Friday, November 9, 2007

One smokin' town.

Me, singing an aria in front of the opera house.

We started the day following Lonely Planet's version of
Vienna, which can basically be summed up in three words: architecture, museums, and cafes.

I am not an architecture buff, but I can see that this is a well-designed city. Every time we checked out the guide book, the building we'd be looking at represented a masterpiece of some kind of era, be it gothic, renaissance, art nouveau. But it is just not the main sights. We wandered around some of the non-touristy streets and discovered design apparent in neighborhood cafes and restaurants, where someone undoubtedly spent a great deal of time thinking about the look and feel of the place--from the tables and chairs to the light fixtures. All of these places looked uniquely inviting and undeniably hip. The people inside these places, smoking cigarettes, drinking wine, matched the interior, and that was a sight to see in itself.

Vienna has an insane amount of museums. Aside from walking the main pedestrian streets and visiting the famous church Stephansdom, the only sights to see are the museums--the history and decoration of the actual buildings just as impressive as the things inside.

We opted to go to Kunsthistorisches, the museum of fine arts, simply because our book said it was one of the best museums in Europe and "should not be missed." The building itself was quite beautiful and as we were walking through it, I couldn't help but stop and admire the art and detailing on every inch of the walls and high ceilings. Even the museum café was beautiful with a giant dome that loomed overhead.

But when it got to the stuff exhibited in the museum, Dan and I were bored stiff. We walked through rooms and rooms of 16th and 17th century paintings, all dark and gloomy, of aristocrats and religious motifs, all looking the same. We breezed through some of the Roman, Greek and Egyptian artifacts having seen similar exhibits in the past. Then there were rooms of ancient coins that we didn't even bother with.


Ceiling inside the museum.

If you don't feel like a museum, there is always a cafe. There is one at every corner, most of which sell a wonderful selection of cakes. In the United States and you go to a restaurant, you order food, you eat, you go. Here, people linger over a slice of cake and a coffee for hours and no one will bat an eyelash.

There were so many places to choose from, but we opted to stop in one of the most fancy and well-known cafes called Demel. We tried Vienna's famous cake, the sacher torte, which is essentially a chocolate cake with a chocolate shell crust. Between the cake and the crust is a thin swab of marmalade. The cake was very good, but not my favorite. I will have to test some more to find one I really like (I am happy to handle that challenge).

Me at Demel, enjoying some sacher torte.

After a day of sight-seeing, Dan and I went to visit Kristina, one of the Germans from my Polish language classes, who is going to university in Vienna. I was really excited to see her and also for Dan to have a chance to meet one of the people from my travels that he has heard so much about. And there we had the opportunity to see the city from a person who actually lives there.

Kristina lives in this really awesome apartment, which she rents with a few other students. It is really old, but really large and spacious--her bedroom is probably the size of Dan and apartment in New York City!

She was a little nervous to see us, but we were thrilled at the chance to see her home and enjoy the delicious Middle Eastern spread she made for us. After a few glasses of red wine and her roommate Lilian arriving to join us, she finally relaxed and we had the best time sitting around the kitchen, talking and drinking into the night.

Kristina is socially-minded, and I knew she would have a lot in common with Dan. Lilian turned out to be the same way, so right away, we got into friendly political debates and discussions, plus talks about comparisons between The United States and Europe.

Lilian suggested that we smoke scented tobacco, and I was surprised when they pulled out a giant hookah right there and then. They told us that it is very trendy in Germany right now to own one.

Dan and I looked each other. We have never known anyone to own one.

"We have two of them," Lilian said.

Everyone knows I am not a fan of smoking, but when in Vienna, do as the Germans do. We smoked an apple flavor variety, and while I liked the community aspect of sharing a smoke, the talking and passing the pipe around, I didn't love the actual smoking itself. It was a fun experience at the moment, but don't count on me running out and doing it again anytime soon.

Kristina walked us home, following us on her bike, and I could tell that Dan was just jazzed about meeting her. And I hope that it made him realize that traveling is not just about the places you see, but also the people you meet.

We're hoping that Kristina and Lilian will come visit us in New York. Kristina made a wish of wanting to come to the States to eat marshmallows (this was after more than a few glasses of wine). I think we can certainly arrange that. Our couch (and the marshmallows) are waiting.

Hey mom, don't look!

Lilian, Kristina, me and Dan.


Anonymous said...

"but when in Vienna, do as the Germans do" must laugh reading this sentence... :D I think its better not to show it to the austrians ;) ! ... Kristina

Maria said...

I am almost sure you are signing an aria from "Carmen"

s.j.simon said...

lol. did you know that chocolate was banned in switzerland for many years. read this

Peter said...

Scented tobacco? Is that what they told you it was? Maybe that explains the munchies for all those desserts!!!

Brett said...

Has anyone else noticed how very trendy it is in Germany right now to own a giant hookah?

Annette said...

That's it! I'm going on ebay to get a hookah!