Homeless for the holidays

One thing I learned in Vienna is that American recipes don’t translate to Austrian grocery stores.

Anthony invited us to come to dinner on Christmas Eve, and Thomas seemed to be fixated on the idea of bringing sweet potatoes. (Sorry Thomas, I’m going to write about our culinary disaster now.) This American holiday staple is just that: American. To be fair, I didn’t help with any ideas or go to the supermarket, so I wasn’t there to catch this SNAFU before it happened. Canned sweet potatoes are not the same as fresh potatoes. And although sugar in the raw is a brown color, it is not in fact “brown sugar.” We were missing nutmeg too.

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In a last ditch effort to prepare something, we tried sweet potato fries. Those didn’t really work out either. So… who wants some wine?

Tanya and Anthony prepared a nice dinner (Thanksgiving style) with all the trimmings of home. My favorite conversation piece was comparing the different noises that humans have created for animals over the world. WTF is “cock a doodle doo?” Lovely company and drinks makes home seem not so far.

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And just because I find it hilarious and amusing, Thomas grabbed these candid shots of me after tons of champagne, chatting up some Croatian on the train on the way home. Really, Megan? Sweet face.

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That’s a wrap on Vienna.

Andiamo a Italia!

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Homage SNAFU. Part deux

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Christmas Eve I still had a few things left that I wanted to do on my plate and only a few hours to do them.

First things first though. Let’s rewind. (As Zack Morris would say, “Time out.”)

The previous day I had gone to St. Marx and was trying to get to the Belvedere museum afterwards, but when I got there I just hurt all over (seriously can I get a good massage when I get back?) and didn’t think I would enjoy any art in that state. So I opted to go back to the apartment a little early and get ready because Thomas, also known as “Most Accommodating Host Ever,” knew I was desperately hoping to catch a live musical performance in Vienna and got us tickets to a Mozart and Strauss concert at Schoenbrunn palace. Umm… Speechless!

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This palace is just like the rest of the architecture in Vienna: pristine, immaculate, elegant. There was also a Christmas market the same time so we had some Gluhwein before the concert. So far Gluhwein has seemed to be the common thread for all the cities I’ve been to on this trip. No complaints here.

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The repertoire was a good mix of things from concertos and simple opera pieces made famous by “Die Zauberflote” (The Magic Flute.) I love this stuff and being able to go to an event like this just made me want to go to more of them in New York. Applause to Thomas for finding this concert, taking me, and not snoring during the event (like the guy seated next to us was.)

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Okay, time in. Christmas Eve.

So I still wanted to go to the Belvedere because Anthony had suggested I check out Gustav Klimt. The museum closed at 1 so the plan was to do the exhibit at 9 and then take a train to Zentralfriedhof, or Central Cemetery (where Beethoven is buried) to go check out some more dead people. Of course I arrived at 9 and the museum opened at 10. Now, I’m an aficionado when it comes to waiting around and killing time, but it’s Christmas Eve. Shit ain’t open. Furthermore, when you’re just standing around, shit’s cold.

I figured I could just reverse my plans, do Zentralfriedhof in about two hours and have at least 2 hours in the museum. [spoiler alert: I was wrong]

I proudly boarded both of the correct trains and was off to Zentralfriedhof when a conductor began inspecting tickets. In the blink of an eye, the conductor checked my ticket, handed it back to me, I noticed the train doors were closing, and… that was my fucking stop. As we pulled away I kept praying the train would stop again soon (it didn’t) and I watched gravestones sail past the window in heaps and bounds. Fine, I’ll just change at the next station and go back, right? Well, the beauty of the Vienna public transit system is that their displays always tell you when the next train is arriving. The ugly part of this train line is one wasn’t coming for another 30 minutes. Stand here in the cold? No thanks, I’m sure I can walk. So I load a map on my phone (ugh, data roaming) and walk 30 minutes till I even reach an entrance gate. This cemetery is nothing like St. Marx.

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Zentralfriedhof is massive in every sense of the word. It’s 590 acres and about 2/3 the size of Central Park. It’s a fact that there are more people buried here than currently living in Vienna. Knowing that so many big names call Zentralfriedhof their resting place, I was hopeful that similar to St. Marx there would be a sort of directory or map at the front gate to point me in the right direction of where I wanted to go. I wandered for probably an hour when I realized that with zero guidance, finding this grave is like finding a diamond in the rough. This rough was in fact so rough that it called for me to bite the bullet, incur more exorbitant charges, and look up the plot number on my phone. Balls.

$25 in mobile charges later (thanks Verizon for the text alert to make me feel even worse about it) I stood in a little courtyard, a “garden of the greats” if you will, the burial sites of so many famous composers. Beethoven, Strauss, Brahms, Schubert, the list goes on.

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Zentralfriedhof is quite modern as people are still buried there today, but to see so many of the most famous composers buried here is a huge testament to the power Vienna held as the musical capital of the world in past centuries. This is the richness of history I love.

So I eventually found my way to the correct Zentralfriedhof train station which wasn’t that easy to do considering I previously exited at a different station on the other end of town. 25 minutes till the next train? Christ. Tick tock tick tock. I can hear the ticking of my time at the Belvedere slowly going down the drain.

I made it, but with only about 45 minutes to spare. I decided to go in anyway because I refuse admit defeat and because I keep my Monmouth student ID around for cheaper student entrance rates. No one needs to know that picture was taken 9 years ago. Don’t look at the date, please.

No photos allowed here (it was made a lot more clear than it was at the bleeping Mozart Geburtshaus in Salzburg) but a picture from the brochure probably looks the same once I run it through Instagram, and the view of the gardens from inside the building was pretty fabulous as well.

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It wasn’t crowded so I could actually spend my short time here seeing the things I wanted to see. Museums often frustrate me when they’re popular. I don’t want to feel like I’m at a theme park. If you went to the Tim Burton exhibit at MoMA you know what I mean. A SNAFU of a day for sure but in the end it worked out.

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Homage to my idols, part 1

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Some people might think that it’s weird that I spent a good percentage of my time wandering around Vienna’s cemeteries looking for classical composers, but if you had Beethoven’s 5th tattooed on your side and Amadeus was your favorite film, you’d take the time to go find their graves too.

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Friday morning I took a trip out to St. Marx cemetery where Mozart was buried. There is a lot of debate about his burial site because at the time of his death the church order was to be buried in a mass grave with no coffin and no headstone. It’s always been unfathomable to me how such a legend could be buried like a pauper. Since then, a marker has been placed in the area that is most likely to be where Mozart was buried. I don’t even really give a shit if he was under that rock or not, this cemetery was fucking cool.

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St. Marx is a graveyard right out of the movies, the kind of graveyard you picture when you think of a film like Hocus Pocus (or maybe something scarier, I wouldn’t know, I don’t watch those) with gravestones all from the 18th century, some having statues with missing heads, some so completely weather-worn that there is no text. Additionally, I was in this entire cemetery completely alone seeing not a single other person, so even though I found the Mozart plot pretty quickly I stayed to look around for quite some time. Each gravestone was like a fingerprint, intricate and different from the next. The fact that this cemetery goes so overlooked blows my mind. A highlight of my trip by far.

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Vienna by night

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After my day trip to Bratislava, I came back to Vienna and went with Thomas and his roommate Werner to the Wien Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz. This place is absolutely stunning and it really sheds light on why the Viennese are so into themselves (ha! I kid, I kid.)

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What I meant to say was I understand now why Raj’s mom told me it was her dream to go to Vienna at Christmas. The beauty and romance of Vienna at this time is inescapable. These markets activate all of your senses and it’s almost overwhelming. Like Munich, there are multiple markets across the city, but each one is set up against it’s own personal backdrop. Every market is unique, and each one more magical than the next.

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We had a few Gluhweins outside at the market before heading inside to meet some of Thomas’ friends. Most people close to me know how much I despise cold weather, so the fact that I can bundle up here and stay outside a lot longer than 5 minutes says a lot. Loved it. Well done, Vienna. Bravo.

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Lushbert

There have been many firsts for me so far on this trip, but this one is extra special. A breathalyzer at a bar? Brilliant! Fortunately I´ve never had to blow into one of these machines before, so I was more than excited to pay 1 euro to have the opportunity. The scale is a decimal point different from the one we use in the States, but you get the idea. Ich bin betrunken.

Thanks to Thomas for capturing this moment for me to relive over and over.