Not too much to report here. I woke up with the chills last night and then felt weak when I woke up in the morning. After showering and eating some delicious breakfast I decided to skip the morning activities and get more sleep. Wonderful decision. I slept with the faded noises of our street filling in as background noise. Maria (my host) gave me some medicine to take, which I was very grateful for. I woke up in time to go to a landscape architecture firm that happens to be working on a lot of projects on the former Iron Curtain. Their work really seemed to invite communication between two sides that have not communicated for over 60 years, very refreshing to see.
The separation of Western and Eastern Europe keeps coming up on this trip as Vienna sits very close to that border. Vienna definitely resembles a Western city these days with its commerce and tourism, but its location makes it easy to visit former communist countries very easily. I have visited Bratislava and Krakow thus far and the attitudes there towards Vienna is that the city is as flashy as New York or London. I must say that I tend to prefer smaller cities like Bratislava and Krakow because they offer more intimate settings and better food :), but each time I return to Vienna it feels more like a home. This city is so big, but I am learning to traverse it reasonably well. The times I love Vienna the most are when I leave my house in the morning or come back to it in the evening and everywhere I look there are people sitting with coffees and/or beers talking to each other or reading. I don't know how many of these people are tourists, but I think the people here generally try to enjoy themselves over the entire week rather than just the weekend.
For instance, yesterday we met with Gregor again at a site he is currently renovating. He is renovating the site to a Jewish theater in a property that used to be a Jewish theater before the war. In 1938 the theater was swiftly shut down and many years later it was turned into a supermarket, an obvious degradation of the once vibrant cultural property. Now, there are many people hoping to reclaim this spot for the community. I talked with a theater director from Switzerland whose Jewish background became reinvigorated with the proposition to renovate the property. We talked for hours over wine, crackers and cheese, and cigarettes (his, not mine) from the afternoon until the late evening. Later I realized that this man had not intended to stay all evening to talk with our class, but because I had started a conversation he indulged me and we (well, at least me) had a wonderful time. Viennese. (Oh yeah, and the class was much more responsible with its wine consumption this time :) )
I have done and seen so many things now that each day seems like a blur. The morning feels completely removed from the evening. Last week seems months ago. The first days of this trip are long forgotten. What looms ahead, however, is the end. I now have about 10 days left on this trip. Although I feel that I've gotten so much out of it already, I still feel like I want to stay much longer to soak up more inspiration from this place. Likewise, I'm also very eager to come home and begin life after college. Ten days seems so short, but everyday here contains so much and I am confident that I still have rich experiences waiting ahead for me.
Ciao for now,
Friday, June 12, 2009
I am currently in Krakow, Poland. The entire group came for a weekend trip, part of which will include a visit to Auschwitz. Last night we were able to go out and explore the town: who knew Krakow should be a city on everybody's list to visit? Krakow has a charming, bustling middle square with restaurants around. The outdoor seating and consistent crowds of people make for an experience like none in America. Also, Krakow has amazing side streets with neat bar/restaurant after neat bar/restaurant. A few of us were lucky enough to stumble in to a great beer bar (wait until I fill you all in about my new love for Belgian beer) where the bartender pored over a map for half an hour recommending places to eat. What an amazing find. We tried his number one place for dinner and I got some kind of a sausage and potato soup with an order of pirogi with meat and cabbage. I essentially shoveled it all into my mouth. Mighty fine.
I have high hopes for Krakow, and I have TONS of filling in to do on my last week or so. Don't expect too many pictures unfortunately because that is the most time consuming part, but I will definitely post whenever I get the chance.
Hope all is well stateside.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
It has been a while because Austria had a major holiday yesterday (Monday) and I cannot get internet access on the weekend. I had quite an amazing weekend though, here are a few things that happened.
I spent one lovely morning walking around St. Stephens Cathedral with Tate (my prof) pointing out nice little cafes that we should eat at. We had a coffee at one of them and had a wonderful time reading, taking pictures of Viennese people, and drawing.
Our host family was out of town this weekend visiting their country home, but their son Oggie (sp?) took over the house and made it his party abode. He's 27, so it's no juvenile rule-breaking. Suffice it to say that Europeans have much looser privacy standards about sex with others around. A cliche thought, I know, but try to imagine eating breakfast with a soundtrack composed of mattress noises, playful giggles, and exhales. Viva la Vienna!
Oggie took James and I out later that night and I had the most fun I've had thus far. Talking about film with his friends was a lot of fun and alcohol really washes away any language barrier.
Yesterday was a magnificent day. Our class met Tate's best friend and Viennese designer/architect Gregor Eichinger. We sat with him in a wine shop he designed 15 years ago and picked his brain while drinking grüner veltliner. Awesome.
Afterwards, while most of our classmates went to continue their wine buzz (really and truly, 65% of the class beat their normal tolerance to a miserable pulp) James, Andrew (my other roommate), and a couple others went to a bar for A beer in the 8th district of Vienna. We were sitting and enjoying the atmosphere when James pulled out a brochure from a film museum. He flipped through it and then suddenly pulled out his German-English dictionary. 5 minutes of grueling translation passed and then James realized that Philip Seymour Hoffman was attending the Viennese premier of Synecdoche, New York (probably my favorite film last year)! We froze in deliberation. We chugged our beers and then rushed back to the first district to try and see him. We got to the film museum out of breath and sweaty, but right as the film was ending. I went to use the bathroom and I was looking for "Herren" to denote the Men's bathroom. A husky figure was in the hall ambling in no particular direction. I thought it was another drunk Viennese. I look up and a bolt runs through my stomach. Philip. Seymour. Hoffman. !!! My future self in the flesh. I went out to tell the others, but I was speechless. They opened the theater doors to the press and we rushed in unnoticed. First row, less than 10 feet away. My friend sketched Phil while he answered questions thoroughly and thoughtfully, and then had him sign his portrait. I wanted to invite him for a beer so badly, but he was travelling with his wife and probably wrecked from jetlag. Still, one of the coolest happenstance moments ever.
This morning we recounted the whole thing over a breakfast of pastry, toast (which isn't just regular toast, but actually toast with ham, cheese, and butter), yogurt, OJ, tea, and a selection of meats and cheeses. I love this city.
More later but plenty for now,