Jun 30 2009

Wien, as told by a non-Wiener

by at 9:51 am

This weekend, we were off traveling once again, this time, to Wien.  What, you’ve never heard of this city?  That’s because we generally refer to it as Vienna.  But, as we have learned, Anglophone-eyed German never gets old.  Although Jeremy A-D, our fellow traveler and resident linguist and German speaker, would rather point out all the grammatical delights of German instead.

Signs that we have been traveling too much in Europe and, furthermore, that it is summer: we could not bring ourselves to go into art museums or churches.  I mean, I was already sick of visiting churches before we ever arrived in Switzerland, but Seth finally agrees.  I think the art thing has more to do with the warm weather, although pre-nineteenth century European art (read:infinite numbers of Jesuses, Marys, royalty, and battles realistic but out of proportion in muted colors) has never greatly captivated my attention.

Still, there was plenty to do and see.  I think Vienna and I think elegance, classical music, coffeehouses, secular Jewish intellectuals, and Holocaust terrors.  I forgot to think about the Hapsburgs and their ginormous palace, along with accompanying Lipizzaner horses, but I remembered once we happened to stumble into the huge courtyard of said palace.  Under ominous clouds that threatened showers at any moment, but which only actually opened up just as we were heading out of town, we spent our three days doing quite a bit of walking through the broad and stolid streets, sight-seeing, and, of course, eating.

Music performances were advertised everywhere.  Instead of huge posters advertising movies or plays, we were bombarded by people trying to convince us to come to an orchestral concert and by huge signs at ticket booths for operas.  We opted for opera and went to see Mozart’s the Magic Flute at the Vienna State Opera.  It was a great production, and we were able to follow along with the English translation of the libretto.  That makes THREE operas that I have seen since May, which about doubles the number of operas I have seen in my lifetime.

Wiener Staatsoper
The Opera House

Although music was an important part of the entertainment scene, there was surprisingly little, particular as compared to, say, Leipzig, in the way of music sights.  Surprising considering this is the city of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, Schubert, and Strauss, to name only a few.  We went to the Haus der Musik and had fun playing with their music-making machines when they did not have long lines, but we were actually a little underwhelmed by the explanations and the disconnect between the interactive, digital music-making and the floor on great Viennese composers.

On the Jewish side of things, we went to really lovely, song-filled Kabbalat Shabbat services at the liberal synagogue, which just happened to also be doing a special “Erev Pride.”  They were incredibly welcoming and friendly.  We did not go to the main Jewish museum, but we did go see the foundations of the medieval Jewish synagogue in Vienna, which were presented by a wonderful museum that also had a special exhibition on a reinterpretation of the Merchant of Venice done by a Yiddish theater in New York in the late 1940s.  Of course, we also wandered through the Jewish quarter and visited another important memorial to the victims of fascism, which failed to really accept Austrian blame and basically just announced that it was all the Gestapo’s fault that there were indeed victims of fascism in Austria.  And we spent a bit of time at the small but good Esperanto museum, which kind of counts as a Jewish experience, right?  We found out there is an Esperanto club in Renens VD!

Although we spent less time in coffee houses than I might have liked, we did do our share of eating.  We particularly enjoyed two excellent vegetarian restaurants and takeout from a Nepalese one (we tried to eat this in the Opera house, until an usher yelled at us…but what are you supposed to do about eating dinner when an opera goes from 7 pm to 10:30 pm?).  Also, I forced Seth and Jeremy to spend quite a bit of time wandering the Naschmarkt, a huge food market featuring not only vegetables, but small groceries, bakeries, and cafes as well.  If this existed in Lausanne, this could actually provide one-stop food shopping rather than the usual hopping among about five different stores and the Saturday market that we undertake.  Here, the two guys were able to find lactose-free baked Viennese goodies.

Vegan pastries

A weekend was not really enough for Vienna.  For example, we barely made it to any of the vast Hofburg palace, only going to the beautiful old library, let alone the Schloss Belvedere, a rival palace also in Vienna.  And, remember, we skipped all churches and art museums.  Then again, traveling is wearying.  Not sure whose crazy idea it was to go to Germany for a week and then so soon to Austria…and at the end of this week, to Paris.  Oh, mine.  Oops.  So, anyway, we’re happy to be back in Switzerland for a last few days before we take off to Paris and then the US for the rest of the summer.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Wien, as told by a non-Wiener”

  1. Bill Chapmanon 30 Jun 2009 at 1:20 pm

    I’m glad you found your way to the “small but good Esperanto museum” in Vienna. I’d love to go there one day.

    I’d like to point out that Esperanto is far more than an historic curiosity. It is still very much in use today. Take a look at http://www.esperanto.net

  2. ccon 03 Jul 2009 at 8:17 am

    love love love. i miss wien, will have to visit again. haha at accidentally stumbling onto hofburg palace…that place is huge…

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply