Monday, August 8, 2016

Rio and Beyond: Austria

A scanned photo of the Prater ferris wheel, taken on a cheap 35mm camera in 1997
I first went to Austria after a whirlwind tour of Italy during a week long break from school in 1997. I stopped in Vienna for a day on a long way back to Luxembourg from Venice. It was a crisp autumn day; the sky was impossibly blue and the leaves were struggling to remain on their branches. I remember almost nothing from that day, aside from a stroll through the Prater amusement park and the horse-drawn carriages in want of riders and a return to summer. Even these memories are vague, most likely inspired by the photos I took, some of which actually turned out to be decent shots.

Five or six months later, I returned to the country for a school trip. That was also a whirlwind, but it was a week-long excursion through Nuremberg, Prague, Budapest, Nitra (Slovakia), Vienna, and Salzburg. Thinking about that now is exhausting. I'm not sure that Nuremberg was anything more than a night's stopover, although I do remember going to some kind of fair. I think that was in Nuremberg. We didn't go to Prague for Prague; we went to visit Terezenstadt, a Nazi concentration camp considered to be the "model camp" where they let Red Cross workers in to inspect conditions to show that the Jews were being "treated well" in these camps. I remember the camp fairly well, especially the artwork of the children. That's what we had come to see, as the class was an educational psychology course that focused on adolescents who've experienced conflict, perhaps the best course of all my university classes. Those pictures are why I know art therapy is legit - you could see the trauma in each stroke of the pen.

Ah...but back to Austria. I don't remember what we did in Vienna. I think we drank a lot of beer. I remember Salzburg very well, however. My, was it a gorgeous spring day, and the hills were alive with the sound of music. Haha. Seriously though, there was music everywhere. I watched an oompa band in the town square for awhile and saw half a dozen violinists of various skill levels playing Mozart pieces. It is, after all, the birthplace of Mozart.

Ah...something has just come back to me, a vague memory of concert...I think it was Vienna...almost sure of it. Yes! And they played Vivaldi! Was it in a church...? Ah, no...that was Prague.

Salzburg is full of Sound of Music tours. I did not go on one (I hate tours), but I did wander around trying to find various sights from the movie. I remember the gazebo (I am 16 going on 17) and the river and there was a beautiful park in which I walked for quite awhile. Of course I remember the castle and the surrounding mountains, but most of all I remember that sunshine.

I have an Austrian friend whom I haven't seen in many years who has extended an invitation to visit but I have never made it back. He's studying psychology now so I have to learn some Freud jokes before I can go. I have always planned on visiting "someday," but my chances for travel have been not enough. (It's never enough.)

Capital: Vienna
Major cities: Salzburg, Graz, Innsbruck, Linz
Population: 8.47 million
Athletes in the Olympics: 66
Medals in history: 86 summer (18 gold, 33 silver, 35 bronze), 218 winter (59 gold, 78 silver, 81 bronze)
Languages spoken: German
Heroes: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Heidi Lamarr (co-inventor of spread spectrum radio technology that makes wifi possible. also did the movie thing.), Christoph Waltz (Blofeld), Gustav Klimt (weirdo artist), a bunch of Strausses, Eduard Haas (inventor of PEZ candy), Sigmund Freud, so many others
Bad guys: You know the big one, also the Hapsburgs probably go in this category, Theodor Herzl (creator of Zionism), ISIS (cells all over Austria)...what the hell is it about Austria that attracts so much evil?
Persecuted groups: Let's just skip the Nazi stuff. Right now they're persecuting Syrian refugees.
Current conflicts: None at the moment, but they think a jihadi attack is likely.

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