“So what did you do in Vienna?” “Uh … I drank wine?”

Taken from an actual conversation with my mother.

I texted The Gaberator earlier this week telling him that I needed inspiration. His response? “You just spent a week in Vienna!”


It didn’t occur to me that I should keep writing about my travels, especially since I’ve been so … stagnant for the last while. I mean, already over seven months in the same place without moving? Unbelievable. Also, I kind of figured that I’ve already used and abused my rights in “artistically” bashing all the cities that I go to – people must get sick of that at some point, right? You tell me.

But anyways, here we are. After leaving behind the seemingly bipolar weather of the Concrete Jungle, I went to spend a week with The Austrian, his family, and his cat, Lady, who actually owns the apartment they all share in Vienna.

She owns that house and she knows it.

The owner of the house.

Let’s for a minute ignore the part of all of this where I learned to speak German in northern Germany. You know, the place famous for its crisp-sounding dialect, compared to Vienna’s very southern-sounding slurred language. Let’s also ignore the part where I turn into a machine gun of sneezes whenever I encounter a cat and had to religiously take Allegra all week.

So we’re past all of that? Great. Vienna is lovely. It seems to be the perfect combination of southern relaxation and northern organization, with an emphasis on lovely old architecture (congratulations for not getting bombed as much as the northern German cities) and a penchant for coffee and wine.

Sounds like heaven, right? Right. Drinks are cheap, public transport is cheap, it’s a small city surrounded by nature, and the airport is less than a half hour away.

So what’s the other shoe, and when is it going to drop?

Let’s go back to the German for a minute. A certain someone told me, some time ago, that I should learn German in Germany, because “don’t let the Austrians teach you how to speak.” Okay, well … how bad could it be?


Before I start bashing Viennese German, let me clarify something: it sounds nice. It’s noticeably smoother and easier on the ears than German German. But for someone like me, who paints puppies and who seriously considered spending time speaking with a four-year-old as practice, smoother is not a good thing. Especially for a language which allows infinite combinations of compound words and puts such a heavy emphasis on word order (which, for the record, means that my drunk German skills are more slam poetry than anything), hearing each and every syllable is important. And Viennese German, as lovely as it sounds, does not allow for that.

With that said, it could be a lot worse. We went out to visit a friend for a night in a town near a town near Fürstenfeld (to give you an idea of where that is, when we told people about our plans to go out that way, the overwhelming response was “…why?”) with the intention to arrive, have lunch, drink wine, drop off the car, drink wine, eat dinner, drink wine, climb a castle. It was rough.

Our view at lunch on the second day. It was terrible.

Our view at lunch on the second day. It was terrible.

Anyways, the Viennese dialect didn’t even begin to prepare me for the accent spoken in that region. I’m happy to say that during the week in Vienna, I was gradually able to respond more and more – or at least to understand what was going on. But that didn’t happen in Styria. I spent the approximately 28 hours there smiling and nodding (and drinking wine) and allowing my three translators to do all the chatting (while I sipped my wine). It seemed to work well for everyone. And there was wine.

So, as of last week, I’ve seen virtually every Western European capital city that I can afford (meaning I still haven’t been to Oslo or Bern). If all goes well, next time I travel I’ll be on a beach (again) looking for a coconut full of alcohol (again). Until then, I’ll be transcribing interviews full of thirteen-year-old students talking about the Holocaust and using the word “like” as punctuation, and bringing up genocide at the dinner table as often as socially acceptable.

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