Europe | Austria | Vienna – Elegance in Austria
What strikes me most is the elegance of Vienna. I see it in the architecture, in the softer German spoken here, and upon my arrival the damp fog that seems to mute all edges. Viennese women, it seems to me, are much classier than those I´ve seen in other European cities, perhaps even Paris. And yet, what basis for assessment do I have? It is possible such observation is only a reflection of my own fashion predicament: the same two sweaters, one pair of shoes, etc. For the first time on this trip, I walk by fancy stores and sales and I want to actually shop. I want to build some sort of glamorous appearance for myself, pretend to be Viennese. Instead, I walk.
Each day I walk and walk and walk. I am afraid that my first morning in California when I do not rise from bed, put on my shoes and hat and walk for the following ten hours that my body will go into shock, perhaps even shut down on me. My walk through Vienna proved magical. Christmas booths are now open and matched the full sky of fog, the sparkle of Christmas was more real. I wandered through the Christmas Market, looking at the ornaments and toys to buy. Lots of Austrians were strolling through too drinking ‘punsch,’ which is hot wine. I purchased a deep fried bread item that was dipped in hot butter, like a giant wafer of fried goodness.
As I was leaving the market on my way to the Sigmund Freud Museum where I´d decides to spend a warmer afternoon, I passed two guys on the street and found some sort of recognition, mutual recognition. We passed each other and then about twenty feet past, we all three stopped and looked at each other. Immediately they said to me, ‘Do you speak English?’ and I said to them, ‘Do you speak Spanish?’
These tios were from Spain, from Madrid actually so a lively conversation in Spanish ensued and I was delighted to have immediate friends and understanding. Before I knew it, we were walking and talking together for quite sometime and I was accidentally surprising them with how much of Spain I had seen while I was there, even the little suburbs of Madrid I had been to. They were shocked! But one thing I didn´t understand was how, simply by passing me by, could they guess that I spoke English? Could it be my less than Vienna-elegant apparel? I asked them about this and they said, ‘Oh, but you look like an American actress, the one who acted in a movie with Mel Gibson…’ but they never could remember what her name was, and so I´m left wondering if it was merely flattery.
After hours of chatting, we exchanged addresses. Marco said if I came back to Madrid he would help me get a job, and I told them to call whenever they finally visit San Francisco. We parted with two kisses on the cheeks, as if we were still in Spain, and then I scurried off to the museum hoping to get warm after too many minutes standing still.
When I arrived at the Sigmund Freud Museum, the first thing I had to do was use the toilet. As I was in the small bathroom that I had come to by walking down the corrider from the waiting room, I realized this was the same bathroom that so many of his patients had used. I´m not sure if that should be strange, but it made me pause and wonder just what sort of hyteria Freud would have assigned me…
That night I joined up with Sarah again and we made our way via tram and underground to the famous Viennese Opera. We arrived just ten minutes before the opening of Mozart? Figaro, an opera I made brief acquaintence with as an undergraduate in a Performance and Culture class, but I couldn´t remember what it was about. My guess was that it was about some sort of lover? triangle centered upon one philandering man. Isn´t that what life is about after all, or at least life reflected in music and drama? An exaggeration, perhaps, but my guess was exactly correct! It was unbelievable to me that arriving just ten minutes before the show, Sarah and I could purchase tickets for just 2 euros each. Granted, these were for the very top tier of the Opera House, standing bank only.
From my position I could see only two thirds of the stage. It was quite a task to watch the opera and also follow along with the electronic libretto. It was also unbelievable that they were actually singing words, let along Italian. The only distinct word I heard the entire time was ‘Madrastro,’ or mother-in-law. Or at least I think so…
After 1.5 hours of standing and getting completely knotted up in the confusing love triangle plot, we had an intermission. With the prospect of standing for another 1.5 hours after walking all day, Sarah and I both agreed to take the half experience as it was and go home to relax. The elegance of going to the opera whenever you choose and walking home in a beautiful city steeped in fog left me ready for dreaming.