Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Returning to Vienna

It's a strange thing, returning to a place you've been before, as a world traveler. As I've quoted before:

"As an adult, I have often known that peculiar legacy time brings to the traveler: the longing to seek out a place a second time, to find deliberately what we stumbled on once before, to recapture the feeling of discovery. Sometimes we search out again even a place that was not remarkable in itself - we look for it simply because we remember it. If we do find it, of course, everything is different. The rough-hewn door is still there, but it's much smaller; the day is cloudy instead of brilliant; it's spring instead of autumn; we're alone instead of with three friends. Or worse, with three friends instead of alone."

This trip was definitely not that. If I'd had my way I would never have returned to Vienna. The last time I was there was also my first time. Associated with this particular city are memories of feeling sullied, frightened, not in control, and ultimately, of being very very alone. 

So when German K suggested we go to Vienna for our next trip after Turku, I was naturally a little hesitant. At the same time, I've grown old enough to realize that it's better to face your fears instead of run away from them, and what better way to face something negative than with the best of friends supporting you? I decided to bite the bullet and face what has been one of the hardest times of my life, despite what I thought at the time.

Fortunately, or perhaps in hindsight, unfortunately, for me, it was Churches' birthday that weekend also, which I was missing. I felt terrible, having misremembered the date so the trip was booked by the time I realized my error. But I still had Friday due to a trick of the cheaper flights for German K and Hong Kong P, so I went out with Churches and a few of our colleagues after work for drinks.

Needless to say we ended up staying out later than I intended and I got home to finish the rest of my mostly packed suitcase and get about five hours of sleep before being slammed awake to rush around my house, make myself a cheesy sriracha pita, take the quickest shower known to man, and run out the apartment at full speed and...

...totally eat it in front of my train station on the way there.

We're talking full stop sprawlage. One of those moments where you feel the balance tip and everything goes in slow motion and your mind literally says, "nnnoooooooooo!!!!" as you fall to the ground. But there's nothing you can do, you're already falling. I was on the ground before I knew it. Even my rolley suitcase fell with me, much like this:

I laughed so hard the first time I saw this in a Helsinki exhibit last year. Now I completely empathize with this poor man. I totally ate it in the exact same way. Running full tilt up a hill towards my train station, sleep deprived and possibly still slightly drunk, a bit sick and definitely not in the best of physical shape. Boom. 

But instead of my face hitting the ground as this man's did, my knees hit first and my hands never shielded my side and back because my body naturally decided it was the best idea to protect the thing that was most important to me: my hot cheesy sriracha pita. I kid you not - the way I fell was like the Statue of Liberty, holding out my pita like the golden glory it was. Like this:

Except I'm holding with all my might onto a cheesy pita. And I'm falling ungracefully. And I'm not a large black professional football player. Whatever, details.

It remained relatively unscathed in the fall and instead I skinned my knee inside my jeans (the jeans remained completely intact). All in all not bad though. 

Only problem with falling on your back/side and holding your hands out to protect your holy pita is you can't get up. So I lay there a second, dazed, then unable to tip to get myself back up. I literally lay on the ground like a sideways bug running its legs in a bicycle motion in the air, getting nowhere fast. 

Luckily there were some people not so much in a rush to catch the same train that they stopped and helped me up. I really was quite dazed with everything that was happening. I could barely walk for the next 10 minutes or so. I apparently told everyone I was okay (my knees hurt, but otherwise I actually was fine) so they left me and went to run down the stairs towards the platform. I had to go super slowly because I had to lug my suitcase down the stairs...not an easy task when your legs are weak to begin with and are being made shakier from the burst of adrenaline your body just released into your system.

I did eventually make it down the platform though and that's when I saw that my train was 5 minutes late. Sigh. Well, at least I had time to sit down, catch my breath, and eat my f*cking cheesy sriracha pita. It did taste pretty awesome.

The rest was pretty uneventful. I got on my plane, it left on time, I slept the entire way there. 

I arrived and the original plan was to check out the city for the next 6 hours as I waited for German K and Hong Kong P to fly in. Instead I made myself comfortable for three hours in the arrivals hall and ate nacho cheese Bugles and a pretzel bread sandwich while debating whether or not I could nap safely there and thinking over lessons learned in recent times.

Tiredness makes humans into strange beasts. What eventually made me move was the realization that there were cameras in the arrivals hall (as of course there would be, it's an airport) and they were likely wondering what the heck I was doing, siting there and doing nothing. Sure I could be waiting for someone (as I was), but how suspicious was I! So I left.

And went shopping at the first junction where I would have to change trams. Turns out there was a little indoor mall there. I checked off a necessary item I'd been looking for for a little while: a long black woolen pea coat. 

And then I sat in the mall and did more thinking. Probably looking suspicious again, sitting on those benches, not doing much. I finished the rest of my Bugles. Got approached by a few creepy men. I don't know what it is about Austria and this particular phenomenon. I get the impression Asians are somewhat of a rarity; especially young ones on their own. I decided to wait in the train station for my ladies to arrive, despite it being another hour or so.

Finally they arrived and we were reunited. We made our way to our host's house (a very close family friend of German K) and had a very lovely rest of the night - homemade egg, artichoke and sun dried tomato clafoutis, green salad with a vinaigrette of olive and truffle oils, and little homemade mince pies for dessert. It was wonderful. The entire homey atmosphere just made me miss Finland - so European it was with its brilliant use of space (though this particular apartment was huge with its 5 bedrooms, full family room and huge kitchen) and wonderful use of golden wood. Makes sense coming home to a home like this. It was clear a family had grown up here and it was great to see and experience.

Then we called it a night, having flown so far. Our adventures in Vienna were just beginning.

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