Saturday, August 22, 2015

Waltzing for Cake

So. Vienna. What have you taught us? The importance of air conditioning (temperatures hovered just shy of 100 while we were there)? That an eisspänner and Sacher torte from some random cafe on Goldegg Road can cure all ills, even those caused by route deviations, enormous crowds, and the aforementioned heat? That Luciano Pavarotti holds the record for number of curtain calls—165—a record set at the Vienna Opera House? A little of all of the above?

We spent four nights in Vienna, leaving the small town comforts of the Bavarian Alps behind. On the way from Lenngries we had to connect trains in Salzburg, so we decided to take a little walk through town, dodging Sound of Music tours all the while. As tourists we did what all tourists ultimately do in Salzburg: buy iced coffees at Starbucks. There is no tradition of iced drinks in this part of the world, much less iced coffees, unless you want your espresso poured over ice cream. Let's face it, as delicious as that may be, sometimes you just want coffee. And when it has been above 90 degrees for as long as you can remember, sometimes you just want your coffee cold. So, Starbucks. And churches. We also looked at churches.

C and I got to Vienna and were delighted—deeee lighted—to find powerful and functional air conditioning in our hotel room. Our days thereafter were spent alternately reviving under its soft caress and pushing the limits of crowd and heat exhaustion in the outside world. It turns out we were not the only people visiting Vienna in August. This point was driven home with some force by the line to enter Belvedere Palace, the lesser of Vienna's two major palace attractions. Rather than gape at Hapsburg opulence, we turned tail and ate cake and drank coffee instead. As cake and coffee are also considered Viennese institutions, I figure it still counts. Some of the Hapsburg opulence was also on display at the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, a museum where the structure itself could have been a museum and still draw crowds even absent the Dürer, Rembrandt, and Rubens. So we didn't miss out entirely.
We also got to do laundry, because sometimes you still have to do chores even in Austria.  We packed our bags and headed to a laundromat near our hotel.  Contrary to our expectations, there were no vending machines selling small packets of detergent.  Many years ago, I was required to memorize a piece of dialogue for my high school German class, an exchange that was purportedly an advertisement for Blanco brand detergent.  It was a stirring piece of a theatre:  "Hi!  How are you?  You're looking good!  But your laundry... that is a different story.  It is gray and staying gray.  You should try washing next time with Blanco.  No washing detergent washes any whiter than Blanco!"  Stirring enough that it has stuck with me for over 30 years.  So I knew exactly how to say "detergent" in German.  Because Austrians all understand German (even though speak with some crazy dialect that I can't decipher), I approached a woman to ask, "Is there a store nearby where we can buy detergent?"
"Detergent?  You don't need detergent.  It is in the machine."
"The soap is in the machine?" I tried to clarify with some degree of disbelief.
"Yes, it is all automatic."
I'm sure we looked like some kind of yokel straight out of the closest hollow, mesmerized by big city technology, staring at the washer and elbowing each other in the ribs: "Hey!  There's soap in them there machines!"  But at least we didn't need to buy detergent.  The washing machines actually weighed your clothes and used the correct amount of both water and soap depending on the weight.  Pretty cool, actually. 
I liked Vienna.  But saying that feels a little like saying "I like chocolate."  It is kind of a given, right?  I just wish the Austrians spoke German in a manner I could understand.
(Salzburg church.)

(Salzburg window.)

(Salzburg iced coffee.)

(Vienna church.)

(View from our hotel window.  These two were out there for hours every morning.)

(Vienna cake and coffee.)

(Vienna museum.)


No comments:

Post a Comment