19.05.2009 20 °C
While in Greece, daily we must say, we ate a Greek salad, that wonderful concoction of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, green peppers ,capers, olives and all topped with at least a pound of fresh feta and drizzled with the oil of olives picked next door and while sopping it up with fresh crusty bread, beyond wondering why we even ordered an additional entrée, we talked about the name. Why is a Greek salad called such in Greece? Should it not simply be called the chef’s salad there?
In Vienna, every schnitzel is called a Wiener Schnitzel while we do not know what in the heck they mean. Is it just any piece of meat? With or without rib meat? Lamb or veal, chicken, turkey, pork or beef , breaded or not, fried or grilled, stuffed or unstuffy it is called a wiener schnitzel! While still not knowing, we have enjoyed learning and Vienna, with only 72 hours, is the place to find out.
Three days in Austria is not near enough to give the country justice but we sure gave it a try. Upon arrival at the airport we learned of the Wien-Karte (Vienna card) and for 13.00 Euros, a pass can be bought which gives 72 hours unlimited use of Vienna’s large metropolitan public transportation system and we hopped off and on buses, trains, trams moving all at times under, above and way above Vienna while all leaving and arriving with great Austrian/German engineering efficiency. Spend 5 Euros more and the ticket includes many extras like discounts for all the sights to see. With this great system in place it is no wonder that the air is clean since fewer cars are bothering driving around. Flying over Austria this late in a spring where they received an abundance of rain and sunshine is like flying over one gigantic park.
The Geblergasse hotel where stayed very comfortably for our days in Vienna is only a 5 minute walk from the Alser Strasse Underground exit and the walk is so much more enjoyable when not carrying heavy bags. Friday evening we wandered around , learning our perimeters and marveling over Vienna’s calm, composed atmosphere and Saturday was spent catching in turn Tram 1 and 2 which circle the city’s main attractions adjacent to the Donau canal. It rained our first morning there and dressed in shorts and t-shirts as if we were still in Santorini was a cold mistake. We huddled on the Ringstrasse tram and toured the city twice before braving off. The tram conductor must be used to tourists like us and never uttered a word about our lengthy stay. There is so much to see in Vienna and the Wiener-Card Coupon book gave us great instructions on how to reach each sight and many are closely clustered around the Hofburg square and the Osterreichischen Nationalbibliothek (National library). Even on a rainy Saturday these places were packed and many tourists hopped on available, horse drawn , covered carriages. There are way too many museums to mention and we have regrets on our shortage of time and not the foresight to book tickets to hear the Wiener Sangerknaben or see the training of the Lipzannaner horses at the Spanische Hofreitschule while we were so nearby. Long before we reached the famous Vienna Rathaus we heard loud music and not the Mozart or Strauss sounds expected. Instead it was a Rock and roll sound check for the Life Ball which was held in front of the Rathaus last Saturday and drew a crowd of 40.000 later in the evening. It is Europe’s extravagant Aids charity event geared to spread the message that Aids is a weapon of mass destruction and what is needed to turn its tide, We were not able to get tickets but our Arkansas friend Bill Clinton was one of the VIPs and later that night we saw some of the show live on TV. Our pictures of the Rathaus covered with the Life Ball stage are quite unique and we are glad to have seen this monument used productively. We spent most of our Saturday evening walking the Donau and found all 4! There is the Donau canal , close to the center with the Donau river a couple of Underground stops away split by the New Donau River through an enjoyable walk- able isle. We were determined to still find the old Donau and in the end found it the least impressive. How many Donau’s should one have?
When we first arrived in Austria last Friday it was so good to be able to read the signs and understand (mostly) the spoken German words. It was a little disconcerting that upon my speaking what I presumed to be quite understandable German, the Austrians would immediately answer in English . My German must not be what I think it is. I decided to stick with my guns though and kept conversing in German even while noticing the painful look on their faces. My German will not get any better if I am not allowed to practice. I do wonder how often I have done the same and discouraged others from learning Dutch by not allowing them to speak in a language foreign to them because it hurt my ears.
The highlight of our short trip to Vienna was connecting back with Helga, an Austrian woman whom we briefly met on a New Zealand beach in early February. At that time we shared a rainy ocean swim and our meal. Helga then mentioned for us to contact her if our travels would bring us closer and they did. We met Helga last Sunday morning at Schloss Shonbrunn , the magnificent summer palace of the Habsburgs and still kept in its shining glory. We could not have had a better guide to take us through the gardens and show us the views. Afterwards Helga drove us south to the city of Baden where the former Emperors family ’s Kur park and Casino are still drawing crowds to hear the music of Strauss and Mozart surrounded by the park’s greenness.
In Baden Helga showed us the specific Austrian signs which lead locals and tourists to homes where authentic made food and wine can be consumed in a comfortable, home/garten setting and Helga treated us to a Bunschenank. While we were sharing the great breads, spreads and wine Helga promised us to many months earlier we commented on the great fact of sharing meals in some one’s private back yard while bringing mans’ best friends, their dogs. The couple next to us, with their dog, overheard our conversation done in both German and English and introduced us to their language . Liz, born and raised in Kansas and her Austrian husband Otto showed us how both our languages together, called Germish , can be spoken well .
Liz and I had a great time passing back and forth the humor Americans have for those living in Kansas and we are adding Liz as another great Kansas person to know. Our Kansas friends Jeannie, Annette and Bill should know that now with meeting Liz the scale is favorably tipping for Kansas.
Tonight, while writing about our Schnitzel days, we already are in Rome but Rome wanderings will have to wait for another day.
It was Helga who showed us another way, another word for saying Schuss, auf wiedersehen, good-bye or tot ziens. All words containing that we have a hope to see each other again.
Helga gave us the Austrian word of Servus, an ancient word meaning that while we may not see each other again on this earth we honor and treasure every moment we spent together.
Servus Helga, Vienna and Austria.