So I have been in Vienna for a week now. It seems like I have been here longer than that. My classes officially started last Thursday but since I only have 1 class on Thursdays it was not too difficult. We also met our host families. Ours is a delightful older lady who speaks no English. She actually lives upstairs and she explained why but all I understood was that her husband has a “broken head.” I know that makes no sense but those were the words I understood so that is what I am sticking with. She feeds us breakfast every morning and while it is the same thing I do not think I will tire of it. The yogurt here is so much better than at home. She feeds us yogurt and granola which is some of the best granola I have ever had and I am still contemplating how I can bring some home. We have a selection of bread and marmalades and she always puts nutella out. People here drink a lot of orange juice, I know it sounds like an odd observation but they do. Their milk is 3.6% and while I am sure this not good for my figure it tastes good so I drink some. She puts out sugar and I think she said something about making sugar milk but that is all too much for my figure I think so I usually just stick with milk. Our apartment is 300 years old and it is right behind Die Rathaus (or town hall) which is a gorgeous building. We are really close to the Ubung (subway) and it is only a short ride to our school. The school is right next to the Staatsoper (I think Brit is upset at this point in his reading but he should continue) it is fun to stare out the window. We heard the orchestra practicing the other day and I cannot describe how beautiful it was.
Our first time at the grocery store was somewhat of a disaster. We had no idea what to buy and I still have trouble converting euros into dollars in my head. We wandered around for awhile and finally decided on some yogurt and cheese. I contemplated ordering some lunch meet but was terrified to try in German because I have no idea how you ask for what kind of meat you want never mind how much. Luckily I found packaged meat around the corner. We spent quite a bit of time deciding what kind of bread to buy. It is expensive and there is a lot to choose from. We finally went to purchase our selections. You have to buy your own bag and it was 66 euro cents! That is almost a dollar and it is only a paper bag. Then I got yelled at because you are supposed to weigh your own fruit…she said something to me in German that I did not understand at all. I quickly said “what?” in English and I could tell she was thinking “oh you ignorant American.” She had to get someone who spoke English to explain it to me. I was humbled and I may shop at a different store next time.
Bratislava was quite an adventure. We took a train on Friday and it only took about an hour to get there. The capital has an old city which is beautifully old. I quite enjoyed the architecture and the old beautiful churches. It never ceases to amaze me that people who did not have half as much technology could build something so grand. It is built with such care and emotion. It is truly a form of worship that I think few people know of. It does an incredible job of making you feel incredibly humble.
We had a tour guide from Bratislava and it was fascinating to talk to her. She talked a lot about when Bratislava had been part of Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. She remembered having to wear certain outfits in order to greet government officials and she talked about having to swear allegiance to the communist government. We also had an interesting discussion about America in Europe after September 11th. We passed by the American Embassy in Bratislava. The embassy is a beautiful old building with a huge iron gate surrounding it that blocks off the street and taints the square where it is located. Our guide talked about how difficult it was for her to obtain a visa from the U.S. She said she felt so affronted by the questions she was asked in her interview. They used interrogation tactics on her as though she had committed a crime; asking her the same questions repeatedly in a slightly different way. Then we discussed how this in turn had made it harder for Americans to obtain visas simply because other countries were retaliating to their treatment. She said since 9/11 America has become suspicious of everyone and some nations feel that they are overly so.
We ate at a Slovakian restaurant for lunch. I thought I would be bold and try something authentic. I do not think I will ever be that bold in Slovakia ever again. My food was not exactly delicious. I had gnocchi like dumpling pasta with a cheese sauce. The cheese is a Slovakian goat cheese. It was very strong and not in a good way. It had bacon the top and when they said bacon pieces I imagined bacon bits. Not so. They were large chunks of pork that tasted more like B.O. than bacon. We decided the pasta would not have been so bad had the bacon not tainted everything it touched. Needless to say we had to chew a lot of gum and eat some gelato afterwards. The gelato was delicious.
Saturday my roommate and I went to a famous cathedral in Vienna called Stephansdom (or St. Stephan’s Cathedral) It was beautiful inside. Starting in November the Vienna Boys Choir performs at every mass so I think we will be going back to attend. We also went to the catacombs in Stephansdom which was quite the experience. The Hapsburgs, well part of the Hapsburgs, are buried there. There hearts are in a different cathedral. There is a mass grave from when the plague was in Vienna and several of the Bishops of Vienna are buried there. It was somewhat eerie but worth the 4 euros. We also went to a flea market and that was quite the experience. Since my German is sooo good. Ha I wish. It is actually quite laughable. Anyways I seem to have a major difficulty with numbers for some reason. This inhibits time telling and buying things; most of the time I just hand them a euro bill for what I think it can’t be more than. It also makes bartering at a flea market extremely difficult. There was not anything I was dying to buy which is good because I do not think I could have. Their flea markets are more like garage sales than I imagined. People sell their own possessions rather than manufactured goods. It was really fun to go and look and there are a ton of markets in Vienna so I think that will be one of my Saturday rituals.
Saturday night we went to the Prater which is like Coney Island. There is a Ferris wheel there that was built in 1897. We rode and it was a good way to see Vienna. It is huge and the cars are like little bungalows. In some of them people were eating dinner and all of us decided we would not mind being proposed to eating dinner in one of the bungalows on the Ferris wheel.