The Sound of Vienna

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May 10th 2011
Published: June 8th 2011
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Hello My Lovely Readers, I hope you've been well that past couple of weeks!

My latest adventure fell in Vienna, Austria, the land of theater, music, opera and dance. I am lucky enough to have family on the outskirts of the city so I had familiar faces to show me the ropes! My cousin Karen married a German, Kai and they have two wonderful boys, my cousins Malcolm, 15 and Nelson,11. They have been living in Vienna for twenty years but visit the states every couple of years. This was my first time visiting them in their native surroundings and I must say we had a lovely time!

I arrived on a Thursday night. My cousins were kind enough to have a taxi waiting for me at the airport to take me to their house. Unfortunately the taxi driver came and left 20 minutes too early so I wandered the terminal searching for a man with a sign saying "Moses" for a about thirty minutes. There were at least a hundred men holding signs and I wandered through them about a million times, maybe more and each time was a little more awkward. This was my first time having a taxi reserved for me and I never knew how uncomfortable it was. You have to stand there and search for your name amongst a million and one signs and just hope that your name jumps out at you sooner than later. Anyways, I didn't find my guy so I asked all of the kiosks if a Natalie Moses was on their reservation list, which I wasn't! Finally I made my way over to information and Arnold Schwarzenegger's twin called for the driver over the loud speaker. It was rather amusing to hear my name called over the loud-speaker in an airport in an Austrian accent. Finally, after another 30 minutes I found my taxi man and we were on our way to cousin Karen's house!

He asked if I knew the address and I said, "No, you are supposed to have that information" and continued chatting merrily until he stopped me with about ten"no´s". He was trying to express that he didn't speak any English after "What is the address?". Amusing. While leaving the parking garrage, there was another road- block (no pun intended). Leaving the airport's garage, the gate refused to open. The cab driver, already flustered, angrily jammed the ticket into the slot. While this was happening, I guess he was so preoccupied with getting the machine to work his foot let up on the brake and the cab scraped against a concrete pole! He jumped out of the car, screaming in German and waddled over to someone in a window. To make things even more entertaining, he was quite rolly-polly- it just added to the fun! After he jumped out of the cab, my laughter exploded, there was nothing left to do except laugh at the entire situation.

After what seemed like a life-time we made it to cousin Karen's and was I relieved! I was so happy to see her and cousin Kai! We stayed up and chatted the night away and they fed me lots of delicious treats, cheesy sausage wrapped in bacon, I was so happy...

The next day, we went to one of Karen´s ballet classes- my cousin is an amazing prima ballerina who traveled the world dancing and performing and simply being fabulous! Now, she is a high-profile dance instructor, very well-known and respected in Vienna's Artsy community. That being said, I felt quite honored to be able to attend one her classes; I kind of felt like I was in the movie "Center Stage" watching the tryouts. I felt bad for her students though, but I think I would also be terrified to have such a respected dance figure critique my moves. From my observations, they definitely were a little nervous, i would be too, she is no joke! I was amazed how she was whipping around the room and refiguring everyone´s technique.

Afterwards we went to lunch so I could have a typical Austrian meal- WIENER SCHNITZEL! For those of you unfamiliar, it is fried calf meat. I ate about half before I was stuffed, it came with french fries which is the typical side. It was pretty good, I just wish there was a good sauce to go with it. During lunch we got a call from little Nelson and he excitedly told Karen that he was going to come meet us. He was at home and we were in the middle of the city center which meant he would have to take the train for about 20 minutes to meet us-alone! I was terrified, I looked at Karen like she had lost her mind, letting little Nelson come without someone to accompany him. She laughed and said that he had been taking the train alone since he was eight! ...WHAT!? Nelson is eleven now, but to me he will always be a baby just like Joe will always be. After I recovered from my panic attack, the little (but extra grown) guy came to meet us for ice cream. We wandered the city center for a while and saw several sites- Vienna is actually quite similar to Madrid! I was surprised, I thought Vienna would have a partciulary distinct vibe, which it did, but not as extreme as I was anticipating.

That evening I was lucky enough to attend my cousin Kai´s musical, the name of the show has escaped me but it was a love affair. The wardrobe was incredibly impressive, yet the story line wasn't really grabbing my attention, maybe because I couldn't understand any of the jokes, or anything for that matter, it was completely in German! Oh well, it was quite extravagant. I went to a Vampire musical a couple nights later with cousin Malcolm that was a little corny but so much fun! The vampires came out into the audience and were scaring everyone, I think a girl in front of us peed her pants.

After the show, my cousin took me to the cast dinner, and I met a lot of the show members. It was amazing, everyone was from all over the world and they were so nice! Everyone had such a vibrant personality, which makes sense, all of them being thespians and dancers. I met one young man, Nicola, from Italy and he was truly fabulous- in many senses of the word. He was probably one of the kindest people I had met in awhile, very welcoming and simply adorable.

Saturday was spent going to Vienna's palace, Schönbrunn. This place was incredible, it has over 1500 rooms, needless to say, it was overwhelmingly enormous. It reminded me of what Versailles might look like, though I have yet to visit Versailles. The courtyard was something like three football fields and people were just wandering around in awe. Behind the palace was an enormous garden where there is what I assumed to be an old carriage house converted into a restaurant. We stopped for a awhile, soaked in the sights and made our way back down the hill to the city.

Later we visited the Hundertwasser Haus (House), constructed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser. So adorable! This architect reminded me of Picasso and Antonio Gaudí, very funky and colorful. His style is full of mosaics and interesting shapes. We couldn't actually go inside of the place, people live there now but I would recommend seeing going to see it for anyone who is visiting Vienna. Its quite the sight!

As I mentioned before, Vienna truly reminds me of Madrid. The big extravagant buildings, the attention to detail, the hustle and bustle. But as I saw more and more, the city reminded me a little more of Rome with the elegance and the whole grand feeling. I saw people from all backgrounds, and all kinds of restaurants and shops. Despite this great diversity in things to do and see, I have to admit I have never been stared at with such intensity. I am used to receiving more glances than the average person but Vienna was definitely the first place I felt as though people were simply gawking. And it isn't as though everyone is blonde and blue-eyed as you might imagine; there are a considerable amount of people with physical descriptions more distinct than the one I just mentioned. My cousin Karen was rather confused too, she said that she's used to getting stares as well, but the two of us together received a staggering amount of attention from onlookers. After living in Europe for a considerable amount of time, I am realizing how rare my background is (here), and how confused people are when they look at me. I found it completely rude, and Karen agreed. It's funny, I thought I got crazy stares in Spain, yet Austria was on an entirely different level!

Taking the subway system was the most common form of transport in the city, it was very simple. My cousins have even nixed owning a car because the subway system has proven to be used with such ease! The subway was probably where the gawking was the worst. Unfortunately the staring actually came second to how rude people were with the nudging and rushing and pushing while moving from train to train. If I had been there longer, I might have gone off on someone! Karen said her Puerto Rican friend likes to snap at people in Spanish; I found that thought rather funny. For how pushy and annoying the people were, I couldn't imagine my little cousin (Nelson) navigating the trains all alone. But he does! So proud of him!

After all of the mixed reviews of the citizens, there was no mixed review about the food. There were all kinds of restaurants with all kinds of foods from all over the world, yet the food stands were really where you wanted to eat. There were all kinds of sausages and snacky- type things at food trucks and stands and it was delicious! And I loved that people walked around eating at any time of the day. In Spain, eating is such a process. No one eats outside of the designated meal times; I mean you literally won't be able to find food at a restaurant between 4:30 and 8pm. My American friends and I have coined it the "awkward time". Also, if you eat a lot at dinner people will ask you all kinds of questions about if you didn't eat at lunch. Ummm, no. I am just hungry. And no one eats while walking around unless its ice cream or sun flower seeds! And if you are eating something then you get all kinds of stares and someone like me doesn't need any more looks than the ones I already receive. Needless to say I nixed my habit of eating apples while taking a walk. UGH. You can go ahead and call me dramatic, but its actually really annoying!

With a house full of boys I think Cousin Karen was happy to have a female around for a little while. We did A LOT of shopping, specifically for shoes. Unfortunately we were both pretty unsuccessful. We were both looking for wedges but nothing was grabbing our attention, or if they did, they didn't have the right size, or they were unbearably uncomfortable and so on. While walking from one store to the next, a teenage girl came up to me and hesistantly asked " You speak a little English, right?" I laughed and said, "Yeah, a little." She was asking for directions so I directed her to Karen. After she flitted away, Karen and I chuckled at her ridiculous question. As funny as it was, I must say that I love my ambiguous look, it makes people so awkward and uneasy!

We also went to the famous market called the Naschmarkt, full of food and clothing and other little knick-knacks. It reminded me of the street markets in Spain. We were looking at jewelry for awhile and the venders couldn't seem to relax. Just a glance over at their tents would send them into a frantic tizzy of questions and "Good price for you!!!".

We also went to a couple museums where we saw the royal families crown jewels, dinnerware collection and their homes. Empress Sissi's museum was my favorite, she seemed to be quite peculiar but I liked learning about her. She was the Empress of Austria during the late 19th century until she was stabbed by a lunatic at the age of sixty. Most of her life consisted of vanity; she spent half the day excercising and getting ready. Her hair was past her knees so she would spend an entire day having it washed. She would "fast" for days a time to maintain her weight of one hundred pounds, and this woman was 5' 8''! Apparently she was severely socially awkward and didn't actually like being the Empress and would avoid contact with the public. At one point, she considered walking around with a veil on her face. Anyways, I'm sure you can watch the movie or look up more information if you are so inclined, but this lady was odd!

Overall, I REALLY enjoyed myself in Vienna and didn't want to leave! I loved visiting my family that I rarely see, eating a ton (my cousin thought I was a pig, haha), seeing the city and being in central Europe. It was nice to get a different feel for the continent, and get out of the south for a little bit. My only regret is that I didn't stay longer!


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