Saturday, June 30, 2007

AT - Vienna

On Saturday I did the high-speed tour of Wien, successfully going to and touring pretty much every tourist site, and in the process thereof working up some mega.-blisters on my feet. Given that I was walking at my brisk pace of about 4.5 mph for about 13 hours, considering breaks I'd say I racked up about 60 miles on my new hiking boots (which were very comfy for the first 10 hrs or so, and excruciating once the blisters built up). This was the first time, however, where I will actually concede that I should have worn-in my boots first and built up the necessary calluses in advance. It is a large city: I had originally started by walking the whole thing, but at the end of the day I opted for transit back to my hostel.

I feasted on wurst (which is both huge, amazing, and dirt-cheap in Wien) and came to the realisation that wieners are named in the same theme as hamburgers and frankfurters. At first I kept snickering at how every sign -- about food or not -- had, in big letters, "WIENER" on it. Then I recalled that the city is indeed called Wien. What an epiphoney! I can’t believe I only figured that out now... I still let out a sophomoric chuckle every time I see a sign with "wiener" on it, though.

All in all, I didn’t really care for Wien. I wish I could have caught an opera or concert, but alas time and dress code did not permit. Apart from missing those cultural events, I actually felt like I visited most of the important sites in only a day – including spending time in the art museum. The gardens were a huge letdown: all greenery and no flowers. The other sites left about the same impression. I think the reason is because prior to my arrival in the city, I had built up this vision in my head of what Wien would look like. I saw it as the seat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the power of the Habsburgs – originators of quite nearly every royal family throughout the continent. Surely such a city would have the best of everything. Alas, when I found the art museums to pale in comparison to Italy and the former royal palace with a parking lot upon the main courtyard, my vision quickly disappeared. I almost felt like the city betrayed what its heritage had built up in my mind.

The people were rather typical of most cities: not particularly sociable, though I am amazed at how about 99% of the population speaks perfect English. I was amazed by the facial structure of the Viennese... sort of like how in England, it seemed that all the men shared one of three different facial structures, Wien was interesting in that both men and women seemed to generally share the same single facial structure – best related to the really tall guy from the movie Big Fish. The rest of Austria seems pretty normal and diverse as far as facial structures go and my aerial tour of Germany convinced me that the entire country is full of supermodels... I just cannot quite explain the difference seeing as the borders and culture are so close. Perhaps it is just some enigma of European urban culture in such mega-cities as London and Wien.

Two events stood out, however. One was when I happened upon a pro-anarchy demonstration. It was all well and good at first, until someone opted to let off an audio cannon to send the birds flying everywhere. Wooooo that one got the police riled up fast. Things very nearly turned into a riot, except the anarchists clearly weren’t there to fight and the demonstration settled veers quickly back into its loudspeaker chants. The audio cannons continued, but at least now the police weren’t unprepared for the sudden sounds of explosions. A couple hours later was a massive gay pride parade, which was... amusing, to say the least. Things are far more liberal in Europe. I have plenty of photos, though I am not entirely sure how many will be fit for sharing at work or even amongst some members of my family. That night was uneventful: my new roommates were all sound asleep at about 2000.

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