking off the runway, missing the sunrise and the mad dash for work on the 405 below me and the few lucky souls continuing their dawn patrol along the coast on their surfboards. 

Made my way into Atlanta to make my connecting flight and what a contrast in destinations.  There I was, still anything but fully awake waiting in peace for my start in a slice of heaven called Vienna on my five month trek, feeling guilty having just wolfed down a Quater Pounder with cheese and fries.  On the other side, US enlisted servicemen, some as young as 18 years of age and every other one a dead ringer for Opie on the Andy Griffith show...right down to the freckles, waiting to be deployed overseas to Iraq.  Casual conversation with a motivated 19 year old soldier from Syracuse, every word ending with a respectful "sir", and it is tearing me apart inside to see these guys and girls leaving for an uncertain future. 

Finally making our way into Vienna International, I had to laugh when a middle age couple from the US was wondering if they had to fill out immigration papers upon entry.  Apparently, my answer wasn't good enough until their second inquiry garnered the same response.  "That's it?" said the wife as the immigration officer opened and stamped their passports faster than they can drop their carryon.  Welcome to Europe!  Stark contrast to the asshole immigration officer asking my favorite question entering after my trip back into the US from Africa after 3 months out, "'ve been gone a long time.  So you don't have a job?" 

"No, officer, I'm a teacher on a leave of absence." I remember replying with perhaps too much of an attitude thinking, damn, the last time I got stripped searched was in Rio five years ago and that wasn't pleasant. Umph!  Thank you sir, may I have another?

A model of public transportation efficiency, after taking the "CAT" (rail shuttle running from the airport to Vienna...about $11), I was greeted by an amazing gothic cathedral, Votivkirche built in the mid 19th century, upon exiting the underground.  And the weather was a balmy 78 F, clear blue sky with few passing clouds.  Quite the welcome to Wien (pronounced "veen"). 

I first met Patrick, an Austrian PhD student studying Chinese culture, in Cairo smoking his apple flavored shisha (water pipe) and enjoying a glass of hot tea.  We ended up sharing few adventures in and around Cairo in February and stayed in contact.  He graciously offered me to stay at his apartment in the city and has been a wonderful host, balancing studying for his finals and making sure that I was taken care of in Vienna. 

Severely lacking sleep and definitely operating at 100% adrenaline, we met his other friends and in my hazy state walked the narrow streets of Vienna basked in a perfect glow of European summer climate.  Over the next week, I'll walk past Mozarts' birthplace, have the previlige of being given a personal guided tour of the Melk Abbey thanks to Patrick's friend Mattheis, drink wonderful wonderful Austrian beer, wine tasting, given a unique history lesson from another friend of Patrick, Stephen from New York living in Vienna, visit some of the many beautiful art museums in the city, simply read and take in the air at some of the most picturesque parks you'll ever see, find shelter from the killer thunderstorm (responsible for killing three Viennese) in a 17th century university hall, and just enjoying the history of the city and mastering the joy of simplicity in life!

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photo by: hellenica