Vienna (Wien), Austria (Österreich)

June 13-14 & 20-21, 2001

The images of ballroom waltzes and elegant mask wearing figures would fit in perfectly here. It's not difficult to imagine Mozart entertaining here. And he did perform here for the royal family at age 6. Historically, this was the capital of the Austrian empire when the Habsburgs settled here in 1278. The city flourished, yet having to defend it from invading Turks in the 16th and 17th centuries. It flourished culturally in the 18th and 19th centuries when Strauss, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert lived here (the last four are buried here… the last three in the cemetery and Mozart in a pauper's unmarked grave).

The classical music concerts are heavily pushed by the opera pimps dressed in a classical style. I plan to return for an opera someday as this city is a perfect stepping stone and transport center into Eastern Europe. I'll be in Hungary next and hope to return next year (for Slovakia, Eastern Czech Republic or South East Poland). I am now here on my last travel day with Yoon, a former flat mate. Most likely the last time we will travel together in Europe as she's off to Japan or Korea in less than two months.

June 20-21, 2001

I'm seeing the last of the sights here and looking forward to getting back to Ritsuko in London, but also wishing I had more time to travel. During this jaunt I've come to wonder if I'm most happy being nomadic and never completely setting down. Would she come with me, hurdling visa and financial issues, and saunter away? In away, I am a thrill seeker. Traveling in new stimulating environments and exchanging thoughts with new people keeps the heartbeat going and a twinkle in the eye. It's needed.

But it's time to kick back and I discover Vienna's cafés. I've found the classical ones, who have been able to resist refurbishments and have survived and aged nobly, that must be more stuffy than they were in their earlier days. It was here that great poets and philosophers would gather to chat (actually, also to stay together in a warm room as the barely heated flats grew cold in the winter). Others would come to enjoy the experience of being "alone in the company of others."

And this is what I was doing. A breeze comes by at just the right intervals to animate the leaves above and the corner of the paper that cocoons your croissant or the napkin mattress to a chattering cappuccino. People (and pigeons) pass by, giving casual glances at the table as much as your face. "What's he having?" curious eyes tainted with hunger take second looks at the table, but are whisked away by busy feet. Sit, chat, write postcards/letters/journal, read a magazine/a book, adjust your sock, idly sip latte and stare into empty space until your caught by the new faces on the promenade whisked in by a new animating rustle in the trees. This the European street café and a simple, yet somewhat mystical, pleasure of mine.

Unfortunately, it rains too much in London to have the same style here. The traffic patterns are different and the pubs have over run the cafes. Alas, I have another excuse to leave the island!

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