12.12.2016 - 15.12.2016 4 °C
The train journey from Munich to Vienna was relatively unremarkable. We tried hard not to be 'those people that keep coughing and sneezing', and hopefully didn't disturb our fellow passengers too much. We crossed from Germany into Austria, and were mildly alarmed to hear a muffled announcement that said that some carriages were headed to Budapest while other carriages were off to Vienna airport. This was disconcerting for us because a) we didn't know which carriage we were on and b) we didn't know at which station the split would occur. So it was with a reasonable amount of relief that we arrived at the main train station of Vienna - and for the record, that's where the carriages were set to go their separate ways.
We disembarked, appreciated the festive lights around the station and promptly felt cold. It was an easy 15 minute walk to our apartment, where Ludwig showed us around and got us settled in. At this point, I was interested in bed and very little else. Luckily for me, Simon was still feeling like a semi-functional human being and so he went to the supermarket and did some serious German language detective work that resulted in us being able to have beef and vegie noodle soup for dinner. What an excellent husband I have!
Tuesday was officially declared a Day of Rest, with a complete ban in touristing, sightseeing or any sort of physical exertion. The sun shone through our windows but we weren't fooled - when we headed outdoors, we rugged up as much as possible because 2 degrees is pretty gosh darned cold, sun or no sun. We stocked up on vegies and paracetamol before retreating to the warmth and comfort of our house, and settled in for a solid session of watching the washing dry. One of our least glamorous ninking days to date - but sometimes you just need to chill.
The chilling obviously paid off, because we woke up feeling better the next morning. And by 'better', I mean 'in improved health compared to previous days', not 'completely fixed and feeling 100%'. So we eased back into being tourists, ever so gently. We caught the tram from underground, and before it had gone even one stop it had become an above ground tram. Baffling.
We wandered around the Volksgarten and decided that it was probably a garden designed to be appreciated in warmer months. There was no winter plant life to be seen - just rows and rows of roses with sacks covering them, and it seemed more like a huge memorial to the coffee beans of Ecuador. It's not often that buildings bring more charm than gardens to a city, but for Vienna in winter that was certainly the case. The city had a feel of grandeur and elegance and cleanliness - all these stately buildings and statues and monuments dotted around the place. We had discussions about whether every statue of a man wearing a hat while riding a horse could possibly be Napoleon, and found our way to a rather unexpected little museum.
When you think of Vienna, you think of classical music and schnitzels, right? Well now you need to add globes and Esperanto to your list. For we discovered the Globes Museum and the Esperanto Museum - which were actually just two floors of the same building, an annexe of the National Library.
Austria, you are a magnificent country. Nowhere else have I encountered a Department of Planned Languages. I'm wondering if I can establish one in Camperdown when I return. Admittedly the Esperanto Museum was rather on the small side - Esperanto Room may have been a more apt title - but it had everything I wanted to know about this planned langauge. Developed by a Polish opthalmologist (as all good languages are), it was more than a mere language - it represented a desire for world peace through communication. If Miss Universe was a speech pathologist, she'd definitely speak Esperanto. I hadn't realised that it was used by Europeans in the early 20th century in prisoner of war camps and in providing aid after World War One, and I most definitely hadn't realised that Esperantists were persecuted by Hitler (who claimed it was a 'Jew language'). There was also information about several other planned languages - including Klingon, and an attempted musical language, where concepts were represented by various note sequences. And just when you thought that was all that such a museum had to offer - there was Esperanto Pacman. Be still, my linguistically beating heart! All the joy of Pacman combined with the word endings of Esperanto. Nerdtopia.
To be honest, the Globe Museum was always going to struggle to compete with that, but it put up a valiant fight. It had a surprisingly interesting and captivating collection of globes. My main disappointment was not being able to touch them, on account of them being safely stored away in glass cabinets. You'd think they were precious items, hundreds of years old or something. Simon managed to find one globe from 1896 or thereabouts that was turned so that Australia was facing outwards. Only very few Australian towns were marked - and Portland was one of them. Winning.
After all the excitement of learning Stuff and Things, we spent the rest of the afternoon being slightly more 'normal' Viennese tourists, checking out the Christmas markets. I'm not sure if it was just the markets we were at, or the time of day, but there was noticeably less hustle and bustle compared to our German experience. Or maybe it was my brain that was still a little foggy, and I wasn't processing things as quickly as usual. Nevermind.
We stopped at a coffee shop on our way home and it was delightful. There was a husky snoozing in his basket, the fire was roaring and the waitress sang 'All of Me' while she made our drinks. Not in a 'listen to me sing' kind of way, but in the most beautiful singing-to-herself kind of way. Ah perfection. An excellent way to finish the day.
We attempted to kick the touristing up a gear on Thursday, and ventured to the nearest Tabak Trafik to buy a daily public transport ticket. The woman in the shop spoke German, Russian and Polish, which unfortunately didn't align with our English, Italian, Auslan or Spanish skills, but we worked it out with a fair bit of laughing along the way. Once in the city, we started with one of our oh-so-beloved free walking tours. Apparently this was the place to be for Australians in Vienna - at least three quarters of the group was Aussie. Most of the people we spoke to were doing the 'live in London' thing, and had just popped over to explore some Christmas markets for a couple of days. One woman insisted on saying that she was from 'Melbourne, Australia' several times, as if she couldn't handle being identified as any sort of Australian other than a Melburnian one. She also felt the need to exclaim 'been there!' any time another city was mentioned. We gave her a wide berth.
We enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the beautiful buildings (and the less beautiful buildings) of the old city, and tried to get our heads around the Hapsburgs, the Holy Roman Empire and the Austrian Empire. We stood beneath the library balcony where Hitler had made his speech when annexing Austria, and saw the WWII 'apology' monuments. I didn't realise that Austria is obliged to be a neutral democracy - and is forbidden from forming an alliance with Germany.
We also learned a little about Vienna's past musical inhabitants, and basically every second person we passed had a cello or some other instrument strapped to their back.
After the tour, we lunched and bought train tickets to Bratislava (as you do), then checked out the Austrian Resistance Museum. This building was so warm that I nearly fell asleep immediately upon entering, but I managed to make it through all the written information in a state vaguely resembling awakeness. The years leading up to WWII were certainly fairly tumultuous times for Austria. The ambience of the museum was disturbed somewhat by some sort of Christmas party going on in the courtyard outside. I'm normally quite a fan of the song "I will survive", but in this context it sounded horribly, horribly wrong. For it to be played once would have been an unfortunate coincidence, but twice? Really? Anyway, it was an interesting place to reflect upon the different ways that Germany and Austria acknowledge their shared past. Apparently Austria considered itself the 'first victim of National Socialism', and the government only officially acknowledged the role of Austrians in causing suffering in 1991. It's a heavy burden, and obviously still such a difficult subject.
The tram ride home was a pleasant form of touristing in itself - past the grand buildings, past the Christmas markets, and past all the festive lights. We watched it all go by with a sense of sadness - Vienna had so much more to offer us, but we just weren't well enough to make the most of it. I'm sorry Vienna, I'll try harder next time.