Life in a Backpack: Vienna, my sweet 8/23

Day eight of my three month European backpacking journal

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

I need nothing. I want nothing.

Vienna has made me feel as though I am no longer looking through a window at a culture I’ll never experience. (For yesterday’s entry about this topic, please click here).

Thank you sunshine. Thank you Vienna.

When Ben first told me he wanted to visit Vienna, I hated the idea and doubted the city.

After researching the Vienna for ten minutes, I was immediately bored.

Too clean

Too elegant

Too snobbish

The whole idea of the Habsburg empire with its silly waltzes, yawning operas, and cliche classical Mozart pieces made me want to dress up in a suit just so that I could throw up all over myself.

Vienna wasn’t Europe to me. It was Europe’s fancy cousin that always looked down on anything not aristocratic. Boy was I wrong.

Last night with Katrina and Aaron set the course for what would become one of the happiest days I’ve had since leaving America eight days ago. Leaving the pub and our new friends, I felt a renewed sense of purpose. I needed to pick myself up, and actively search for local delicacies I could actually eat. The hostel’s breakfast provided me with some much needed protein (from cottage cheese and yogurt) and brought me back to life with a fresh bowl of fruit. I was myself again.

Setting out from our hostel, we walked down Burggrasse in the direction of the museum district, an entire boulevard where in one hour, you can see the majority of the beautiful and historic sites Vienna has to offer.

Starting at the Vienna State Opera house, the home off nearly all of opera’s luminaries, we began a Rick Steve’s walking tour of Vienna.

What I learned, what I saw, and a few extra photos:

Just to the left of those pillars was the Vienna’s walk of fame, where there were these star shaped plaques with the engraved names of famous composers, musicians, and conductors whose names I did not recognize.

“The Gates of Violence”

A monument against war and fascism that remembers the dark years between 1938 -1945, when Austria came under the rule of Nazi Germany.

This split white stone monument depicts the atrocities committed by World Wars I and II. Perhaps one of the most compelling within the montage was the image of a dying woman giving birth to a soldier (featured above).

The stone of the monument come from a quarry nearby the Mauthausen concentration camp just up the Danube from Vienna, where 100,000 prisoners died.

Just behind The Gates of Violence is a hunched over Austrian Jew forced to scrub anti-Nazi graffiti off of the street with a toothbrush.

The location of this memorial was chosen and placed on the spot where WWII bombs struck and demolished a cellar, burying several hundred people alive. The un featured monument behind this Jewish statue commemorates the lives lost.

Next stop on Rick Steve’s tour was St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which you will have to see to believe. I never realized anything man-made could be this massive.

A break for coffee:

Coffee in Vienna dates back to the 17th Century when it was introduced by the Turks. It didn’t become popular until a hundred years later, when it emerged as an aristocratic drink. In the 19th century, during the industrial revolution, coffee became apart of the working class due to the long 12 hour shift.

Shortly after learning this, we stopped at a place called Trumer Bier, a little cafe far away from the fanny-pack wearing and photo taking tourist track. Taking the barista’s suggestion, we tried something called a Wiener Melange, which is half coffee-half steamed milk. It was a beautiful mix of hot and cold, kind of like a cappuccino after its cooled a little. She gave us these shots of water along with our coffee, a custom I hope the U.S. would learn from…

Some photos to skip ahead with:

CHOCOLATE TIME!

Dating back to 1786, Damel is one of Vienna’s oldest chocolate makers. I just had to go in for a taste!

Yes, I promise that I shared my chocolate…

Ending the guided audio tour, we decided to meander around the city with ear buds in.

I chose Sturgil Simpson’s new album, A Sailor’s Guide To Earth. The song, Welcome to Earth put me right back into the traveling spirit. There’s a line that’s been stuck in my head all day,

“I should have done this ten years ago, but how could I know. How could I know that the answer was so easy?”

These last two days helped me realize that in order to truly feel alive and happy, I have to first feel low down and depressed. My only hope is that moving forward, I make time for peace and bliss, an experience I was fortunate to participate in with my brother and my best friend in Vienna.

I need more days like the end of this one, where we all laid in the shade, shoes off, and stared up into the big blue European sky (until I got inspired to write today’s online blog post on my phone).