It was only appropriate for me to title this post 'Vienna The Beautiful', because it really is. Its one of the most expensive cities in the world with an insanely high standard of living. The city is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Before I left for Vienna, all mein freundes told me that I was "just going to die when I get to Vienna, because it really is like heaven." Its nicknamed 'the city of dreams', because the great professor Sigmund Freud lived there - I remember oh so much from my high school philosophy class. It was also home to Ludwig van Beethoven, if you want to get me started on classical music again.
Viennese are the names of people from Vienna. Its like calling someone from Rome a Roman, someone from Paris a Parisian, or someone from New York a Yankee. When I first heard the expression, I got confused because it was so similar to the country Vietnam. At first I thought people were trying to trick me into thinking people from Vienna were Asian, but no... Anyway, the most famous dish you can try is called 'Wiener Schnitzel.' Fun fact: 'Wien' is the German way of saying 'Vienna'. Schnitzel is veal that is pounded flat and coated with eggs, flour, breadcrumbs, and then fried in butter. Of course I didn't try it because I don't eat meat, so I just stuck to the delicious cakes and desserts.
Day 6 - Monday, December 26th:
Magda and I arrived in Vienna around 1 in the afternoon and got a call from her friend saying we couldn't go to the flat until 6. There was also a British couple staying here who had both
sets of keys and were out for the day, so we walked around Vienna for a bit and went to a castle to get a leg up on our sightseeing. We ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant, which I was really excited about. Unfortunately, Rome doesn't have much variety when it comes to their food options. Its pretty much all Italian, which is great, but sometimes I crave Chinese, Mexican, Greek, etc. and then this becomes a problem. But no - not in Vienna! In fact, I haven't had Chinese food since I lived in Canada. Since I lived in Canada... It feels so strange to say that.
At 6 we finally went to the flat which was colourful, crumbling, and the same size as a doll house. The entire flat consists of 3 rooms - the bedroom, the kitchen/shower, and the living room/second bedroom. The first thing you see when you walk into the house is literally the shower, which is propped up onto a wooden box crate that makes you feel like you're stepping into a space shuttle when you have a shower. Then there's a little stove, a sink, and shelves stocked with food. Then theres the bedroom that Christopher and Sarah (the British couple) slept in. And the last room was full of interesting paintings, large windows, dog eared books, and red plush couches. This is where Magda and I slept, and also where Christopher and Sarah did their work. In case you
think I forgot about the bathroom, I didn't. There isn't one, so if mother nature calls, we had to shuffle on down the hall to the shared bathroom with the neighbors.
So - Chris and Sarah. In their 30's and still living from the hippie days. Chris is a filmmaker who we actually saw earlier on the street earlier that day. "The funny thing is," he told us, "I was on the phone with Sarah at the same time she told me that there would be two more guests in the flat. And here you are." Its funny how life works sometimes.
Sarah made us tea and Chris told us stories about Prague, a city in which he shares a "complicated" relationship with. He showed me a copy of his book, and I plan on buying it before I go. We spent the night listening to The Beatles, drinking tea, and sharing stories while Sarah baked an English pie. Sarah reminds me of Mrs. Bower's, my old English literature teacher. Its scary and also wonderful how alike they are. So far I can tell that Vienna is well structured with tall white buildings, impressive Gothic churches, and lot's of castle. Its exactly what I imagined.
I made a joke to Magda that Germany taught me how to be on time, Italy taught me how to
eat, and Austria is teaching me how to drink. What lessons with Prague bring? What else will Austria teach me before I continue my journeys? I remember the first thing I said when I stepped off the train to Vienna was, "It smells like Toronto here." What? Was I still drunk from the night before, or was it my unconscious mind saying things that you only think about in a
sleepy state of mind? Even I confused myself by saying this. Or maybe it was accurate by the amount of fruit stands, fake Italian pizzerias, and Chinese restaurants.
Day 7 - Tuesday, December 27th:
Magda and I were able to walk to the city centre from out flat. This was great because we got some excersize, and were able to stop and take pictures. Plus, I'm trying to spend as little as I can, and a bus ticket one way costs a whole 1.80. We saw all of Vienna's beautiful sites and went inside the oldest university which still had a Christmas tree standing proudly in the entrance. We went to the Museum of Natural History which was actually very interesting. We were surprised because it was free admission for those 19 and younger, which means that I got to learn about something for free. At first we were a bit skeptical of the place because the first 10 rooms were just rocks, but later on we learned a lot about dinosaurs, birds, strange animals, and dear old planet Earth.
Afterwards we did some shopping, which was fabulous because there was a FOREVER 21. I didn't know it existed in Europe! At least there isn't one in Paris, Rome, or one in any of the German cities I visited. I bought a really cute skirt, a bunch of rings, and a fancy black hat that I'm madly in love with. It has a flower on the side and makes me look mysterious. This hat will make me famous and everyone will call me "The Girl With The Mysterious Black
Hat". We talked about politics at home with Chris and Sarah and we ripped apart Harper, Cameron, Berlusconi and all the other political embarassments to the world.
I learned a lot about Russia's leader, Putin, who has an assortment of... interesting photos plastered all over the internet. I'll let you find out for yourself though what I'm talking about - just google 'Putin topless photos' and you'll see Russia's main man doing manly things topless like horseback riding and fishing. My personal favourite is the one of him doing the butterfly stroke. But we still agreed that Berlusconi is the maddest hatter at the table of mad hatters.
Day 8 - Wednesday, December 28th:
For some reason we thought it would be a brilliant idea to dress up like men today. We
walked around Vienna with our hair up tucked under hats while fashioning fake moustaches. We sat like this at an internet café for almost an hour. After that, we spent the day at the art museum and ate dinner at the train station again.
When we got home later that night, I read an article about the graffiti problem in Vienna. I thought this was hilarious, because I haven't seen any graffiti at all. Chris also laughed and said that on his way to Vienna, his friend was driving him and Sarah around while explaining the different sections of the city to them. They drove through the 'bad' part of the city, which Chris described as a semi-poor neighborhood with a shop selling organic cookies.
Day 9 - Thursday, December 29th:
Today we went downtown and ventured into St. Stephan's Cathedral. We went to Karlzplatz, the old train station, and went inside the Belvedere castle and museum. We were obviously hungry after and decided to have our lunch at this festive Greek restaurant that looked small from the outside, but was huge on the inside. I ate warm pita bread and a delicious salad with blood red tomatoes, ripe black olives, and crisp onions served on a fresh bed of romaine lettuce. It
also had saganaki in it, which is fried feta cheese and tastes like it was crafted by the Greek Gods themselves. Our waiter kept flirting with us and eventually we got a generous glass of free red wine. Mediterranean men and their love for foreign blonde women goes as far as the eye can see.
Oh, my dessert wasn't anything too exotic... Just a Greek styled banana split, which consisted of a ripe banana being sliced in half and filled with sweet Greek yogurt. It was topped with chewy walnuts and dressed with warm sugar and honey. It was as though my taste buds had died and gone to heaven, but without the dying part. Later on, we found the bookstore Shakespeare & Co. where Christopher's book was sold. I was dying to visit it because I wanted him to sign it before we had to go back to Salzburg.
The book is called Travels Through Absence - Letters From The European City. When we entered the store, we were faced with a dwarf-sized older woman with a stylish gray bob, chunky black glasses, and hot pink lipstick so bright I feared I might go blind if I stared for too long.
I wandered around the store for a bit because I wanted to try to find it on my own, but I couldn't. So I asked Madame Pinkie, and gave her what I thought Chris' last name was, and
she said, "We don't have him." It was Thomas, wasn't it? Then I said, "I think the title of the book is 'Letters Through Absence'." She typed her pudgy little fingers on the keyboard and... AND... Nothing. Non existent. This news was so terrible that I almost laughed. But he told me himself its here. "You do have it," I said. Think hard, MichElle. Think... Letters? No. Time? No. Lovers? No. Travels...? "Try 'Travels Through Absence'," I said. She typed it in and I was holding my breath and hoping and praying and wishing that she would look up at me beaming, and saying YES - CONGRATULATIONS! ITS HERE, AND WE HAVE A MILLION COPIES! YOU CAN EVEN HAVE YOUR'S FOR FREE!
A few seconds later she looked up and said, "You'll be surprised." She walked beside the counter and moved a big plastic bag, revealing at least two dozen copies of Travels Through Absence by Christopher Thomson. It was right in front of me the entire time. But because of the bag, I couldn't see it. I grabbed a copy and held on to it as tightly as I could, heading
back with it to the counter the same way a football player cradles the football on his way to the end zone. I told her that I would absolutely like to purchase a copy, and it only cost me 12 Euros. Its my most prized possession from my whole Christmas trip.
She excitedly told me that I should come back on January 19th, because the author was going to do a book reading that night. I smiled at her and told her that I'll be living back in Rome at that time, and that it was ok, because I could have the live thing that night. She asked me how, and I told her that I was currently sharing a flat with Mr. Thomson and his wife/fiancée/girlfriend (I didn't know what they were, to be honest). She got so excited that she stamped my copy with an official Shakespeare & Co. stamp, gave me a bookmark, and told me to please tell Mr. Thomson that she is looking forward to his book reading. I promised I would, and off I went. When we arrived back at the flat, Magda and I told him everything and he thought the whole scenario was great. I asked him to sign my book, and not only did he do that, but he also wrote me a personal message. Then they made pasta for dinner, and I spent the rest of the night writing in my diary while Magda took a nap. Sarah is currently in the process on writing a book about honey bees and doing research for it, while Chris taps away on his iMac for his soon to be newest masterpiece.
Day 10 - Friday, December 30th:
We took the train back from Vienna, which was a lot more enjoyable than the first. Which isn't saying much, considering my hangover from Lust House. Anyway, today we are back in Salzburg, where I was able to take a long hot shower, pack my bag for Prague, and get a good sleep for our 5 hour car ride to The Golden City.
If anyone is interesting in ordering Christopher Thomson's novel 'Travels Through Absence: Letters From The European City', please click on the link provided by amazon. As a personal friend and a fan of the book, I promise you won't be disappointed.