Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Spectacular energizing Vienna

It takes a while to get used to sleeping at normal SYR hours and settling down to small city living. In Vienna, I cherished the urban vitality and accessibility to food, shops and European goods. The transportation system and big city living reminded me a lot of SG and the convenience of living in a developed city. I walked a lot and was in the sun often. The first few nights I was exhausted from all the walking and jetlag. An American professor at the conference told me it took him a few days to feel even remotely human, LOL, he was quite elderly by the way. He says it would take a lot of nudging to try and come to Europe again because of all the flying.

While on the topic, traveling by air these days is really bad because the fuel cost, and costs of everything else, is so staggeringly unbelievable, ailing airlines are cutting cost by reducing food services and the number of flights in and out of cities. In Amsterdam, I waited about 6 to 7 hours to catch a plane. In Detroit, I waited another 6 hours for the only plane scheduled to fly into Syracuse. So much for saving time by flying.

Back to lovely Vienna. To see some pictures of beautiful charming Vienna with its rich history, click here. Looking at these pictures, I can't believe I was there just a month ago. Thank you for the memories. (Hubby says how much can he look at buildings... "same old stuff". I guess they only have meaning for me and anyone who has been there.)

I really enjoyed Vienna and wished I had more time to take in the sights, but I was there with a mission - to present my paper. I also couldn't afford to stay longer and spend more money on everything.

How did it turn out, many people asked, by that they mean the presentation. Well, it was scheduled for presentation at the last evening slot, so other than two sets of presenters and myself, a presider and a participant from Ireland, there weren't many critics to give me feedback, :-). Therefore, I could only say it wasn't bad given the circumstances.

Nevertheless, I will remember this trip for many precious lessons, a few of which are listed here:
1. What I learned about Vienna, beyond the Vienna Boys' Choir, the Blue Danube and Mozart.
2. The endurance required to wait for a plane to fly in and out of Amsterdam - six hours!
3. The energy and vitality of city living. SYR has made me quite lazy!
4. The boldness and courage to explore Vienna, a new city in a new continent with a language I don't know, by myself.

Just imagine, below is a pic of the view from my room on the 10th floor from the budget hotel!

I hope to have the chance to go back there one day to explore Vienna more fully.

One thing I didn't like, probably because I couldn't find Asian or international cuisine where I stayed, was the Austrian cuisine, no offence to Austrians, just a personal preference. I tried the schnitzel, thin veal coated with breadcrumbs and fried. It was funny how everything that was a cutlet turned out to be a really thin cutlet because they were all schnitzel-like. Imagine my delight when I came home and was able to eat soba noodles, waffles, different sorts of berries, lentils, bulgur wheat, sugar-free soymilk, etc.

I took the subway trains/transit to and fro the hotel to the conference sites daily. In Vienna, everything was in Austrian, and people would speak to me first in Austrian, and try a little English later if they realized I couldn't speak Austrian. The first time I took the trains, I had to ask a newspaper vendor next to the ticket machines to show me how to do it. I still am not too clear about it and spent more than I should because I realized I was paying for a round-trip ticket but thinking it was for a one-way trip the first few times. Also, it was strange to me that no one checked if I was paying the right fare or had the tickets because it wasn't like SG's trains where you pass the stiles and electronically had to have your EZ pass scanned by the entry/exit turnstile.

Several times, it was strange how peddlers at squares or transit stations would come up to me and spew out Austrian at rapid machine-gun speed, thinking I would understand them? I guess skin color didn't count there, which is good, :-).

Once, I was shopping at the huge new Benetton store at Mariahilf Street (see pic above, the green label), and a lovely young woman spoke to me in Austrian. I knew she was asking for assistance but I didn't know what help she needed until I heard the word, "S" or "XS" and pointed to the tag at the back on the shirt. Yes, she was asking me to confirm if she was trying on an S or XS outfit. LOL!

And second-hand smoke, oh, there were billows and billows of these toxins everywhere in Vienna because there were no laws in Europe yet (?) banning folks from puffing indoors or out.

On the plane to Vienna, I saw plenty of period movies and movies mostly starring Scarlett Johansson. The Other Boleyn Girl, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Matchpoint and Marie Antoinette starring Kirsten Dunst. Also saw Chaos Theory and Definitely, Maybe by Scarlett's fiance, Ryan Reynolds. Strangely, I enjoyed Ryan's movies. I had never seen any of his movies before these flights; I thought he was a pretty intense and sensitive actor.

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