Sunday, June 01, 2008
Vienna is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It's also the city that was my temporary home for most of 2001, and ever since reluctantly leaving I've wanted to go back. After seeing it again, I really regret not managing to get back sooner. My German is much worse (though resurfaced admirably during a critical moment), the dollar is unbearably weak, and my favorite local hangout has closed, but Vienna was wonderful. The highlight was, of course, the wedding that I'd travelled all that way for, but a close second was sipping beer with S___ and the bride on the night before we left in one of our old haunts. It just felt really good to be back!
The changes that I saw in Vienna were really all for the good (except the closing of the Cult Brau, of course)--new train stations, a facelift at the Prater, a fancy new airport train, and no smoking in most restaurants. I also noticed that the Hooters that made me a little embarassed to be an American every time I saw it has either moved or closed. Yeah! The Viennese seemed a lot friendlier (and more English-speaking) than I remember, especially when S___'s "shortcut" to our old neighborhood failed to pan out as expected. As soon as we asked one person for directions, there were at least three people who discussed the problem, and watched out for us on the tram so that we got to where we were going. I should note that from my perspective as a then-Bostonian, the Viennese seemed very similar to the Bostonians when I lived there. Not unfriendly, but pretty straightforward and unlikely to make a lot of small talk during superficial interactions. So when I say that people were in general friendlier, I don't want to imply that I didn't think they were friendly enough before. I was just a little surprised when I was going to my crack of dawn train to the airport, and a couple of the construction guys having breakfast asked me where I was going, as if they were really interested.
Thanks to S___'s superstar status as a travelling businessman, we had a very nice room at the Wien Mitte Hilton, which made getting around (and getting coffee) very easy. We were close to all of the major attractions, and managed to hit a fair number of them--see photographic evidence above. We also revisited some favorite restaurants. The Chinese restaurant that was around the corner from our building coincidentally moved downtown, a few blocks from the hotel. They've taken my beloved "Nummer 41" off of the menu, but the dish that I had was similar and delicious. We had lunch at Centimeter, which used to serve food in Axes and Shovels, but now they seem to only have plates. Or maybe they only bring out the heavy dishes at dinnertime? I would say that the non-wedding culinary highlight, though, was coffee at Demel's. Oh, how I miss the coffeeshops of Vienna--most weekends I'd hit a new coffeeshop to study.
Enough stream-of-consciousness rambling about Vienna. I have a feeeling that it won't be seven more years before I go back!