It’s not that I didn’t enjoy Vienna. It’s not that Vienna isn’t a lovely city. It doesn’t lack for history, style, and charm.
It was just that everyone told me that Vienna was going to dazzle me. And when I finally got there, I realized that Vienna is a lovely city with history, style, and charm …
… but it didn’t exactly change my life.
It’s the way Natalie Portman ruined The Shins for a large segment of people. The way anyone who didn’t see The Hangover early enough walked away thinking, “Yeah, it was funny enough, but …”
When you’ve been prepped to expect magic and you’re treated instead to something merely pleasant, you can’t help but feel a little disappointed.
Vienna never had a chance. Upon arrival, I discovered that its odds were even further slimmed. The Chinese president was in town, which meant large portions of the city were to be blocked off.
That said, I was in Vienna, the presumed coffee capital of the world, and I was to make the most of it. What’s more, it was Halloween—my favorite holiday.
Wien on Halloween. Full of potential.
Following a tour of the city with our group, Beth and I broke off for our own time. First destination? Kaffeehaus. Dining al fresco on cake and fruit tart, Viennese coffees, sunshine … not a bad scene for two New England girls whose friends were dealing with snow back home. Wish you were here. Ha. Suckers.
And during our subsequent stroll of the city, we found the perfect creepy way to spend Halloween: the Imperial Crypt, where 145 members of the Hapsburg dynasty are entombed.
It was strange to be walking around in a crypt at first, until it because blatantly apparent that the Hapsburgs expected you to be there—and when you were there, you were meant to gawk.
The sarcophagi command respect, fascinate, and terrify at the same time. Many, particularly (and expectedly) the emperors and empresses, feature maps, symbols, and physical likenesses. A majority are adorned with skulls of varying degrees of prevalence.
Maria Theresa, of course, commanded the most respect. And it was surreal, to be standing in the space where such a colossal figure was at rest. While I wanted to spend time really examining her sarcophagus, I also felt as if, in her eyes, I hadn’t earned the right to do so. So I moved on, with an unexpected sense of understanding about what it must have felt like to be in her presence as she lived.
The rest of our time in Vienna? Hits and misses. There was an obscene (and amazing) volume of coffee consumed. There was the time I thought I was buying two bottles of wine at a market, only to discover that I’d purchased two glasses of the stuff … at 10 in the morning. (When in Vienna, drink. That’s what we did.) And there was the experience of realizing we’d wound up in one of the blockaded areas, which was a brilliant opportunity for international relations. Two American women, meet about 30 Chinese dignitaries! What could possibly go wrong?
Shortly before we would stock up on sweet treats for people back home, return to the ship, and leave the city behind, we made our way to the Stadtpark. We were walking along the foliage-strewn paths when we crossed paths with an older couple. They greeted us in German, and when I replied in kind, they quickly switched to English (four years of high school German gets me nowhere, apparently).
They pointed to the statue I’d just been photographing. “Do you know the story of the Lady of the Danube?”
“This was one of the first fountains in the park. And the woman at the top is the Lady of the Danube. She patiently waits for the full moon to come. And when it finally does, she grants a passerby a wish, then waits for the full moon to rise again.”
After then giving us a recommendation for a Kaffeehaus and wishing us a pleasant stay, they were on their way.
I was happy to leave the city with at least that little bit of magic.