A Tiny Bit of Vienna (Was That All Just a Dream?)

Some three or four hours later we found ourselves in Austria to visit Vienna, the city of music, the city of dream… We were listening to some Mozart on the way as we were about to arrive at our 4-star hotel for the night. Even though it was a Friday night, the streets of the capital were deserted and we didn’t see many people out. Maybe people were escaping the bustle and hustle of the big city somewhere… We checked in to the hotel quite late and found out that wasn’t up to the high standard and accidentally my friend and me unlocked a safe with some drinks and were expecting to be made to pay for it the next morning. Russian people are inherently tempted with what can possibly get them into trouble… We were looking forward to watching some German-speaking TV the way we did in Dresden and all we got was an invitation to tune in to some adult content which we were certainly in the mood for that night… So we hit the sack and unfortunately as my new player didn’t have FM-radio, I was listening to a couple of songs I uploaded and eventually had difficulty getting to sleep as my nose was totally blocked and the night in this romantic city didn’t feel so at all… As I was already asleep at the break of dawn, I heard some commotion in the hallway and some people whom I assumed to be Chinese or Japanese… Why did they have to be so loud? I’d rather have had some Mozart to wake up to… The breakfast, which was absolutely amazing, made up for the night… And luckily for us, we were not charged for unlocking that safe…
It was getting cloudy when we were leaving the hotel and I was getting tired of those weather extremes… I regret to say that the tour of Vienna was the most disappointing tour we’d had on this trip and what it did was detract from the city itself…
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… Our guide was really unprofessional and her accent was terrible and even that microphone she was carrying around didn’t help us understand her monotonous speech… She did a terrible job and didn’t deliver at all… In hindsight, I still feel I really missed out on the beauty and romance of Vienna… It is known to be the city of music because it’s home to many greatest names in music but it’s also called the city of dream because it’s a home place of Sigmund Freud who was renowned for this in-depth study into the nature of human dreams… I didn’t get any dreams when I was in bed but my whole experience of Vienna seems like a blurred dream I woke up from even before the best bits started… I was so peeved and disappointed… So now I’ll be trying to piece together what I remember seeing that day which is not an easy thing to do…
We started off at Maria-Theresa Square which was under reconstruction but still looked magnificent and was all I expected a square in Vienna to be on a quiet Saturday morning… In this square there was the building of the Museum of Natural History of Vienna which is one of the iconic views of the city… We saw a bit of Museumsquater from over there too… It was raining so we didn’t get may photography opportunities…
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Then I believe we drove through the famous Ringstrasse which took us to us to the attraction which is considered to be off the beaten path and makes for a nice getaway from the imperial Vienna which we hadn’t really experienced yet and weren’t much expecting to thanks to our “lovely” guide…That was the Hundertwasser House. I was really looking forward to seeing this public housing in the central Vienna and somehow knew I would be genuinely astonished by what I was going to see… Quirky and bizarre things which this piece of architecture unarguably is have always seemed to fascinate me. This house was nothing short of bizarre. I loved those multiple inconsistent colorful details of the façade.
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Hundertwasser who originally came up with the idea of creating something completely out of this world amidst all the typically Vienna architecture collaborated with some architects to put his crazy ideas into practice. The building now has several dozens of apartments, some offices and private terraces. Another extraordinary thing about it is that it has flowers and trees growing from inside it (by the way, Hundertwasser has a plant growing on top of his burial place in New Zealand). It’s a shame there was no chance to get inside but this place is known to have uneven floors so it would have been a bit of a challenge to take a tour of the building I believe. Hundertwasser said that “an uneven floor is like a divine melody to the feet”. I agree that the whole piece of architecture was against all common architectural sense and to me it looked as if it was going to fall apart just as we were standing there. We made a brief stop at some of the shops in the so-called Hundertwasser Village just across the road and got to see some nice pieces of art and the Hundertwasser memorabilia. I got some stuff featuring some of the popular paintings by Vienna artists and wish I had got a poster with a picture of the Hundertwasser House… I just had no time to make up my mind because we were in a stupid rush again… When we were about to leave, I had to turn back to take one final look at the building and wished I had more time to experience it in the way I should have…
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As we were back on the coach, we got some views of the Danube Canal which for the reason unknown to me looked green… There were lots of business centres, banks all around as well…
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I believe the next attraction on our way has to be the Hofburg Palace which used to the residence of the famous Habsburg dynasty since the 15th century and now serves as the official residence of the President. I don’t remember much about this place because as I said we couldn’t rely on our guide to give us in-depth knowledge of the places we were visiting… I remember seeing the Sisi Museum. This is what Elizabeth of Austria was called. Along with Mozart, she was featured in many billboards in the city. She looked like a very beautiful lady and we watched a part of a film about her life on our way to Austria. I think her image matched what Vienna was thought to be, beautiful, romantic and intimate…
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We also saw multiple horse-drawn carriages riding along the cobbles streets of Vienna and wished we could take one to explore the city as well… It was just so Vienna I think.
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The last stop I remember we had was the Stephenplatz with St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom), one of the tallest churches in the world. The view of the church was just breathtaking and an absolute pleasure to see. At this point we didn’t care at all what the guide was going on about and all we did was take it in. It had some poster on it which gave some facts of a staggering number of children dying of hunger every day…
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We were given a little time to ourselves and were happy to say goodbye to the guide. So we decided we couldn’t leave without trying some Vienne coffee and took a “Kaffee break”. We chose a coffee shop just across the road from Stephansdom. We were looking for a table and got inside first where one of the waiters or whoever he was gave me a charming smile I can never forget… We ended up getting a table outside and ordered some mélange coffee which was a local specialty. Coffee in Vienna is served with ice-cold water from the Alps which tastes fantastic and you can run it from a tap wherever you are in Vienna. Such a big change from that intoxicated water we have here! We also got some banana split ice-cream. The waiter was friendly and nice. When our order arrived, we were shocked by an enormous amount of the ice-cream. It would have been enough for all three of us, I think. The coffee was served really beautifully and even though I’m not a coffee drinker, I was excited to try it. It actually tasted quite good and the whole experience felt like nothing we can have happen to us back home. I knew there was no way I was going to finish the ice-cream so we all had to leave most of it behind even though it wasn’t something we normally did. The waiter was really professional and didn’t mind us taking the time to figure out how to pay the bill and was nice to have no objections to us paying him with a huge pile of coins…
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We headed off to do some souvenir shopping and I had one of those jaw-dropping moments when I saw the price for the Rolex watch! It was staggeringly high and I knew why this spot was a shopping venue for the European nobility back in the day.
We had some other interesting encounter there which I think I need to mention here. As we were taking a stroll of this street lined with luxurious shops and souvenir places, we got approached by a couple of ladies whose looks suggested they were members of some religious group and were on a mission to recruit more people. The funny thing is that they turned out to be our fellow countrymen! Where else in the entire world would I have met Russian people… They heard us speaking Russian and thought we were just the people they were looking for. They asked us something about our religious beliefs and my sister was quite adamant to say we were not interested and it was actually wrong to be asking this kind of questions. This is when the ladies gave in and left us alone. I knew if they hadn’t, my sister would have tried to call the police. I wasn’t happy to meet those ladies because they might be sending out the wrong message about what Russian people are like to people abroad. Instead of trying to do good for themselves, they were wasting their lives away… But well, that wasn’t really any of my business after all but meeting them wasn’t sure the best part of the day…
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We got to see the popular Albertina Museum which was just some minutes’ walk away from where we were. I was starting feeling unwell after that coffee I’d had… I guess it was too strong for me and that was my body’s response to it… This sickness I had certainly deterred me from drinking coffee ever again if I’m in Vienna. That day wasn’t just meant to be nice and happy after all… It was embarrassing to walk into public places feeling like this and I was praying to whatever gods up there for me to feel good again. And I eventually did which was a Vienna miracle for me…
I had another blow to my national pride as we were sitting by the Albertina Museum waiting to meet our tour guide. I heard some teenage guys sitting on the bench next to ours say “Russin” (Russians). Words cannot describe how I hated them at that moment. Did they have a problem with us being Russian? I know I might have taken this comment too personally but that did feel like a smack in the face, a label… I wonder what it is we do that makes people from across the world discriminate against us… If I was more fluent in German, I think I would have approached them to ask what they thought was wrong about being Russian… I was fuming at that remark and I think I still am now that I’ve brought it up…
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After a meal we had at a café owned by a Russian (I found out there are surprisingly many Russians in Vienna and this is where all this stigma comes from I should think), it was time to leave. Before that, we had to find our way back to Maria-Theresa Square which was said to be just some minutes’ walk away. We had this man in our group who was brilliant at finding his way around so we all followed his lead and relied on his gut instinct. It might have been funny to watch several dozens of people following one man, like a group of school kids out on an excursion. As we were walking, I caught a glimpse of the Mozart Monument in the City Park and was sad I had to leave before the music of the city started playing and resonating with my soul… Later on, I saw the film “Before Sunrise” which I highly recommend which tells a story of two people who meet on a train and eventually fall in love over one single day they spend together in Vienna having insightful conversations and getting to know each other… I had this incredible feeling when I was watching the film and reliving all these views of the city which were lost upon me on my visit… Maybe it wasn’t my time to explore the city which is filled to the brim with culture, romance and music… I’m really looking forward to coming here again and taking another chance with Vienna (no more coffee for me, please)…
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Author: Olga

An English teacher and translator, a keen traveller

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