Next on my travel itinerary was Vienna. Like my previous two stops I had been there before, but it is a place I hold especially close to my heart. It is not because of its arts and culture, the city’s cleanliness, or how cheap public transportation is – although I do enjoy those things as well. Rather, it is because of the many lovely people in the city, some of whom I am privileged enough to call my friends.
The way we came into each others lives was somewhat serendipitous. A class in the grade below mine was involved in a “cultural exchange” with a class in Linz, a sister city of Linköping. I have always been a bit overly keen, so when there was a shortage of volunteer hosts I did not think twice before offering my parent’s guest room (thanks mom & dad). I don’t know if any of us predicted that the connections we made back then would last this long. But amazingly, we have managed to stay friends through awkward teenage years, entering adulthood, moving to different cities and countries, and all that in between. And I am still waiting for the day a small group of Austrians will arrive in Vancouver…
But let’s get back to Vienna. You might not know (because I did not), but it is a city famous for its coffeehouse culture. In fact, Viennese coffeehouse culture was declared to be an intangible part of Austrian cultural heritage by UNESCO – the entry poetically describing coffee houses as a places where “time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill.” This feel startlingly similar to the Swedish fika and perhaps it explains why we get along so well. In true spirit of this my first major activity of the trip was meeting up with friends both new and old, at the swanky Palmenhaus to drink coffee. After consuming both time and space we decided we should instead try to consume some arts and crafts. We got our fix at Fesch’markt – an artisan market with an eclectic mix of indie retailers.
After a sunny start to my visit I thought I had finally escaped the rain. Intent on proving me wrong, the weather gods made sure it was pouring down the very next day. Luckily for me, I had already been planning on an indoor activity – and at Museumsquartier I had more than one option of museum to visit. With MUMOK being closed that particular day, I sprinted across the courtyard to the Leopold Museum, which is the home of the world’s largest collection of work by Austrian artist Egon Schiele. A quick lunch at Neni with Andi and Leo was followed by… coffee (plus tea, time, and space), although this time at Andi’s apartment.
At this point in my trip I had truly adopted a slow lifestyle. However, the return of sunshine eventually brought me outside and I did the tourist thing, which is visiting the Schönbrunn Palace. Despite being a major tourist attraction the grounds of the castle are vast enough for it to be easy to find a secluded spot and enjoy lunch in solitude. It costs nothing to enter the grounds and if you make the trek up to the Gloriette you have a truly spectacular view of the city and of course, of the palace. The evening activity was a stark contrast against this 200-or-so-year old palace. Together with Sebastian (who, by the way, is my reoccuring host and pretty much the best person ever) and Christina, I went to a modern art exhibition at 21er Haus, my bewilderment only partially due language barriers.
I spent my last day in Vienna trying very hard to not melt into a puddle of sweat. Eating ice cream did not help me cool down so I finally gave up on moving and collapsed under a tree in Volksgarten. Eventually forced to leave due to a group of loud and rude teenagers, I fully embraced my inner old lady by heading to cute café Vollpension, run by your friendly neighbourhood hipsters and their grandmas. In the evening, after witnessing Austria (very sadly) lose their last game in the European Championship, we spilled out on the sidewalk alongside the Danube river. Our little group, like so many others, found a small spot to claim as ours as the sun went down and the summer warmth slowly disappeared from the air. With that the sun had set not only that evening, but also on my time in Vienna. Until we each other again, or as one says in German – Auf Wiedersehen!