A Viennese Waltz

September 9, 2008 in Austria, Europe, Travelogue

< ![CDATA[  All of Vienna had turned out to welcome us. Or so it seemed. The idyllic ride into the city along the Danube cycle-way was packed with people: sunbathers, kids with kites, and mile after mile of festival lining the river. I’ve heard that in Vienna the people waltz through life... when we arrived they were not waltzing. The whole city pulsed with the techno-heartbeat that we’ve come to associate as the theme song of Eastern Europe. (I know, Austria is technically Western Europe... but just barely!) Gabe put it nicely when he rolled up a hill past me and grinned: “Mom! Wherever we go, that’s where the party’s at!” He was quoting a song the boys like. True enough, we found ourselves camped with hundreds of partying teenagers, once again, as they wobbled in from celebrating at the Donau Insel Fest... supposedly one of the largest of its kind in Europe. The positives: it only lasted three nights, the third night it rained, which kept the crazy down to a dull roar, and no one fell on the tent and killed the kids as they staggered in at wee hours of the morning. Welcome to Vienna. After four days here, techno has given way to the waltz; and what a waltz it is. Vienna is a serious contender for our favorite city in Europe, so far. I could tell you about the architecture (it’s lovely) or the people (they are the kindest we’ve encountered so far and they all seem to speak English... we’ve even been invited for dinner) or the city itself (excellent city planning with cyclists in mind) or the museums (to quote our new friend Scott, “There are museums and then there are MUSEUMS. Vienna has a LOT of the latter.”) The children could go on and on about the Prater (a huge green space dotted with playgrounds and Vienna’s famous ferris wheel and these quaint little diesel trains called “Lilliput Bahn”) or the “eis salons” (ice cream and gelato cafes) and the fabulous market where they tried their first cheese stuffed olives and falafel yesterday. (Hannah says to tell you that, “Falafel is not awful.”) But none of those things would convey the essence of the city. I know it sounds totally corny, but it really is as if the music of the spirits of Strauss and Mozart and Beethoven permeate the air in Vienna and transform an ordinary, bustling capital city into something etherial and above the madding crowd. I can’t do it justice, you’ll just have to come here. Today we spent four long hours in the Albertina; an art museum housed in one of the old Hapsburg palaces. They are showing an exclusive exhibit of Van Gogh’s work: specifically a large collection of his early drawings, and then the transition of his work toward his final, and most famous, impressionistic style. On the bottom floor they have a special showing of Monet and Picasso with a sprinkling of Chagall and some of their contemporaries. We discovered something about Ezra in the process: He really likes the impressionist period. He’s the kid I normally have to placate with promises of ice cream or threats of hog tying by the second hour in an art museum. Not this time. He literally dragged me from room to room and forced me to stand in front of every painting while he “guessed it.” “Mom, I guess that this one has flowers in the front, the red things, there are mountains and trees in the back, behind the house.” “What house, Ez... I don’t see a house.” “The purple thingy Mom, it’s the roof of a house!” Sure enough, he was right. “This one is a pond. The water is real dirty and muddy and those are froggy pads with flowers.” (one of Monet’s famous water lily paintings). On and on he went, for hour after hour. Who knew we had a six year old art critic in the family. Upon entering the Russian Modern Art room he declared, “Mom, we’re only going to guess the important ones in here.” He was not a fan. It just goes to show that no matter how much I study my kids and think I know them, I don’t. There is more to unwrap, day by day, and I’m sure I’ll never guess all of the interesting quirks God has built into them. Elisha, who I’d figured for the art lover, took it all in without saying a word. Tonight we’re doing laundry and plotting the next leg of our journey, to Salzburg. Happily, we’ve discovered we can cycle the whole way without getting too crazy with the Alps. We were planning to leave Friday, but now we’ll leave Tuesday, after learning that our friends, the Adams, are going to take a field trip and come see us on Monday. Tony is munching his way through a bag of trail mix (part of the HUGE pile of goodies that arrived in a box from the wonderful Campbell family in NH) and I’m counting down the minutes until the laundry is dry and I can go to bed.]]>