Wiener Wonderland, Part Eins

Winter festival!My weekend in Vienna was one of contrast–high and low culture, extravagance and simplicity, chance encounters with people both delightful and dreadful.

We started off the trip with a fancy lunch at the beautiful Palmenhaus. On our way there we found an old woman who had fallen on the icy curb, seemingly landing on her face, and had been laying there unable to get up for who knows how long.  Her nose was purple and lumpy and seemed to be swelling by the minute, and her lovely coat was splashed with blood from a small cut on her face. Fortunately my travel companion, Tiffany, had a stash of Kleenex to offer, so we and the woman who’d found her first helped her up to a bench and just stood there dumbly offering sympathy and something to catch the blood. In spite of the trauma, though, both ladies were extremely friendly as they waited for the ambulance, the old bird smiling and nodding and thanking us profusely in German as she soaked tissue after tissue with her own blood, tried to catch her breath, and fussed with her furs and felts in an attempt to look composed. I’d heard that Austrians are polite, by my goodness.

After getting over the shock of finding a bloody old lady on the street, we ate and enjoyed an afternoon of modern art at the Kunsthalle where they were showing an Edward Hopper exhibit, including a photo set for visitors constructed and lit as an exact replica of “Western Motel” so you could be your own lonely and brooding Hopper character. After refueling with some perfect lattes in their swanky cafe, we wandered upon the Wiener Winter Festival with colored lights everywhere, an enormous ice skating track, and stand after stand of traditional treats (we went for the enormous donuts).

That evening we reminisced about our college days (oh, how distant they seem) over more coffee and Austrian cakes in a velvety cafe with a horribly rude waiter, conspicuously scoffing and shaking his head at everything we said and did. Their kitchen was closed, so we satisfied our appetites at a street cart outside serving shoarma and enormous portions of slimy, yet delicious, pizza. A large Turk served us up the cheap food with plenty of pet names to go. So we sat and ate on a bench at a tram stop on a yellow-lit street, freezing as we wiped the grease off our hands and did our best to deter a pair of fat, drunk, middle-aged, blue-collar Austrian brothers who accosted us with every other bite. We shooed them off and didn’t get too nervous because we knew our burly Turkish prince would come to our rescue if things got too real. Then it was on to a recommended nightclub that turned out to be over-priced, under-ventilated, and brimming with some serious Euro-trash.

Oh well. Tomorrow night we’d try again.


1 Response to “Wiener Wonderland, Part Eins”

  1. February 10, 2009 at 5:21 am

    Shan–I went to Vienna just a couple years ago and it was wonderful. Visit in the summer and go watch an opera projected onto one of the huge government? buildings with an incredible array of food vendors. I hope you are enjoying your time. Love ya!

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