Crossing the Iron Curtain.

And then westward to Vienna we went.

Vienna was sort of the big finale of our traveling seminar, the big shebang if you will. I found it interesting that the last leg of our trip entailed crossing the Iron Curtain border and entering the great “West,” but you may read into that as you may. We were all looking forward to Vienna and seeing a different side of the Cold War, and rather than learning about direct communism control, we were exposed to “socialism influence,” a nice change, to say the least. It was refreshing to witness a culture that had not been under a strict communism regime for 40-plus years.

Having heard great things about Vienna from friends, I had high expectations of the city. Vienna was apparently up to the task however, because I was far from disappointed.

Quintessential Vienna

I’m starting to think that the weather plays with my mind and has an absurd amount of control over my reactions to things. I say this mostly because I’ve seen my adoration for Prague empirically grow with the warming weather. I seem to love everything and anything when the sun is shining and true to the rule, the weather in Vienna hinted at spring with 70 degree weather and sunshine everyday. So although I’m not sure how my feelings of Vienna would be different if it would have been damp and cold during our visit, I would like to think the sunshine just added to an already euphoric sentiment towards the city.

Spring is in full bloom in Austria

Something I was not prepared for in Vienna was how freakishly good looking and well dressed all of the Viennese people are. It was absurd! I thought that we had perhaps mistakenly ended up in Paris or Milan. Stepping off the bus and taking in my surroundings I immediately had to rethink my wardrobe and shower regiment for the following three days…

I didn’t see a single person in sweats or looking “shlumpy” by any means, and if I did, they oozed of other characteristics denoting them as a definite tourist (i.e. camera around the neck, white tennis shoes, jeans, a possible fanny pack here and there). Most of the men were dressed in suits or at least donned sport coats and the women were put together to the “T” with manicured nails and with every single hair in place. People-watching in Vienna was like seeing the Spring line of Dolce & Gabbana strut past you on the NYC Fashion Week catwalk.

Here is my attempt at capturing the lifestyle of the Viennese (a little creepy, I know)- well dressed business men and women lunching and drinking wine...

And they weren’t only generally good looking but they were also generally friendly and helpful. Once again, I was surrounded by an unknown language (This is the story of my life. I’m getting quite used to it. I actually have no idea what I’m going to do when I come back to the states, where I can understand every conversation around me after four months of my “Maarja bubble” that leaves me to my own thoughts. However, I’ll be honest, I could use a break from my thoughts.).

Luckily, one of my friends speaks German fluently, so with her by my side all was fine, because as I mentioned in my blog about Krakow, mumbling Czech words under my breath did not quite cut it with German. But even without my friend or any other translator, I got around the city just fine. It seemed to me that most everyone in the service industry spoke some amount of English and if they didn’t, they were happy to deal with my pointing and apologetic smiles.

Despite never having an urge to speak German (the guttural sounds and five-words-in-one have always intimidated me), I left Vienna wanting to pick up German. I don’t know how they managed it, but the Viennese made the language sound so smooth, polished, and maybe even romantic if it’s possible. And besides, if I’m going to marry a well dressed Viennese man, I should probably know at least the basics. I already have the Viennese waltz down, so I’m halfway there, right?

The wonderful attitudes and lifestyle of the people were just part of the equation that made Vienna so appealing; there were also so many beautiful sights to see. We spent three nights in Vienna and I feel like I didn’t even see a tenth of the city, which means I must return when I’m a real person— and to find my husband, of course.

Looking at a map of Vienna, it is overwhelming to see all of the “Imperial” sights which are all indicated by the color yellow. The map is essentially all yellow with refreshing splotches of green parks. There is a museum for everything possible located in the Museum Quartier and so many well-dressed people must be clothed somehow so there is shopping galore (Sorry parents, I couldn’t help myself…).

Naschmarkt- A large open air market with fresh produce, meat, crafts, pastries, and an abundance of cute and trendy cafes to fulfill the fashionable lunching needs of the Viennese
The Kunsthistorisches Museum - try and say that three times fast....
Inside one of the many green parks in Vienna
I toured the Imperial Apartments and the Silver Collection of the Habsburgs. It's no surprise they had to wear such tight corsets with 30 courses at dinner.... my goodness!
The Imperial Apartments of Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Elisabeth
Doesn't it kind of look like Disney Land?
We also visited the socialist housing complexes located on the outskirts of the city. The Karl Mark-Hof complex is 1.1 km long.
A pristine and quaint alleyway of Vienna where many Hollywood films have been filmed because it is so untouched by modernity.
A pristine and quaint alleyway of Vienna where many Hollywood films have been filmed because it is so untouched by modernity.

I enjoyed Vienna so much that I think if I had the chance to study abroad for another semester and choose a different country, I would immediately choose Vienna. No question. But since my college student budget won’t allow for another semester hiatus from real life, I’ll have to settle for a visit later in life when my wallet will (hopefully) allow some indulgences.

I have a little over four weeks left in Praha and it’s nerve-racking to see how fast the weeks are flying by. It feels like I just got off the plane, wide-eyed and slightly terrified in the dead of winter, and now I’m a three-month veteran of the city. The past three months have been full of adventure and new experiences and I can’t wait to see what Prague has in store for my last month– hopefully it involves some rollerblading 🙂

Na Shledanou!

Maarja