Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Springtime Visitors

I was just looking at my last post--about three weeks ago--and I realized that I can check some things off my Vienna Bucket list, thanks to Family A.'s visit! :)
Rewind two weeks ago. One of my two best friends from college, Sue, came to visit me during her Spring Break (Sue is now Prof. A at a liberal arts college in PA)! (Blayne, we missed you!!!!) Sue's parents, who had never been to Europe before, had finally yielded to our persuasion a few months back and decided to come along at the same time as Sue's visit. It was so much fun to have them
here and I ended up enjoying a mini-vacation here in Vienna myself, thanks to their generosity!!! I realized that the best thing about having visitors, aside from seeing dear friends, is that I got to see 'my' city, 'my' temporary home, with fresh eyes. And it finally gave me a chance to see parts of it that I hadn't yet! Within a week, we managed to go to a Heurigen, visit Schönbrunn, tour the gallery at the Belvedere, go to Cafe Sacher and Cafe Central, see an opera at the Volksoper, visit St. Stephen's cathedral, pay our respects to the Habsburgs at the Kapuzinergruft and eat at the Naschmarkt.
Anyone who has traveled probably knows that there are all kinds of travelers: there are those who are on schedule, meticulously planning to assure they get to see everything they can, there are those who fly by the seat of their pants and are totally spontaneous, there are those who are adventurers and risk-takers, there are the history buffs, the art fanatics, the foodies....
Well, this past week, Sue and I made a discovery that bodes well for our future travels plans: we are both foodies. :) And we like to wander. So, Sue and I took two days off of sight-seeing to wander through the 7th and 8th districts, where we had a long relaxing lunch at Cafe Strozzi in the sunshine and did some shopping. Meanwhile, her parents toured the Military History Museum, went to Cafe Demel and had Schnitzel at Figlmüllers. Finally, on our last night, Sue picked out this fantastic little restaurant in the 7th district called Cafe Phönixhof. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good restaurant a bit off the beaten path but with a great selection of typical Austrian cuisine.
Also, speaking of food, I had my first Heurigen experience. Heurigen are wine
taverns--not exactly restaurants--that are generally only open about 3 weeks per season (an open Heurigen has a small circle of twigs and greener hanging over its door, see picture to the right). They serve only their own wines, and the food they serve is limited, but generally consist of local products. We joined up with some Fulbright friends and headed to Perchtoldsdorf, where several Heurigen are located. All of us really enjoyed the wines and the food was very good as well--and inexpensive! Schnitzel only cost 6 Euros! I look forward to going to more in the spring.

Sue and her parents were not the only visitors in town lately: the Colgate Study Group was here in Vienna for a week and I was able to attend two performances with the group, which gave me an opportunity to visit with one of my future colleagues and to meet some of the students who may end up in one of my classes next year!
So last Wednesday night we saw the play "Amadeus" at the Theater in der Josefstadt. This was particularly neat to me because it is the play that inspired the 1984 film by the same name. When I was a little girl, I would wake up on Saturday mornings and watch this movie--it was one of my favorites! I was awestruck by the music and all the costumes (though it occurs to me now that that sounds a bit odd--I clearly did not understand the latter part of the film when Mozart develops syphilis and becomes haunted by the ghost of his father!!!). At one point during the play, I couldn't help think its bizarre that I am now here in Vienna, some 20 years later, watching the piece in the same city in which Mozart worked and died. But back to the play--it was a great performance--particularly by the actor playing Salieri. And, unlike most pieces at the Josefstadt, it was surprisingly tame in terms of nudity and explicitness. :)
The next day we attended Wagner's Tannhäuser--I remember I had seen this staged in Weimar when I was studying abroad some ten years ago. At the time, I remember thinking this was such a dark, dismal and boring (!) piece, but this time around was completely different. I found the music very dramatic and moving--but I must say that the staging was not exactly what I expected. When I later spoke with my landlady and landlord, who are both opera buffs, they informed me it was "far from the original". To any extent, I am happy to have had a second-go at Wagner and was very pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. I really know nothing when it comes to music, but I am starting to see how people can really get into opera. I love how it is so much a part of the culture here.
Speaking of cultural events--I am also headed to see "Faust" at the Burgtheater tomorrow evening, which I am very excited about.

Lastly, a word about springtime in Vienna. Its glorious!!! The cafe's are opening their doors, the trees are bursting into bright green buds and white blossoms, and the chairs that line the paths in the Burggarten have finally be set up again. Parks are filling up, the Museumsquartier is a-buzz and there are joggers, bikers and pedestrians everywhere! The city really comes alive in the spring--I had heard that its gorgeous during this season and it is really true.