Friday, April 24, 2009

Vienna (Pt. IX)

Note to readers: This is the ninth part of a recounting of my Grand European Tour, taken in the fall of 1999. You can read Part VIII here.

We arrived in Vienna in the early afternoon. Marissa (angry, suspicious), Anne Marie (passive, hostile) and I. Their constant bickering and complaining was taxing. Got lunch at a restaurant when we got off the train. Our server spoke English, but only just barely. Marissa and Anne Marie recited long, elaborate specifications with their order. "Mayonnaise on the side. No pickles. Do you have fries?" When the food arrived, guess what? I ate while they grumbled. Sigh.

Vienna near the Banhopf
We rode public transportation out to the hostel where we would stay and got sorted. We were quartered in a dorm room with four or five other women. I was the only male. In a certain light, not a bad situation, but for me in this particular situation, an anxious one. I feared that my snoring would disturb my roommates and especially the temperamental sisters. But the hostel was full. There was nowhere else to sleep. Nothing for it, but to drift off and hope for the best . . .
Anne Marie (passive, hostile), Marissa (angry, suspicious), and I
I awoke in the morning to find a room full of angry, tired women who let me know, with their icy stares that I had, in fact, snored loudly throughout the night. A very unpleasant experience made all the worse by the terse, bitchy manner in which the two sisters treated with me. Uncomfortable!

Near the Imperial Apartments
Vienna, the little Celtic settlement that sprang up some 500 years before Christ near the river that men would later name the Danube. A frontier post for Romans in their day, later, the seat of vast empires (Holy Roman, Austro-Hungarian). The high water mark for Mongolian incursions into Europe in the 1200's, and twice for the Ottomans in 1529 and 1683. Today, a beautiful city; a cultural hub for opera and classical music.

Ringstrasse draws the circumference of the city's marble-sculpted heart. Every corner has its powdered wig Mozart passing out fliers for classical music concerts performed by the flood of musicians carried in on the hopes of attaining the Holy Grail: a seat with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

War memorial within Ringstrasse
We went to the Imperial Apartments, the lavish, palatial dwelling where the Hapsburgs plotted and planned and negotiated the Byzantine maze of European politics to the soothing sounds of chamber music performed by virtuosos. We wandered around the inner city and were astonished by dramatic sculptures, seemingly everywhere.
Dramatic Viennese sculpture
The Red Army brought much of the Wehrmacht to bay here in the waning days of the war. Austrians paid the price for foolishly signing on to Hitler's Anschluss. A terrible price. Open warfare in the streets. But the scars faded. Not like Big Brother Berlin, who is forever marred by Nazi transgressions.

That night, the sisters and I attended one of the myriad classical music concerts. The orchestra performed waltzes by Strauss, symphonies by Mozart. Awe-inspiring.

Music in Vienna
After the show, returned to the hostel. Unable to face the hostility, I begged the innkeeper to find me another room. "You're in luck," said he. "There is one dorm room that is empty so far. You may sleep there. But if anyone shows up, they will have to share your room."

I could ask for no more.

The room was quiet and dark and blissfully empty. But, just as my mind began to descend into dreamy confusion, I half-woke to hear others quietly entering, climbing into the beds around me, trying not to wake me. Nothing for it. Too tired to care. Snoring or no, I would sleep . . .
I awoke the next morning to smiling faces. My nocturnal compatriots were Chinese. When they saw I had awoken they smiled and waved. No hostility. Tolerance. I was gratified and indebted to them. Then, I noticed them signing one another . . . stone deaf . . . deaf as posts.  Ah, well. There are those who say it is folly to look a gift horse in the mouth . . ..

The bickering sisters, Marissa and Anne Marie, were off that morning to catch the train back to Prague and thence home to the USA. Farewell, sisters! Thanks for the company. But no, there is no need for us to exchange email addresses. I wish I could say it was good while it lasted, but . . .. Farewell!

Austrian Imperial War Museum
For me, a trip to the Austrian Imperial War Museum, there to see the WWII exhibit before meeting Fritz Tichy (polished, severe), an old email friend who lives in Vienna, for beer and noshes. Fritz and I talked politics, history, and philosophy. He spoke condescendingly of rednecks in America. I could not disagree. I was coming to realize that I identified more with cosmopolitan Europeans than with rural Americans. World citizen? Disillusioned expatriate? Lost Generation wanna-be? Not for me to answer. Not yet. But maybe somewhere on the road between here and home. Maybe.
Fritz Tichy
Fritz drove me to the train station. Back to Germany. This time to Munich. Baaden-München, I come.

To be continued...


Shus li said...

TOO funny about the deaf Chinese roommates. One in a million chances!

Shus li said...

TOO funny about the deaf Chinese roommates. One in a million chances!